HC Deb 22 November 1977 vol 939 cc1323-409

3.43 p.m.

Mr. Pym

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 8, leave out 'They do not affect' and insert: 'Nothing in these provisions shall be construed as impairing or in any way affecting'.

The Chairman

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 160, in page 1, line 8, leave out from 'Kingdom' to end of line 11 and insert: 'Nothing in this Act shall affect the unity of the UK in any way whatsoever.'.

No. 3, in page 1, line 8, leave out 'They do not affect' and insert: 'Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to affect adversely or shall detract from, harm or weaken'.

No. 4, in page 1, line 8, leave out 'do' and insert 'shall'.

No. 6, in page 1, line 9, after 'affect', insert: 'adversely nor detract from, harm or weaken'.

No. 7, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'the unity of the United Kingdom or'.

No. 8, in page 1, line 9, leave out from 'Kingdom' to end of line 11.

No. 9, in page 1, line 10, after 'authority', insert 'sovereignty and competence'.

No. 10, in page 1, line 11, at end add 'nor shall they alter prerogatives, rights, duties, privileges and conventions of the Crown as the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom'.

No. 11, in page 1, line 11, at end add 'and no provision, power or privilege granted in any section of the Act may be so used in any way which might in any manner affect the unity of the United Kingdom'.

No. 13, in page 1, line 11, at end insert 'including laws on matters which are devolved to the Scottish Assembly under this Act'.

No. 14, in page 1, line 11, at end insert 'or the existing rights, responsibilities and duties of Members of Parliament representing any part of the United Kingdom'.

Mr. Pym

I make no apology to the Committee for repeating this amendment, which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) nearly a year ago. I do not think it would be possible to say that the case today is stronger than it was in January, because it was overwhelming then and it was overwhelmingly put by my hon. Friend. But in the meantime, if anything, the doubts and anxieties have increased.

No amount of discussion or argument since last January has removed from this House the knowledge that we are dealing with the unity of the United Kingdom. There is, in fact, a tacit admission of this in the Bill by virtue of the fact that this clause is included at all. Otherwise, why would it be included? We do not accept now, any more than we did in January, the sentence in Clause 1: They"— That is, the provisions in the Bill— do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom". We believe that to be certainly misleading and in point of fact untrue.

I would remind the Minister of State that in his reply to the debate in January he said: I believe that the clause not only will not diminish the unity of the United Kingdom but will enhance it. I hope that when winding up the debate tonight he will explain exactly what he means by that, because we do not understand what he means.

No words in any Bill can enhance the actual living reality of our unity in this country. But that unity can certainly be destroyed by words in a Bill, and many of us think that this Bill could do just that. In saying that, I am not talking of devolution in principle or of finding some new way for improving or adjusting government in a way that will be more satisfactory. What I am talking about is devolution as outlined in the Bill.

The Minister also said in the same debate: Our unity does not have to depend on enforced conformity from the centre. It can rest on recognising the diversity within our system."—[Official Report, 19th January 1977, Vol. 924, c. 506–11.] I totally agree with him. But that diversity must make sense as it has in a practical way for many decades.

No one in this House denies that our country is one of infinite variety and diversity. We also know that it has been highly successful in combining that variety and diversity into a complete unity and entity. It is because it has been so successful that we need to be very careful indeed before we upset the balance.

It is our view that the method outlined in the Bill will affect the unity of the United Kingdom and, indeed, will be disruptive of it. That is why we dislike the offending sentence. It is more than a bland assertion. It appears to be an attempt to give some degree of reassurance about a matter which is assumed to be in doubt, for otherwise it would not be there. Yet reassurance is not possible and none is capable of being produced.

The most important way in which unity will be affected is through the impact of the Bill on this House. That impact is more than just an anomaly which the Government have never answered or even attempted to answer. It produces a contradiction which has justly become known as the West Lothian question.

Under the Bill Scotland becomes a kind of quasi-federal part of the United Kingdom which is a unitary State. Members of Parliament in this House will not be able to vote on all sorts of matters in Scotland for which they will be able to vote in other parts of the United Kingdom. To this day that remains an unanswered point which is the central anxiety about the principle in the whole Bill.

Wales is to be treated differently by another Bill with Members of this House legislating for Wales but not having any responsibility for carrying out that legislation, which is to be devolved to a different sort of Assembly. Northern Ireland is to be different yet again, although we do not quite know in what way. However, it will certainly be different. England, as it were by default, is directly affected as a consequence of these other changes.

The Government themselves acknowledge that by the publication of their White Paper on the English regions, which clearly indicates that there are consequences and implications for England as a result of the other changes in the other parts of the United Kingdom. Therefore, I say to the Minister of State that five different roles are envisaged for this House. In dealing with United Kingdom business there will be a different rôle for each part of the United Kingdom and a different one for the United Kingdom as a whole. That is the impact which this Bill, together with the Wales Bill, will have on this House.

I am afraid that the result will be that this House will become divided against itself in a new way on issues relating to the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Our fear is that that will give rise to rivalries and jealousies and that these will be encouraged rather than the reverse. I think that we are already conscious in this House of mounting tensions of this kind. It is something of very recent experience in the last year. The impact that this will have on this House and the threat that it will have to the preservation of this unity goes to the very heart of our union.

In the case of Scotland the proposals will lead to friction and to an unsustainable level of difference between Scotland and Westminster. They will certainly be divisive. Of course, disagreement is bound to arise in any form of devolution, however it takes place, but the scale of it under the method proposed in the Bill will be too great.

This divisiveness between Scotland and Westminster is, I regret to say, encouraged by the lack of good will that exists today between the parties here and by the refusal of the Government to make any attempt on an all-party basis to approach the problem—as we have done in the case of Northern Ireland—and by the Government giving top priority, with no particular attempt to disguise it, to trying to save their seats in Scotland instead of trying to find a better method of actually improving government in Scotland.

Mr. Dalyell

Perhaps at an early stage in our proceedings and for the sake of clarity the hon. Gentleman will allow me to ask him a straight question. If he gets the all-party discussions that he wants, does he want any kind of an Assembly in Edinburgh? Would he like to see, as a result of these all-party discussions, the establishment of some kind of Assembly?

Mr. Pym

I have made it clear before—indeed, I said so on Second Reading—that all the parties have come to that conclusion. However, all the parties have also found snags in every proposal which has been made. It is for precisely that reason that I want the parties to sit round a table and thrash out what they want. I covered that point on Second Reading.

The unity of the United Kingdom will also be affected by the financial arrangements proposed in the Bill. Certainly they will give rise to disagreements. The implications in the Bill for the economic management of the economy of the United Kingdom are considerable, because, for the first time, there will be a division between the management of social policy and all aspects of social policy in Scotland from the management of economic policy for the United Kingdom as a whole. What is more, there is a division as between the Assembly as it is proposed in the Bill, deciding how to spend other people's money in Scotland and the fact that it will be without any of the responsibility for raising any of that money. I cannot think that that will be other than divisive and the cause of a great deal of friction.

These are the main reasons why inevitably the unity of our country will be put at risk. What should we on the Opposition Benches do, faced with this clause and faced with the lack of truthfulness in the sentence to which I have referred? Shall we try to remove it, or to amend it?

Frankly, we would prefer to remove it altogether. However, in a constructive sense we have put forward Amendment No. 2, and grouped with it is Amendment No. 9, which is an attempt to provide the courts at a future date with a fairer basis upon which to decide the intentions of the Bill and what the intentions of Parliament were when we debated the Bill.

I remind the Minister of State that in his winding-up speech last January he said that the reason why he was confident that the declaration in principle was correct was that we were not devolving sovereignty. I make two comments about that. First, the Minister of State made no attempt in that speech to answer the question raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who pointed out that, historically, whenever a matter of devolving powers had been dealt with before, be it in Ireland or anywhere else, what had happened was that the sovereignty was used effectively by the authority to which it had been devolved and that this House forgot about it. The right hon. Gentleman then pointed out that it was impossible to act in a sovereign capacity one month and not the next, or one year and not the next year, and that it had to be on a permanent basis. There was no attempt by the Minister to answer that very fundamental point.

My second comment is that if the Minister believes what he said about sovereignty in his speech last January, the Government could very well accept Amendment No. 9, which proposes to insert in line 10 of Clause 1, after the word "authority" the words "sovereignty and competence". I think that that would cover the point which the Minister of State himself made. Therefore, I urge him to accept this amendment.

The Minister is extremely fond of trying to tease me, if that is the right word, about the House of Commons failing to pass any amendment to the 1972 European Communities Bill. It seems to me that in moving the very first amendment in this Committee stage I have the opportunity to say to the hon. Gentleman that this is one amendment which obviously he should accept. I hope that he will accept it, because it is completely the point which he himself made in January last.

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

Is the right hon. Gentleman putting that proposition to me on the basis that I should have higher standards than those which he exhibited?

Mr. Pym

On the contrary. I said that the House of Commons in Committee decided what it did on the European Communities Bill. But the hon. Gentleman likes to chide me with the responsibility for what the House of Commons decided. He cannot commit the House of Commons, now in Committee, but I am saying that, if he is very keen that amendments which seem appropriate are accepted, I am giving him the opportunity with the first amendment to be considered in Committee to say that this is obviously one which he could and should accept.

I wish to draw the Committee's attention to the referendum provision, in Schedule 17, and to point out that in the Appendix to the Schedule these words appear: The Act provides…that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom. As a statement of fact at this moment or at that moment I suppose that that would be true. But the point about the argument is that the very existence of this Bill, if it becomes an Act, sets in train a process which could be disruptive to both Scotland and the United Kingdom, and there is no indication of this in the preamble to the question proposed for the referendum.

I mention that at this stage because I am sure that we shall come to it when we discuss the referendum. I am sure that we must be certain that in no sense are we misleading the people of Scotland or, for that matter, of the rest of the United Kingdom in any question that we put to them in a referendum. It is not that the fact stated there is actually wrong at that time. It is that what has happened in this Bill could prove it to be wrong very quickly.

I am not saying that if, by some misfortune, this scheme were put into effect, on the morrow of an Assembly taking over the government of Scotland would break down. I am saying that the underlying seeds of frustration which it will sow are very likely eventually to cause problems. The fear of the Opposition is that men of good will will be hindered by the defects inherent in the system itself and that that will lead to frustration and bitterness. What will that do for the unity of the United Kingdom? It is bound to be damaging to it.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

Essentially, what the right hon. Gentleman is contending is that it is impossible to have unity as he conceives it in anything other than a wholly unitary State and that if we engage ourselves in the kind of devolution on which the Government have embarked, far less than federalism, this willper se breach the unity which he and I think is good. I do not think that that is a fair argument.

Mr. Pym

I have been arguing in public for months that the Prime Minister was right when he said that it was not possible to have a quasi-federal part of a country which was a unitary State, such as ours. I think that this Bill tries to turn Scotland into a quasi-federal State within a unitary system and that the impact of that will hit us right here in this House. It was on that very point that we lost Ireland. If this Bill goes through and is carried into effect, it is on this very point that we might lose Scotland. We are dedicated to the cause of preventing that.

It is for precisely those reasons that we are opposed to the Bill. It will be divisive. It will produce friction. It will produce too many disagreements. It will produce a nonsense here. Therefore, I do not think that it can possibly last. It will lead to bitterness and frustration.

Mr. Dalyell


Mr. Pym

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I am about to conclude my remarks. This is a very limited debate. The hon. Gentleman can no doubt make his own speech. I am answering the question raised by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnson), and it is a fundamental one.

I hope that I have made the views of the Opposition quite clear. We believe that Clause 1 is a confession of weakness on the part of the Government. It contains a sentence which we think is positively inaccurate and misleading. It should not be there. In a constructive sense we have tabled these amendments with a view to making some improvements and to giving it some degree of veracity.

Mr. Dalyell

All of us will have to be brief, but I wish to take up the argument advanced by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) because, frankly, I think that this is a fudging amendment.

I listened very carefully to the last five minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The question that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether any kind of Assembly, an Assembly of his choosing, would not be open to precisely the same kind of criticisms as he has made of my right hon. Friend's scheme.

Mr. Pym

I certainly do not think so. It depends on what powers and what responsibilities one gives to it and on how it is arranged and organised. That is what I think.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Dalyell

Let us imagine the situation. Any group of Assemblymen going to the Royal High School for the first time will discover, within days rather than weeks, how very limited their powers are in their own estimation. Can one imagine my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who has put down many amendments, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), or anybody else being satisfied with the kind of Assembly even that my right hon. Friend has put forward, still less with that which the right hon. Gentleman puts forward? Once they have arrived there, there is no chance whatever of their being satisfied. Of course they will want more in these circumstances.

Therefore, I think that it is a bit disingenuous to say "Oh well, we shall have a long conference. We shall have all parties together. We shall have a meeting and have a good discussion, and somehow at the end of the day something acceptable will arise from it." I do not think that that is a very realistic attitude, because the truth is that there is absolutely no chance of their being satisfied with either the right hon. Gentleman's kind of Assembly or the kind of Assembly that my right hon. Friends are putting forward, or, indeed, with any other kind of Assembly.

Therefore, I think that this is a fudging amendment. Very soon in the passage of the Bill Opposition Members will have to make up their minds whether they want any kind of Assembly, because they will become convincing from their Front Bench only once they say "We do not want an Assembly at all." I realise that that might create great difficulties inside the Conservative Party, but until that crunch decision is reached there is no hope of the Opposition Front Bench being convincing on this issue.

Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)

Perhaps I could help the hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) gave away the game of the Opposition Front Bench when he referred to losing Ireland. Does the hon. Member agree that this is reminiscent of the English Ministers who said, "We have catched Scotland and we shall not let it go"?

Mr. Dalyell

I think that we each have to make our own speeches. I could be tempted to go on at length on this issue. But, clearly, at this early stage we must all set an example and not be so tempted.

My trouble with this clause and this amendment is that I think that it is incomplete almost to the point of falsehood. I am not accusing anybody of being a liar. That is not the way in which I propose to operate in this Committee. But I think that the clause itself is a fundamental lie.

It is incomplete to the point of being a lie because if this Bill becomes an Act, the government of England will never be the same again. Never in history have 71 outsiders—we could argue as to hether it is 119, with the Welsh and the Irish but, anyhow, we are on the Scotland Bill, so for the sake of accuracy and peace let us restrict ourselves to 71 Scots—been able, at any rate not since the time of Queen Elizabeth, to vote on matters relating to England from outside. This really is the introduction of power without responsibility.

This is a novel principle, and therefore, because it is a novel principle, it seems to me that the government of England is affected.

It would be much more truthful to say so. I do not see why it is damaging to the Bill, because I do not see this as a wrecking amendment. As the Committee knows, I am very clear on the principle of wrecking amendments.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

The hon. Member talks about novel principles. Will he stop to contemplate the existing procedure, whereby we conscript Members who represent English constituencies into the Scottish Grand Committee? Is not that precisely the kind of anomaly about which he is talking?

Mr. Dalyell

No, it is different. It is different because the whole issue of sustaining Governments comes into it, and that makes it rather different.

I have promised to be brief. I shall end by reflecting that in fact what will happen to any group of Assemblymen when they arrive is that, sooner rather than later, they will be forced by the circumstances of the situation, by lack of powers, to become covert nationalists.

If we pass the Bill with this kind of clause, well may hon. Gentlemen on the third row below the Gangway opposite laugh, because they know perfectly well that they will be the beneficiaries—not my hon. Friends, not the Conservative Party and not even the Liberal Party. I thought that it was quite right and very symptomatic that at the end of Wednesday night the Order Papers should be waved not by my hon. Friends but by the hon. Gentlemen in the third row below the Gangway, because they are the beneficiaries of this exercise.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

I find myself sharing the difficulties of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) when confronted with this clause and amendments to it. The fact is that no amendments that could possibly be drafted to this clause could remedy the difficulty, for the difficulty is in the Bill itself, in what the Bill is trying to do. The nature of it is thrown up by contrast by the attempted amendments to this clause.

The statement in Clause 1 belongs to the class of statements which are made by those who do not believe them or who hope that they might perhaps be true but are not sure about it. They are not the sort of statements which are ever made by those to whom the matter in question is a certainty. The very fact of the clause being in the Bill is an expression at least of doubt and uncertainty. I should, indeed, say, of more than doubt or uncertainty. It is tantamount to an admission of the reverse.

This is a clause, as I pointed out during our previous bite at this bad apple—I shall not do so again at length—which has a history; and it is a sad history. It was used in the 1914 Government of Ireland Act to make a statement which was visibly untrue then and was presently proved in practice to be untrue—which is why at any rate the word "power", which featured in the 1914 version, was wisely omitted from the 1920 version. The statement made in 1924 that the devolution as then contemplated to an elected Assembly in Dublin of legislative power in the island of Ireland did not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the sovereignty of Parliament, was a patent untruth and was exploded before that Act could ever be put into effect; but the bit that was blown off the 1914 Act, the northern part of the 1920 Act, did in fact remain on the statute book in a modified form, which continued in existence for exactly 50 years.

We can learn a great deal from those 50 years, and from the way in which that period ended, about the dangers of the course upon which we seek to enter by this Bill.

I hope that the opportunity will be taken in this debate to perform what the Secretary of State for Scotland on Second Reading on 14th November so signally failed to perform. He was asked by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) to confirm that Scottish—and indeed English—Members would no longer be able to raise Adjournment debates and so forth on the subjects of health, housing, education and so on, for the reason that those matters would not be within the competence of the Secretary of State and therefore there would be no answerability. Whether owing to a fault of hearing or otherwise, the immediate reply of the Secretary of State was that the proposition of the hon. Member for Aylesbury was "not true".

A few lines later however he said: Of course it will not be possible to raise with the Secretary of State for Scotland matters for which he is not responsible. That is absolutely rudimentary, and I am surprised that there should be any doubt about it."—[Official Report, 14th November, 1977; Vol 939, c. 58]. I hope that we shall have from the Government—as this matter is of utmost constitutional seriousness—a clear definition, with the full authority of the Government on the advice of the Law Officers, of the extent to which, and the form in which, matters devolved to the Scottish Assembly under the Bill will be able to be raised and debated in this House; for except in so far as these matters can still be raised and debated in the House, Clause 1 becomes not merely a lie but a most dangerous lie.

It asserts that this House, or Parliament of which this House is a part, has the supreme authority to make laws…for any part of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. Now, to say, on the one hand, that a whole series of the affairs of Scotland may not be raised or debated in the House and are not within the responsibility of the Government who are answerable to the House, and to assert quite blandly on the other hand that this House can make laws for Scotland on these affairs, is to court the most dangerous collision possible.

Legislation does not take place in a vacuum. The Government or a private Member do not stand up out of the blue and, on a subject that does not engage our attention and is not within the competence of the Government or hon. Members, suddenly propose legislation. The legislation of this House is an integral part of the control of this House over the Executive and of the supreme authority of Parliament over all persons and causes inside the realm. It is one expression—and only one expression—of our supreme political responsibility.

To pretend that one can, without disaster, dismiss a whole range of subjects concerning 5 million of Her Majesty's subjects in this kingdom, that one can year after year prevent hon. Members from debating these matters concerning them in this House, and then proceed to legislate upon them here—

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

Surely the right hon. Gentleman must accept that it is a consequence of devolution that those matters within the jurisdiction and discretion of the Scottish Assembly and Executive should not concern hon. Members of this House.

Mr. Powell

I thank the hon. Member for his assistance and his confirmation of what I have been saying. That is what the Bill envisages and that is why it is a fact—unless this is contradicted this afternoon—that these matters are not within the competence of the Secretary of State as a member of the Government, being not matters for which he is responsible. Having established that, I say that it is impossible, without courting disaster, to pretend, or ever to seek to act upon the pretence, that this House will still have authority to make laws on those matters, at any rate for that part of the kingdom.

We have had a practical example of such a pretence and of its working out. This is where the experience of Northern Ireland is highly relevant to our debate this afternoon. For 47 years this House dissociated itself—upon the constitu tional principles asserted by the Secretary, of State for Scotland in the context of this Bill—from responsibility for all matters within the competence of the Stormont Parliament. Then, after 47 years, this House in 1969 found itself, or believed itself to be, obliged to give reality to the overriding responsibility and authority which was asserted in Clause 75 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920.

4.15 p.m.

The result was that the management of the affairs of Northern Ireland, a part of the kingdom, and the legislation for Northern Ireland passed into the hands of an Executive and Parliament which had not concerned itself with the facts and affairs of Northern Ireland for two generations though I pay full recognition to the fact that hon. Members of this House, particularly from the Labour benches, did at intervals during those 50 years protest against the fundamental inconsistency involved.

The consequence that we reaped was that, at the expense of the people of Northern Ireland, at the expense of a series of blunders which had to be painfully reversed later, this House and successive Governments had to learn anew the fundamental facts and circumstances of Northern Ireland. A great part of the tragedy of the last eight years in Northern Ireland arises out of the same contradiction as is implicit in the first clause of this Bill—the pretence that we have indeed retained the unity of the Kingdom while denying to the House that continuing responsibility and concern with affairs of all parts of the Kingdom which is indissociable from its unity.

One cannot foresee or foretell the exact forms under which this clause will avenge itself, but the Committee may be sure that if we persist in enacting what is proposed in this Bill and still imagine, or, even worse, attempt to act upon the imagination, that this Parliament of the United Kingdom has retained its sovereignty and responsibility intact, the consequences will be rued by all parts of the Kingdom.

In the terms of the amendment we are asked the recognise that what we are doing is incompatible with the unity of the realm.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

While not dissenting from what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has said, I wish to attack Clause 1 and support the amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) on other grounds, not so far expressed.

It is an important and long-established principle of legislation that a Bill should contain law and not expressions of opinion or propaganda. Expressions of opinion, whether right or wrong, good or bad, controversial or agreed, have for years been considered irrelevant to legislation.

Clause 1 offends that principle in the most glaring manner. It is not the first sentence that offends although I agree with the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that the words "and England" might have been added. However, if one reads the second sentence one sees that it says that the provisions of the Act … do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom. That is a mere statement of opinion and what is more, it is a controversial statement of opinion; indeed, it is propaganda. I strongly suspect that it has been put in as a sort of paving sentence in order to make way for what is to be done by the Government when the referendum comes. It really should not be accepted as legislation.

A statement of intention or purpose in a Bill is quite different. That would refer to what the Bill intends to achieve rather than being a controversial expression of opinion about what the Government think it might, or is hoped to, achieve or not to achieve.

Statements of intention, as was pointed out by the Committee on the Preparation of Legislation, can be helpful. They can help a Bill to be better understood first by Parliament and, secondly, in the country—and understood especially by those who have to advise on the effects of a Bill. Statements of intention and purpose can help the courts to interpret a Bill more in accordance with the will of Parliament. That is all right, and it is why I support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire because it contains a clear statement of purpose which is within the principles of legislation. It says: Nothing in these provisions shall be construed as impairing or in any way affecting"— then it goes on the unity of the United Kingdom". The Government should welcome what has been proposed with open arms. It will get them out of a most terrible drafting error which has been made and one which will be ridiculed as it lies on the statute book, if and when this Bill is passed. A statement of purpose can help a Bill to be better understood. But a controversial statement such as this, on which opinion has already been expressed, is deeply dividing. Far from allowing the Bill to be better understood, it causes it to be misunderstood because the statement itself is misleading.

I fully endorse what the right hon. Member for Down, South said—namely, that the statement was inserted because of the doubt which is inherent in it. In those circumstances it is wrong for the Government to legislate entirely contrary to long-established practices evolving over the centuries in this House, whereby we make laws by our legislation and do not indulge in propaganda whether controversial or otherwise. For these reasons, I intend to support my right hon. Friend's amendment.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recollect that his colleague on the Kilbrandon Commission, Mrs. Nancy Trenaman, made the point several times that, in the light of what has happened since and in the absence of good will, she would not now support many of the Kilbrandon recommendations because they were made on the assumptions of good will? Will he, as a fellow member of the Commission, confirm that?

Sir D. Renton

The hon. Gentleman has no doubt asked me that question based on the fact that I was a member of the Kilbrandon Commission. I was not aware of Mrs. Nancy Trenaman's statement to that effect. I believe that on the Commission, although we disagreed on solutions to be recommended, everybody assumed that there would be a degree of good will, which, in the circumstances, has not prevailed.

I hope that the Minister of State will not take it amiss if I say that the provisions which he has put forward have done a lot to destroy such good will on devolution as undoubtedly existed on the Kilbrandon Commission. There was good will. I wanted to see the minimum of devolution. There were others who wanted to go near to a federal solution, but who declared that it was not federal. However, there was undoubtedly a keen desire to try to put something forward to Parliament for the Government of the day to consider which would retain good will. I think that Mrs. Trenaman's comment, coming as it does to me without prior knowledge and put unexpectedly to me across the Floor, is fairly pertinent.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

I should like a little later to refer to my Amendments Nos. 13 and 14, the subject matter of which has already been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). However, I wish first to comment on some of the other amendments that are now before us.

I believe that Clause 1 is virtuous in intent, but I share the view of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that it is wholly inaccurate in description. Indeed, it is a lying clause because it does not describe what happens in the rest of the Bill.

I welcome one ingredient in Clause 1, which is an implied rejection of federalism. It is true that the Government's Bill in its revised version is in no sense a federal Bill, and I am pleased about that. As the Committee knows, there are, broadly speaking, two different versions of federalism which may be applied to this matter. One is a federation consisting of four parts—England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The other is a federation consisting of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and a rag-bag of English regions. It is largely accepted that the first of these will be hopelessly unbalanced, and I was pleased that the Government last week, if only in a furtive way, made it clear that they had found widespread resistance in England to the application of any form of English regionalism. To that extent I agree with the Government, which makes a change compared with my views on the rest of their policies.

Since federalism has been resolutely rejected, the Liberal Party is left in an odd position. We may recall that on 22nd February the Leader of the Liberal Party, whom I am glad to see here, said: if we are to go for devolution at all, we should operate on a federalist principle with powers that are divided and not overlapping."—[Official Report, 22nd February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 1270.] We now see that we have nowhere near that situation. We have not a Bill which meets the request, or indeed the demand, of the Leader of the Liberal Party, and it is evident that on this occasion, as in so many other matters, he has simply accepted what the Government have toil him to do.

We have still before us some kind of unitary system. My Amendment No. 13 is designed to confirm that Parliament can still legislate in these circumstances. I am not sure that the right hon. Member for Down, South picked up this point fully in his remarks. It is one of the interesting facts of the Government's scheme that there is nothing in it to stop a Private Member who is lucky enough to draw a place in the Ballot bringing forward a Bill covering Scotland as well as England. That is one of the ingredients of the scheme. I raised this matter last Session and, although the Lord President did not deal with the matter, the Minister of State, who is a little better versed in these matters, confirmed that under the Government's scheme it will still be possible for hon. Members to legislate on devolved matters in Scotland.

That provision, which by and large I welcome, has a great bearing on Clause 1 because it is obvious that this situation would be liable to lead to considerable friction. It is one more example of the fact that this whole Bill will produce friction rather than prop up the unity of the United Kingdom. Perhaps Scottish Members should understand this point, and I am not sure that they all do. The Government hope that there will be some kind of convention. They hope that there will be what I have described as a self-denying non-ordinance, and that Members of the House will elect not to legislate on Scottish matters, but there is nothing to make sure that this will happen. I can well imagine that an hon. Member wishing to abolish corporal punishment, for example, might bring in a Private Bill to abolish the tawse in Scotland just as it would abolish other forms of corporal punishment in England—

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

Or to restore it.

Mr. Raison

—or, as my right hon. Friend, who takes a different view on these matters, has said, to restore it—and there would be nothing except the Whips to prevent that sort of legislation from being brought forward. However, there would be serious limitations on the power of Scottish Members. Here I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South. These limitations would apply, for example, to Questions, to Adojurnment debates and to debates on the Consolidated Fund. In all these cases the yardstick for whether a debate is permissible is whether the subject falls within the responsibility of the Minister concerned. I think that Scottish Ministers and Secretaries of State for Scotland would probably be able to plead accurately that they could not answer on Scottish housing, education and other matters.

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

It is quite simple to ask a supplementary question merely by asking the Secretary of State what he intends to do at this time next week. There will be a way round that problem.

Mr. Raison

My hon. Friend is wise in the ways of the House. I agree that that kind of thing might happen, and would add to the irritation and friction which the Bill is calculated to produce. My Amendment No. 14 would add the following words at the end of Clause 1: or the existing rights, responsibilities and duties of Members of Parliament representing any part of the United Kingdom'. In other words, I want to establish that hon. Members should continue to be able to perform the functions which they have performed, and, I believe, performed well, over the centuries. It is worth looking carefully at what the Bill as drafted will mean for Scottish Members. I wonder whether Scottish Members and their constituents have yet understood the serious limitations that will be imposed on them.

The Bill seeks to prevent Scottish Members from dealing with devolved matters save, as I say, through legislation. On Second Reading, the Minister of State attempted to play down this reduction in the responsibilities of Scottish Members and said that there would still be plenty for them to do, and perfectly fairly referred to economic powers, which I accept would still be relevant to Scottish Members.

However, I think that all Members, and particularly Scottish Members, should take on board the subjects which they will not be allowed to deal with—health, social welfare, education, housing, local government, land use, pollution, erosion, the countryside, transport and roads, marine works, agricultural land, fisheries, forestry, water, fire, tourism, monuments, registration, the courts, tribunals, public records, civil law matters and crime. That is an enormous chunk of government as we know it today, and an enormous chunk of the business of Members of this House and their ability to question Ministers on these important matters. I hope that hon. Members from Scotland and their constituents understand that these powers are being taken from them.

Mr. Dalyell

At least two-thirds of the list that the hon. Gentleman has read out are subjects which are directly dependent upon financial, economic and Treasury decisions. In our mongrel capacity—which is what it is, a mongrel capacity—how are we to decide what is relevant to economic policy and Treasury policy and what is not? Can it be imagined that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) will sit by meekly and allow all these things to be discussed without some mention of economic policy? This will apply not only to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. I argue that every Member of a Scottish Assembly, whether Conservative, Labour, Liberal or with any other political tag, will want to discuss these matters. Of course, they will. It is endemic in the situation created by the Bill.

Mr. Raison

Once again the hon. Member for West Lothian has hit the nail right on the head. He is quite right.

It is instructive to look at the effect of these provisions on the activities of Members from Scotland. In doing so, I want to outline briefly the Adjournment debates and debates on the Consolidated Fund in the last Session which will no longer be allowed to take place if the Bill goes through in its present form. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) raised the question of the oil and gas infrastructure. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) raised the question of Troon harbour. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small) raised the question of the general practitioner deputising service in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) debated the work of the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) raised the subject of house improvement grants in rural areas of Scotland. The hon. Member for West Lothian raised the subject of the merger and closure of teacher training colleges in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) debated teachers' superannuation in Scotland. The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) raised the subject of Scottish Transport Group fares to the Western Isles. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) raised the reconstruction of the Scottish Teachers' Salaries Committee. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) raised the conduct of inquiries by the Special Branch. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) raised the further delay in completing the Thornton bypass in Fife.

I also have a list of Questions asked at the last Scottish Question Time, but in view of the truncation of our debate by the guillotine I shall not read it. However, it reinforces my argument that hon. Members will be deprived of doing their job as we know it.

Mr. Henderson

One reason why Scottish Members have to raise these matters on Adjournment debates at very late hours when there is little time for discussion is that there is no Scottish Parliament in which to debate them.

Mr. Raison

Scottish Members do not have to raise these matters at any later hour than do other hon. Members. It is interesting to note how often at Scottish Question Time there are not enough Questions to fill the time allowed. That happened at the last Scottish Question Time.

Mr. David Steel

If the hon. Member were a Scottish Member, he would recognise that one of the difficulties from which we suffer, because of the anomalies in this place, is that we have to store up all these Questions which in respect of England would be put to different Ministers on different days. Our ration is an hour once a month. That is a further argument for devolution.

Mr. Raison

That is a total misconception. The right hon. Member must remember that English Members wishing to ask Questions on housing will put those Questions once every three weeks to the housing Ministers, and on transport they will be put every three or four weeks to the transport Ministers. There is no disadvantage in having to lump Questions together instead of raising them every three weeks.

Mr. Steel

The hon. Gentleman is not doing the arithmetic. My point is that our Questions on Scottish housing, education, transport and health have to be put to one Minister on the one opportunity we have.

Mr. Raison

There is no hardship in that. Either way, an hon. Member asks his Questions at regular intervals every three or four weeks. I do not want to be pettifogging about this, but I think that every Scottish Member has a considerably greater chance of getting a Question answered about his concerns than does an English Member. I do not begrudge that, because I think that there are special reasons for giving Scotland sympathetic treatment. The present system does that, and I think it right that it should.

Mr. Galbraith

I wish to confirm what my hon. Friend has said. Through the Table Office, I made inquiries about the chances of Scottish Members being able to ask Questions. They have twice as good a chance of getting Questions answered by the Scottish Office as English Members have of getting answers from the corresponding English Departments.

Mr. Raison

My hon. Friend is right. Finally, I ask those Scottish Members who support the Bill to consider what on earth will happen when they come to fight elections. I imagine that in Scotland, as in England, in an election campaign not merely great national matters are raised but one is asked about local issues. People ask "What will you do to get a hospital here? What will you do to get a road here, or to improve the schools in this area?". Scottish candidates will have to say "I am sorry, but these powers have been taken away from us by our own decision and handed to an Assembly in Scotland." Are they happy in their hearts about what they will be voting for?

Mr. Dalyell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Raison

am sure that I should quite agree with what the hon. Member for West Lothian is about to say, but because there is a guillotine I must press on.

The essential point is that the whole Bill is fraught with possibilities for friction. That is the profound objection that a growing number of people have to the Bill. We shall have plenty of opportunities to look at this later—or perhaps, in view of the guillotine, I should say limited opportunities—when we consider industrial and economic guidelines in relation to Clause 39 and pay policy in relation to Clause 40.

I wonder whether the House yet realises that if the Bill as at present drafted, were in force, there would be a dispensation that would relate to the present firemen's strike. It would be possible for firemen in Scotland to be given a 15 per cent. rise, but in England only 10 per cent. I do not want to talk about the level, but nobody can deny that if there were a situation in which public servants in one part of the country were not held to the Government's incomes policy while in other parts of the country they were, this could have most damaging consequences for the government of the whole United Kingdom.

Hon. Members know that the matters of payments to the Scottish Consolidated Fund and the block grant are already full of problems. The notion that one can divide up public transport and roads and have them run by completely separate administrations is nonsense. The Bill proposes that 8,000 civil servants should suddenly be told that they will work for the Scottish Assembly from then on. Is that not a breach of the conditions on which they were recruited?

Clause 1 is virtuous and admirable in intention, but it is totally fraudulent as a description of what happens in the Bill.

Mr. Henderson

It will be no surprise to the House to learn that my right hon. and hon. Friends will not be supporting the amendments in the names of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and his hon. Friends.

I should like to deal with one or two of the issues that were fairly and correctly raised by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison). The hon. Gentleman talked about the proposed system being fraught with friction, but so is the present system, because there is frustration in Scotland about matters that the Scottish people feel should be attended to and that are not being attended to by the House.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about pay policy. Scottish teachers are already on different salary scales, but perhaps the hon. Member was not aware of that. There are separate negotiating arrangements in Scotland for teachers and that has not caused considerable strain. Perhaps wisely, the hon. Gentleman did not mention London weighting, which is, in effect, a separate form of negotiation for employees living in a particular part of the United Kingdom. We have a certain pluralism in these matters and the hon. Gentleman was wrong to suggest that there is now some wonderful uniformity that this bad Bill and some bad people will somehow disrupt.

Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)

Has the hon. Member considered using the pay policy to aid redistribution of civil servants? If the pay policy did not apply in Scotland, think how much easier it would be to persuade civil servants from London to go there, something they are now reluctant to do.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Henderson

That is an interesting possibility of an inducement that it would be within the authority of the Scottish Assembly to consider.

In relation to the complaints that have been made about Clause 1, I must point out that neither I nor my hon. Friends have ever been entirely captivated by the argument about parliamentary sovereignty. That is a theoretical concept rather than a practical one. If the hon. Member for Aylesbury and others are to be believed, one would imagine that the House could suddenly legislate for horses to fly and that they would do so from Monday or that Parliament could legislate that red-headed people should eat only lettuce and cabbage from Monday onwards, and that, because the House had authorised it and made legislation, it would happen. I see that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) nods his head sagely.

Mr. Powell

There is no doubt that the House has the power to pass legislation of the second description, but whether it would be wise to do so is another matter.

Mr. Henderson

I value the right hon. Gentleman's comments on constitutional matters greatly. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that it would be a question of whether something would be wise—and that is surely at the crux of the clause. The House may write into the Bill that it will not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of Parliament in making laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it, but how that would be interpreted is a matter of wisdom.

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman seeks to dismiss my argument by producing areductio ad absurdum. Will he face the specific example that I gave, which was that a measure to abolish corporal punishment in Scotland could perhaps be brought forward by a passionate Assemblyman who might wish for such a reform?

Mr. Henderson

What depresses me about the hon. Member for Aylesbury and others like him is that however technically logical their arguments may be, they are totally unrelated to reality. For hon. Members to imagine that the House will remain exactly the same, with all its prejudices and drawbacks and corny outdated procedures, and have devolution is living in a dream world. That cannot happen. It must change.

The House has been slow to change in any direction or on any issue over many years. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) used a phrase that staggered me. He referred approvingly to "centuries of established practice" in the House. The fact that practices have been established for centuries does not carry any great weight in the new circumstances. Surely it is time to look at things in a fresh light while the Bill is in front of us.

Sir David Renton

I was referring to what legislation means. It means making laws. That view has been taken over the centuries by the House, and I hope that it will continue. It does not mean making such propaganda as is contained in Clause 1.

Mr. Henderson

I shall not engage in an argument with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am trying to deal with the arguments and matters that have been put before us in support of the amendments. It is unrealistic to think that the House can remain exactly as it is as a result of the measure.

There is also a question of wisdom. The clause may be here to provide a power that might be used in some great emergency. However, let there be no doubt about it, when an Assembly and an Executive have been democratically elected in Scotland, it would be one of the most disastrous things that the House could do if it tried to interfere with the Assembly's workings and decisions. That would show that the House had learnt nothing from colonial disengagement over a long time. It is monstrous to suggest that the House should interfere in the affairs of the Assembly or the Scottish Executive.

How can it be suggested that this House should have an Adjournment debate on a matter arising out of the executive action of the officers of the Scottish Assembly? That would not be a proper matter for this House, and that would apply to other matters also.

Clearly, the Select Committee on Procedure of this House must look at this situation and will have to bring before us some revised procedures and guidelines on matters that can properly be discussed here and those which would properly be the concern of the Scottish Assembly and Executive.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can clear up a matter. There seems to be a difference between the point he has arrived at and the point where he began. Is he saying that the Government have put their name to a fraud in this clause? The hon. Gentleman is now indicating that the words in the clause are untrue.

Mr. Henderson

I am saying that the words in the clause are academic. One cannot democratically give the Scottish people the right to elect an Assembly, to appoint officers of Government as Secretaries, Prime Minister, or whatever they will be called—and, no matter what the Bill says, the Press in Scotland will refer to the Scottish Prime Minister—and then imagine that there can be interference from this House in matters that are properly within the concern of the Assembly and the legislation or executive action that it takes. This House will have to grow up a bit if it is to live with that situation. There must be good will and understanding by the House and a recognition of what the Assembly can do.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Henderson

In a moment. I know that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) likes to give a running commentary on our debates, and that often proves valuable.

I am sorry that my amendment was not selected for discussion. It would have gone a considerable way towards helping the House to look at this whole question. English Members have a justifiable complaint about the rôle that they will have here when we have established the Assembly and Executive in Scotland. I hope to come back to this matter at a later stage of the Bill, with proper advice, to make clear that it is not the wish of Scottish Members to interfere in English legislation. That is a necessary corollary to devolution.

I appreciate that there are wan faces on the Government Benches when it is realised that they may not be able to get a majority among English Members for some of their legislation. At present they use Scottish and Welsh Members as Lobby fodder to push through measures. The right approach is that, by convention or by a rule of the House, Scottish Members should be debarred from participating in matters that Mr. Speaker rules are exclusively an English concern. That is an element of fairness that my hon. Friends and I would support.

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman is making a very significant speech. What is the difference between good will of the House of Commons, as he defines it, and acquiescence by the House in the establishment of a separate Scottish State? From what he has said the two appear to be the same.

Mr. Henderson

I find the hon. Gentleman's allusions unclear for once. I am not sure what point he is trying to make.

Hon. Members would have to realise that there were matters which this House had decided should be devolved to a Scottish Assembly and Executive. They must be allowed to get on with those matters and to decide policies according to the majorities in the Assembly.

We have often heard the catchphrase "unity of the United Kingdom". I often wonder what the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom means to almost 200,000 Scots queuing at the labour exchanges, but that is another argument. Let us not confuse unity with uniformity. The purpose of this measure is to preserve a certain degree of unity while allowing diversity in the policies that each nation may implement.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

I have been listening to the debate with some surprise. There is a lot of confusion and it is right that we should air it, but I resent it when hon. Members express their confusion in the form of dogmatic certainty. That is the worst of all worlds.

The clause does not merit the sort of sledgehammers that have been brought to bear upon it. It is no more than a pious hope. The argument is not whether the clause will effectively retain the unity of the United Kingdom but whether the Bill itself will help to achieve that unity or will help to crack it. The clause does not matter one iota in either of those arguments.

I have a good deal of sympathy with the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) who said that legislation is not the place for pious expressions of hope or for propaganda. Some places are appropriate for such expressions, and I am not sure that it is not a bad thing for the Bill to say that it is not to be used to crack up the United Kingdom, which is what Conservative Members are trying to say in their amendment.

Unfortunately, the amendment falls into precisely the same error. In place of "do not affect" it seeks to insert: Nothing in these provisions shall be construed as impairing or in any way affecting". Construed by whom? [HON. MEMBERS: "The courts."] Unity is not a question of interpretation by the courts or Parliament. It depends upon whether the people of the country want unity. It does not matter what is said here or in the courts. The clause and the amendment will not move us one step forward in achieving that aim.

If it is the will of the people expressed through the Assembly to crack up the United Kingdom, all sorts of things could prevent it—as Abraham Lincoln prevented it in the United States—but it would not be prevented by this Bill, by cutting out Clause 1 or by the amendment. We are dealing with the major matter of a possible break-up of the United Kingdom, but the clause does not deal with that. It is an expression of hope and nothing more.

The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire referred to discussions in the Kilbrandon Report, I was not very impressed by the report or the level of discussion on it and I was very unimpressed by the facile way in which the report made deductions based on pretty inadequate questions. It is not enough merely to ask people whether they are satisfied with the Government and so on. The people of Truro and Battersea would give the same reply to such questions as did the people of Edinburgh and Glasgow. There was little basic formulation before the Kilbrandon Commission arrived at its report on devolution. It was an extremely simple report by a group of people who, collectively, seemed extraordinarily simple-minded.

Sir David Renton

I disagreed with the Commission's conclusions in regard to Scotland, but it is only fair to point out that it took immense pains and sat for four and a half years hearing evidence in various parts of the United Kingdom, including two quite long visits to Scotland. Members received a vast amount of written and oral evidence in addition to what they gleaned on their visits.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Buchan

The difficulty was that the Commission was established to consider the question of change in the constitution. What no Royal Commission will do after sitting for four years is to say "We recommend no change". That is the first point. The second point is that it did not examine in depth the nature of the response. That is like the comment of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson), who asked "Will the 200,000 people queueing up at the labour exchange be worried about the niceties of this legislation?" As the Commission was concerned about the constitutional framework, it deduced that there should be a constitutional response. An infinitely better response would have been to seek to establish a much juster and fairer form of economy, one that would give more power to the ordinary people. That would have been a better form of devolution to recommend. It would have been better to take power from the powerful sectors up on high and to pass it down to the ordinary people. However, that was not within the Commission's remit.

As a supporter of devolution for democratic reasons, I become anxious about the weight that is being placed on the possibilities arising from devolution. There is the nonsense of it being seen as a panacea on the one hand, while on the other hand it is seen as merely a preface to the cracking up of the United Kingdom. However, we shall not be engaged in that argument. We shall not find ourselves on the battlefield engaged in argument about the break-up of the United Kingdom if we deal only with the constitutional niceties in this place.

The discussion and the Bill will be decided by much vaster events. Those events will take place in Scotland and in the United Kingdom as a whole. If we spend our time in this place dealing with the confused nonsense that we have heard in the past hour or so on this clause, we shall be in deadly trouble. We must begin to understand the nature of the problem with which we are dealing.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), whom I exempt from all this, as I do my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), even where I disagree with him, gave an example in talking about the Government of Ireland Act 1914. That was also an attempt to express the retention of unity. As the right hon. Gentleman said, that was exploded even before the Act was implemented. What we do not know is whether it would have been exploded if the Act had been implemented. The crucial question is whether that legislation would have achieved or maintained the unity of the United Kingdom and Ireland and whether a sufficient measure of Home Rule had been granted at that time. It would have been easier to grant devolution to Scotland then than it is now because the economy was not so structured, intermeshed and intermingled with Government. If it had been granted then, events would not have exploded.

Such events do not stem from the niceties of the clause. We are making the same error—namely, confusing unity and a unitary form of government. A unitary form of government, central decision-mankind and central legislation is one thing, but the unity of the people behind it is an entirely different matter.

We need not be afraid of the extension of democracy to the people, whether downwards in political terms, downwards in economic terms or horizontally to other areas, if the will exists to make it work.

I take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who gave us an impressive list of the sort of questioning and the type of Adjournment debates that have been initiated by Scottish Members. The hon. Gentleman did not ask himself why that has happened. As a Scottish Member raises an Adjournment debate about a hospital in Stirling, Peterhead or Renfrewshire, so do English Members raise Adjournment debates about hospitals in Aylesbury or Birmingham. That is the nature of the beast. The reason that it has to happen here in respect of Scottish Members is that there is no other place in which it can happen. The same situation applies to English and Welsh Members. Therefore, it has to happen here.

The proposition is that there should be another place where such matters can be raised. Inevitably that involves the relationship between the Scottish Member and his constituency and the relationship of the Assemblyman and the same constituency, or half of it. It is inevitable that the relationship will be different. There will not be the same requirement for these matters to be raised when the Assembly is established. However, we often raise matters relating to local government despite the presence of local government representation. There is nothing wrong with that. Scottish Members will find the means of raising Scottish matters and I see nothing to stop that happening. I believe that it will create problems, but there is nothing to stop it. Part of the argument depends upon a simple proposition—namely, "What will Scottish Members do?". That is very different from the West Lothian question, which is a major crunch issue.

I find the question "What will Scottish Members do?" relatively unimportant. There will be many major issuses with which they have to deal. The trouble is not the argument about unity, it is the obsession with unitary government and the obsession that the so-called sovereignty of this place is the be-all and end-all, the pinnacle of any possible democracy. That is the absorption of some Members who, like myself, have been here too long, to echo Cromwell's sentiments, for all the good that they have done. They are so absorbed with their own rule in this place that they cannot envisage extending the same rule to other people in another place.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman made an interesting remark when he suggested that notwithstanding what the Bill, which would be an Act, said, Scottish Members would be able to raise matters that are clearly barred within the Bill, that it would be the duty of a Minister to reply on matters for which he had no accountability, and that the Chair would admit them. Will the hon. Gentleman explain precisely how he thinks the Chair would admit them or a Minister could reply if matters are raised by Scottish Members that are specifically outside the responsibility of this House?

Mr. Buchan

Curiously enough, I did not say that. I was dealing with the number of Scottish matters raised by Scottish Members. It is said that they are so concerned with Scottish matters that they would have little to do with their time if they came to the House once the Assembly had been set up. The argument has been that such matters would be raised in another place.

Mr. Raison

Surely the real point—

Mr. Buchan

With respect, let me decide the real point.

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman has said, and I agree with him, that Scottish Members would do their best to raise Scottish matters in this House. It would be clearly outside the power of a Minister to reply. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will address himself to the argument raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who has issued a dire warning of the consequences for Scottish Members if they raise such matters in this place. It has been said that if Scottish Members do so there will be great wrath and anger in Scotland. That illustrates once again that this is a scheme that will cause divisions, fired by the SNP.

Mr. Buchan

If the hon. Gentleman and others had read me more diligently on Sunday, they would appreciate that I have been warning on this point for a long time. I referred to the difficulties that the Bill will cause in relation to the Assembly and this place. Clearly we shall never remove conflict from political affairs. If I raise a matter affecting the Strathclyde Region, I have no doubt that a Strathclyde councillor will say "Why is he butting his nose in?". However, hon. Members tend to do that. Perhaps we should not do so, but the fact is that we do it. It will happen here.

I do not think that that is the sort of rage that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East would like to arouse in the Assembly. The issue that he would like to raise goes much deeper than that. We must remember that with which he is concerned. That is why I share the surprise of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, who said that the speeches of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East start in one way and end in another. I am vaguely surprised that they endorsed Clause 1, which is what he seemed to suggest at the beginning. If there is a group in this place who do not want to preserve the United Kingdom, it is the Scottish National Party. That also applies to the Scottish Labour Party.

Is it possible to achieve unity rather than great anxiety over the cracking of a unitary structure of government? I do not know, although I hope that it is possible. I hope that we shall find the means whereby we can run side by side the Assembly and the United Kingdom Government without continually looking over our shoulders when the first crunch issue appears to see whether a crack is appearing.

I believe that it is likely that the Bill will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. I am not so convinced that not having the Bill will prevent its break-up. We are foolish if we do not appreciate that there is a balance of danger. My judgment, for what it is worth, is that it is more dangerous to do without the Bill.

Believing in democracy, I also am in favour of extending democracy. But I am under no illusions as to the kind of dangerous course on which we are embarked, which is why I want to get rid of the illusions of hon. Members opposite about my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench believing that it can be dealt with on the lines of this Bill. I have tried to come forward with a partial suggestion in which the matter could be dealt with and in which a truce apparently could be worked out in order to get a balance of relationships between the two legislatures.

At least we should settle the separatist dispute for the time being—though perhaps not for ever—in that the Assembly should be given the chance to work—to see whether it will work. But by dealing with the separatist issue, inevitably the question has to be posed to the Scottish people. The arguments about separation and independence have to be fought out and argued properly in Scotland.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East complains about 200,000 people being out of work, and so do I. I see no reason why that number should not increase considerably if we break up the United Kingdom. He thinks that the number will diminish. That is the level upon which the argument has to be engaged. I believe that he is speaking nonsense. In my constituency Babcock and Wilcox, Chrysler and shipbuilding would be manifestly in danger if Scotland were given complete economic power but no influence on the United Kingdom economy. The effect would be in the opposite direction. But the important thing is that we have to argue it out. We are not doing that while we are concentrating on these minor constitutional points. Therefore, the question has to be posed and the Government must see the error of their ways.

Given a single question on the referendum, that argument will not be engaged. The matter will never be settled. We are likely then to get an endorsement for devolution without going into a situation in which crack-up is not only possible but likely. We are also giving the SNP the chance of fighting a major campaign which they cannot lose because they can play both ends against the middle, and because we who understand the problems will not feel great zest for engaging in that aspect. That major campaign will be taken by them, and by many people, as being the first steps towards independence.

The Government must stop short and look at the necessity of a second question to deal with the issue of independence, not just because the referendum can settle the issue for all time, or at least for a long time, but so that—

Mr. Galbraith

Will the hon. Gentleman give way? We are in Committee.

Mr. Buchan

It is wrong of the hon. Member to interrupt me, not only in mid-sentence, but in mid-clause. The real task before us is to ensure that this argument is properly engaged. I now give way to the hon. Member.

Mr. Galbraith

We forget that we are in Committee where it is normal to interrupt hon. Members. Does the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) think that if a second question about independence were put in the referendum, and it were rejected by the Scottish people, that would make any difference once the Assembly was established?

Mr. Buchan

Obviously I do or I would never have suggested it. This has been the whole basis of my argument. I want to give the Assembly a chance of being established with the emphasis on that particular question diminished for the time being. That is the basis of my argument. If the hon. Member under stands that, he should not interrupt me even in Committee.

Therefore we should have at least managed, in spite of the wrong-headed emphasis on this matter, to raise the real issue. That is not unitary government or a statement about unity, but the question of how we can best achieve unity. We cannot do that without the basic argument being engaged—that is, without asking the simple, straightforward question "Do you want Scotland to become an independent State?" without qualification. In such a case the SNP can defend its end and I can defend mine. That might give the chance of achieving unity. The dangers are enormous, and I would find my loyalty and continuing support for the Bill under considerable strain if that question could not be put and the battle engaged.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. David Steel

The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has introduced a note of calm realism and pragmatism into this otherwise extremely vague debate. I hope that he will not take it as being offensive if I say that I wish that he had kept his referendum remarks for the time when we shall deal with the referendum in the Bill.

I want to concentrate on Clause 1. I regard it as nothing but pious window-dressing—if there can be such a thing. Perhaps it would be a more apt description to call it window-dressing with a stained glass window. The amendment is seeking to change the dummies in the window, but the substance of the clause is not altered and nor is its material effect—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) seems to be saying that we should take the dummies out of the window, and there may be a case for that. I can see no case for the amendment and I am glad that as the debate has progressed the hon. Member for Cathcart has come to recognise that it is hardly worth having.

I believe that sovereignty rests with the people, not with this House. I agree with the hon. Members for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) and Renfrewshire, West. At the end of the day the question of how far this Assembly will go will be decided by the people in Scotland, not just in the referendum but generally as the politics of the Assembly and the politics of this House go on year by year and side by side. Given the necessary degree of good will and co-operation between the two bodies there is no earthly reason why this solution should not last. But no one can guarantee that it will last. Not even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Bill can guarantee that.

If we are looking for lessons from Ireland I come to the opposite conclusion to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). We lost Ireland because year after year, decade after decade, we refused to accept the demand of the people of Ireland for a degree of government over their own affairs. My distinguished predecessor, Mr. Gladstone—

Mr. Nigel Lawson (Blaby)


Mr. Steel

The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) might at least allow me to begin my quotation before saying "Rubbish". He does not know what I am going to quote.

Mr. Lawson

I was referring to the right hon. Member's earlier remark.

Mr. Steel

Mr. Gladstone's advocacy of Home Rule all round was rejected by this House. Therefore, we cannot argue backwards in history, and we cannot say that we would have kept Ireland within the United Kingdom if we had introduced devolutionary legislation. We can argue, however, that Ireland left the United Kingdom precisely because we refused such a measure. Therefore, the balance of argument whether Scotland will be separated from the United Kingdom if we follow the Irish example rests certainly on the side of those who want the Bill to become law and against those who say that the right approach is to do nothing. When one boils it down, that is what the Opposition want to do, and that cannot be denied.

I listened to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) going through Scottish Questions. I remember in the first year I came to this House being struck by the disadvantage at which a Scottish Member was placed under our anomalous position here. I was moved to write an excellent pamphlet which I commend to the hon. Member for Ayles bury and others. It is in the Library and it was written 10 years ago. It pointed out that Scottish Members were rationed to two Questions a day—the number is now one Question a day. It added up all the Questions that an English Member—it might be the hon. Member for Blaby—would want to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on Monday about housing, the Secretary of State for Transport on Tuesday about some transport matter, the Minister of Agriculture on Wednesday—

Mr. Raison

The English Member could ask the Question only once every three weeks.

Mr. Steel

Yes, once every three weeks on each topic.

Mr. Raison

Scots can ask some Questions about agriculture.

Mr. Steel

The hon. Member does not even know his facts. In Scotland agriculture is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The hon. Member should read my pamphlet.

Mr. Raison

It is 10 years out of date.

Mr. Steel

It is not. It is quite up-to-date, but I would consider producing a new edition to satisfy public demand. That is more important now because the number of Questions has been reduced from two to one.

Mr. Buchan

I never understood why we could not have had a Scottish Grand Committee meeting for a Question session. The Secretary of State could then have answered more questions.

Mr. Steel

With a slight variation, that was one of the suggestions that I made, but that was in the context of no devolution. One of the reasons why an Assembly makes sense is that many Questions which Scottish Members are frustrated from asking can be transferred to the elected representatives in the Assembly.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I accept that the position of Scottish Members is different from that of English Members at Question Time but the difference is that there are 71 Scots whereas if one looks at housing and education 500 Englishmen have interests.

Mr. Steel

I accept that. As the Secretary of State more or less admitted in his Second Reading speech, there is no doubt that the Scottish Office is less answerable in detail to the House than other Departments because of its multi-departmental responsibility.

The disadvantage does not rest on Questions alone. Has anyone stopped to analyse the workings of the Scottish Grand Committee? The people in Scotland would be astonished if they knew how it worked. If it had met in Edinburgh it would have been exposed. I have described it as being neither Scottish, grand nor a committee. It is the nearest thing that we have to a detention cell. English Members get conscripted on to it and when they get there they do their correspondence.

English Members are now entitled to vote in the Committee. What a row that caused. A former hon. Member for Ipswich once spoke in that Committee. This was unheard of. He said that by intervening as an English Member he ran the risk of never again being appointed to the Committee.

Hon. Members must be honest and recognise that the way in which we govern Scotland is riddled with anomalies. The Opposition say, first, that they are in favour of devolution in principle; second, that they want devolution without anomalies; third, that the only way that they can achieve that is to have federalism; fourth, that they are against federalism; and therefore, fifth, that we should do nothing. That is not a tenable position. We should proceed quickly with Clause 1, which means nothing, and get on with the Bill.

Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)

The speeches that we have heard so far drive one to the inescapable conclusion that we should omit the clause. There is much argument about what "unity" means and about pious hopes. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that the clause was propaganda. It does not add to the Bill.

The second phrase in the clause states that the changes do not affect the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it. That would be palpably untrue if the Bill were passed because Clause 18(2) states: A Scottish Assembly Act may amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament. In the practical world perhaps the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) is correct. I say that the statement that the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it will not be affected is not true. It is bound to be affected in the real world.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) said, there is a list of devolved subject matters in Schedule 10. I have sympathy with the views of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East on this point. It is no good the Leader of the Liberal Party referring to his distinguished predecessor, Mr. Gladstone. As I said during the Second Reading, Mr. Gladstone grasped most of the fundamental issues—issues which emerged in our debates on the Scotland and Wales Bill last year and which will emerge again during the passage of this Bill.

None of the questions asked during Second Reading were answered, probably because the Minister did not have sufficient time. I raised the problems of the "Eastleigh question", which concerns taxing powers. I quoted Frank Layfield, and it is relevant to the remarks of the Leader of the Liberal Party. On the subject of local government finance Lay-field and his colleagues said: Whoever is responsible for spending money should also be responsible for raising it, so that the amount of expenditure is subject to democratic control. Legislative powers are to be passed to a Scottish Assembly. The Scottish Executive will have lots of things to do but the power to control money will not be passed to it. I can think of nothing that is more designed to produce "agro" between Edinburgh and Whitehall than that. I am sure that the Members of the SNP will agree with me.

Any form of devolution must be built round the transfer of taxating powers from this House. Unless that is done, one is bound to create a nonsense. The Redcliffe-Maud Commission was set up by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) in 1966 and it was given terms of reference to look at functions and geography but not at voting supply and taxation.

The Bill is technically misconceived from the beginning because it does not deal with voting supply and taxing powers. It is therefore bound to disturb the unity of the people of the United Kingdom. I accept the distinction between unitarianism and unity.

We have several alternatives. We either leave things as they are, have a federal arrangement, have something like Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill or we have complete separation, which some members of the SNP desire. These are the only alternatives open to us. But the Bill deals with none of those possibilities.

Nothing in the Bill illustrates more clearly the basic nonsense behind the proposals than Clause 1. It is interesting to reflect how Mr. Gladstone dealt with the "West Lothian question". He dealt with it well in 1886 during his First Reading speech on the Government of Ireland Bill. He said; if Ireland is to have a domestic Legislature, Irish Peers and Irish Representatives cannot come here to control English and Scotch affairs.… There cannot be a domestic Legislature in Ireland, dealing with Irish affairs, and Irish Peers and Irish Representatives sitting in Parliament at Westminster to take part in English and Scotch affairs, There is no way round that argument. There is only Home Rule or a federal solution. I hope that the Government will reflect on this. The questions that I have put, the questions that have been put by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and the implications of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East add up to the fact that this Bill is a nonsense. I hope that the Committee will reject it.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Dalyell

Before the hon. Member sits down, may I refer him to the personal difficulty of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel)? The truth of the matter is that the right hon. Gentleman can affect matters in the neighbouring constituency of his Chief Whip in Berwick-upon-Tweed which he cannot affect in his own constituency. How on earth can this anomaly be supported? Mr. Gladstone would not have thought much about it.

Mr. Price

I must agree with the hon. Member, as I am sure he agrees with me that it is absolute nonsense to attempt to delegate powers to legislate without delegating taxing powers. We already see the anomaly which exists in the reorganised local government system which cannot deal with local taxation. This is the cause of a great deal of discord between local authorities and Government. We have that lesson before us and yet we are bringing in this new Scottish Executive above the reorganised local government structure in Scotland. Such a move is designed to produce "aggro" between Edinburgh and London.

Mr. Sillars

Whatever the Bill and the debates on it do for the government of Scotland, they have certainly added to the Scottish political vocabulary. Already we are well aware of the "West Lothian" question, and earlier this afternoon we had the West Renfrewshire doctrine of inevitability about Scottish independence. The Leader of the Liberal Party has added a new term—"enthusiastic supporters for this Bill." I am sure that if there was not a guillotine operating one such supporter might appear.

Before dealing with the amendment I wish to comment on an important point made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) who spoke about the problem of powers in relation to domestic Scottish affairs being removed from Members of this Parliament. The important point is that no power is being removed from the Scottish people. Without wishing to be accused by the Minister of State of being too enthusiastic for this measure, I must say, in all fairness, that the Bill has certainly extended Scottish accountability in Scotland by the Scottish people over important domestic matters such as transport and the social services.

I can give examples of how control by the people and the accountability of Assemblymen to the people would have radically improved the government of Scotland. There is no way in which the Strathclyde Region would have been imposed upon the people of Scotland had there been a Scottish Assembly dealing with important issues. What happened in the House of Commons on the final vote concerning Strathclyde was that the majority of Members representing Scottish constituencies voted against the construction of Strathclyde while a whole range of English Tories came in on a three-line Whip—they did not know a blind thing about Strathclyde, Argyll or any other part of Scotland—and voted down majority opinion in Scotland.

As a result of that action we have been landed with a measure which will probably figure prominently in the manifesto of every party fighting the Assembly elections. There will be the unanimous promise that whatever else they will do, they will certainly reform the botched-up structure of local government inherited from this Parliament.

The situation is the same with land use. There have been two Select Committees on Scottish affairs in recent years. One was established just before the 1970 election and dealt with regional policy in Scotland. I served on the second such Committee, along with John Brewis, who was at that time the Conservative Member for Galloway. He was the chairman of the Committee. One of the vice-chairmen was George Lawson, who used to be the Labour Member for Motherwell. My hon. Friend the Minister of State also served on the Committee. We did a lot of work on land use in Scotland.

I am told that the report of the Select Committee sold more copies in Scotland than most other Government publications. Yet the report has never been debated and probably has no chance of being debated. This is despite the fact that, within the forum of domestic Scottish politics, land use, who owns which land, is a gut issue in a way that it can never be south of the border, for a variety of historical reasons. There is an improvement in the government of Scotland inherent in this Bill, however unenthusiastic I may be about some aspects of it.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

On this question of land use and the Select Committee's valuable report, would the hon. Member not accept that even within a Scottish Assembly there would be business managers and Whips? The fact is that last year the Scottish Grand Committee met on only half the number of days it could have met. We could have discussed the land use report and many others if the Government or the usual channels had taken the view that there should be discussions. Would the hon. Gentleman not accept that it is not a question of shortage of time but of the way that the time is used?

Mr. Sillars

No. It is a question of the difference between discussion and decision. The most that the Scottish Grand Committee can do is engage in endless discussion. A Scottish Assembly will be able to promote an examination of problems, discuss them and decide upon them. That is the point that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has not grasped—at least this side of the election. There is a lot of hope for him before election day. We have experience of that.

I come now to Amendment No. 8, which proposes in line 9, to leave out from "Kingdom" to the end of line 11. The purpose of the amendment is to remove the temptation which I believe the theoretical powers of supreme legislation will put in the hands of those who occupy these Benches a number of years after some of us have gone. I do not think that it would be practical or wise to exercise the theoretical sovereignty of the House of Commons over a Scottish Assembly once that Assembly has been established.

The amendment was also tabled to draw attention to what I regard as a basic defect in the Bill, namely that it does not allow for an organic development of the Assembly's relationship with this Parliament. I do not believe that this Bill is in any way a final settlement or solution of what has come to be called in Scotland "the Scottish question."

Mr. Henderson

What about the Common Market?

Mr. Sillars

I am not dealing with the Common Market at present. A lot of what we say tonight could be repeated on Thursday and thereafter in Committee. It will be interesting to see how many people who are complaining about the division of powers between Edinburgh and Westminister will explain to us that there is no problem in connection with the division of powers between West-minister and Strasbourg. The point is that no final settlement is involved in this Bill.

The nature of the Bill will compel the Assembly to chance its luck on occasion, to stretch its power as far as it possibly can. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) talked about the need for a sufficient measure of Home Rule in the days when the Irish question dominated the House of Commons. The same thing applies in relation to Scotland. What is lacking is a sufficient measure. The firms my hon. Friend mentioned in his own constituency—Babcock and Wilcox, Chrysler and others—will automatically, as a first instinct at a time of trouble, turn towards Carlton Hill in Edinburgh. They will be most displeased as will Members of the Assembly, when it is realised that no powers reside there which can respond to the problems confronting them.

Mr. Buchan

The problem is that no power would reside there, even if there were an independent Scotland. Babcock and Wilcox is almost entirely dependent upon what would then be a separate English nationalised industry. There could be an independent Parliament, but those who went to it for economic help might find that it did not operate the levers of economic power.

Mr. Sillars

I am tempted to come on to the Common Market issue with my hon. Friend, but we shall come to it when we reach the question of the referendum and the definition of the term "independence". I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that, when we talk of the Common Market, we are talking about a customs union and obligations and responsibilities which tie Scottish industry, commerce and finance within that organisation as much as within any other. But it is absurd to say that an independent Government within the Common Market would be unable to respond to Scottish workers going to their own independent Parliament, as it would be financed by very considerable resources.

Mr. Buchan

My hon. Friend opposed our entry into the Common Market.

Mr. Sillars

Like my hon. Friend, I opposed it for very sound reasons. We were both convinced that it was better not to go in. However, the people said that we should go in. In May 1972, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and I—I am sure that I carry him with me on this point—spoke on an amendment dealing with Scotland when the European Communities Bill was before the House. I forecast that it would be an inevitable consequence of the United Kingdom's membership of the Common Market that Scotland would seek independence within that organisation. The Assembly is bound to stretch itself and this Parliament is bound to be involved in one response or another, either positive or negative.

If I were a member of the Assembly, I would put down a motion that the Assembly should appoint an economic commission to examine the Scottish economy in relation to the Scottish Assembly, the divisions or otherwise of economic power, and the responsibility and ability to do something inside Scotland. We all know what such a commission's findings would be. There are bound to be problems about future oil policy, for example, because there is divergence of opinion between absolute Scottish needs and absolute United Kingdom needs.

Then there is the question of the Scottish Development Agency, whose guidelines are to be set in Westminster, where the principles of harmonisation and uniformity are supreme. Once the Assembly is established, that agency, with all its potential for development and influence in the Scottish economy, will be tempted to try experimentation, to see whether economic devolution could work. But it will come up against the hard fact that such work is not on because of the strangulation by the guidelines.

Mr. Dalyell

It is the settled policy of the Labour Party in Scotland that the work of the Scottish Development Agency and economic devolution will not take place in the way suggested.

Mr. Sillars

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) does occasionally tell us what is official Labour Party policy. But even that is bound to change. I do not care who gets elected to the Assembly; the fact is that, once the Assembly is given the Scottish Development Agency, and once the Assembly faces extreme structural problems in the Scottish economy in the next five to seven years, it is bound to seek freedom from the guidelines, and there will be strains and tensions.

It is true that, in theory, at the end of the day, this Parliament can say "Away with the Assembly; it is giving us too much trouble." But that is like the use of the H-bomb between the United States and the Soviet Union. Once the ultimate deterrent is used, there is nothing left, and in this case we shall have reached the point of separation and independence one way or another.

5.45 p.m.

Amendment No. 8 simply reflects the reality of the problems which will lie perhaps more in this House than in the Assembly, because it is the Assembly that will stretch and this House that will be required to respond. I see the Assembly as being of necessity a mechanism of adjustment towards a Scottish Parliament with substantial powers, and in doing so I recognise, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West, the limitations within that capitalist organisation called the Common Market. But it will be a Scottish Parliament with a great deal more power than the Scottish people are able to exercise at present.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) described Clause 1 as fraudulent because, he said, it used the words They do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom". I would not accuse the Minister of State of being fraudulent. I simply think that the wish is father to the thought. But that simple criticism can certainly be applied to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire. One need only listen to the right hon. Gentleman making his analysis of the points of friction built into the system we are creating, and of the consequences bound to arise, and to speeches from Conservative Back Benchers, to realise that they are as fraudulent, or at least as guilty of the wish being father to the thought, as the Government themselves.

It is my view that the best thing for the House to do is to accept Amendment No. 8 and, as we proceed through the rest of the Bill, to build in economic power for the Assembly. It would mean substantial power. It would give the devolution settlement the kind of chance pleaded for by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West. It would be easier to be an Assemblyman operating in an Assembly with power through which one could respond to the problems of the Scottish economy than to serve in an Assembly whose lack of power led to frustration in day-to-day life because it was separated from economic management.

Mr. Buchan

But how does my hon. Friend square this with his own position, which is not devolution of economic power but independence within the Common Market?

Mr. Sillars

The two can be squared. I believe that independence within the Common Market would be the best solution for the Scottish people. It may well be that they will settle for something less than that, but I think my hon. Friend and I are in agreement that they will not. I think that that is the important point.

I have always said that there is a reasonable chance of the Scottish people accepting a devolution settlement given that they have substantial economic powers. I have said that irrespective of my own point of view. If, therefore, I became a Member of an Assembly with economic powers, I would try to make a constructive contribution to its work, always reserving the right to argue another viewpoint in the future. My hon. Friend would no doubt take the same attitude. There is no contradiction there.

Amendment No. 8 would pave the way to substantial economic power for the Assembly. Unless the Assembly does get such power, it might even be better to add, after the words They do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom"— yet".

Mr. Graham Page

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) returned in one or two sentences in his speech to Clause 1 and the amendments. We are in Committee after all, discussing amendments to Clause 1, although that has not been evident so far. Clause 1 in my view is the most hypocritical and at the same time most ridiculous piece of declaratory legislation. It is a legislative lie. It does not fit with the rest of the Bill in truth. But we have it, and here we are in Committee debating it and the amendments to it, and I do not intend to enter on a "clause stand part" speech or a Second Reading speech, because we ought to be making an effort to correct at this stage the clause that is before us. That is what some of the amendments endeavour to do.

Amendment No. 2, moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), has been called a "fudging" amendment. It is nothing of the sort. It endeavours to make clear the intention of Clause 1 perhaps, but I believe that it does not go far enough. It we are to have Clause 1, if we are to have this vague and, as someone called it, pious hope—"impious" would be the better description—which is an invitation to legislation by its very vagueness, let us at least try to tidy it up and spell out exactly what is intended by the loose wording of the clause.

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have endeavoured to do that in Amendments Nos. 3, 10 and 11. We seek to remove the whole of the second sentence of Clause 1, which goes far beyond the truth of the Bill. When we compare the second sentence of Clause 1 with the rest of the Bill, we find that it is just not true. I will read that second sentence as it would be if these amendments were accepted. With Amendment No. 3 it would read: Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to affect adversely or shall detract from, harm or weaken the unity of the United Kingdom and so on, and that would go a lot further than merely saying that it shall not affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supremacy of Parliament.

I do not think it is enough simply to say that the Bill shall not "affect the unity", and so on. It may well be that, as we proceed through the Bill, we shall find that we shall wish to strengthen the unity of the United Kingdom by some provisions. We may wish to strengthen the supremacy of this Parliament and to make it quite clear. I would not wish to exclude that type of amendment as we go through the Bill.

If Amendment No. 10 were accepted, the second sentence of Clause 1 would go on to say, at the end, nor shall they alter the prerogatives, rights, duties, privileges and conventions of the Crown as the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom". That may be a bit lavish in words but nowhere else do I find any confirmation of the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and that it shall not be affected by any of the clauses in the Bill. I think it ought to be well stated in Clause 1 if we are to have a declaratory statement of what is intended by the Bill.

Then by Amendment No. 11 I would seek to add to that at the end the words and no provision, power or privilege granted in any section of the Act may be so used in any way which might in any manner affect the unity of the United Kingdom". I think it is necessary to spell that out because of certain specific provisions in the Bill giving the Scottish Assembly—or, indeed, Scottish Ministers, or Ministers in the Government at Westminster—the power to alter the law relating to the United Kingdom if that alteration is consequential upon some Act passed by the Scottish Assembly.

It may be said that that is quite a small matter, but surely, if the Scottish Assembly passes a Bill which becomes a Scottish Assembly Act and it is then thought wise to make that apply to the rest of the United Kingdom for the sake of uniformity, that is consequential on the Scottish Assembly and may substantially alter the laws of the United Kingdom.

I would hope that it could be spelled out in Clause 1 that no such provision should be used so that it affects the unity of the United Kingdom or the supremacy of Parliament in Westminster. There is no doubt that by Clauses 18 and 19, combined with the provisions of Schedule 2, there is the power in the Scottish Assembly to alter the laws of the United Kingdom, and with the co-operation of Ministers, the laws of the United Kingdom could be altered under Clause 35 and Clause 80(3).

It is not only that the laws could be altered. The Bill provides for the method to enable those laws to be altered. In Clause 35 there is an entirely new procedure of law making, and if that is not an alteration in the government of the United Kingdom I do not know what is. If we are to have a declaratory clause it should be spelled out in Clause I that those powers shall not be used to affect the unity of the United Kingdom.

Returning to the first of the three amendments, that the provisions of the Bill shall not adversely affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supremacy of Parliament, it is not sufficient merely to say that they shall not affect. It needs to be spelled out so that we say that they shall not affect the laws of the United Kingdom or the government of the United Kingdom adversely, and shall not weaken or harm or detract from the unity of the United Kingdom.

I do not see how the Government could reasonably object to that sort of statement. After all, it is only saying what we have understood that the Government intended to say in Clause 1. But it would prevent the use of some of the powers in the remainder of the Bill for what I would consider to be an entirely wrong purpose.

As I am making a rather legalistic point here and there, I am glad to see that the Law Officer for Scotland is in his seat in the House. I am sorry that he was not with us earlier in the debate. It is not that he was not available, because he was sitting below the Bar of the House. I am sure that he will agree with the point which I have made—that if we are to have a declaratory clause, the first and major matter about which we have to make certain is that it does not confuse the issue. If it is meant to declare what the Government intend, let it declare it and spell it out properly. Never mind that there will be a few more lines of print in the Bill. Let it be certain, by this clause, that other provisions in the Act are not applied in such a way as to damage the unity of the United Kingdom or to weaken the supremacy of Parliament.

Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)

I intended to begin by making two comments on what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said but, to my astonishment, having made a speech in which he said how shocking it was that we did not have more time to discuss Scottish matters, he then departed from the Chamber just as we were discussing Scottish matters. But that is the usual way in which the Liberals appear to behave. None the less, two of the points that the right hon. Gentleman made require answer, if not to him then certainly to the House and to the country beyond it.

The right hon. Gentleman criticised us for spending any time at all on this block if amendments. But now that we have a guillotine—which we all know means that the Bill will go through, if the Government so wish it, more or less without amendment—we are not, alas, speaking primarily to this House of Commons any more. We are speaking, albeit by several removes, to the people of Scotland out side, who, God help them, have to believe what they read in the newspapers' accounts of this debate.

To be fair to the media, it was their reporting of our previous debates which caused the affection for devolution to decline so much in Scotland over the last few months. Indeed, I believe that when the referendum comes along, it will have caused that affection to decline so far the measure will be thrown out.

I think, therefore, that we have to seize every opportunity that we can to air issues, knowing that they will have no impact whatsoever on the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of State but that they may have some impact in the rather more thoughtful heads of people in Scotland.

6.0 p.m.

There is a myth which ought to be destroyed at the start of the Committee stage, and I will state what it is. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said, in effect—I am sorry that he is not here to correct me if I have him wrong—that those who are against devolution are in favour of thestatus quo. We often hear the stupid catch phrase that thestatus quo is no longer an option. Those of us who are against the Bill, and who are against any similar Bill, are not talking about things remaining exactly the same. I have no doubt whatsoever that the government of this country is in great need of change, change administrative, change legislative and change constitutional. All these changes must be such that they can be applied equally to all parts of the United Kingdom. That is the essential element and principle upon which I hope all hon. Members who spout about thestatus quo no longer being an option will now agree. Let us have changes but in a framework that can be applied equally to all parts of the United Kingdom.

There are two levels on which we can talk about the unity of the United Kingdom and the Government's declaratory statement. It sometimes suits hon. Members to hop from one level to the other. There is the semantic level and there is the level of political reality.

The semantic level is that there is nothing in the Bill which says that we want to break up the United Kingdom and, therefore, the Bill does nothing which will break up the United Kingdom. At that shallow, miserable level that is true, but we are not just talking about a semantic level; we are talking about the level of political reality.

The Government themselves tacitly admit this because their reason for bringing in the Bill is to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom. Indeed, talk of the Bill not affecting the unity of the United Kingdom is rubbish, because the Government would not bring it in if they did not believe that it would be affecting the unity of the United Kingdom. The Government's theory is that the effect is that it will strengthen the unity of the United Kingdom, but we Conservatives believe that it will be conducive to the destruction of the United Kingdom.

That same sort of semantic juggling with words is evidenced in the phrases of many hon. Members about bringing government closer to the people. Those hon. Members use the argument in a physical sense of taking government to Edinburgh rather than remaining at Westminster. They then confuse the physical with the metaphysical and try to pretend that a Government in Edinburgh will be physically as well as politically closer to the people of Aberdeen. That is absolute nonsense.

I believe in the slippery slope argument. I put it in those simplistic terms because that is the way to get it over to the people of Scotland. At the end of the day that will be the crunch issue. The question will be "Do you, the people of Scotland, or the people living in Scotland, believe that this Bill is likely to lead to the break up of the United Kingdom?" That is the most precious thing which is at risk.

Other things, like more bureaucracy, more taxation and more public expenditure, are at risk, but the most precious thing is the unity of the United Kingdom. We must hammer home that the unity of the United Kingdom is at risk because the Bill inescapably introduces elements into the constitution of the United Kingdom which will result in friction.

The first element, of course, is the question raised by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) to which as yet no satisfactory answer has been given for the very good and simple reason that there is no answer. It is an irreducible conundrum. It was interesting that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) said that there should be a convention to get round the problem of Scottish Members being able to vote on English domestic matters but English Members not being able to vote on Scottish domestic matters. That would lead to resentment and bitterness.

The solution of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East was that there should be a convention or law that Scottish Members of Parliament did not vote on certain matters. The hon. Gentleman knows—if he does not, he should not have spoken—that no British Government whose majority depends upon Scottish and Welsh Members would tolerate that. Why does the hon. Gentleman put that argument forward? He knows that this would be an infallible way of breaking up the present Government of the United Kingdom, and that is what he wants.

Here we have the Government introducing an unjust and unstable element and then ignoring it and passing it by. In my view it is inescapable that this element will lead to discontent which in turn will lead to demands for separatism—I believe just as much from English Members of Parliament as from Scottish Members of Parliament.

The second element of friction that is inescapably intertwined with the Bill is that in a unitary State one cannot give a permanent advantage in terms of aid, representation or political attention to one part of the United Kingdom without correspondingly and necessarily doing a disadvantage to other parts of the United Kingdom. That means that the more Scotland gets, the less there will be for Merseyside. Merseyside will say that its unemployment is higher than in Glasgow and will wonder why it does not get more aid than Scotland.

Mr. Sillars

It is not.

Mr. Sproat

It certainly is. Taking another part of the United Kingdom, the people of East Anglia will say that their wages are about £5 a week less than the average wage in Scotland and will ask: "Why is Scotland getting the aid, and not East Anglia?". That is another irreducible conundrum, as irreducible as the West Lothian question. One cannot give a permanent advantage to one part of the United Kingdom without necessarily doing a corresponding disadvantage to other parts of the United Kingdom. More for Scotland means less for Merseyside.

Mr. Crawford

Is not the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument that he would abolish the London weighting allowance because that gives help to London at the expense of other parts of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Sproat

Not at all. I believe that help should be given on the basis of need and not on the basis of geography. There are parts of London where the unemployment rate is 13 per cent. In Aberdeen it is barely one-quarter of that. Why, therefore, should Aberdeen get more help than those parts of London? As a Member of Parliament for Aberdeen, I would not advocate the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford). I say quite clearly that we should give help on the basis of need and not on the basis of geography.

The third element of friction which inescapably arises out of the nature of the Bill, and which would produce a division between the Assembly in Edinburgh and Parliament here, is one which has been admitted by hon. Members on all sides in different ways. It is that no one believes that if the Bill ever comes into operation it will set up a structure which would last. There are members of the Liberal Party who believe that federalism is the answer. Obviously the Minister of State does not believe that. He is therefore in disagreement with his supporters on the Liberal Bench.

The SNP believes that independence is the only answer and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) believes in independence tied to the Common Market. No doubt he will explain exactly what his position is. But it is certainly different from the views of the Minister of State, the Liberal Party and the SNP.

In other words, once a Scottish Assembly is set up there would not be a single Member of that Assembly who would wish the structure to remain in being. They would all be trying to change it and to divide it from Westminster. Everything good that happened in Scotland would be assigned to the fact that we had a Scottish Assembly and everything bad that happened in Scotland would be assigned to the fact that we were still shackled to Westminster. Every time unemployment rose there would be shouts of it now being time to break from Westminster, although, in fact, unemployment in certain parts of England might be higher. But there is no logic in such a situation.

Nor, indeed, would it be merely the SNP Members who would be demanding this. We know that a great many Labour supporters would very much like to be Members of the Scottish Assembly. They would also say, "We must have more money. We must get more out of the Westminster Parliament for Scotland."

There might even be Tory Members doing the same thing. It is not just a question of a few SNP nuts doing it. People from respectable parties would be showing their political virility by demanding more for Scotland. They would claim that the reason Scotland was not getting more money was that the English were holding them down.

This Bill cannot work. I have mentioned three irreducible factors—the West Lothian factor, the factor of money and aid and the factor that Members of the Scottish Assembly would be seeking to break up the relationship between the Assembly and this House. We can have a unitary State, a federal State or independent States, but we can never have a lasting settlement based on a position between a unitary State and a federal State. That is what the Bill seeks to do. It cannot be done, and that is why the people of Scotland will reject it.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

I make only two remarks about the interesting and lively speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who claimed that more for Scotland necessarily meant less for Merseyside. That may have seemed to him to be an easy phrase to use, but matters do not have to turn out in that way. I thought that the hon. Gentleman destroyed part of his argument when he said that he wanted not geographical aid but aid to where it was needed most. If he had followed that with the corollary "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", there might one day be room for him on the Government Benches.

I disagreed with him when he claimed that the timetable motion on these proceedings in Committee necessarily meant that the Government had the Bill in their pockets in the form in which they wanted it to have. I have seen no sign recently of any great burst of self-satisfaction on the faces of my Front Bench colleagues, whether they are aided by fierce Whips or by the more charming ones, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor). It would be a mistake for the Government to assume that the Bill, as they want it, is in their pockets.

I follow the injunction of my neighbour in Merseyside, the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), who reminded the Committee—and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South took no notice of him—that a timetable motion is supposed to concentrate the mind. Regardless of whether we are supposed to discuss the Eastleigh question or the West Lothian question, and regardless of whether speeches are made by the Manchurian Candidate, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby, or anyone else, the task before us is to decide the niceties to which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) referred—in other words, the letter of the law as it will be written into the law. Apart from the broad brush and a great sweep of emotional arguments about unity, it is the letter of the law which decides whether I or one of my constituents will be inside Walton Gaol or outside it—will be free or not free.

When we are in Committee, we should concern ourselves with the alternatives available to us. Regardless of what question appears in the referendum, the question to which I have to direct my mind is whether we take the clause as it is or any one of the 12 alternatives which are available on the Notice Paper as of 6.13 p.m. on 22nd November 1977. Those alternatives seem to concentrate upon the middle phrase in the clause.

No one has challenged the first sentence in the clause: The following provisions of this Act make changes in the government of Scotland as part of the United Kingdom. The second part of the clause was challenged by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars). He does not want to see the inclusion of … the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it. But it is mainly the middle part, They do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom", to which objection is taken.

Mr. Dalyell

Has it occurred to my hon. Friend and the electors of West Derby that if this Bill becomes an Act, whether they like it or not, their Government inevitably is changed? It is not only a question of the hon. Member for West Lothian. It is a question of 70 other Members of Parliament being able to vote on matters affecting West Derby but not about matters affecting their own constituencies. We are outsiders so long as I can vote on matters affecting Liverpool but not about matters affecting my own county town of Linlithgow. It is not just changing the government of the area which my hon. Friend represents. Therefore, is not there a fundamental flaw in the clause?

Mr. Ogden

I think that that comes in a later clause.

I have put on record the fact that the vast majority of my constituents in West Derby could hardly care less about the Bill, rightly or wrongly—[HON. MEMBERS: "They will."] Certainly it will affect them eventually. Certainly it ought to affect them. Perhaps more of them should be concerned.

But the fact is that over the last 12 months their interest has been minimal. They are of the view that if that is what the Scots wants, let them get on with it—and I may say that we have more than the normal proportion of former Scottish, Welsh and English people living in Merseyside. At the moment, their reaction to the Bill is to say "Yuk!" That is the best way that I can describe it. However, there is no doubt that the legislation and what follows from it will affect them one way or the other.

I hope that the Minister of State will explain the middle phrase in the clause. It is merely an expression in law? Is he saying that in law the proposals do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom? If so, why does he not say so?

6.15 p.m.

If it is felt that the offending words must go and that one of the alternatives before us is preferable, I select as my three bankers Amendment No. 8, except that I do not like the suggestion that we should delete the right of Parliament to make laws for the whole United Kingdom—what Parliament can do, Parliament can undo—then Amendment No. 3, which is the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Crosby, and, finally, Amendment No. 2.

However, there is another way. If the Minister says that the middle phrase is merely an expression of the law and that we can clarify it later, possibly on Report, I think that that will be acceptable. If my hon. Friend does not say that, I may encourage Opposition Members to say that, of the three alternatives which I have mentioned, rather than the clause as it is, it would be preferable to go for Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Despite the fact that the Minister of State has won a distinguished debating prize and despite the fact that he is a solicitor—

Mr. John Smith

No. I am not.

Mr. Gow

A barrister?

Mr. Smith

No. I am not.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)

Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend, who is a solicitor. The Minister of State is not a solicitor and is not a barrister. He is an advocate, although few people would realise it.

Mr. Gow

My error serves to underline what I am about to say.

It is treating the Committee with less than courtesy and treating the subject matter of this first group of amendments with less than the importance that it deserves that we should have the intermittent attendance only of the Lord Advocate. Indeed, I go further. Since Clause 1 affects not just the legal position of Scotland but that of this House in relation to the rest of the kingdom, there is a strong case for saying that we should have one of the other Law Officers here, especially bearing in mind that there are now three Law Officers acting for the rest of the United Kingdom, apart from Scotland.

There are some very pertinent points relating to the legal position of the Bill, especially because of the confusion of thought that we have had from the Treasury Bench, not only in the muttered comments of the Minister of State but also in the words on 14th November to which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) drew attention Whether or not Clause 1 is in the Bill, it will make not the slightest difference to the interpretation that the courts will give to the Bill should it become an Act of Parliament. I should have appreciated the views of the Lord Advocate on this. Instead, we have to make do with those of the Minister of State. However, I shall be grateful if the Minister will address himself to the question whether he believes the legal effect of the Bill would be altered if Clause 1 were omitted.

Clause 1 is purely declaratory. It does not enact legislation, and that is one very important flaw in the draftsmanship of the Bill. One cannot simply declare in an Act of Parliament that something is so, and particularly one cannot declare it when, as I shall seek to show, the reality is precisely the opposite of the declaratory intent of Clause 1.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) rightly drew attention to the effect of Clause 18. The Minister of State did not seek to intervene, but I heard him distinctly mutter about the effect of Clause 18, in which in subsection (2) it is provided that A Scottish Assembly Act may amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament. It is apparently the contention of the Minister of State that that power contained in Clause 18 does not affect the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it. How can the Minister of State really sustain that argument? If to a subordinate legislative assembly there is granted power to amend an Act of this Parliament, it is not possible to argue that the provisions of Clause 1 are accurate and meaningful.

Then there are the provisions of Schedule 10. Here we come to a matter of the greatest importance. Again, the Minister of State was heard to mutter in comment upon the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). Are we really being told that the House of Commons will be able to debate all those items listed in Schedule 10? Are we being told that all those items listed in Schedule 10, devolved matters, could be the subject of Adjournment debates, of debates and of Questions in the House?

It was the Secretary of State, as the right hon. Member for Down, South pointed out, who argued in the opposite sense to that in which the muttered comment of the Minister of State was made about an hour ago. The Secretary of State for Scotland said that it will not be possible to raise with the Secretary of State for Scotland matters for which he is not responsible."—[Official Report, 14th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 58.] Is it not the case that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not and will not be responsible for the devolved matters as set out in Schedule 10? If he is not responsible for those matters, how then is it possible to say, by assertion in Clause 1, that the Bill or these provisions do not affect the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it"? To have a declaratory preamble to a Bill which would be incapable of judicial interpretation in the courts is bad enough, but to have in a Bill a declaratory provision which is manifestly contrary to the specific provisions which follow in the Bill is not just a piece of careless and negligent draftsmanship: it makes a mockery of the legislation which the Government have brought before the Committee.

Therefore, I hope that the Minister of State will try to reconcile the answer given by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—whom we welcome back to our debates—with his own muttered comments earlier. He should have intervened properly instead of muttering as he did. It was a very serious point, and one which has been raised by many of my hon. Friends, and the Minister of State must address himself to it.

I warn the Minister that this is something to which, when we come to the subsequent clauses of the Bill, we shall return again and again.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

I at least share one point in common with the Leader of the Liberal Party. That is his references to the work of the Scottish Grand Committee. In a previous incarnation I was for two years its Clerk. It was widely regarded in the Clerk's Department as a form of torture by which the ancient Chinese would have been impressed.

I should like to deal with the point made earlier by my hon. Friends concerning the Secretary of State's reference to the speech of the Prime Minister when he introduced the Second Reading of the Scotland and Wales Bill. The order of priorities that he chose was very significant. He chose first the diversity and distinctive traditions of Scotland and Wales. He chose secondly the conservation of the economic and political unity of the United Kingdom. He chose third the continuing and unimpaired sovereignty of Parliament, and said that this was what devolution was all about—a statement which many of us would find controversial. He put fourth fairness to the whole of the United Kingdom.

I find significance in that particular order of priorities, chosen not only in the debates that we have had previously but in the debate we have had on the Second Reading of the new Bill and already at the beginning of this Committee.

The Secretary of State endeavoured to emphasise that the Scottish Assembly must have a worthwhile range of powers, but he went on to point out that these do not include economic and industrial powers, nor even the Scottish Development Agency. I come back to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), with whom, as usual, I find myself in considerable agreement, when he said, Our basic feeling, our gut instinct, is that the consequences of this Bill … will in the course of time damage the Union and could conceivably prove fatal to its continuance."—[Official Report, 14th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 74] I would go further than my right hon. Friend. I am convinced that the Bill will irreparably harm the Union and will do so at once.

The tragedy of this Bill, and of its predecessor, is that it owes a very great deal to the inheritance we have from the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)—namely, the approach that when one has a substantial and real problem one does not endeavour to resolve that problem but one throws it at a cloud of committees and commissions, and in this case an Assembly. One then proudly announces that one has solved the problem when in fact one has evaded the problem and created another problem.

One has to look at the great constitutional problems which confront this nation. One has to look at the dilemma, which we still face, of the rôle between the individual and the State, the relationship between Parliament and the Executive, the growth of government, both direct and indirect, the ever-increasing gulf between the rulers and the ruled. One has to look at the alienation of the people, at the creation of new powers which, beyond Parliament, have grown up in the past 10 or 15 years; and at the resultant breakdown of confidence on the part of the people of this country in our institutions and, above all, in the House of Commons and Parliament.

I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) that the House of Commons and Parliament are, indeed, susceptible to reform, but I do not see that the answer to that is to impose upon the people of Scotland many of the follies and certainly many of the evasions for which the House of Commons is responsible and which are brought into the House of Comomns.

The Bill is an evasion, and a calculated evasion, of these vital issues. This declaratory clause states something that is not true and is not so. I believe passionately in the unity of this nation. I am convinced that without that unity, which, I believe, exists, there is no way in which we can hope to resolve the problems that march down upon us. The Bill imperils that unity.

It goes further, and the clause declares it. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire has pointed out, there is built-in disunity and built-in discord. This cannot be eliminated merely by some words in the initial clause. In my view the Bill weakens Parliament and this nation. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) put a question to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire about the Conservative Party's view of the Scottish Assembly. Obviously I do not speak for the Conservative Party, but I can give my own answer. I am totally and implacably opposed to a Scottish Assembly because it is the first and a major step on the road to separatism.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Fairbairn

It is just as well that this Bill should start with two constitutional lies. The first of the lies affects the unity of the United Kingdom—whatever that may be. It is the second lie that I find most disturbing, namely, that the Bill's proposals do not affect the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it.

It is not difficult to find fundamental absurdities in this Bill, but it is a fundamental absurdity to start the Bill proclaiming that a sovereign Parliament is not affected when it is transferring powers to a subsidiary and in many ways independent Parliament and not defining or outlining the powers of that subsidiary Parliament or the powers of the original Parliament.

If this sentence means anything at all, it means that it is coincident and concomitant with the power of the Scottish Assembly to legislate on things like deer and pollution and other things in Scotland, but there is also a concomitant power in this Parliament to legislate on the same things in the opposite direction. The powers of this Parliament over all the matters devolved are not excluded from the right of this Parliament to deal with them and legislate for them.

In the cause of honesty—which would be rather strange in the Government's approach to what they call devolution—we should be told whether there will be a convention entered into by the Parliament of the United Kingdom saying that it will not touch certain matters, just as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) said that there will be a convention whereby hon. Members in this House will not vote on certain matters. There will have to be a convention that this Government do not legislate on matters that they have devolved to the Scottish Assembly.

However, all this is omitted from the Bill, and that is wrong. The fact that it is omitted means that there is a contradiction in the first sentence which claims that the power of this Parliament is undiminished in any corner of the nation. Let us not forget that it is not just Scotsmen who live in the geographical part over which the new Assembly will have power.

It was said to me the other day by a prominent Scotsman who has been a Socialist all his days that he did not wish to know whether education for his child was to be decided in London or Edinburgh. He just wanted to know that it would be decided in his own home. The first sanction of this Bill as it stands is that matters like education could be decided simultaneously and in opposite directions by both Parliaments.

There is no question but that the Assembly will be used by the Scottish nationalists to set up independence. Inevitably, all blame will be put on Westminster for failure, and all praise for success will go to Edinburgh. There is no question but that the Assembly inevitably will result in continuous attempts at independence, and once this deformed child is born, nothing can prevent the nationalists from trying to give it a separate existence.

Therefore, with respect, I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) that I find his amendment attacking Clause 1 as defective as Clause 1 itself. It is an inevitable lie, a falsehood, and it adds to constitutional confusion, because it does not separate or define the proper powers of the competing Parliaments.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

This debate has been characterised by two things. First, not surprisingly, not a single Government Back Bencher has spoken in support of the Bill, and I expect that this trend will continue throughout the Committee stage. Secondly, there are those hon. Members who are deeply concerned about the dangers in the Bill, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and those hon. Members who have happily welcomed the dangers and who just cannot wait for the explosion in constitutional terms between Scotland and England. Hon. Members like the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) both hope that they will be lucky in this explosion and land on their feet. The country might be lucky, however, and they might land on their heads and learn a little sense from our debates today. There have been a few don't-knows in this debate, led by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who seems to be uncertain—

Mr. Sillars

It is unfair of the hon. Member to tell people like myself that we are happily looking forward to any sort of confrontation. Would he tell me where, in any of the speeches that I have made, there is any suggestion that would enable him to draw such a conclusion? Obviously, some of us want to improve the Bill and reduce friction, but it is quite wrong to suggest that we are looking forward to the time when we can happily dance around the maypole on Carlton Hill waiting for the joyful day when confrontation comes.

Mr. Fletcher

I understand from the hon. Member's remarks generally that his language and style are not particularly cool, and that he would be quite happy to see more powers given to the Scottish Assembly.

We take this opening clause seriously and we regret the restrictions imposed by the guillotine on the debates. Whatever else emerges from the debate, the Committee obviously does not consider that this Bill has any chance of settling the question of Scottish devolution. Despite the bold wording of Clause 1, only the most determined and insensitive Ministers could claim that the Bill even approaches a settlement of the devolution principle, let alone the details. The Secretary of State has reminded the House of the four guiding principles that were laid down by the Prime Minister in introducing the previous devolution Bill. The Secretary of State repeated these four principles during the Second Reading debate on this Bill.

The first of these principles is that there must be respect for the diversity and distinctive traditions of Scotland. Are Ministers seriously suggesting that after 270 years of Union we need this Bill to remind us that Scotland is and remains different from the rest of the United Kingdom? Much of the Scottish renaissance took place after the Union, as did many of our traditions, such as pipe bands, kilts and tartans.

The second principle enunciated was the conservation of economic and political unity of the United Kingdom and that the sovereignty of Parliament should continue unimpaired. Ministers give the impression of believing that if they repeat these words often enough they will come to pass. I do not believe that this is the majority view of the House. Ministers should know that words do not command events but, like King Canute, they seem determined to learn their lesson the hard way. We do not mind if Ministers are swept away by the tide of events, but we do object to the foundations of this House and the United Kingdom being endangered by the carelessness and recklessness of the Government Front Bench.

If Clause I were effective and the nationalists really believed that the United Kingdom's unity was unimpaired, they would not be so pleased with the Government for helping the cause of separation. Yet the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) said that Clause I was not important. I am surprised at his attitude on Clause 1, because at least as a federalist he would still argue the case for the unity of the United Kingdom and for making this clear in the legislation, which is what we are talking about.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the only occasion in the Scottish Grand Committee when we voted. That was a recent happening. There was a bit of a not on that occasion, but we did save the colleges, and the right hon. Gentleman at the time seemed to think that that was a good idea. I suggest that the Scottish Grand Committee is not a joke, except perhaps on the few occasions when Liberal Members attend.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Not often.

Mr. Fletcher

Finally, the Secretary of State referred in his opening remarks to one other matter.

Mr. David Steel

Ignoring the trivial stuff in the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I should like to point out that there was a convention in the Scottish Grand Committee which had existed for a long time in which conscripted English Members neither spoke nor voted. Ludicrous though that might appear to any academic, it was an anomaly with which we had lived happily for many years.

Mr. Fletcher

I am not sure[...]at it is a good idea to live happily with anomalies such as that, and I believe that we should use the business of the House more effectively. I have some ideas on the House of Lords as well, but there is no time in this debate to go into that. The Secretary of State referred on Second Reading to the fairness of the fourth guiding principle in the Bill to the whole United Kingdom. There are hon. Members from Shetland to St. Ives and from Belfast to Birmingham who simply do not believe the statement that this Bill will impose fairness throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the hon. Gentleman agree with his right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who hankers after some kind of Assembly, or with his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. James), who says in forthright terms that there should be no Assembly? Where does the hon. Gentleman stand on that matter?

Mr. Fletcher

When we are discussing the Conservative proposals on devolution, I shall answer that question. At this moment I am replying to the debate on a Government Bill.

The irony of this debate on the unity of the United Kingdom is that the Labour Party ever since its birth has preached the politics of envy. This has been a divisive influence in British politics. In recent years in Scotland, however, the Scottish nationalists have upstaged the Labour Party by preaching the politics of greed. That is an even greater recipe for disunity throughout the United Kingdom.

Having heard the foolish claims of nationalists in this House, I have sometimes been ashamed to be Scottish. There are no "fair shares", no traditional self-respect in their arguments, just greed, greed and more greed. They care nothing for the 270 years of history that united not only the British people but the hitherto disunited Scots.

This Bill and the impossibility of Clause 1 being effective delight the nationalists, because it will put the clock back in relations between Scotland and England. Even with North Sea oil, it will be difficult to see how the people of Scotland will benefit from this constitutional minefield. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East spoke with some understanding of the amendment but, typically, he announced that he and his colleagues would vote against it. I believe that the hon. Gentleman cannot wait for an Assembly to declare war on Westminster.

I believe that most Scots who have thought about this Bill and who are not separatists reject it as being dangerously divisive and unworkable. Sadly, it is only those who have not thought about the Bill who think that if it is implemented they may be better off in their daily lives.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was right to say that the presence of Clause 1 was an admission of the Government's uncertainty, the uncertainty and difficulty which are the Bill itself. Clause 1 states the obvious: the opposite of what it means. It should not fool anybody. Ministers will be less than frank with the Committee and with the country if they reject the amendment.

Accepting the amendment will merely clarify the Bill and make it more realistic, and that would be more honourable than the pious hope that is Clause 1 as it stands. It would be better still, of course, if the Minister agreed to withdraw Clause 1 in its entirety. That would at least allow the Committee stage to get back to a more realistic start.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. John Smith

I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) on his first devolution speech from the Opposition Front Bench. I also admire his courage in being willing to take up the challenge of explaining Conservative policy on devolution.

I noted with interest that the hon. Gentleman did not say what the Conservatives made the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) say the other evening, namely, that he was in favour of devolution in principle. I am often attacked by the hon. Member for Cathcart, and I must ask for fair treatment from him. If he was made to say that he is in favour of devolution in principle, surely the same should apply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North, who last year abstained on the Second Reading of the Scotland and Wales Bill.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Since the Minister referred to me, I hope he will allow me to say that I pointed out that we were dealing with a bad Government Bill, and nothing else. If the Minister wants to swop quotations, I have a quotation from a speech made by him, a pungent anti-devolution speech, at the Scottish Labour Party Conference. The Minister then pointed out that one cannot have a devolved Assembly without wrecking the whole structure of local government.

Mr. Smith

That is not what I said in that debate. The hon. Gentleman should read it again. I voted for the proposition that was carried at the Scottish Labour Party Conference. If the hon. Gentleman continues to make such interventions, he will prevent me having the time to answer the points made in this debate by many of his hon. Friends. The hon. Gentleman well knows that he was instructed by the Opposition Front Bench to say on Second Reading, that he favoured devolution in principle. Since he carried out those instructions, is it not fair that the same rule should be applied to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North?

We have had a wide-ranging debate which has covered a large area. This is not entirely unfamiliar territory because in the last Session of Parliament we spent some days debating this provision on the Scotland and Wales Bill. It is not surprising that some of the same arguments have reappeared.

I reject the criticism that Clause 1 is an inaccurate statement of the purposes of the Bill. It is a declaratory clause. It does not have the legal effect which would allow it to be used as a rule of construction. That would be one of the effects of the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). It is not part of the Government's intention to make it any more than a declaration.

But what does it declare? It affirms the continuing unity of the United Kingdom and the unabated and undivided sovereignty of Parliament. That is correct. By implication it excludes separatism and federalism. It is not a federal Bill or a separatist Bill. It is a Bill that will allow the undivided sovereignty of Parliament to continue.

It is important that we should make a distinction between power and sovereignty. Extensive powers are devolved to Scotland. Stormont is an example of the continued sovereignty of Parliament because, as Parliament created Stormont, so did Parliament eventually remove Stormont by legislation passed in this Parliament.

Some people will argue "What is the point of having a declaratory clause in a Bill if it is not to be used for anything more than the purposes of declaration?" We have followed Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 in which a similar type of clause declared that Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is not without precedent to put such a declaratory clause in a Bill. It expresses the concept behind the Bill, namely, that we are devolving not sovereignty but powers.

Amendment No. 2, moved by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire has attracted as much criticism as the clause itself has. It was noticeable that very few of his hon. Friends came to his assistance by saying that he was putting forward a sensible amendment. I was struck by the fact that he did not develop the argument for his amendment very much. I draw the attention of the Committee to one feature of it. If we make it a rule of construction that the Bill should be construed in a certain way, that invites the courts to consider whether the unity of the United Kingdom is affected in a case coming before them. I think it undesirable that we should in such a way politicise the courts.

There is a difference between that and the reference of wires questions, and the mechanism under the Bill for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to resolve them. If we make it a rule of construction that the courts should take into account considerations of the unity of the United Kingdom, we tread on fairly dangerous territory into which I do not think the courts will wish to enter and which. I believe, most prudent parliamentarians would not wish the courts to enter.

Sir David Renton

I think that the Minister has put an interpretation on the amendment which it does not deserve. All it comes to is that, in construing the Bill the court will simply look at the Bill itself and not pay regard to this very problem to which, he says, it shall pay regard. In other words, the amendment gives the court guidance that there is nothing in the Bill which impairs the unity of the United Kingdom. The Opposition have been fantastically generous to the Minister by tabling an amendment with that effect, but it is not the effect that he is now describing.

Mr. Smith

With respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the use of the phrase "shall be construed" must be taken in its ordinary meaning, that it should be so construed by the courts. It may be that the courts would not be drawn into that consideration, but I should have thought that that declaratory principle as it stands, if guidance be required, gives enough. But to go further and imply that there should be a rule of construction emerging from the clause would have the dangers to which I have referred. If I am overstating the case, no doubt the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire will correct me.

Mr. Raison


Mr. Smith

If the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) will contain himself, I shall answer some of the questions that he asked. On the amendments to which he spoke, he raised the question of what hon. Members will be entitled to ask about in the House after the devolution of powers to the Scottish Assembly takes place. It is for Mr. Speaker and the House itself to decide whether any Question or subject for debate here may be raised or debated. Nevertheless, the Government would expect that the rules which have been developed in regard to the responsibilities of Ministers would continue to appy. Simply stated, this would mean that Questions would have to relate to matters for which Ministers remained responsible.

Northern Ireland provides a precedent. It was held that Questions dealing with matters transferred to the Government of Northern Ireland were not in order. If these precedents were followed, Ministers would be allowed to answer any Questions on matters for which they remained responsible, under the use or potential use of the powers that the statute itself would afford, primarily in relation to override and matters of that sort, which are powers available to United Kingdom Ministers. But essentially it will be for the House to decide its own rules on the matter, as it decided them following the setting up of the Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland.

I hope that that clarifies the matter slightly. It is not for the Government in this Bill to write the rules for the future conduct of the House. It is for the House to decide.

The hon. Member for Aylesbury does not understand the attitude that some Scottish Members have about the opportunities available at Question Time. There is a real problem to which the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) was right to draw attention. One of the troubles of having a territorial Secretary of State with a whole series of different responsibilities is that when he comes to the House of Commons to answer on a whole field of responsibilities, hon Members have to choose between education, health, housing or transport when they put down their Questions to him. I do not think that the hon. Member for Aylesbury understands the difficulties which that causes for hon. Members.

The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles referred also to the Executive. Since the executive responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland is so wide, he is exposed on that whole front only when he comes to answer Questions, whereas when Ministers responsible for English subjects, such as education, answer Questions only one facet of the Government's work is subject to exposure at one time.

I ask the hon. Member for Aylesbury, who is always very correct in trying to keep us on the right path and to tell us what the real point is, to remember that there are other parts of the United Kingdom, apart from the area which he represents, which have special problems. One of the things that we are trying to do here is to create a wider democratic opportunity than there was before. I attend Scottish Question Time pretty regularly, and it is just not true that there have been occasions when the number of Questions did not fill the time available. The hon. Member has been confused by the fact that the Lord Advocate answers Questions from 3.20 p.m. onwards during Scottish Questions.

Mr. Raison

The fact remains that at the last Scottish Question Time only 20 or so Scottish Questions were put down by Scottish Members, which is well below the normal equivalent on an English subject.

Mr. Smith

I do not know how the hon. Member gets his normal equivalent on an English subject. The Questions more than fill the time available. Scottish Members are astute enough to work out that there is no point in putting down a great many more Questions when normally we do not get past Question No. 20. We all know that that happens.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

I hope that the Minister is not saying that we need this Bill just to sort out Scottish Question Time. It is for the Secretary of State to delegate his responsibilities more effectively to other Ministers in his Department to answer for the fields for which they are responsible.

Mr. Smith

If the hon. Member wishes to continue to speak on this subject from the Opposition Front Bench, he should try to raise the level of his contributions above the kind of frivolous intervention that he has just made, which does not help us very much.

The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) spoke to other amendments on a slightly different tack, and I raise the same objection to his argument as I put in response to the case for a rule of construction. In Amendment No. 10 he raises the question of the prerogatives, rights and privileges of the Monarchy, a subject which was touched on in the Second Reading debate on the Scotland and Wales Bill by the right hon. Lady, the Leader of the Opposition. At that time I took the opportunity to reply to some of these points.

I should explain that the position in the Scotland Bill is no different from the position under the Scotland and Wales Bill. Nothing in the transfer of powers involved in devolution affects the position of Her Majesty, who would, for instance, continue to receive advice only from Ministers, not direct from the Scottish Executive.

Aspects of the Royal Prerogative, such as the Prerogative of Mercy are specifically reserved under Clause 62 (1). Any fears that the Bill would in some way diminish the position of the Crown are groundless. The amendment of the right hon. Member for Crosby is inappropriate on a narrower point because the relevant aspects of Her Majesty's Prerogative interests are dealt with by substantive provisions in the Bill. Clause 24 and Schedule 6, for example, are concerned with provisions of the Scottish Assembly requiring the Crown's consent, and Clause 21 (3) deals with the exercise on behalf of Her Majesty of certain aspects of Her Prerogative by the Scottish Executive, that is, the Scottish Secretaries.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will feel that there is another side to the argument which he poses, and that, in weighing up the subject, the Committee will feel that it is already covered in the Bill.

By his amendment my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayreshire (Mr. Sillars) wanted to leave out large sections of the clause. He seems to be less concerned about the continuing unity of the United Kingdom than some others are, and he will forgive me if I part company with him on that. I believe that this is a useful declaratory clause. I entirely reject the criticism that somehow it is inaccurate.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that I talked about enhancing the unity of the United Kingdom by devolution. I was talking about the general principles behind devolution.

We have debated the whole matter extensively on Second Reading. This is a useful declaratory clause. I put it no higher than that, but the Committee has had an opportunity to consider some matters that we wished it to consider in greater detail. We are under great restrictions with the guillotine, but I should point out that this amendment was discussed last year when there was no guillotine but we have happily discussed it again this year under a guillotine.

Mr. Pym

The Minister does not want to accept the amendment and does not want rules of construction to apply—

It being Seven o'clock, The CHAIRMANproceeded, pursuant to the Order this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 178, Noes 206.

Division No. 13] AYES [7.00 p.m.
Aitken, Jonathan Drayson, Burnaby James, David
Alisons Michael Dunlop, John Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Emery, Peter Jessel, Toby
Arnold, Tom Eyre, Reginald Jopling, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fairbairn, Nicholas Joseph, Rt Hon. Sir Keith
Awdry, Daniel Fairgrieve, Russell Kaberry, Sir Donald
Banks, Robert Farr, John Kershaw, Anthony
Bell, Ronald Finsberg, Geoffrey King, Evelyn (South Dorset)
Benyon, W. Fisher, Sir Nigel King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Berry, Hon Anthony Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Knox, David
Biffen, John Fookes, Miss Janet Lamont, Norman
Biggs-Davison, John Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fox, Marcus Lawrence, Ivan
Bottomley, Peter Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Lawson, Nigel
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Gilmour, Sir John (East File) Le Marchant, Spencer
Braine, Sir Bernard Glyn, Dr Alan Loveridge, John
Brittan, Leon Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Luce, Richard
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Goodhew, Victor McCrindle, Robert
Brooke, Peter Gorst, John McCusker, H.
Brotherton, Michael Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Macfarlane, Nail
Bryan, Sir Paul Gray, Hamish MacGregor, John
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Griffiths, Eldon MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)
Buck, Antony Grist, Ian Madel, David
Budgen, Nick Grylls, Michael Marten, Neil
Bulmer, Esmond Hall, Sir John Mates, Michael
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mather, Carol
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hampson, Dr Keith Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald
Channon, Paul Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Mawby, Ray
Churchill, W. S. Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hawkins, Paul Mayhew, Patrick
Clark, William (Croydon S) Hayhoe, Barney Meyer, Sir Anthony
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hicks, Robert Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Clegg, Walter Holland, Philip Mills, Peter
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Hordern, Peter Molyneaux, James
Cope, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Monro, Hector
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, David (Wirral) Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Costain, A. P. Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Hurd, Douglas Neave, Airey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Hutchison, Michael Clark Neubert, Michael
Ogden, Eric Ross, William (Londonderry) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Onslow, Cranley Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tebbit, Norman
Page, John (Harrow West) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Temple-Morris, Peter
Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Scott, Nicholas Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Page, Richard (Workington) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Townsend, Cyril D.
Percival, Ian Shelton, William (Streatham) Trotter, Neville
Peyton, Rt Hon John Shepherd, Colin van Straubenzee, W. R.
Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Shersby, Michael Viggers, Peter
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Sims, Rog Walker. Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Price, David (Eastleigh) Skeet, T. H. H. Wall, Patrick
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield) Warren, Kenneth
Raison, Timothy Speed, Keith Weatherill, Bernard
Rathbone, Tim Spence, John Wells, John
Rees-Davies, W. R. Sproat, Iain Wiggin, Jerry
Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Stainton, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Stanbrook, Ivor Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Rhodes James, R. Stanley, John Younger, Hon George
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Ridsdale, Julian Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rifkind, Malcolm Stokes, John Sir George Young and
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Stradling Thomas, J. Mr Jim Lester.
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Tapsell, Peter
Ailaun, Frank Gilbert, Dr John Maynard, Miss Joan
Armstrong, Ernest Ginsburg, David Mikardo, Ian
Ashton, Joe Golding, John Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Atkinson, Norman Gould, Bryan Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Bain, Mrs. Margaret Gourlay, Harry Mitchell, Austin
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Graham. Ted Moonman, Eric
Bates, Alf Grimond, Rt Hon J. Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bean, R. E. Grocott, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Beith, A. J. Hardy, Peter Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Harper, Joseph Newens, Stanley
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Harrison, Rt Hon Walter O'Halloran, Michael
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hart, Rt Hon Judith Padley, Walter
Boardman, H. Hatton, Frank Palmer, Arthur
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Henderson, Douglas Park, George
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hooley, Frank Parker, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Parry, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Huckfield, Les Pavitt, Laurie
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Pendry, Tom
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Penhaligon, David
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Roy (Newport) Price, William (Rugby)
Carmichael, Neil Hunter, Adam Radice, Giles
Carter-Jones, Lewis Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Cartwright, John Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Reid, George
Clemitson, Ivor Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Jeger, Mrs Lena Robinson, Geoffrey
Coleman, Donald John, Brynmor Roderick, Caerwyn
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Johnson, James (Hull West) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Corbett, Robin Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Rooker, J. W.
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Roper, John
Craigen, Jim (M[...]ryhill) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rose, Paul B.
Crawtord, Douglas Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Crawshaw, Richard Kelley, Richard Ross, Rt Hon w. (Kilmarnock)
Cronin, John Kerr, Russell Sandelson, Neville
Cryer, Bob Kilfedder, James Sever, J.
Dalyell, Tam Lambie, David Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Davidson, Arthur Lamborn, Harry Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lamond, James Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Sillars, James
Deakins, Eric Lipton, Marcus Silverman, Julius
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Litterick, Tom Skinner, Dennis
Dempsey, James Loyden, Eddie Small, William
Doig, Peter Lyon, Alexander (York) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Dormand, J. D. Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Snape, Peter
Duffy, A. E. P. McCartney, Hugh Spearing, Nigel
Edge, Geoff MacCormick, Iain Spriggs, Leslie
Ennals, Rt Hon David McDonald, Dr Oonagh Stallard, A. W.
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) McElhone, Frank Steel, Rt Hon David
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) MacFarquhar, Roderick Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Faulds, Andrew MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stoddart, David
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mackintosh, John P. Stott. Roger
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Maclennan, Robert Strang, Gavin
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Madden, Max Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Ford, Ben Magee, Bryan Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Forrester, John Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Freud, Clement Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
George, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Thompson, George
Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Wellbeloved, James Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Welsh, Andrew Wise, Mrs Audrey
Tuck, Raphael White, Frank R. (Bury) Woodall, Alec
Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) White, James (Pollok) Wool, Robert
Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Whitehead, Phillip Wrigglesworth, Ian
Ward, Michael Whitlock, William Young, David (Bolton E)
Watkins, David Wigley, Dafydd
Watkinson, John Willey, Rt Hon Frederick TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Watt, Hamish Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton) Mr. James Tinn and
Weetch, Ken Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E) Mr. James Hamilto[...]

Question accordingly negatived.

The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Seven o'clock.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 184, Noes 199.

Division No. 14] AYES [...]p.m.
Allaun, Frank Hart, Rt Hon Judith Pendry, Tom
Anderson, Donald Hatton, Frank Price, William (Rugby)
Armstrong, Ernest Hooley, Frank Radice, Giles
Ashton, Joe Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Atkinson, Norman Huckfield, Les Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Robinson, Geoffrey
Bates, All Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Roderick, Caerwyn
Bean, R. E. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hunter, Adam Rooker, J. W.
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Roper, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rose, Paul B.
Boardman, H. Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Jeger, Mrs Lena Sandelson, Neville
Boothroyd, Miss Betty John, Brynmor Sever, J.
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Johnson, James (Hull West) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Buchan, Norman Jones, Barry (East Flint) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Campbell, Ian Kelley, Richard Sillars, James
Carmichael, Neil Kerr, Russell Silverman, Julius
Carter-Jones, Lewis Kilfedder, James Skinner, Dennis
Cartwright, John Lambie, David Small, William
Clemitson, Ivor Lamborn, Harry Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Lamond, James Snape, Peter
Coleman, Donald Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Spearing, Nigel
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Spriggs, Leslie
Corbett, Robin Lipton, Marcus Stallard, A. W.
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Litterick, Tom Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Crawshaw, Richard Loyden, Eddie Stoddart, David
Cronin, John Lyon, Alexander (York) Stott, Roger
Cryer, Bob Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Strang, Gavin
Davidson, Arthur McCartney, Hugh Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) McElhone, Frank Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) MacFarquhar, Roderick Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Deakins, Eric McGuire, Michael (Ince) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dempsey, James Mackintosh, John P. Tinn, James
Doig, Peter Maclennan, Robert Tuck, Raphael
Dormand, J. D. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Duffy, A. E. P. Madden, Max Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Edge, Geoff Magee, Bryan Ward, Michael
Ennals, Rt Hon David Mallalieu, J. P. W. Watkins, David
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Marks, Kenneth Watkinson, John
Faulds, Andrew Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Weetch, Ken
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wellbeloved, James
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Maynard, Miss Joan White, Frank R. (Bury)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mikardo, Ian White, James (Pollok)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Whitehead, Phillip
Ford, Ben Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Whitlock, William
Forrester, John Mitchell, Austin Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Moonman, Eric Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
George, Bruce Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Gilbert, Dr John Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ginsburg, David Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Woodall, Alec
Golding, John Newens, Stanley Woof, Robert
Gould, Bryan O'Halloran, Michael Wrigglesworth, Ian
Gourlay, Harry Padley, Walter Young, David (Bolton E)
Graham, Ted Palmer, Arthur
Grocott, Bruce Park, George TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Parker, John Mr. Thomas Cox and
Hardy, Peter Parry, Robert Mr. Joseph Harper
Harrison. Rt Hon Walter Pavitt, Laurie
Aitken, Jonathan Grimond, Rt Hon J. Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Alison., Michael Grist, Ian Price, David (Eastleigh)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Grylls, Michael Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Arnold, Tom Hall, Sir John Raison, Timothy
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Rathbone, Tim
Awdry, Daniel Hampson, Dr Keith Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bain, Mrs. Margaret Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Reid, George
Banks, Robert Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Beith, A. J. Hawkins, Paul Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bell, Ronald Hayhoe, Barney Rhodes James, R.
Benyon, W. Henderson, Douglas Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Berry, Hon Anthony Hicks, Robert Ridsdale, Julian
Biffen, John Holland, Philip Rifkind, Malcolm
Biggs-Davison, John Hordern, Peter Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Bottomley, Peter Hunt, David (Wirral) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Ross, William (Londonderry)
Braine, Sir Bernard Hurd, Douglas Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brittan, Leon Hutchison, Michael Clark Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. James, David Scott, Nicholas
Brooke, Peter Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Brotherton, Michael Jessel, Toby Shelton, William (Streatham)
Bryan, Sir Paul Jopling, Michael Shepherd, Colin
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Joseph, Rt Hon. Sir Keith Shersby, Michael
Buck, Antony Kaberry, Sir Donald Sims, Roger
Budgen, Nick Kershaw, Anthony Skeet, T. H. H.
Bulmer, Esmond King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Speed, Keith
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Knight, Mrs Jill Spence, John
Channon, Paul Knox, David Sproat, Iain
Churchill, W. S. Lamont, Norman Stainton, Keith
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Stanbrook, Ivor
Clark, William (Croydon S) Lawrence, Ivan Stanley, John
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lawson, Nigel Steel, Rt Hon David
Clegg, Walter Le Marchant, Spencer Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Litterick, Tom Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Cope, John Loveridge, John Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Cormack, Patrick Luce, Richard Stokes, John
Costain, A. P. MacCormick, Iain Stradling Thomas, J.
Crawford, Douglas McCrindle, Robert Tapsell, Peter
Dalyell, Tam McCusker, H. Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Macfarlane, Neil Tebbit, Norman
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James MacGregor, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Drayson, Burnaby MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Dunlop, John Madel, David Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Emery, Peter Marten, Nell Thompson George
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Mates, Michael Townsend, Cyril D.
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Mather, Carol Trotter, Neville
Eyre, Reginald Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mawby, Ray Viggers, Peter
Fairgrieve, Russell Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Farr, John Mayhew, Patrick Wall, Patrick
Finsberg, Geoffrey Meyer, Sir Anthony Warren, Kenneth
Fisher, Sir Nigel Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Watt, Hamish
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Mills, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Fookes, Miss Janet Molyneaux, James Wells, John
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Monro, Hector Welsh, Andrew
Fox, Marcus Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wiggin, Jerry
Freud, Clement Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Wigley, Dafydd
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Neave, Airey Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Neubert, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Glyn, Dr Alan Onslow, Cranley Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Younger, Hon George
Goodhew, Victor Page, Richard (Workington)
Gorst, John Penhaligon, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Percival, Ian Sir George Young and
Gray, Hamish Peyton, Rt Hon John Mr Jim Lester.
Griffiths, Eldon Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Pym

On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. Through you, Mr. Godman Irvine, I put to the Government that they should now tell the Committee where they think they stand on this Bill. I should like to give the Government time to get the Leader of the House to his place. We have had a debate of about three and a half hours on Clause 1. It has been described by the Minister of State as declaratory. We have opposed it. We sought to amend it constructively and we lost in that attempt. However, we have succeeded in knocking out the whole of the first clause, which relates to the central part of the issue.

The Government have sought to maintain throughout their arguments that the proposals in the Bill do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom. We have said that that is literally not true, and we have been upheld in the Lobbies. It is true to say that what the Government have said on the central issue of whether the Bill affects the unity of the United Kingdom has not been upheld by the Committee.

The Leader of the House should be in his place. He should respond at once to the situation that has now been reached. It is obviously within the competence of the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement and to adjust our business so that after due consideration of where we are now the Government can come forward with another day for debate. The Secretary of State for Scotland shakes his head, but he has no justification for doing that. The right hon. Gentleman cannot brush off a decision of this magnitude.

I note that the Leader of the House has taken his place. I do not wish to be repetitive, but I must remind the right hon. Gentleman of the immense debate that we had on Clause 1 of the Scotland and Wales Bill last January. It went far into the night. Under the guillotine we have debated Clause 1 of this Bill for three and a half hours. It is true that much of the same ground has been covered. At the end of the day the House of Commons has decided to knock out Clause 1, which the Minister of State pretended and maintained was vital to the Bill because it declared that the proposals contained within it do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom. The Committee has decided otherwise.

It is important that the Committee should know where it is. It would be reasonable to draw stumps on this discussion today and for another day to be allotted.

Mr. Foot

Further to that point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) talks about drawing stumps. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is not a cricket match. The right hon. Gentleman should not talk about these important matters in such a flippant manner. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed his view, and the Committee has voted its view on whether this declaratory clause should be included in the Bill. That is a perfectly proper matter for the Committee to reach its conclusion upon. I suggest that the Committee should proceed in the normal manner. The Committee gives its view on the different amendments as they proceed.

7.30 p.m.

We have argued legitimately that there is a case for the inclusion of this declaratory clause. A case has been argued for it and against it. I suggest that the Committee should now proceed according to its normal custom, which is to take into account the vote. There will be a normal Report stage, so I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman is getting so excited. We are dealing with the Bill according to our normal custom, and I hope that he will not attempt to upset that.

Mr. Pym

I have been neither flippant nor excited. Throughout the Scotland and Wales Bill debates on Clause 1, which lasted three or four days, and throughout the guillotined debate this afternoon, the Government stoutly maintained that the clause is important, vital and central.

Mr. John Smith

We did not say that.

Mr. Pym

Those precise words may not have been used. I have paraphrased what the Minister and his right hon. Friends have been saying. It is no good the Minister trying to brush this aside. The facts cannot be denied. The Lord President himself defended the clause last year.

When the Committee reaches a decision of this magnitude on a clause which the Government maintain is of the essence of the Bill, because they are claiming that the Bill does not affect the unity of the United Kingdom, and the Committee has decided that it is not prepared to accept those words, it is completely out of proportion to attempt to carry on as though nothing had happened.

Mr. Foot

I am proposing that the Committee should deal with the matter as it would deal with other Bills. I did not say that this clause was not important. I said the opposite. I said that important arguments had been put from each side. The Committee should now continue the discussions according to the decision made by the House about the timetable. We should take account of the vote, and account will be taken of it when the Bill reaches Report. That is the normal way of dealing with Bills. All that will happen, if the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire and his hon. Friends insist on taking points of order on the matter, is that they will take up the time allocated for debate. I therefore suggest that the proper course is for them to cool down. This is not the end of the world, and it is certainly not the end of the Bill. We have had a discussion, and a vote has taken place. None of the things that the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting will happen are likely to occur, so I suggest that the Committee gets ahead with the debate. In so far as the right hon. Member or any of his hon. Friends—if he has any control over them—raise points of order, they will only be eating into the debate on the next part of the Bill.

Mr. David Steel

It is a tradition that when there is a Government defeat on a major issue the Opposition spokesman asks the Government what their intentions are. However, we must get it straight from the start of what will prove to be a long Committee stage that the task of the Committee is to improve the Bill. Surely we are not to have these artificial hysterics every time an alteration is made to the wording of the Bill. Those who were present during the debate, as distinct from those who came in for the Division, will have heard the speeches on both sides, making it clear that the inclusion of the clause made no statutory difference. I think that it was generally agreed, therefore, on both sides, that whether the Bill would be better without the clause or with it was a matter of opinion, and not an opinion which had any effect whatever. My colleagues and I took the view that it was better not to have the clause in the Bill. Surely we should now proceed to deal with the next group of amendments.

Dr. Colin Phipps (Dudley, West)

On a point of order. You will recall, Mr. Godman Irvine, when the Scotland and Wales Bill was debated in the previous Session, that during the initial debates on the Long Title and the equivalent clause to the one we have just discussed, we had a very long debate about the kinds of amendment which would be accepted by the Chair. May I seek your guidance whether some amendments which deal more specifically with the effect upon England of the terms of the Bill will now be acceptable to the Chair as a result of the defeat of the clause?

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

On a point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. The vote which the House has just taken means that the Committee considers that the Bill will not preserve the unity of the kingdom, while it is central to the Government's case that it will. Surely the Leader of the House, with all his Cromwellian background, should realise that the only thing to do is to take away this bauble.

Mr. Ogden

On a point of order. I believe that you were in the Chair, Mr. Godman Irvine, at about 10 minutes past six when the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) was claiming that the Government had a timetable motion and that they were acting as though the Bill was in their pocket. He said that there was, therefore, no point in hon. Members talking to one another in this Committee, but that he would have to talk to his people in Scotland. I suggested that it might not by any means be the case that the Government had the Bill in their pocket. I have given assurances before that I would look at the clause, at the amendment under discussion, at any given time, and at the choice of words in the Bill, and that sometimes I might vote one way and sometimes the other. I take no credit or shame for what happened to the clause tonight, but surely it is no bad thing for parliamentary democracy that the Government should say how important a clause is and that the Committee should then vote it down. I say, win some, lose some. Let us get on to the next business.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Godman Irvine. It is perfectly clear that the clause does not affect the constitution of the Scottish Assembly or its powers. It is a minor clause. It is remarkable that the Conservative and Unionist Party should have voted tonight against the unity of the United Kingdom and against the authority of Parliament.

The Second Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Under the order which the House agreed on 16th November it was made perfectly clear that the only Member of the House who would be in the position to move a dilatory motion was a member of the Government. It is clear that the Government have no intention of moving such a motion, and I suggest, therefore, that the right course for the Committee to follow would be to move on to Amendment No. 17 and the 18 amendments grouped with it in the provisional selection.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I have two points of order, Mr. Godman Irvine, neither of which you have dealt with in your statement. First, the Lord President in his comments on my right hon. Friend's application threatened the Committee that if we were to put to you points of order of real substance the only result would be that the time for debate on the next matters would be truncated. It is a bad point for the Lord President to threaten and to blackmail the Committee in that fashion.

My second point of order is more serious. Central to all the debates on Clause 1 was one question. It was whether the Bill affected the unity of the United Kingdom and the supreme authority of the House. The Committee has now decided by its vote that it does affect the unity of the United Kingdom and the supreme authority of Parliament. Throughout the debate the Government have maintained that the clause is central to their Bill and that the authority of Parliament and the unity of the United Kingdom shall not be touched—

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. We are all bound by the order of 16th November. The only condition under which any of these matters can arise is that a member of the Government comes forward with a dilatory motion. No such motion has been moved. I therefore call the next amendment.

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