HC Deb 23 November 1977 vol 939 cc1608-55
Mr. Brittan

I beg to move Amendment No. 174, in page 2, leave out lines 36 to 40 and insert 'it appears to the Secretary of State that the Assembly is unable to reach decisions on matters requiring urgent decision and that the government of Scotland is gravely affected as a result: Provided that no order shall be made on that ground unless a draft of it has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament'.

The Chairman

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 53, in page 2, line 36, leave out from 'dissolved' to end of line 40.

No. 169, in page 2, line 38, leave out 'two-thirds' and insert 'one-half'.

Mr. Brittan

I preface my remarks by giving my full support to the observations that have been made from both sides of the House. It is an appalling reflection on the effect of the guillotine that it has not even been possible to debate the amendment on which the last Bill foundered, namely, the one proposing the Speaker's Conference to consider the principle and, by implication, the role of Scottish Members in this House after the enactment of such a measure. It was that debate which last time persuaded the House to reject the Scotland and Wales Bill and it is truly fantastic that a situation should be allowed to arise in which the equivalent amendment cannot be debated in any shape or form in this House.

In the Scotland and Wales Bill, which was considered in the last Session, one of the features criticised to a substantial extent was the extreme rigidity of the arrangement whereby the term of office of the Assembly was prescribed by that Bill. It was variable only by variations of two months either side of the normal date. That was obviously designed to deal with very minor clashes with other dates on which it would not be appropriate to hold elections for the Scottish Assembly.

Grave objections were made to that arrangement in the debate on 2nd February 1977. It was pointed out that it would be absurd to have so inflexible an arrangement, for in spite of any changes that might take place while the Assembly was in office, in spite of by-elections that might take place or, more probably, shifts of opinion within the Assembly which would lead to the Executive losing the support that it had at the outset, it was quite impossible to dissolve the Assembly or for it to come to an end in any shape or form.

When that complaint was made objection was taken that this was no different from the situation in the case of a county council or other local government unit in which a fixed term was prescribed. But an answer was most certainly forthcoming. It was that the situation with regard to the Scottish Assembly was in no way analogous—certainly not fairly comparable—with that of a county council operating a committee system, because in the case of the Scottish Assembly what is proposed is not a committee system but an executive. It is a Government of a United Kingdom type combined with a legislature and not just an Assembly exercising executive powers through a committee system. It is that unique feature of a United Kingdom-type government sitting in an Asembly which itself has legislative power that makes it absolutely essential for there to be a degree of flexibility in the case of the Assembly with regard to its duration.

The point was made, as so often, by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who said: I assume, therefore, that it is held to be desirable that, for such an Assembly to legislate, its leadership should be more compact, coherent and continuous than the leadership which is given in a local authority by a caucus of the chairman, the party chairman and the respective committees or however it may be arranged. It may be that it is because of its legislative character that this mansard roof of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is superimposed upon the Assembly."—[Official Report, 2nd February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 588–89.] The reason for that superimposition is that it is plainly inappropriate to have a situation in which the Assembly and the First Secretary thereof may find themselves in a situation in which the Government of Scotland simply cannot continue because there is no coherent body able to give support to an Executive headed by a particular person.

It is right to say that the Government accepted the force of that argument to a substantial extent, so much so that they have introduced in this Bill a provision that was not to be found in the Scotland and Wales Bill. That is the clause that we are debating, which allows for the dissolution of the Assembly on a two-thirds vote. But in our view that provision does not really solve the whole problem in an adequate way. Objection has often been made to the situation operating in this House whereby the Prime Minister of the day can secure a tremendous political advantage by obtaining a dissolution at any time of his choice. That objection may carry less validity at the moment because at least it is felt to be the case that in 1970 and 1974 the Prime Ministers who chose to exercise their power by having a premature dissolution of Parliament suffered at the polls as a result.

However, the principle remains the same and we ought not to be recreating that situation in Edinburgh. The fact is that the provision in the clause does give power to the First Secretary to dissolve the Assembly, in effect, because assuming that the First Secretary commands a majority in the Assembly—one must make that assumption, because if he did not he would cease to be First Secretary—he will be able readily to procure a vote of the Assembly seeking its dissolution if he comes to the conclusion that it would be convenient for his party to hold a General Election at that moment.

The only qualification provided by the clause is that the First Secretary must be able to command a substantial majority of the House—a two-thirds majority—if he is to be able to secure dissolution in those circumstances to suit what he regards as his electoral convenience. But the argument put forward in the last debate in favour of flexibility was not really designed to ensure that the Executive should be able to choose a convenient moment to have an election. That was not the objection to the previous inflexibility. We did not complain that it did not give the Executive the opportunity to have an election at a time of its own choice.

7.30 p.m.

The real problem, which is not adequately dealt with by the clause, is one of deadlock. Suppose the Executive loses the confidence of the Assembly but there is a majority able to put in power and sustain an Executive of a different political complexion, or a coalition comprising a group of alternative political complexions. There might well then be no majority in favour of dissolution. The Assembly could be faction-ridden. We have heard much talk about there already being in Scotland a multi-party system to a much greater extent than in this House. It would not be difficult to imagine there being no majority, still less a two-thirds majority, in favour of dissolution. If the powers granted to the Assembly are as substantial as those proposed in the Bill, the Government of Scotland could come grinding to a halt. If it did not, the Assembly might find that it was unable to reach decisions on matters requiring urgent decision and that the government of Scotland is gravely affected as a result", to quote the amendment. It is to meet that problem that we seek to persuade the Committee of the merits of the amendment.

I acknowledge that there are difficulties in any solution. We should listen sympathetically to any alternative. At present the problem is not solved. There is no way to secure the dissolution of the Assembly if there is a deadlock.

In the United Kingdom as a whole the Prime Minister would secure a dissolution. The only alternative way to bring that about, in our view, is to enable the Secretary of State, in such a situation—necessarily prescribed in a fairly generalised way, but none the less fairly clearly prescribed—to dissolve the Assembly. As a further protection, we have included in the amendment the provision that the Secretary of State would not be able to dissolve the Assembly on his own say-so when there has been deadlock, but would need a prior resolution by each House of Parliament in favour of his draft order. I stress "each House", because it means that the House of Lord would also have to be satisfied that the circumstances laid down in the clause, as amended, applied.

The advantage of that provision is not party political; it is that if the Secretary of State were seeking to persuade the House of Commons to dissolve the Assembly, not because there was genuinely a deadlock but because it suited him for some reason, the House of Lords would be able to take an independent and possibly more objective view. With this formula, it would be highly unlikely that the Secretary of State would intervene in a partisan way, because to do so would almost certainly be totally counterproductive.

If the Secretary of State sought to dissolve the Assembly when there was clearly a majority able to carry through its proposals, and did so simply because he did not like the effect of what it was doing, it would not require a sophisticated electorate to see—even if he were able to persuade both Houses to support so brazen an executive act—that he was in contravention of the provisions of the clause as amended. The electorate would see that he was abusing the power given to him and that both Houses were abusing the discretion given to them, if they supported him. It would be so obvious that the Scottish Executive would be likely to secure an increased majority at the polls in Scotland that no Secretary of State in his senses would be tempted to follow such a course.

Mr. Dalyell

I have spoken before about the fertile seeds of pointless conflict between Scotland and this House. I would not press the analogy ton far, but does not the hon. Gentleman agree that in some ways the potential here resembles the conflicts in Australia between Kerr and Whitlam?

Mr. Brittan

The hon. Gentleman knows that I share to the full his concern about the potential conflicts resulting from the Bill and the view that within the scheme of government proposed for Scotland there is no way of resolving or even substantially diminishing those conflicts. But we are unhappily saddled with the grim task of seeking to make the best of a bad job. All that I am saying is that in the Bill as it stands there is a glaring flaw, to which an attempt should be made to provide an answer. In outlining our answer, I said that I agreed that any solution was redolent of difficulty, but at least we are providing a solution where the Government provide none.

Although at first blush our solution would seem to be redolent of conflict, I think that it is not as redolent of conflict as it may seem to the hon. Gentleman. The reason is that any attempt to use the power in anything other than good faith would be so blatant, and its harmful consequences to anyone seeking to use it in that way accordingly so apparent, that the Secretary of State would almost certainly eschew any temptation to abuse the power. Coupled with that is the protection, limited as it may be thought to be, of the requirement for an order of each House. Both Houses, or at least this Chamber, may on occasion be ready to follow the guidance of the executive contrary to their inclinations, as perhaps happened last week in giving the Bill its Second Reading and passing the guillotine motion. But I do not believe that when the circumstances in which the Secretary of State may dissolve the Assembly are specifically and clearly defined, and when those circumstances do not exist, both Houses would be party to an abuse of that power.

I recognise the possibility of conflict even in that way, but it is less than might appear at first sight. In any event, there is a gap that must be filled in some way. In spite of last year's debate, it is not adequately filled by this new clause, because it does not provide for a situation in which there is deadlock and no two-thirds majority in favour of dissolution. The best proposals that we have been able to devise are those in Amendment No. 174, which I therefore commend to the House.

Mr. Sillars

The Opposition Front Bench has said that this was the best that it could devise, but it is not terribly good. It is full of potential points of conflict between the Scottish Assembly and this House. The question whether the Assembly is dissolved is a matter of major political judgment.

If we had the present situation, many people in Scotland would object, and certainly all the Assemblymen would object very strongly, to a political decision of that magnitude being made by someone who is not in the electorate in Scotland, as the Secretary of State is not at present. There would be just as much heat generated in Scotland as there was in Australia when the Governor-General intervened on that decision. Most people reviewing Australian politics would have said before the event occurred that no one would act in that partisan way, because of the backlash. Nobody would have thought anyone would take that sort of risk.

No one in this House would forecast a Secretary of State acting in a partisan way, but one only has to look around the Chamber and look at the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), who has demonstrated time and time again that he can be very partisan indeed and can make most preposterous suggestions. For example, although the United Kingdom is a unitary State, and the hon. Member never ceases to proclaim it, he has been known to say that we should have hanging laws in Scotland but not in other parts of the United Kingdom. A person with that turn of mind could not be trusted with the clause as it would be amended by the Opposition.

As for the proposition that the House of Lords would be, in the words of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), more independent and possibly more objective—that is ludicrous. It is also most unlikely to be accepted by the vast majority of Scottish electors, who have a special regard for the House of Lords, and it is not a kind regard. It is a remarkable proposition that people who have no basis at all for intervening in Scottish affairs should be brought in from the backwoods to make part and parcel of a decision that should be made in Scotland at the end of the day, simply because it is such a major one.

Amendment No. 53 is a probing amendment to find out the Government's thinking in relation to the idea of fixed-term Scottish Assemblies. This is not just a nut-and-bolt issue; it contains very important principles. I agree with the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby that considerable political difficulties may be caused by the fixed-term principle. We are witnessing in Scotland a situation in the Glasgow District Council in which the Labour Party did not win an overall majority of seats, so it got in a huff and refused to form an administration, despite the fact that it was the largest party. The Scottish National Party was a minority and it did not feel able to form an administration for that reason. The Conservatives were also a minority, but a larger one, and they said they would form an administration. However, it is an administration that cannot carry any majority decisions through the Glasgow District Council.

7.45 p.m.

These are some of the difficulties that exist. Such things matter in local authorities and they will matter even more in the Scottish Assembly. There will be a great effect on Scottish politics if that sort of situation developed in a fixed-term Scottish Assembly.

In facing the problem of a fixed-term Assembly we must consider the obstacles against the Scottish Secretary or First Secretary, or whatever he is to be called, in doing what the Prime Minister does here—dissolving Parliament and calling an Election when it is to his advantage to do so It does seem unnecessarily restrictive to argue that two-thirds of all Members of the Assembly must vote for a dissolution, even taking into account seats that are vacant and those Members who are not present for the debate. Yet the Bill insists that there should be this two-thirds majority before the Assembly can decide to dissolve itself.

The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby, in moving the amendment argued at one stage that the First Secretary, given a majority position, could fairly easily dissolve this Assembly; the only qualification was that he got a two-thirds majority. I would not think that that was a minor qualification, given the multi-party position that the Scottish Assembly is likely to reflect. Then, only a minute or two later, the hon. Member was arguing that the multi-party system would make it almost impossible to get a two-thirds majority. That might be the case.

I hope that the Secretary of State will consider at a later stage slightly amending the Bill to make the qualification that of two-thirds of the people attending the Assembly and voting in that Division. That might make a difference of only two or three, or perhaps five or 10, but that could be the vital difference in breaking a deadlock in the Scottish Assembly. Or, why not have a qualification that the decision could be made by half the members of the Assembly present plus one voting to agree that the Assembly should be so dissolved? I have deployed this as a probing amendment in order to ascertain the Government's thinking because they have considered the position in various parts of Europe and the Commonwealth where fixed-term systems operate.

Mr. Graham Page

I join with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) in questioning this figure of two-thirds. In Amendment No. 169 I seek to reduce the number to half—an ordinary majority. My amendment is a probing one to try to find out the nature of the Scottish Assembly as the Government see it. It is not to be like a county council, nor is it to be like our Parliament. It is to be something in between. Therefore, a formula is set down here which, I believe, will be extremely difficult to operate.

When we consider the voting we have seen in this Chamber in the last two days with Members going into both Lobbies, I wonder how this fromula would apply to us. One would have to think out another formula to take account of the double voting.

I imagine that what will happen is that if the Scottish Assembly does not run its full four years, the Executive, in the form of the First Secretary, will wish to dissolve it at some stage. He will wish to dissolve it only if he finds that he has not a majority. Therefore, what is the point of the two-thirds? How will he get a resolution of the Scottish Assembly with two-thirds voting in favour of dissolving when he cannot command two-thirds in the Scottish Assembly—or, if he can command it, will he see any need to dissolve at all? This is where the formula will be difficult to apply.

The alternative is Amendment No. 174 moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittany, but I think that possibly we may be up against some difficulties there. We would be leaving it almost entirely to this Parliament to decide on the dissolution of the Scottish Assembly. That may be tight in principle if one believes that the Scottish Assembly must be something like a Committee of this House. I understand that is not within the present Bill. One would need a substantial number of alterations to bring that about.

Personally, I am in favour of the amendment moved by my hon. Friend. I should like to see a Scottish Assembly controlled by this House. I think that possibly I am in a minority in thinking that and therefore I am faced with trying to make this formula in Clause 4 work in a reasonable way. It can work in a reasonable way only if it depends on a majority resolution of the Scottish Assembly. If one asks for two-thirds in the one case, if the First Secretary can command two-thirds in the Scottish Assembly, he will not want to dissolve it. But if he wants to dissolve it because he has not a majority, he will not be able to get the two-thirds to dissolve it.

The formula is fraught with deadlock all the way through. It might work by a simple majority resolution, but I still have my doubts. To a great extent my amendment, Amendment No. 169, which seeks to change the figure of two-thirds to a figure of one-half, is a probing amendment, and I hope that at some stage the Minister will intervene so that we may have a chance to return to these points. If he waits until the end of the debate because of the guillotine procedure, there will be no opportunity to take up these matters other than by our pestering him with questions to find out what is in his mind. Therefore, I hope that he will intervene at some earlier stage in the debate.

Mr. Dalyell

I should like to concentrate on this issue of deadlock. I believe then that any action by the Secretary of State would be liable to misinterpretation. One can think of an abundance of reasons why people would want wilfully to misinterpret any action on dissolution. Therein lie the seeds of grave conflict.

In a deadlocked situation it would be a question of parties coming together in a coalition. I do not want to go back to the previous debate, but the fact is that we are talking about a situation of coalition. This Committee should question the proposition that, if this legislation is passed, never again will British parties be the same. I do not argue whether that is good or bad, but it should be clearly understood. Where there is a coalition that is Labour-Tory, Tory-SNP, Labour-SNP or whatever it may be, because of the position that would obtain in an Assembly—and many politicians in Scotland would be more interested in an Assembly than they would be in Westminster—there is the recipe for the breaking up of the British party system.

There may be those who take the view that they would like nothing better than to see the break-up of the British Labour and trade union movement. That is not my view. I think that it is a recipe for conflict, and therefore we should understand that one of the effects may well be the break-up of the British party system. Things would never be the same again if there was the kind of coalition we are discussing. So long as that is understood, I shall leave my case there.

Mr. Powell

All the debates on this Bill are turning out to be a huge exercise in the demonstration of one central proposition. It is a proposition which has already been mentioned a number of times, but is none the worse for that—namely, that in a unitary parliamentary State it is not possible to establish an elected legislature for a part of that State. In previous debates we have had what might be called the massive proof of that proposition, indeed the knock-down proof, to which deservedly the appellation of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has been attached. It consisted in demonstrating that when such an Assembly has been created, there is not a rational form in which the electorate of that part of the kingdom can be represented in this House.

Day after day on the previous time round and many hours on this time round have been spent on that massive form of the proof of the underlying proposition. But now we come to this delightful thing, to this little gem of a clause. I would like also to call Amendment No. 174 a gem of an amendment; but I think that its authors are not entirely unconscious of its weakness. Yet it is like the setting of a precious jewel: we are unable to admire the gem unless we have the somewhat less valuable setting of the amendment in which to frame and present it. The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) must not suppose that I lack appreciation or gratitude for the service he performed in moving the amendment.

The clause provides us with what in some mathematical quarters is called the "elegant" proof of the proposition. We have discovered that it is impossible, having set up this Assembly, to dissolve it when we want to do so without falling into irretrievable conflict with the proposition that used to be Clause 1 of the Bill but, happily for the freedom of our continuing discussions, somehow disappeared in the course of yesterday's proceedings.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) who appears to have been called away to more weighty, but I am sure not more interesting, matters, said that he hoped to learn in the course of this debate about the thinking of the Government. We need not wait for the intervention of the Secretary of State for Scotland, although we are looking forward to it, to be able to reproduce with fair certainty the central part of the thinking of the Government on this subject.

The Government, in drafting the Bill, had got the Assembly set up with an Executive supported by a majority of the Assembly, just like Her Majesty's Government and this House. Then somebody asked, "If there is a deadlock, how will they manage to get out of it? How will they manage to get an election?" Thereupon someone else—whether in Committee or a Sub-Committee of Cabinet or some little confabulation between the Lord President and his ad hoc friends—said "What is the problem? Do it the way that we do it." He went on to ask, "What is wrong with the Chief Executive—or whatever he may be called—who exercises the Royal Prerogative for other purposes, as it says in Clause 21(3), using the Royal Prerogative to dissolve the Assembly? That presents no problem at Westminster. We are sent for by Her Majesty; and when it pleases her, by Proclamation she sends us away again and gets another set, whatever may be her disappointment to find a certain overlap between the two."

8.0 p.m.

So that was all right, and there was general satisfaction and a nodding of heads, until a legally and constitutionally minded member of the confabulation said, "Are we then saying that the Chief Executive is to have power to advise Her Majesty and to give advice that she, constitutionally, must follow, just as she must follow the advice of her Prime Minister in the United Kingdom? Is that the sort of person that we are establishing as the Chief Executive in Scotland? Will he then be Her Majesty's Minister, advising her upon the exercise of one of the remaining and major prerogatives of the Crown?"

Then a certain silence, chill and hesitant, fell upon those excogitating the Bill, because they saw what lay before them and glimpsed the gulf that was opening at their feet. They would be establishing one of Her Majesty's Gov ernments; an Executive in which there would be collective responsibility—it is quite clear that that is the intention, because in Clause 21 there are arrangements for the Chief Executive to reshuffle his Cabinet and sack his junior Ministers; that will all be found in Clause 21(4)(5)—an Executive with collective responsibility and whatever his name, a Chief Executive who would be Prime Minister.

Thus the group found themselves invited to contemplate a Prime Minister who would be Her Majesty's Minister and would have the natural and, indeed, indispensable function of all Prime Ministers to advise Her Majesty on dissolution. It was at that point that, although they had looked at the coin before, the penny dropped. They realised that such a Government would indeed be one of Her Majesty's Governments, and that the country over which that Government presided could, by definition, not be part of the United Kingdom; for there cannot within the United Kingdom be exercise of the prerogative on the advice of a Minister who does not share in the collective responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers in the United Kingdom—not just on the matters set out in the Bill, but on the overriding, Government-creating and Government-destroying prerogative of the dissolution of Parliament.

I am sure the House will understand now why I say that this is an elegant. miniature proof of the same old proposition, the same old impossibility. For when one has dissolved the unitary parliamentary State by creating in one part of the realm an elected legislature, and a Government supported by that legislature, one discovers that the thing will not work because it lacks something necessary to its functioning. That something is the possibility of resolving a deadlock by recourse to the electorate.

In that quandary there were only two courses that lay open to this little conclave whose thinking—to use the word of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire—we have been privileged to follow, rather like archaeologists or historians reconstructing an episode in history and working out what had happened.

When our conclave shrank back from the chasm into which they had peeped there were two courses that they could take. One was to resort to constitution-making—and that is what some of the amendments seek to do, to set up an elaborate system of conditions and arrangements, a sort of clockwork mechanism for getting the Assembly out of a deadlock created by political facts. Nevertheless, all clockwork needs not only a maker but—as Dean Paley demonstrated to the instruction of Oxford undergraduates generation after generation—[Interruption.]—I am glad to hear signs of agreement from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), who is himself no mean theologian—but also someone to wind it up afterwards, somebody who will exercise a responsibility exterior to the clockwork.

So the Government were driven from that apparent first alternative back to the only course that remained open to them. That was to place the power in Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, responsible to this Parliament of the United Kingdom. Thereupon all the Scots, or at least the pro-devolutionists—such of them as are surviving—said, "That is terrible. There is no devolution about that. That would not mean real freedom because we should still be tied to the apron strings of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and its Parliament." Just so. That is what all these debates are about.

So it can be seen, whether one looks at it en gros or whether one fixes a watchmaker's microscope to one's eye and looks at the details of the Bill, the same pattern—or almost lack of pattern—meets the gaze everywhere. What we are attempting to do in the Bill is a great pretence, the pretence that the impossible can be framed in legislative form. It is only fair that the labours of this Committee, curtailed as they are—and much to our loss—by the grim two-handed engine, should be enlivened from time to time by little interludes of this sort when we can contemplate in a gratifying instructive, yet amusing, form the same solemn truth that we are attempting to challenge by the Bill as a whole.

Mr. Russell Johnston

It is hard to know what to say to follow that, but I must say at least a couple of things. It is extremely likely—I suspect this from the look of weariness fleeting across the Secretary of State's face, and in spite of his abundantly false smile and the fact that he denies it—that on every clause we shall be told that that clause, whatever it may be, will lead to the break-up of the British party system and the trade union movement. No doubt we shall also be told, possibly in even more eloquent fashion, that each clause proves conclusively that it is impossible to have supportive legislatures in a parliamentary State.

I want simply to direct my few remarks to the question of fixed-term Parliaments, which is what these amendments are directly about. In the first instance my colleagues and I believe that fixed-term Parliaments are better than Parliaments which are free to dissolve at any time. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, as though it were part of the Holy Writ, that an indispensable prerogative of the Prime Minister is the power of dissolution. I do not agree that it is an indispensable power of the Prime Minister. That is the way we have handled these matters in this place for a long time. That does not mean that they must be handled like that for ever. Many countries operate fixed terms, and many systems of administration and government do that both here and abroad.

Given that one accepts the desirability of a fixed term, we must accept that the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) would mean that we could not have a fixed-term Parliament in which a simple majority for the Government of the day enabled dissolution to take place. That is not a fixed term at all.

We then come to the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), and the same applies there. He requires the support of only a half—not even of a majority—of the members in order to secure dissolution.

We then come to the major proposition from the Opposition Front Bench. That was recomended to us—I think that is the proper word—with the exciting terminology of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), who said that his amendment was not quite as redolent with conflict as it appeared. I think that was one of the most persuasive arguments for the adoption of an amendment that I have heard for a long time. Of course the amendment is redolent with a great many obstacles, some of which have been pointed out. Obviously the reason for dissolution is not necessarily the loss of a majority. One might wish to dissolve the Parliament if the political circumstances were appropriate and one could take advantage of them. That might well happen in normal circumstances in mid-term.

The Government have carefully written in the provision that when premature dissolution takes place there would be another election at the end of the four-year term, and that would be a considerable inhibiter and brake on such action being undertaken. But with two years to run one could visualise circumstances in which a political party felt that it was to its advantage to build up a majority, compared with waiting for another two years. It is not so long since we had two General Elections in one year.

Mr. Dalyell

My hon. Friend the Member Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and I appear to be the only occupants of the Government Back Benches, but we would be glad to hear whether this new change was made on Liberal advice.

Mr. Johnston

It has always been difficult for me to understand when the Government have followed advice. I can only say that we are in favour of the change, but that does not prove that the Government have taken our advice.

8.15 p.m.

The wish to have a General Election, therefore, need not arise from a deadlock; it could come about through a desire to take advantage of a political climate at a particular time. To do as the Opposition have done and merely to transfer responsibility to this place does not remove the reasons and does not lessen the likelihood of deadlock in the Assembly. As was so cogently pointed out by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, this would create real difficulties in the Westminster parliamentary structure, if the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby genuinely believes that the House of Lords would fulfil the rôle of objective referee which he has rather optimistically portrayed for it.

Let us take a practical example of a Labour Prime Minister in the House of Commons who is in conflict with the House of Lords. It the Prime Minister is considering the possibility of dissolution of the Scottish Assembly, but it is objected to by the Opposition in the Assembly, who, let us say, are Conservatives and who then encourage the House of Lords to take a different view from the Government, one is immediately in a considerable crisis at Westminster.

Mr. Brittan

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) has blurred over the fact that it is not just a question of proposing a dissolution on any grounds that suit the majority in the House of Commons or, for that matter, in the House of Lords. In our amendment there is a definition of the circumstances in which that could be done. The amendment makes sure that that can happen only if there is a deadlock. If the Government are given an opportunity, for political reasons, to put a resolution before the House, that is one thing. If it is empowered by the Act to do so only if there is a deadlock in the Scottish Assembly, that is prescribing an objective test. Of course, the system can be abused, but it would have to be a pretty blatant abuse by the Government and by each House of Parliament. That is a possibility, but I hope that we have sufficient confidence in our institutions to think that that is unlikely.

Mr. Johnston

That is not an unreasonable way of putting it, but while the amendment clearly prescribes that where the Assembly is unable to reach a decision on matters requiring urgent decision that is a deadlock, a deadlock can be created. The optimism that the hon. Member has demonstrated in our existing institutions, while admirable, is not such as would make me confident enough to put such a prescription into the Bill.

It is undoubtedly difficult to try to prescribe what one might call bolt holes or ways out of deadlocks in fixed-term Parliaments. There is this difficulty witty out any doubt. The Government's prescription necessitates a degree of agreement which many hon. Members—the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby may well chide me back on this—would feel was difficult to achieve. I am referring to the proportion of two-thirds. But given that, I agree, from the other side of the argument, with the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that in the Assembly one will see the development of a new kind of attitude and approach to the operation of the Assembly's procedures. That could be an effective way out in a deadlock, but it could not be taken advantage of for political reasons by a Government with a very small majority who wished for their own advantage to call an election very quickly.

Mr. Budgen

The amendments demonstrate very well the widely differing views held in the House of Commons on the fateful and fatal ambiguity at the centre of our consideration of the Bill. It is still unclear whether the Government regard the Scottish Assembly as being an independent Parliament or wish to describe it as a puffed-up county council. As we continue our considerations it is plain that they wish to describe it as a puffed-up county council when they speak to the packed Benches in this place, and as an independent Parliament when they are campaigning in Scotland.

The amendments illustrate the dilemma in which each Member finds himself in trying to understand what the Bill is about. On the one hand, Amendment No. 53, in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) is plainly designed further to enhance the powers and importance of the Scottish Assembly. It is plainly trying to give it an independent voice in deciding when it may end its life if that he necessary. On the other hand, Amendment No. 169, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) is an honourable attempt to make this bodged-up idea work in a slightly more efficient and easy manner. I prefer Amendment No. 174. I prefer it in very much more vigorous terms than my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) was able to advocate in introducing it.

My hon. Friend spoke first of the possibilities of conflict within the Assembly. However, the possibilities of conflict are much wider than that. There is the prospect of conflict between a party in the Assembly, or the Assembly itself, and the Westminster Parliament. I know that Clause 62—I hope that this will not reinspire the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—raises the whole question of the effect of Community obligations and international obligations upon the Scottish Assembly. I know that those obligations may in certain circumstances be described as not being devolved matters. However, when we think, for instance, about the present effect of the Community fishing policy upon the Scottish people, we realise that there is a fruitful area for conflict between a Scottish Assembly and Westminster, and then with the Community.

I welcome Amendment No. 174, because it gives total discretion to the Secretary of State. It is no good saying "This power will be exercised only in certain circumstances and always in a reasonable manner". I am sure that that is true, because the essence of our unwritten constitution is that there is a general corpus of opinion within the two Houses of Parliament that prevents excessive and unreasonable use of power by any party that has temporary control of either House. However, to say that there is something within the amendment that places some sort of external constraint upon the Secretary of State is untrue. If we consider the first leg of the amendment, the first condition is that the Assembly is unable to reach decisions on matters requiring urgent decision. It may be said in respect of some decisions that if they are not decided within a week those concerned have been unable to reach a decision on matters requiring urgent decision.

The second part of the amendment provides that the government of Scotland is gravely affected as a result. Neither leg of the amendment is capable of an objective assessment by relation to certain outside criteria. Both legs are concerned essentially with the criteria that are subjectively designed by the Secretary of State subject to his responsibility to this place, or to another place if he happens to sit there.

I welcome the amendment because it breaks into the ambiguity at the centre of the Bill. It says to the Scottish Assembly "You are no more than a puffed-up county council. You are a subordinate body. If there is any conflict, it will be resolved by the decision of the Secretary of State."

The amendment does not deal with the extra layer of government. It does not deal with the ridiculous extra bureaucracy that the Assembly is imposing on the happy people of Scotland. However, as long as the Assembly lasts—if it comes into being I hope that it has a short and disagreeable life, for I do not wish to see it breaking up the unity of the United Kingdom—

Mr. Dalyell

The hon. Gentleman may wish it a short and disagreeable life, but some of us think that if it is established it will be difficult to bring it to an end.

Mr. Budgen

I entirely share the hon. Gentleman's view. My first preference is that the Assembly should not be born. If it is born, I believe that it may well walk down the road towards separation. I go further than saying "may well"; I say that it is overwhelmingly probable that it will lead to separation.

It is my hope that by introducing amendments such as Amendment No. 174 and retaining the powers of Westminster over a subordinate legislature, we shall resolve in part the dishonest ambiguity that lies at the heart of the Bill. We may at least demonstrate that it is no more than a puffed-up county council.

When, for instance, my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) talks about demanding more powers and extending the influence and authority of the Assembly in Scotland, we in this place are able to point to the ultimate fallback power of the Secretary of State, which in my opinion is a power that, if enshrined by the acceptance of the amendment, will be unconstrained by any of the objective criteria, and that conforms to the essence of our unwritten constitution, in that it changes, bends and varies so that the government of the country can be carried on without the breakable constraints of a written constitution.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has described the proposed Scottish Assembly as a puffed-up county council. That view could not be held from studying the provisions of Part I of Schedule 10.

It is most extraordinary that the effect of Clause 4, which has as few friends as any of the three preceding clauses which we have considered very briefly in Com mittee, read in conjunction with Clause 3 should be that, if the Assembly should be dissolved prematurely, either following a two-thirds majority, as the Bill provides, or, if Amendment No. 174 should be passed, in the circumstances envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), a newly elected Assembly should be elected only for the remainder of the four-year period.

It is an astonishing proposition that the people of Scotland should have inflicted upon them all the burden and expense of what would really be a General Election campaign to provide an Assembly which might last for only a month or two.

If that is felt to be fanciful, one has only to look at the Explanatory Memorandum which precedes the Bill, where it is spelt out, and in the clearest terms, as follows: Following a premature dissolution the newly elected Assembly will serve only the unexpired period of the original four year term. What is the thinking of the Government who say that, if one goes through all the paraphernalia of an election to the Assembly, those so elected following a premature dissolution will hold office only for the remainder of the initial four-year period? What can the justification be for saying that those who were elected on this basis can hold office only for the period of literally a few weeks?

8.30 p.m.

If we are invited to choose between the draftsmanship of the Government Front Bench and that of my right hon. Friend, there may not be a great deal to choose between the two. Certainly on balance I think that Amendment No. 174 is an improvement, because in the situation envisaged in subsection (1)(b) where two-thirds of the members of the Assembly are required to vote for their own dissolution it would be perfectly possible to have an Assembly which was wholly unmanageable but where two-thirds of its Members could not be found who were anxious to terminate their period as Members of the Assembly.

Indeed, if we had a system in the House of Commons where we would dissolve ourselves only if there were a two-thirds majority, that would be a situation in which we would be very likely to have a five-year period of Parliament.

Mr. Powell

We would be all Liberals.

Mr. Gow

My right hon. Friend says that, but I hope that I would not fall into such dangerous company. The procedure which is envisaged by the Bill, that there could be a two-thirds majority voting for the dissolution of the Assembly, is one which, to say the least, is exceedingly improbable. That is why I believe that the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) is worthy of support, because, although the test which is applied is certainly a subjective one, it would be open to the courts to seek to interpret whether it appeared to them—

Mr. Powell


Mr. Gow

I find myself in respectful disagreement with my right hon. Friend. If the Secretary of State for some quite different reason wished to dissolve the Assembly, it would be justiciable whether it appeared to him that the Assembly was unable to reach decisions. The Secretary of State might have quite different reasons for wishing to dissolve the Assembly.

Mr. Brittan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I totally agree with him. It would not be open to the courts to intervene once the matter was decided by each House of Parliament, but if the Secretary of State was inclined to put an order before the House of Commons in that form and did so in bad faith, and if it was possible to establish that no reasonable Secretary of State directing himself to the proper considerations and applying the test in the Bill could possibly have reached that conclusion, action could be taken in the courts to restrain him from putting the order before the House.

That would be on exactly the same basis as was done in the Tameside case, where a similar point arose and the Secretary of State appeared to have power, but the discretion, although comparatively subjective, none the less was such that it was conceivable in the circumstances to satisfy the courts that no reasonable Secretary of State could have exercised the power in that way. In that circumstance the amendment has greater force and validity than has perhaps been allowed for, because, although necessarily sub jective in form, it does not simply leave it totally to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Gow

I am grateful to have the support of my hon. Friend, who played such a distinguished part in defeating the Secretary of State for Education and Science on the Tameside affair. Not only do I have the support of my hon. Friend but also I have the support of the Court of Appeal for the proposition that I am advancing.

Clause 4 is one of the most extraordinary clauses in the Bill because it envisages a situation which in reality will never occur. It is not in the nature, above all, of Scotsmen—I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) in his place—to wish to put an end to their remuneration when they have an opportunity of continuing it. The prospect of Members of the Assembly actually resolving by a two-thirds majority to bring their employment to an end is so improbable as to be impossible.

As we actually come to examine the reality of the situation that will occur in Scotland should the Bill become law, we find that this clause, like the others, turns out on examination to be in practice another example of the unworkable features of the Bill. That is why we shall continue to try to frustrate its passage through the Committee. I hope that we shall support Amendment No. 174, because it is at least an improvement upon the Government's drafting.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I should be very sorry if I prevented the Secretary of State from rising to speak, because I am one of those who believe that it would have been very helpful to the Committee if the Secretary of State had intervened in the debate a little earlier so that those of us who have been somewhat confused by the Government's thinking on this matter could hear from him how they have got themselves into this extraordinary situation. We might then have been able to comment more effectively on the clause. Since we are in Committee, if the Secretary of State is unable to deal with the many cogent points that have been raised on both sides of the Committee, as I fear will be the case, I hope that there will be opportunity for some of us to come back to him and ask him—

The First Deputy Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)

I should like to reassure the hon. Gentleman. I am confident that the hon. Member will be able to dispel any confusion.

Mr. Griffiths

Thank you, Sir Myer. The question is not whether I shall be able to dispel the confusion, although I hope that it would not be impossible for me to do that. The duty here lies on those who have created it, and certainly they are now sitting with the Government Chief Whip, I notice, on the Treasury Bench.

All of us who sat in the Committee during the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) have had today a rare treat of eloquence, logic and humour, which the House of Commons is seldom able to hear. I can only regret that so many hon. Members were not present to hear his quite devastating indictment of this clause. I was particularly impressed with his allegorical description of how he believed, within the confabulations of the Cabinet, this particular arrangement was constructed. I suspect that he was precisely right in recognising that, at some stage at least, it was understood, within the confabulation, that while the Cabinet would have liked the power to dissolve the Assembly to reside in Scotland, as soon as they reached the point at which that would happen they had, of course, to recognise that they would virtually be creating an alternative power, a new State, within the United Kingdom. Consequently, of course, they have recoiled from it.

But the logical recoil from that proposition is the one represented by Amendment No. 174, which brings the ultimate power to dissolve the Scottish Assembly back here to Westminster. The Government, unfortunately, did not accept that consequence of their own decision, so what they have done is to create a most extraordinary constitutional notion, namely, that the only power there shall be to dissolve the Scottish Assembly shall be in the Scottish Assembly itself. That is a most extraordinary proposition—that the Assembly shall dissolve itself.

Then the Government had to provide some mechanism by which the Assembly would reach that conclusion, and therefore, for reasons which have not been explained, they have put in the magic proportion of two-thirds. This means that if one-third of the Members plus one are not prepared to be dissolved, the Assembly cannot be dissolved. This, of course, is another extraordinary proposition.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that there is the major difficulty here that, assuming there is an Assembly at all, even people such as myself think that it would be very difficult to have it dissolved from London, for then the issue would become like the Lords versus the Commons, or any other emotive issue, and the details would be forgotten in an atmosphere of "what Westminster did to us".

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Precisely. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. But, of course, we are caught either way. If the power to dissolve is to be restored or is to be in Whitehall or in Westminster, as the amendment suggests, then, as he rightly supposes, there will be the most enormous conflicts. There will be a sort of Lords versus Commons conflict between the Scottish Assembly and this place. There is no doubt of that at all. But, equally, what are we to say if it becomes manifestly the case that the Assembly in Scotland is not able to conduct its business and the Secretary of State of the day is manifestly dissatisfied with what is happening? Suppose that the Scottish Prime Minister is frustrated in all his policies. None the less, one-third of the Members of the Scottish Assembly plus one can prevent any dissolution from taking place. That is the absurdity of this situation.

Let us suppose that the Secretary of State for Scotland is convinced that the Assembly should go; that the Scottish Prime Minister believes that it should go; that it is perfectly clear that its remaining there is doing no good service to anyone. What is the mechanism for getting rid of it, for dissolving it, for going to the people? The position, apparently, is that if one-third of its Members plus one are not prepared to dissolve, it cannot be dissolved. This is an absurd proposition.

But then there is the further difficulty. What is to be the position of the Scottish Chief Executive? He bears the responsibility for his programme. He has campaigned on it. He may well have won a majority. He is dealing with housing, with health, with local government, and with all the many things that affect the Scottish people. As we all know, there are vicissitudes in politics. There may have been a profound change in the attitudes of the Scottish people and they may be totally opposed to what is going on. Suppose that the Scottish Chief Executive recognises this and believes that the Assembly, in the public interest, ought to be dissolved? Imagine the illogicality of the situation. If the Chief Executive has two-thirds of the Assembly on his side, then, of course, he need not dissolve, but if he has not two-thirds on his side there is no way in which he can procure a dissolution.

I think that this mathematical problem needs to be underlined. The only way in which the Chief Executive, the Prime Minister, can achieve a dissolution is if he commands two-thirds of the membership. But, if he commands two-thirds of the membership, why should he have a dissolution?

8.45 p.m.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

I do not see the hon. Gentleman campaigning against the system in this House, where 534 Members might not want Parliament to be dissolved, but one man can have it dissolved.

Mr. Griffiths

The position here is clear. No matter what the majority of Members might believe, if the Prime Minister approaches Her Majesty and advises her to dissolve Parliament, it is dissolved. That is the difference.

Mr. Gow

I am not sure that my hon. Friend is on sound constitutional ground, because to say that means the end of the Royal Prerogative. Her Majesty is not bound to accept the advice of Her Prime Minister in all circumstances. There are some circumstances, which we can all envisage, when it might be right for Her Majesty not to follow the advice of Her First Minister.

Mr. Griffiths

I think that my hon. Friend is right, and in so far as I overstated the case I withdraw.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

There is still some argument about whether the Prime Minister has this right anyway, quite apart from the position of Her Majesty. Until not all that long ago it was within the decision of the Cabinet as a whole, rather than the Prime Minister, whether Parliament should be dissolved. It was Sir John Simon who, by sleight of hand, transformed it into a decision by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Griffiths

One of the more fascinating features of the debates on the Bill is the amount that one learns about entirely different matters in the course of discussing various clauses. I am obliged to my hon. Friend, and I am sure that he, too, is right.

The point that I want to make is a simple one. If the Scottish Prime Minister commands two-thirds of the Members of the Assembly there is no logical reason why he should seek a dissolution. But if he does not command two-thirds of the Members and seeks a dissolution he will not get the vote through anyway. That is the mathematical illogicality of this situation.

The Government have provided a means whereby a Scottish Prime Minister can dissolve the Assembly when he does not need to, namely, when he has a two-thirds majority, but they have provided him with no means of dissolving the Assembly when he lacks that majority. That is precisely when he would wish to dissolve, when he has lost his majority.

I put it to the Secretary of State for Scotland that it is absurd to provide mathematically within the Bill for a position that will not achieve what is needed by the Scottish Chief Executive at a time when he forfeits his majority. That must be the reason for dissolution, and the mechanism that the Government have provided is absurd.

That is why I prefer—as many of my hon. Friends do—Amendment No. 174. I do not believe that it is the right answer, but one cannot have the right answer when one has the wrong question. However, it is a better answer than the one provided by the Government, because at the very least it provides, in effect, a prerogative, and dissolution ought to be by prerogative and not by particular mathematical proportions.

Amendment No. 174 is more sensible, It is certainly not the right answer, but at least it provides some definition of the circumstances in which the Scottish Assembly shall be dissolved. The language of the amendment is clear. It must appear to the Secretary of State that the Assembly is unable to reach decisions on matters requiring urgent decision and that the government of Scotland is gravely affected as a result. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) speaking with the experience of Thameside, said that this matter could be justice[...]able, and perhaps that is one of the failures in the drafting of the amendment.

Mr. Britton

I suggested that that was a merit. Because the matter is justiciable, it would prevent the Secretary of State from operating the clause on a capricious, arbitrary and political basis, rather than on the basis of an objective assessment of whether there was dead lock in the Assembly.

Mr. Griffiths

That might be right, and it might be sensible, but the dissolution of an Assembly ought to be by prerogative, and not be the subject of a great deal of reasoning. The prerogative is either a prerogative, or it is not. Once one lays down in statute a set of reasons that must be met, one removes the essential feature of a prerogative.

Therefore, in believing that this amendment is better than the Government's proposal, I am bound to say that it is a very modest improvement and cannot possibly meet the real constitutional and political requirements because we start off with the wrong question. We start with a false premise, namely, this clause.

Mr. Gow

Has my hon. Friend addressed his mind to the following point? Let us suppose that under the amendment the Secretary of State decided to dissolve the Assembly but his decision was then challenged by the courts, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) rightly said it could be. We would then have a hiatus. The matter could go to the High Court, then the Court of Appeal and then to another place. This whole process might take months, particularly during the long vacation.

Mr. Griffiths

My hon. Friends are continuing to shoot more and more holes in the tissue that we have before us. I wish to put the point very simply to the Secretary of State, who I hope will clarify all this confusion in the speech that he is about to make. The advantage of Amendment No. 174 is that it is far more in keeping with our constitutional practice. It is understood, and, above all, it will allow the prerogative to be exercised in a manner which, in my view, is constitutional. Above all, it allows the Scottish Parliament to be dissolved only by a Minister who is accountable to what we were told—until Clause 1 disappeared—was the supreme authority of the United Kingdom Parliament. However, Clause 1, for better or worse, never meant what it said. It was always a grotesque misrepresentation of the facts and it is as well that it has been removed from the Bill.

None the less, the advantage of Amendment No. 174 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) is that it makes clear what the rest of the Bill does not make clear, namely that the supreme authority remains in this House. That is precisely the point. The Government have put the supreme authority to dissolve an elected legislature in the hands of that legislature itself, with the sole proviso that one-third of its Members plus one do not oppose it. That is illogical. It would be far better to give that responsibility to a Secretary of State, who is accountable to this House.

I turn now to Amendment No. 169 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and myself, among others. I do not believe that reducing the proportions from two-thirds to one-half would resolve this thorny problem. I say only that it is nearer the mark than the two-thirds-one-third division put forward by the Government. If a Chief Executive, feeling that he needs to dissolve the Scottish Parliament, must obtain two-thirds support from the Members before he is able to do so, the odds are that, on most occasions, he will not succeed. But if the number that he must achieve is only half of the Members plus one, which I think is the intention of my right hon. Friend, he is far more likely to be able to achieve the result that he seeks. I believe that Amendment No. 169 is much more sensible than the arrangements proposed by the Government.

The problem here is that the Government, faced with the dilemma of how to bring about the dissolution of the Scottish Assembly without, at the same time, creating a power comparable with that of, and able to challenge, the Secretary of State himself, and this House itself, have created a bogus mathematical arrangement whereby only the Assembly in Scotland can dissolve itself. That cannot be right. I am sure that it is constitutionally bad.

I hope that the Secretary of State, in reply to the debate, will at least give us some comfort by saying that the Government have taken heed of the points that have been made, that they will remove the clause, and that they will think again and come back with something better.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)

From some of the comments that I have heard in the last two days it would appear that, in the words of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), the Government are in a dilemma. That is quite wrong. Indeed, another word used by the hon. Gentleman to describe the situation was "confusion". Both "dilemma" and "confusion" are figments of the imagination of Opposition Members.

The Scotland and Wales Bill made no provision for the dissolution of the Assembly. This Bill, partly in response to representations made by Opposition Members in debates on the Scotland and Wales Bill—they criticised the fact that there was no power of dissolution—contains such a provision. The Opposition have now become the party of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. When they get what they want, they do not want it

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has a querulous expression on his face. I am stating a fact. The hon. Gentleman may not have asked for this provision, but the Conservative Party did.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman misdescribed the record, save only in one respect. Did anyone in any part of the Committee suggest that the mechanism for dissolving the Scottish Assembly should be the Scottish Assembly itself?

Mr. Gourlay

I am not suggesting that was the situation. The Government have decided that this should be the procedure, and I support it. Indeed, I shall state my reasons for supporting it.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) talked about its being ridiculous to suggest that Scotsmen, of all people, would vote by a two-thirds majority to do away with their own salaries. We had an example of that in this Chamber in the last Session. If the vote had been successful and there had been a majority, Members would have done away with their salaries. It is preposterous for the hon. Member for Eastbourne to suggest that Members of a future Scottish Assembly would fail to go into the Division Lobby to dissolve the Assembly without having regard to their personal positions. The hon. Gentleman imputed that we in this Chamber are more holier than the Members of a future Scottish Assembly.

Mr. Gow

The hon. Gentleman has completely misrepresented what I said. We have no power to dissolve Parliament. If the Government Front Bench were invited to dissolve Parliament, I am sure that among the factors that they would take into consideration—it is only human nature—would be whether some of them would find it difficult to get jobs if they were not re-elected. That is natural. That is human nature. The point that I made was that we do not have the power to dissolve Parliament. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should ask the Secretary of State whether he would vote now to dissolve this Parliament.

Mr. Gourlay

It may be that in theory, as Members of Parliament, we do not have power to dissolve Parliament. Nevertheless, if the Prime Minister were to be defeated on a motion of confidence, only one result would follow; he would take the honourable course of going to Her Majesty and tendering the resignation of his Government. That is the method by which Parliament dissolves itself. It is all very well bringing in niceties, but those niceties are not comparable with what is suggested in the Bill.

We in Scotland think that the jury system in England is absolutely preposterous. We believe that our jury system is much fairer than the English system. In Scotland a simple majority of the jury can convict. In England there is the preposterous position that the jury is locked in a chamber until such time as a sufficient number are persuaded that they have to convict. That produces an artificial situation.

9.0 p.m.

A recent commission on the law in Scotland has recommended that the number on a jury should be reduced from 15 to 12 and that a simple majority of seven to five should convict. It recommended that if there is an even vote of six to six acquittal should follow. That is logical. In this Bill the Government are proposing a higher proportion. They say that two-thirds of the Members of the Assembly must be willing to support dissolution before the Assembly can be dissolved.

Most Opposition speakers start from the wrong premise. If it were seen, either now on the Bill or in the future when an Assembly is elected, that this House was unduly interfering in the devolved powers of the Scottish Assembly it would drive the people towards separation quicker than anything else. That is why we support the Bill.

We also support the proposition to give elected Assembly Members the right to dissolve the Assembly within a four-year period if they so wish. It is not a question whether the Executive wishes the Assembly to be dissolved but whether two-thirds of the Members of the Assembly wish it, perhaps, if they disagree with the Executive. I believe that that is fair.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Does the hon. Member accept that the two-thirds proportion is difficult to justify? Surely an Administration with a two-thirds majority would be able to get its legislation through without difficulty. It does not need the power of dissolution unless it has a major clash with Westminster. Surely the case for dissolution is valid only if the Administration cannot get its legislation through.

Mr. Gourlay

No one is suggesting that dissolution would arise only if the Executive could not get its legislation through. The reason for a dissolution is a matter for the Members of the Assembly. All that this House is doing is to give them that power, which they did not have in the previous Bill. Whether the majority required should be two-thirds or one-half is a matter of opinion. I would not be unattracted to the proposition that it should be one-half rather than two-thirds.

Mr. Raison

Can the hon. Member explain why there should be a power of dissolution at all? He has not addressed himself to the basic argument.

Mr. Gourlay

I have said that I support the right of the Assembly to dissolve itself. After all, the Members will be elected representatives with a considerable amount of power. If they have the capacity and responsibility of legislation in Scotland surely they should have the same powers, or relatively the same powers, as Members of this House. By expressing a vote of no confidence in the Executive by a two-thirds majority they should have the right to dissolve the Assembly.

Mr. Raison

Why should not the Assembly operate on the same basis as local authorities and the American Congress, which do not have the power of dissolution? There is no iron law about it.

Mr. Gourlay

The analogy of local authorities is not a good one. The local authority is an administrative rather than a legislative body. The people of Scotland want to have control over these developed powers. Any attempt, particularly by English Members, to prevent this Bill from reaching the statute book will do more than this Bill will do to drive the Scottish people towards separation. I am convinced, as a Scottish Member of Parliament for 18 years, that the Bill will do more to keep the United Kingdom united than any action of the Opposition.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

It might be convenient if I were to say one or two things now. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Gourlay) has reminded us, the question of premature dissolution of the Assembly was debated during our discussions on the Scotland and Wales Bill. That Bill did not provide for any power of premature dissolution. It simply provided for a fixed term and assumed that the Assembly itself, and the administration at any particular time, would he able to solve any political problems that might arise during the term of the Assembly.

There is a perfectly respectable argument for maintaining that position. It is, after all, a position that is maintained in many other legislatures in other parts of the world. By and large those legislatures find ways, as practical politicians normally do, of living with the situation in which there is no premature dissolution.

For a number of practical reasons, quite apart from the question of principle, our first view when considering the matter with regard to the Scotland and Wales Bill was that we should simply provide for a fixed-term Assembly and not allow the various political complications that could arise from premature dissolution. There are practical problems, for example, in terms of the dates of Assembly elections in relation to local government elections and, perhaps, elections to this House and the rest. Apart from any argument there may be on principle, that argues strongly for a fixed-term election for the Scottish Assembly. That was what was in the original Bill.

However, during the debate on this matter there were considerable representations from different parts of the House, and from hon. Members who were not in favour of the Scotland and Wales Bill that it was unsatisfactory to have an Assembly in a deadlock position for what ever reason—either as a result of by-elections or the result of the breakdown of a coalition. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) believes that this will happen in the Scottish Assembly and that for whatever reason we might have an Administration that would find it very difficult to administer and legislate in a sensible and effective way. There were very strong pressures during the debate on the Scotland and Wales Bill to provide some mechanism for premature dissolution.

The Government considered these representations, as we said we would, and took account of them, as we did of other representations, during the interval between the failure of the timetable motion and the bringing of this Bill before the House. Having looked at the matter again, we decided that there were strong arguments to provide for some form of premature dissolution. It is a balanced matter. One could well take the view that the Assembly should simply have to work out its own problems if it were a fixed-term Assembly and that there should be no power of premature dissolution at all. But, of course, we had in mind the arguments of practicality, deadlock and the rest advanced by hon. Members in the previous debate.

We also had in mind the fact that in this country there is a tradition of premature dissolution although it is done in a particular way which we believe—as I shall explain in a moment—would not be appropriate for application to the Scottish Assembly. But the question whether there should be premature dissolution or not is one of judgment. Having reconsidered the matter, I can only say that it was our judgment that we should provide for it in this Bill. In doing so we were responding to the arguments put forward in the previous debate. Many of these arguments came from the Opposition Benches.

If we believe that there should be premature dissolution, is necessary to provide a way in which that objective can be achieved. One way is to allow the Secretary of State to take the decision, as Amendment No. 174 would provide. That was not the kind of solution that came from most Conservative Members who took part in the debates in February. I am not making an argument of that, but there were Opposition Members who said, for example, that it should be done simply by the Chief Executive, as he was then called, or the First Secretary, as he would be called under the present Bill. Some said that it should happen as a result of a motion of confidence. A variety of suggestions were put forward in February. I make the point simply as a matter of fact that the mechanism that the official Opposition have chosen in their amendment was not the only one advanced by Conservative Members then.

I am not pretending that there is any obvious right way by which we can provide the mechanism of dissolution. It is possible to take a view about different methods. There are arguments for various solutions. But in principle I consider it highly undesirable that the decision should be taken by the Secretary of State, because the Executive and Assembly Members should effectively take the decision.

The amendment's requirement for an order in the House of Lords would simply make the matter a political football, even if the general arrangements for the Secretary of State's intervention would not lead to that, as I believe they would. In principle, the amendment is wrong. It would place a considerable and unnecessary burden of responsibility on the Secretary of State. Whatever the circumstances were, he could not easily avoid charges of political malpractice, particularly if it seemed that a further election to the Assembly was likely to favour his party, whether Conservative or Labour. It would be an extremely uncomfortable and unnecessary position for the Secretary of State to be in.

Mr. Graham Page

Would not that also arise under the clause as it stands? It says that the Assembly shall be dissolved by order of the Secretary of State". The Secretary of State is still responsible to the House. He would have to make the order by Statutory Instrument, and I presume that it would be debatable in the House.

Mr. Millan

It would not be debatable in the House. If it were, that would defeat the purpose of this mechanism. It would effectively take it out of the hands of the Assembly and put it into the hands of the House. That is what we wish to avoid.

Mr. Graham Page

If he is to make an order under the Bill, the Secretary of State must make it by Statutory Instrument. It is true that in this case he does not have to lay it before the Scottish Assembly or Parliament, but if the Secretary of State has to act in a formal way by making a Statutory Instrument, surely he will be answerable for it in this House.

Mr. Millan

I have learnt from experience that the Secretary of State is answerable in this House for practically everything he does, whether or not it is done by Statutory Instrument in a formal way. That will certainly apply here. Subsection (1)(b) says that the Secretary of State is under an obligation to make an order. The word used is not "may" but "shall". We are providing for the Secretary of State to be the instrument of the decision of the Assembly, for reasons which—

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Raison

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that this dissolution was reached immediately before a General Election in the United Kingdom. It could be argued that it would be extremely inconvenient and damaging to have two sorts of election at the same time. Would the Secretary of State be able to hold the matter over or leave it on one side, or would he be compelled to dissolve the Assembly immediately, possibly with damaging results?

Mr. Millan

Because of the possible difficulty of clashes with election dates there is a practical argument against premature dissolution. There is no absolutely ideal answer to this problem which would satisfy every hon. Member. When we provided no premature dissolution at all we were asked by many Conservatives to provide it, and one of the aspects that we had in mind was the difficulty about election dates. There is a certain amount of flexibility in subsection (2), just as we have provided a certain amount of flexibility in Clause 3, on the holding of ordinary elections.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The Secretary of State has generously accepted that he is accountable to this House. Let us suppose that he makes his order and the House disagrees. How can the Scottish Assembly be dissolved in those circumstances?

Mr. Millan

There will be no parliamentary procedure, as I have said. If there were a parliamentary procedure it would defeat the purpose of allowing responsibility to rest essentially with the Scottish Assembly. That is where we believe that responsibility should rest.

There is another argument against the Secretary of State's having responsibility, quite apart from the argument that he might be charged with using it in a politically contentious way. The other argument is that if he had responsibility there would be a possible encouragement to irresponsibility on the part of certain Members of the Assembly in a situation of potential deadlock, when there was no obligation on them to produce an answer. They would simply say that they were passing over the problem to the Secretary of State and asking him to make a judgment about dissolution.

Opposition Members have expressed concern about possible areas of conflict between the Assembly and the Secretary of State, and that would certainly be one of them. We have adopted a specific and categorical position that if there is to be the power of premature dissolution the responsibility and initiative for it basically should rest with the Assembly itself.

Mr. George Cunningham

I would like confirmation on two points. In the case of a Statutory Instrument not being subject to affirmative approval in the House, if the House passes a Prayer requesting the annulment of the order that annulment takes place. If the House passed a Prayer in favour of the annulment of the Secretary of State's order, it would be illegal for him to annul the order that he had made.

Secondly, presumably in the most extreme circumstances—where there were colossal reasons, in the view of the United Kingdom Parliament, why the provisions of this clause should not be pursued—it would be possible by principal legislation in this House to override the provisions of Clause 3. Is that the case?

Mr. Millan

To take the second point first, it will be possible by amending legislation to amend the Bill. Whether the House would be sensible to try to legislate in the middle of some kind of political difficulty between the Secretary of State and the Executive and the Assembly would be another matter, but it would be possible for the House to do that.

On the first point, there are some Statutory Instruments which are not subject to any kind of parliamentary procedure of either the affirmative or negative sort. That is what is in mind here.

I repeat the simple point that, unless we do that, we shall not leave the problem in the hands of the Assembly; we shall take it out of its hands in an indirect way and put the responsibility on Members here. We are clear that we do not want to provide a mechanism that is at the initiative of the Secretary of State we want a mechanism that is at the initiative of the Assembly itself.

Mr. Brittan

On this specific point, if what the right hon. Gentleman is saying is that there should be no parliamentary intervention in any circumstances and that the rôle of the Secretary of State is purely mechanical, why does he need to have a rôle at all? Why not delete the words "by order of the Secretary of State' and simply say, "The Assembly as constituted from time to time shall be dissolved if the Assembly resolves in the circumstances specified"? If that were the case, the Bill would enact itself without any confusion.

Mr. Millan

The reason for that is simple and it was dealt with by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) a little earlier in the debate. I do not want to go beyond that now.

Mr. Brittan

What is that reason?

Mr. Millan

It raises questions of Royal Prerogative. We are not providing here for an initiative to be taken simply by the Assembly itself without a mechanism involving the Secretary of State.

Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Is my right hon. Friend saying that in relation to this constitutional act the Secretary of State is in the position of the Crown by constitutional use, in that it always accepts the advice of the Prime Minister in respect of dissolution? Is my right hon. Friend saying that he will be no more than a dignified rubber stamp?

Mr. Millan

I am saying that the mechanism is activated by an order introduced by the Secretary of State. It is provided in this Bill generally that there is not access for Members of the Scottish Executive to the Crown in any particular matter.

Having decided that the mechanism should basically be one involving the decision and responsibility of the Assembly and not of the Secretary of State, I should now like to describe what the Bill provides and say something about Amendments Nos. 53 and 169, which are directed towards this specific mechanism and not towards removing it and introducing another.

Mr. Brittan

I wish to revert to the earlier matter to try to clarify the situation. I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would explain what the Royal Prerogative has to do with this at all. If there is a specific statute which seeks to provide that the Assembly can itself dissolve if there is two-thirds of the Assembly to do so, why cannot the statute say the same thing without interposing the Secretary of State, because he is given no say in the matter? If the statute did say that without any reference to the Crown at all, it would be doing no more than many other statutes do. It seems to me that unless the Secretary of State is able to provide an adequate explanation, his reference to the Royal Prerogative is a complete smoke-screen further to obscure an already very obscure provision.

Mr. Millan

I have already said what I have to say on that matter. We believe that this is a matter in which there should be some function, even if only a formal one, for the Secretary of State.

I was coming to the question of the mechanism and the question of a majority in the Assembly, and also to the subject of the length of the term of the new Assembly which will be elected after a premature dissolution. That point has not been mentioned in the House much during the debates on this clause, except by the hon. Member for Inverness. How-ever, if I mention it, it may answer some of the difficulties to which hon. Members have referred.

The Bill provides that the new Assembly, following an election and premature dissolution, will run for only the remaining portion of the four-year term. It will not start a new term. I think that that point was particularly at the back of the mind of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). There will be no incentive for an Assembly Administration with a two-thirds majority to provide for premature dissolution by means of the votes of that majority, because there would be nothing that it could gain from that. The length of office of the new Administration would simply expire at the time that it would have expired in any case. That is not just a powerful disincentive; for all practical purposes, it excludes the possibility of the Administration's deciding to have an election simply at a time that it finds suitable. The length of time is, of course, provided for as being not beyond the length of time of the Assembly then constituted.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I accept that, but since the condition preceding any dissolution would be that the Assembly had become deadlocked and unable to proceed, there are two possibilities. If the Assembly were deadlocked, how could there be a two-thirds majority to dissolve it? If there were a two-thirds majority available to the Chief Executive, why would he recommend dissolution anyway?

Mr. Millan

What the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has omitted from his calculation is that—and given the present state of the Tory Opposition here I am not surprised that Conservatives have omitted this simple fact from their calculations—it is usually the Opposition rather than the Government who are anxious to have a premature dissolution and a new election. I know that the present Opposition are not anxious for an election, but has it escaped their minds that the two-thirds majority does not have to be made up of the Administration? If there were deadlock, and a keen Tory Opposition of 10 Members—or whatever it will be in a Scottish Assembly—I dare say that their 10 votes would be cast for premature dissolution and a new election.

It is perfectly true that with a two-thirds majority made up of the Administration and anybody else, there would be no incentive for premature dissolution, but in the terms of the Bill that would not necessarily apply. We do not provide for a 50 per cent. simple majority because in those circumstances the Government might take the view that an election would be extremely suitable, even though it could not provide them with a longer term of office, because it could provide an enhanced majority. We do not take the view that the House should consider that an election in such circumstances would be a desirable feature of the arrangements for the Assembly, because that would be allowing an election to take place for the purpose of political advantage and manoeuvre. We are not willing for that to happen.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Gow

Is the Minister telling the Committee that the only reason for including in the Bill the provision that an Assembly elected before the expiry of a four-year period will last only for the remainder of that period is to discourage it from dissolving itself?

Mr. Millan

The House is very ambivalent about this. Hon. Members are pointing out all the difficulties that exist if there is no power of premature dissolution, but they are not willing to face the practical problems involved in having that power. The clause faces those problems.

The provision for a two-thirds majority prevents the mechanism from being activated simply for party advantage. I think that that deals with the point about Amendment No. 169 and, for that matter, Amendment No. 53. Of course it would be possible to rule that the majority should not be two-thirds but should be 60 per cent., or 75 per cent., or some other percentage. We believe that two-thirds is just about the right practical level at which we shall achieve the main purposes of the clause.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

Before the Secretary of State leaves Amendment No. 174, does he agree that as the clause stands, in any future conflict the last word will rest absolutely with the Scottish Assembly?

Mr. Millan

The drafting of the clause is such as to place a responsibility on the Assembly to take the effective decision about premature dissolution. But the clause seeks to do it in a way that discourages the overactive use of the provision for simple party political advantage. That is why we are providing a shorter term for the new Assembly after the election, and also why we have provided for more than a simple majority in the vote that is to be taken in the Assembly itself.

Mr. Powell

Would it be true, then, to say that an Executive that has lost the confidence and support of over half the Assembly has no remedy unless it succeeds in losing the support of two-thirds of the Assembly?

Mr. Millan

Not at all, because where there is a deadlock and the Executive wishes to carry on in a minority—I stress that there is no obligation on the Executive to carry on, but we shall come to that later in the Bill—and when there are questions of coalitions, or understandings, and so on, and practical political questions which the Government believe the Assembly should determine, there are no grounds whatever for the House to take the view that those political difficulties can be settled only by the intervention of the House or the Secretary of State.

It will be for the Assembly itself and for the Executive in the last analysis to solve these problems. If, as I hope, it will solve these problems without the need for premature dissolution, the clause will never apply. If there are circumstances in which, as a matter of practical politics, it is not possible for the Assembly to create an effective administration, this mechanism could come into play, and I believe that it would be effective.

The previous Bill provided no mechanism for premature dissolution. This Bill, partly in response to arguments put forward on the Scotland and Wales Bill, provides for premature dissolution. It does it by putting the initiative and responsibility for that in the hands of the Assembly, but at the same time it provides certain safeguards, which cause us to believe that we shall not be handing over an unfettered power on the part of the Scottish Executive to call an election at any time that it may desire for its own political advantage.

With that explanation, I recommend the Committee not to accept any of the amendments.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North) rose—

The First Deputy Chairman

I thought that the Committee was ready for the Chair to put the question.

Mr. Fletcher

I am sorry, Sir Myer, if the arrangements that you thought were taking place had not actually happened. I think that it is right for me to reply to the explanation that the Secretary of State for Scotland has sought to give the Committee.

The Secretary of State has offered an innocent explanation but he must know from the questions that he was asked during his reply that the Committee is far from satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman has attempted to define the Government's intentions by saying that the idea to give the Assembly the ability to break any deadlocks within itself would not be used by a majority party in the Assembly as an opportunity to go to the country in the event of it thinking that a fair wind existed. However, the possibility of that course being taken robs the Assembly of the discipline of a fixed term.

The amendment provides an alternative to Clause 4 and gives discretion to another body—in this case, the Secretary of State, acting with both Houses of Parliament. It works in accordance with the principle that the Government are trying to build into the Bill—namely, that although the Assembly will be elected for a fixed term the system of prior dissolution is desirable, which I understand is the usual feature of a Parliament elected for a fixed term.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) objected to such a rôle being played by the Secretary of State and Parliament, and no doubt would call it outside interference even before the Assembly is established. [Hon. Members "Hear, hear."] To judge by the cries of "Hear, hear", it seems that even before the Assembly is established there are those who cannot wait altogether to divorce it from Westminster.

The Bill tries to treat the Assembly as an integral part of the Government of the United Kingdom and of this Parliament. Therefore, the House of Commons should have a continuing rôle to play in the Assembly's affairs. The powers that we are proposing for the Secretary of State and for Parliament will prevent a deadlocked Government from merely sitting it out when they cannot govern. That is a situation that existed not so many months ago in the House of Commons. Some people think that that situation is not very far from the surface at any time in this place.

Some Members have asked why we voted to divorce Westminster from Edinburgh last night. We did so for an obvious reason that had nothing to do with the divorce between Edinburgh and Westminster. It would have been quite hypocritical for the House of Commons to allow the clause to remain when one has only to read through the additional clauses to realise how dishonest Clause I was.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing rose—

Mr. Fletcher

No. I shall not give way to the hon. Lady because I have not seen her in the Chamber this evening. Incidentally, if this subject is now suddenly so important, I am surprised that we have not had a contribution from any nationalist Member during the debate.

I turn to the contribution from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The right hon. Gentleman described the clause as elegant proof of the tyranny of the Bill. Although we have not got a Down, South question to match the West Lothian question, our debates have been graced by Down, South elegance and I and many other hon. Members have appreciated my right hon. Friend's contributions.

That elegance was particularly clear when my right hon. Friend pointed out the difficulty that the Government would face if the Secretary of State for Scotland were to have direct access to Her Majesty for dissolution or any other purpose within the Assembly. This is a fascinating example of the inadequacy of the Government's thinking, dominated as it is by sheer political expediency born out of fear rather than any deep considerations of the constitutional worth and the implications of the Bill. This evening's debate has indicated the difficulties the Government find themselves in.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fletcher

I have already made clear to the hon. Lady that I have no intention of giving way.

The hon. Members for Inverness (Mr Johnston) and for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and others were concerned about the possibility of conflict between Edinburgh and Westminster. Conflict is, of course, inevitable, but it should be our purpose here to minimise conflict and to try to ensure that during this Committee stage we take steps to achieve that.

We shall not achieve that end by going further to sever the Westminster connection as the nationalists and one or two other hon. Members would do Surely we who believe in the House of Commons and in this Parliament should remember that we were elected to the House of Commons to protect the interests of Parliament. We shall not do that by giving ground time and time again to the demands of some hon. Members. We cannot shirk our responsibilities to the House of Commons for the unknown attractiveness of a House that is still to be set up.

The Secretary of State said that the decision to dissolve should be taken by the Assembly. Our amendment would not prevent the Assembly from expressing the desire to dissolve, but it would give Parliament the power to satisfy itself that this would not be for any frivolous or party reason. Surely that is in the best interests of the good government of the United Kingdom and of Scotland. It is much better that Parliament should have this rôle rather than that the Secretary of State revert to being a glorified Governor-General of Scotland, a rôle

much criticised during the debates on the Scotland and Wales Bill and one which everyone in the House of Commons thought, perhaps until this evening, had been removed.

The Secretary of State has achieved one thing tonight. He has added to the West Lothian question a new Craigton question and he has proved equally that it is incapable of being answered.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 153, Noes 192.

Division No. 17] AYES [9.43 p.m.
Adley, Robert Hayhoe, Barney Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Aitken, Jonathan Hodgson, Robin Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Alison, Michael Holland, Philip Price, David (Eastleigh)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Prior, Rt Hon James
Baker, Kenneth Hurd, Douglas Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Benyon, W. Hutchison, Michael Clark Raison, Timothy
Berry, Hon Anthony James, David Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir peter
Brittan, Leon Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Jessel, Toby Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Brotherton, Michael Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rhodes James, R.
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Joseph, Rt Hon. Sir Keith Rifkind, Malcolm
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Kaberry, Sir Donald Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Buck, Antony King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Budgen, Nick Knight, Mrs Jill Ross, William (Londonderry)
Bulmer, Esmond Knox, David Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Lamont, Norman Sainsbury, Tim
Carlisle, Mark Langford-Holt, Sir John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Lawson, Nigel Shelton, William (Streatham)
Channon, Paul Le Marchant, Spencer Shepherd, Colin
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Lester, Jim (Beeston) Silvester, Fred
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sinclair, Sir George
Clegg, Walter Litterick, Tom Skeet, T. H. H.
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Luce, Richard Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Cope, John Macfarlane, Neil Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Costain, A. P. MacGregor, John Speed, Keith
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Sproat, Iain
Dunlop, John Marten, Neil Stainton, Keith
Dykes, Hugh Mates, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Mather, Carol Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Mawby, Ray Stokes, John
Emery, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stradling Thomas, J.
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mayhew, Patrick Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fairgrieve, Russell Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fookes, Miss Janet Mills, Peter Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Forman, Nigel Miscampbell, Norman Townsend, Cyril D.
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Vaughan, Dr Gerald
Fox, Marcus Moate, Roger Wakeham, John
Fry, Peter Molyneaux, James Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Monro, Hector Wall, Patrick
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Montgomery, Fergus Walters, Dennis
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Weatherill, Bernard
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Morgan, Geraint Wells, John
Grieve, Percy Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Winterton, Nicholas
Griffiths, Eldon Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Grist, Ian Neave, Alrey Younger, Hon George
Grylls, Michael Neubert, Michael
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Oppenheim, Mrs Sally TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Sir George Young and
Hannam, John Pattie, Geoffrey Mr. Peter Morrison.
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Percival, Ian
Haselhurst, Alan Pink, R. Bonner
Allaun, Frank Ashton, Joe Bain, Mrs. Margaret
Anderson, Donald Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Atkinson, Norman Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Haywood)
Armstrong, Ernest Bagier, Gordon A. T. Bates, Alf
Beith, A. J. Ginsburg, David Oakes, Gordon
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Golding, John Ogden, Eric
Blenkinsop, Arthur Gourlay, Harry Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Boardman, H. Grimond, Rt Hon J. Ovenden, John
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Grocott, Bruce Pardoe, John
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Park, George
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Hart, Rt Hon Judith Parker, John
Bradley, Tom Hatton, Frank Pavitt, Laurie
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hayman, Mrs Helene Penhaligon, David
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Heffer, Eric S. Price, William (Rugby)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Henderson, Douglas Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Reid, George
Buchanan, Richard Hooson, Emlyn Roderick, Caerwyn
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Horam, John Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Rooker, J. W.
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Roper, John
Canavan, Dennis Hunter, Adam Rose, Paul B.
Carmichael, Neil Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Cartwright, John Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Janner, Greville Sever, J.
Clemitson, Ivor Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) John, Brynmor Sillars, James
Coleman, Donald Johnson, James (Hull West) Silverman, Julius
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Skinner, Dennis
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Small, William
Corbett, Robin Jones, Barry (East Flint) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kerr, Russell Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Kilfedder, James Snape, Peter
Crawford, Douglas Kilroy-Silk, Robert Spriggs, Leslie
Crawshaw, Richard Lambie, David Stallard, A. W.
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lamborn, Harry Steel, Rt Hon David
Cryer, Bob Lamond, James Stewart, Rt Hon Donald
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Lee, John Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Dalyell, Tarn Litterick, Tom Stott, Roger
Davidson, Arthur Loyden, Eddie Strang, Gavin
Deakins, Eric Luard, Evan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Dempsey, James Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Thompson, George
Doig, Peter McCartney, Hugh Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Dormand, J. D. MacCormick, lain Tierney, Sydney
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McDonald, Dr Oonagh Tinn, James
Duffy, A. E. P. McElhone, Frank Tomlinson, John
Dunn, James A. MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Torney, Tom
Dunnett, Jack Maclennan, Robert Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Eadie, Alex McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Edge, Geoff Madden, Max Watt, Hamish
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Magee, Bryan Welsh, Andrew
English, Michael Marks, Kenneth White, Frank R. (Bury)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Whitlock, William
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Meacher, Michael Wigley, Dafydd
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Flannery, Martin Mitchell, Austin Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Molloy, William Wise, Mrs Audrey
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Woof, Robert
Ford, Ben Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Young, David (Bolton E)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Moyle, Roland
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Freud, Clement Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Mr. James Hamilton and
George, Bruce Newens, Stanley Mr. Joseph Harper.
Gilbert, Dr John Noble, Mike

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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