§ Mr. Graham Page
I beg to move Amendment No. 54, in page 3, line 3, leave out from 'who' to first 'at' in line 7.
§ No. 55, in page 3, line 6, leave out from 'constituency' to end of line 10.1656
No. 170, in page 3, line 6, after 'constituency', insert:
'and resided within that Assembly constituency on the qualifying date for inclusion on the electoral register'.
§ No. 57, in page 3, line 7, after '(b)', insert 'life'.
§ Mr. Page
I move the amendment in order to discuss, or address my remarks to, Amendment No. 170, because I think that this is the main amendment in this group.
These are amendments to subsection (1) of Clause 5, which sets out the persons who are entitled to vote as electors 1657 at an Assembly election. Paragraph (a) describes those electors asthose who, at the date of the election, would be entitled to vote as electors at a parliamentary election in the parliamentary constituency comprising the Assembly constituency.As we know from other parts of the Bill, a parliamentary constituency may include three Assembly constituencies. If one turns to Schedule 1, part II, paragraph 9, it is there said:A parliamentary constituency, the electorate of which is more than 125 per cent. of the electoral quota, shall comprise three Assembly constituencies.There might be the occasion when there is an election to the Assembly and the electors will be called upon to vote in each Assembly constituency, but according to the wording of Clause 5(1)(a) an elector will be able to make a choice of three Assembly constituencies, because all that he is required to show the returning officer is that he is an elector in the parliamentary constituency in which the Assembly constituency is situated.
It is probable that under another part of the Bill one could not use all three votes together, applying the Representation of the People Act, but, as the clause stands, any person who was on the electoral rôle within a parliamentary constituency that contained three Assembly constituencies—as many might do given the directions to the Boundary Commission in Schedule 1—could choose in which Assembly constituency to vote. I cannot think that that is the intention of the Bill, but those are the words in it.
We are ruled by the guillotine. Although I could enlarge upon the other amendments, this is the vital one. It is an amendment to a complete error in the Bill that has been entirely overlooked in the drafting. I should think that, without further delay, the Minister could say that he accepts the amendment.
§ Mr. Dalyell
This is the occasion when we can first legitimately raise the whole issue of the position of those who regard themselves as Scots—because they come from Scotland or are first or second generation—[HON. MEMBERS: "The next amendment."] Is it not to be taken at this time?
§ Mr. John Smith
I am a little surprised that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) did not make any reference to his other amendments. It may be that on mature reflection he has decided that they are not appropriate. It is odd, however, that he has not chosen to refer to them. One odd feature is that one amendment seeks to debar hereditary Peers from voting in Assembly elections by allowing only life Peers to vote. I cannot understand the logic behind such a proposition.
Some of the amendments are incompatible, but the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to focus on Amendment No. 170 which, as I understand it, seeks to ensure that electors are those residents in the Assembly constituency on the qualifying date for inclusion in the electoral register. Persons eligible to vote in parliamentary elections have to be resident in the constituency on the qualifying date.
The intention of the amendment is to ensure that only those resident in the Assembly constituency may vote in the Assembly elections. This is not spelled out in Clause 5(1), but it will be achieved by the order that will be made under Clause 5(3) dealing with the conduct of elections. Clause 5(4) provides that the order may apply any provision of the Representation of the People Acts. It can apply, with necessary modifications, the provisions of the Acts relating to entitlement to vote by reference to residence on the qualifying date and the provision that people cannot vote more than once in the same constituency.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I do not intend to rely on an order that may be made at some future date. The whole of this clause is wrongly written. The latter part of the clause says that the Statutory Instruments that may be made shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House, but we do know what happens to Prayers against Statutory Instruments. They may never be heard. We rely entirely on whether the usual channels can find time for 1659 them. Such an order may never be discussed in the House and the Bill may be left in this way to be corrected by an order. It is not good enough.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
I hope that the Minister of State will give us an assurance that at a later stage he will try to sort out the Bill.
On behalf of the Opposition, I must say that the hon. Gentleman's initial remarks in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) were offensive and uncalled for. We have 59 minutes left to get from Clause 5 to Clause 17 and many important amendments on the establishment of a new form of government for Scotland will not be discussed. The Minister chided my right hon. Friend because he did not deal with all the amendments that he had tabled. That is to rub salt into the wound of the Opposition, who feel bitterly aggrieved because, due to the jackboot tactics of the Government, we are unable to discuss all these matters.
The subsection refers to those who would be entitled to vote living in the parliamentary constituency. Would it not be sensible to alter the words to what my right hon. Friend proposed in his amendment?
The Minister said that he would sort this matter out in an order. Would it not be sensible to sort it out in the Bill? The important issue is that a person should vote only in the Assembly constituency in which he resides. Would it not be easier and sensible to put that in the clause?
If the Minister wants to do it by order. why are the words "Parliamentary constituency" in the clause? Why can it not say "The people who can vote in an Assembly election are those who live in an Assembly constituency"? That would be sensible. Why cannot we alter the words in the Bill to give effect to what we know the Government and the Opposition want?
§ Mr. John Smith
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) sometimes gives the impression that guillotine motions have not been passed on any Bill by any Conservative Government in our history. That comes oddly from the Opposition, as I have had1660 occasion to remind them, when the European Communities Bill, under a guillotine, went through both Houses of Parliament after a deliberate decision by the Conservative Government not to accept any amendment in either House. I do not propose to take lessons from the Opposition on the constitutional propriety of how a Government or an Opposition should conduct themselves under a guillotine motion.
The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) tabled four amendments. It is perfectly in order for me to pass comments on them in two sentences. I realise that we are under the guillotine, but the point is whether we should write the provision into the Bill or whether the Secretary of State should make provision in line with expressed Government policy, by making an order. That is a common provision in Bills. It is subject to the annulment procedure and is a sensible way of dealing with the matter. It is not a question of sorting anything out. I have stated the Government's intention of using the order-making procedure which the Secretary of State has for that purpose. I think that we can achieve what we want in that way. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman's point about the necessary consequence of reading the Bill being that people would be entitled to vote in three Parliamentary constituencies is not valid.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I must press the Minister on this matter. Unless I get a firm undertaking that he accepts that some amendment is necessary and that an order will be made in the spirit of the proposed amendment, I shall not withdraw it. The Bill will be left in complete confusion. Will the Minister give me the undertaking that I seek?
§ Mr. John Smith
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have understood what I said. In my first intervention in the debate I said that the intention would be achieved by the order. I have given the undertaking that an order will be made. I thought that I had already made that clear. However, if there is any doubt about it, I repeat it now.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1661
§ Mr. George Gardiner
I beg to move Amendment No. 59, in page 3, line 10, at end insert—'(c) those who, at the date of the election, have registered their names on a special register to be maintained in each parliamentary constituency in Scotland of electors born in that constituency but currently resident within the United Kingdom outside Scotland'.The issue that we are seeking to raise in this amendment covers a question that came before the House when we debated the Scotland and Wales Bill in the last Session. It concerns the position of the expatriate Scot. The discussion on this matter at that time was in the context of the proposals for a referendum. There was then strong pressure from the Scots, whom we all have living in our constituencies, to have a voice in determining whether the provisions of the Bill should finally take effect in Scotland. That discussion was in the context of the electoral roll for the proposed referendum. I hope that, despite the tight guillotine, time will be found for pressing that issue again.
This evening we are on slightly different territory. We are dealing with the claim of expatriate Scots living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to have a voice in the proposed elections to the Scottish Assembly. We know how much we are all indebted to the many Scots who have moved south of the border for either long or short periods for their contribution to the life and strength of the United Kingdom. Indeed, we take that as proof of the strength and vitality of the Union which we have been seeking to preserve in our amendments.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House probably have in their constituencies active groups of Scots who band together to keep the flame of their Scottish identity alive. There are the Burns societies and the Caledonian societies whose activities keep them in close contact with Members of Parliament. Those societies seek to express the continuing patriotism felt by Scots and their affinity to their native land when they have moved away to work and live in other parts of the United Kingdom.
In the last session there was a little more time to canvass this issue than there is now. But one still finds in one's postbag letters from Scots who demand the same right. They say "We are Scots in 1662 virtually every sense of the word, so why are we being shut out from determining the provisions of the Bill?"
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
If all the Scots living in the hon. Member's constituency are so keen to vote in a Scottish Assembly and so keen to have an Assembly, how will he face them when he goes back and says that he has been voting against such an Assembly?
§ Mr. Gardiner
I did not say that they were in favour of an Assembly. Some of my constituents are not aware of the modest rôle that I play in these procedures. Some of them grab me and ask me what I am doing about this legislation. I am only too pleased to tell them. There is certainly a strong feeling among Scots in my constituency that they do not want to be shut out in this way from the proposals. They feel that their expression of Scottish identity and the loyalty that they feel to their native land is being ignored by the Government in this legislation. They feel as if the flame of their patriotism is being snuffed out.
No doubt the Government Front Bench will say that these people are not living in Scotland at the moment and there is no reason why their voice should be heard when the composition of the Scottish Assembly is determined. I do not suppose we shall hear anything from the Back Benches, because we hear little in defence of these provisions from that quarter. I merely make this point. Some of the people to whom I am referring are engaged in long-term stays in other parts of the United Kingdom. Some of them are engaged on short stays. But what distinguishes them all is that they regard Scotland, and particular parts of Scotland, as their home.
I see no reason why in the context of Assembly elections—if, Heaven forbid, they ever come about—we should not regard these Scottish citizens in the same light as we regard service voters, employees of the Foreign Office and so on who are serving away from these shores during a General Election. They, too, can be on the electoral register in what they regard as their home constituencies and they can cast their votes in a General Election. For the life of me I cannot 1663 see why expatriate Scots living temporarily in other parts of the United Kingdom should not have their voices heard in the same way if and when it comes to Assembly elections.
If the structure being put before us by the Government were a federal one, the argument would be totally different because there would be elections to an English Assembly and, obviously, these voters would automatically be on that electoral roll. But no English Assembly is proposed. There is no mention of dual voting. The proposition is simply that these people should be allowed to express their view in electing a Scottish Assembly if that comes about.
I draw attention to the wording of the amendment. I have referred to the Scots. We know that not every Scot south of the border is an active member of the Burns Society or the Caledonian Society. We know that there are a vast number of them. But from the wording of the amendment is it really imagined that there will be a vast flood of extra electors on to the registers in the different Scottish Assembly constituencies? As proposed in the amendment, the initiative has to lie with the people concerned. They must make the move to register their names on a special register maintained in each parliamentary constituency in Scotland. The initiative lies with them. They are not automatically caught up. This is designed simply for those who feel most strongly in their hearts that if this election is to take place in Scotland they shall be part of it.
I do not imagine that this will have a vast effect on the composition of the Assembly. Indeed, it may have only a marginal effect in a certain number of constituencies. Neverthless, I put it to the Government Front Bench that in their enthusiasm for drafting and presenting the Bill they must not shut out the Scots living outside the present borders of Scotland. Those people must have their interests taken into account.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It is a matter of no little irony that in a summer when the Scottish football team will be going to the Argentine, and there will be a tremendous euphoria, those of us who went to Hampden will realise that nine out of the 11 men whom we saw beating Czechoslovakia will be unable to vote. People 1664 like Mr. Ken Dalglish, Mr. Bruce Rioch, Mr. Joe Jordan, Mr. Willie Donachie, Mr. Gordon McQueen, Mr. Andy Gray, Mr. Martin Buchan and Mr. Asa Hartford are just one group among many others who will be unable to take part in what we are discussing.
More seriously, last Thursday I was the guest for an hour of London Broadcasting on one of those phone-in programmes. It was the view of the producers that the telephone lines were jammed. With only one exception, the callers were Scots living in London who were horrified and shared the general view that I have been putting forward. Many of those people, like those to whom we have all talked and who have written to us, are genuinely angry that they have no say in what they see as the future of their country.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The hon. Gentleman has just repeated what is a considerable problem, not only for the members of the Scottish football team who are unable to vote but, we gather from what we read, for the Secretary of State for Scotland himself.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I did not want to be personal. I was rebuked last time for bringing that in as a factual point, and I shall not return to it and be indelicate in that way. Let us not be personal, but let us admit that there is a problem.
I wish to put on record that I do not blame the Secretary of State or anyone else in his position who has properly decided that he must be near his job and has made his domestic arrangements accordingly. What I said was not meant as a criticism then, and it is not now. It simply illustrates the problem of those footballers, Secretaries of State and many others who are in a certain part of the United Kingdom on wholly legitimate business. But in a sense it is very ironic.
I agree with the Government that it is impossibly complex to trace those with first-generation credentials and those with straight credentials. It would be like painting the Forth Bridge. One would go round in circles, because as soon as one had a meaningful register it would all change. To trace Scots exiles—no, those living in England, New York or any other part of the world—is impossible. To me, this is just one more argument against the establishment of an Assembly at all.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
As an English Member for an English seat in the West Midlands, I feel that I must in duty bound represent in this short but important debate the feelings of many Scotsmen now living in my constituency, who would like to be able to vote if there is to be a Scottish Assembly as proposed in the Bill.
Here I pay tribute to those Scotsmen in my constituency, and all those living in other parts of the United Kingdom outside Scotland, who have so greatly enriched our national life in many important aspects. There can be none of us, wherever we live, without friends and acquaintances who come from Scotland, and are exceedingly proud of the fact, and who are deeply worried about what we are doing with their country, even though they are not living in it.
I have not met one Scotsman in England, let alone in my constituency, who wants the Bill. On a recent visit to Scotland I could hardly find one Scotsman there who wanted the Bill. I tried to speak to everybody I saw—
§ Mr. Stokes
There is no need for the hon. Gentleman to be offensive. He is a neighbour of mine and should know how to behave in a neighbourly way.
If by any mischance the Bill is passed into law, the Scotsmen living outside Scotland do not see why they should be deprived of their vote and excluded in this marked fashion.
I suspect that the Government have specifically proposed this exclusion because they know very well that almost all Scotsmen living in England, and, I suspect, all Scotsmen living in Wales and Northern Ireland as well, are completely opposed to everything that the Bill stands for. The Government fear the views of all expatriate Scots—those living abroad as well—because these Scots are particularly British, and proud of the United Kingdom, and they fear the Bill. They fear that it will menace the essential unity that has stood the test of time over a period of years during which much Scottish blood has been shed on behalf of the United Kingdom.
This is yet another clause in this wretched Bill which shows the pitfalls 1666 and problems that will beset us on every side, and I am sure that many more have not yet come out in the short time that we have had to debate the measure.
There are two specific categories excluded. The first is those Scottish people in parts of the United Kingdom other than Scotland who are serving, often with distinction, in the Civil Service. The second, and even more important, category that I hope will not be omitted includes the soldiers in those great Scottish regiments of the British Army who happen at the time to be serving outside Scotland. If arrangements can be made for British soldiers to vote in United Kingdom General Elections although they are serving in BAOR or Hong Kong, surely Scottish soldiers serving outside Scotland but within the United Kingdom should not be excluded in this preemptory manner.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
I have practically nothing nice to say about the Bill, but even I find it impossible to go along with some of the remarks that have been made on this clause.
I have some authority for speaking in this debate. I am a Scotsman representing a London seat. I am very proud of being a Scotsman but I have spent nearly two-thirds of my life in England. The last thing I want is to have a vote for an Edinburgh Assembly if, regretfully, it is set up. It would be absolutely preposterous for me to have such a vote.
It is arguable that someemigré Scotsmen should be entitled to vote in the referendum, although the practical difficulties of achieving that are overwhelming and one has to go along on both counts with what the Government have proposed. Although there are some categories who should, perhaps have a right to vote in the referendum, there is absolutely no case for saying that if the Edinburgh Assembly is passing laws on education, housing and local government within Scotland, people who are subject to education, housing and local government law in some other part of the United Kingdom should have the right to vote for a representative on the Edinburgh Assembly.
If we all put aside our opposition to the very nature of the Bill and address ourselves to the merits of the individual clause we are discussing, I suggest that 1667 there is no case for an amendment along the lines proposed, or for those associated with it. We should concentrate our ideas on doing something like this when we discuss the qualifications for voting in the referendum, which depend not on this clause but on the provisions of Schedule 17.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Grieve
I very much regret that on a Bill on which I find myself in almost complete agreement with everything said by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), on this matter I disagree with him. May I briefly tell the Committee why?
The hon. Gentleman asked what right Scots living in England would have to participate in debates and decisions on matters affecting education, health, local government and housing in Scotland. The answer is simply, speedy, and quick. Those are the very matters which go to the root of the quality of life in Scotland. The Scots living in England—and I have many in my own family—are deeply concerned with the quality of life in Scotland. Many of them intend to return to Scotland when they have ended their careers in this country. Many such people have contributed to the service of the United Kingdom in all sorts of ways, and this has been the case for centuries. Nevertheless, they remain in the fibre of their being Scots. I believe that they should not be excluded from a voice in the election of those who are to decide so much of the future of Scotland in the Assembly at Edinburgh.
I shall not rehearse all the arguments which have been repeated in this debate about the homogeneity of our nation over the centuries and the fact that we are now completely interlaced and part of the fabric of one another. We must remember that, just as there are many Scots in England, there are many English in Scotland. They should not be excluded from a voice in the election of the Assembly in Edinburgh.
I wish to add one further category of persons who should have a voice in that election. I refer to ministers of the Church of Scotland who are serving in England. Why should those ministers, people who are deeply concerned with the quality of life in their own country, be excluded from a voice in the election 1668 of their representatives in the Assembly at Edinburgh—if there is to be an Assembly, and, speaking for myself, I deeply regret it.
Reference has been made to the difficulties, or so-called difficulties. Let me deal with the procedural problems. The French constitution gives a vote in national general elections to every Frenchman who registers, wherever he may be in the world.
§ Mr. Grieve
"We do not", says the Minister. I believe that we are wrong. Why should we exclude expatriate Britons abroad from having a voice in determining the future of their country? There are a vast number of British overseas, but registers could be set up in embassies. But, even if there are procedural difficulties, if the French can do this for the French throughout the world, surely we can do it for Scots living in the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
One great difficulty is that, because of the crazy nationality laws in this country, the people who on the ground of nationality, leaving aside residence, would be entitled to vote—if we overlook the residence test—would constitute one quarter of the population of the world—by virtue of subject status, not United Kingdom citizenship. To give such a vote to people in Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ghana and India would be overdoing things a little, even by British standards.
§ Mr. Grieve
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and I think I made it myself impliedly. I recognise that there is a distinction between our problem and the situation in the French Republic. Never the less, they have a number of people living abroad, and they have such a system as I have outlined. I am not here to argue that point. However, if France can do that for all French citizens living throughout the world, surely we can do so with regard to the Scottish Assembly for those Scots who were born in Scotland who are now living throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. That would not present any problem. If the suggestion is to be rejected on administrative grounds, the argument on which that rejection is based is spurious, and the Government must know that. The United Kingdom has thrived on the service of 1669 Scots living in this country. I deeply regret this legislation and would have wished to have nothing to do with it at all. As it is, I must be here to try to improve what the House has done in giving it a Second Reading
The amendment is an improvement because it would enable Scots in this country—in England, that is—to have a voice in the future of the part of the United Kingdom from which they come and to which they may wish to return. I therefore support the amendment.
§ Mr. George Thompson (Galloway)
I am a charitable man and I normally should not like to say that any amendment was nonsense, but I am bound to break my rule tonight and agree with the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). If the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) had really been concerned about the Scots who were born in Scotland and are now resident south of the border he would not have put down the amendment as he did. He would have worded it, "whose birth was registered in that constituency", because it is possible for people whose parents are registered in Scotland to have been born in England but now to have their births registered as having been in Scotland so that they will feel themselves to be Scots. The hon. Gentleman must pay regard to those people too or he will constitute a minority who will be displaced.
We ought to make a distinction. There are the Scots who left Scotland freely and went elsewhere and have become, to all intents and purposes adopted citizens of England, adopted Englishmen—which they are perfectly entitled to do—just as some English people who have come to Scotland want to be Scots, regard themselves as Scots, send their children to Scottish schools and, to all intents and purposes, have become naturalised Scots, as they are perfectly entitled to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] There is no rubbish in that, because I know English people who are resident in Scotland who consider themselves to be Scots and whom I look upon as adoptive Scots. If the two countries had been separated, those people would have become naturalised Scots citizens. Hon. Members may say "rubbish" as much as they like, but I can assure the Committee that there are 1670 English people in Scotland who, had they had to make such a choice, would have done that.
§ Mr. Raison
Is the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson) saying that those people want to have separatism forced upon them?
§ Mr. Thompson
I am terribly sorry that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) is not capable of following a simple, plain Scots argument. I am sorry if his mind is so convoluted that he cannot follow it. Some Scots had to leave Scotland because there was no work for them and they had to find it south of the border.
It might be said that, according to this amendment, those people who want to regard themselves as English would not be in any way obliged to register in the way that the hon. Member proposes that they should. But there are hon. Members who would be going round—they are not interested in the Assembly working well, only in scuppering it—urging these people to get themselves registered.
§ Mr. Grieve
Is the hon. Member suggesting that there are people who would go round getting Scotsmen living in England to register in order to sabotage the work of the Assembly in Edinburgh?
§ Mr. Thompson
I would not put it past certain hon. Members, and I do not think that those who read the debates on this Bill will have any doubts about who they might be. Many of the amendments we are debating are not concerned with improving the Assembly. They are concerned more with not having an Assembly. It is to the credit of those hon. Members that they say so plainly.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
It is not a question of making the Assembly work well or otherwise, but of simple common justice to people who have been born in Scotland and have left but wish to record their vote there because they are going back there to end their lives.
§ Mr. Thompson
If the hon. Member wants to move a verbal amendment to achieve the aim he has just set out, that is all very well, but what he described is not what is in the amendment we are now discussing.
1671 The hon. Member for Reigate talked to us about people living temporarily in England. Quite obviously, he did not tell us how long "temporarily" is. I would have expected an hon. Member of his acuity to have given that information. If we accepted his view—and I stress that I do not—surely something would have to be done about those English people who are temporarily resident in Scotland.
We must consider the English people who will be temporarily resident in Scotland and, quite properly, will be entitled to vote in the Assembly elections even though quite soon afterwards they might actually move back to England. The hon. Member did not mention that. He also told us that had there been a federal system he would not have moved the amendment. But I should have thought that, on his line of argument, although I am sure he will tell me that I am wrong, under a federal system people should be able to choose where they would register for voting purposes. That is to carry this amendment to the absurd lengths that are possible.
The Conservatives are deeply concerned about public expenditure. Never a halfpenny should be spent that should not be spent. But surely this amendment would be asking for the spending of a considerable amount of money in checking the claims of people saying that they had been born in Scotland.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
To help us understand this question of rationality, can the hon. Member tell us whether in his opinion, and that of his party, an Englishman resident in Scotland who did not take the opportunity to take Scottish citizenship should have the right to vote in Scotland?
§ Mr. Thompson
I am sure, Mr. Murton, that you will observe, as I have done, that that question is quite irrelevant to the amendment we are discussing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] Conservative Members always want "Yes" or "No" answers. That is because those are the sort of questions the Tories like to receive at General Elections. It is said that the candidate is in a great hurry and questioners are asked to provide questions that can be answered quickly with a "Yes" or a "No". Surely these matters would have to be decided between the Government of England and the Government of Scot 1672 land when the day arrives, as it surely will.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thompson
No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is not very good at giving way himself.
§ Mr. Buchan
In such a situation of negotiation, what would be the hon. Gentleman's view? For what would the hon. Gentleman be arguing?
§ Mr. Thompson
If I could be assured that the hon. Gentleman would not attempt to say that I was stating the SNP's view, I might answer the question.
§ Mr. Thompson
I take the view that, just as citizens of the Republic of Ireland are allowed to vote in elections here, personally—I stress "personally"—I believe that it would be a matter for negotiation between the independent Governments. I, personally, would be willing to accept that English people resident in Scotland would be entitled to vote—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I see no reason for hon. Members to cry "Oh". Citizens of the Republic of Ireland are allowed to vote here. I do not think that even the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has suggested that that should not be the position.
§ Mr. Thompson
Neither shall I give way to sedentary interruptions from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson).
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Findsbury spoke about those who are not resident in Scotland and not rooted in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman said that they might not know the issues 1673 in the constituency in which they wish to vote and they might not want to retire to the constituency. Surely this is one of the most nonsensical amendments that have been deployed. I could not possibly support it.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
If I were permitted to begin with a prayer, I should say "Lord save us from the SNP". It grieved me to hear the remarks of my neighbouring Member, the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson). It grieves me that such rubbish should come from anyone from Scotland.
The debate has highlighted the shambles that the Bill has become. It does not encourage the unity of the United Kingdom if it is to begin with so much dissension as to who is to vote in the referendum.
I want to hear the Minister's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), who asked about Scottish Service men in the Army, the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy. It must not be said that they will be registered somewhere in Scotland, because that is not necessarily the position. If a Scots Service man is married in England or Wales, he very often registers, at least temporarily, at the home of his wife. That means that the Service man is prevented from voting.
The hon. Member for Galloway said that some Scots born near the border in England can now be registered in Scotland. That does not apply at present, because none of those under that provision can be anywhere near 18 years of age. The hon. Gentleman should remember that a substantial number of my constituents were for geographical reasons born at the nearest maternity home—one in Cumberland—and that if they were still living in Cumberland they would be prevented from voting. [Laughter.] There are many good Scots who happen, for geographical reasons, to be borne in Cumberland. They have to work in Cumberland and live there. That does not stop them from being Scots, however.
A point which we must come to grips with and which no doubt for administrative reasons the Minister will try to dodge is the very important one that there are 1674 many hundreds of thousands of very good Scots who were not born in Scotland and, therefore, have not a birth certificate registered in Scotland. They are no less worthy of the chance to vote in the elections. This is highlighted by the large number of Scots who are born of strong Scottish parents but whose parents happened to be living abroad at the time of their birth. Should they, too, be excluded?
§ Mr. Monro
The hon. Gentleman will be, as usual, in both Lobbies in the next Division if he can move from one to the other fast enough.
I hope that the Minister will not, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said, hide behind administrative reasons to prevent good Scots from voting. I believe that he intends to do just that, because every indication in the debate has been that he will not accept this very promising amendment.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I say a few words at this point in the debate.
I recognise the spirit in which the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Munro) advanced his argument. When he reads the report of his speech tomorrow, I am sure he will realise just how confused he was tonight. He was talking about the referendum and not about elections to the Assembly, which is what the amendment is about. Even the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), who is the architect of the amendment, will confirm that the amendment is about elections to the Assembly. I see the hon. Member for Reigate nodding in agreement. Perhaps the hon. Members for Dumfries and Reigate should get together earlier in the evening, and then perhaps later on the hon. Member for Dumfries would not be so surprised.
In fact, many of the contributions were about the voting procedure on the referendum. The hon. Members for Dumfries 1675 and for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) and, to a certain extent, my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) spoke about this subject. I do not intend to deal with the question of voting procedures and just who are qualified to vote in the referendum. We shall come to debate that matter in due course and you, Mr. Murton, would not want me to stray on to the subject tonight.
The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) demolished his own argument that people who are Scots and, for one reason or another, have moved their home and now live in another part of the United Kingdom should, because they are interested in the fabric and quality of life and everythting that goes to make up life in Scotland, have a vote in elections to the Assembly.
§ Mr. Grieve
Perhaps I may correct the Minister. That was not the basis of my argument at all. The basis of my argument was that they are Scots and should have a voice in the election to the Assembly of their country. Part of that argument is that obviously, as Scots, they would be interested in the future of their country.
§ Mr. Ewing
I accept that there were two legs to the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument—first, that they were Scots, and, secondly, that they had an interest in the quality of life. I suspect that both legs are linked. The hon. and learned Gentleman was quite specific in saying that Scots living in England had an interest in what education policies were implemented in Scotland. When he reads that in Hansard tomorrow, he will confirm that in his own mind.
Conversely, if that is true of Scots living in England, it is equally true of English people living in Scotland. That is an argument not for a vote in the Assembly elections but for a vote in local government elections. It is local government where that kind of policy is made.
The hon. and learned Gentleman appeared, to me at least, to be arguing that English people living in any other part of the United Kingdom—indeed, some Yorkshire people, I suspect, living in London—ought to have a vote in the local government elections of the area of their birth; for example, Yorkshire. Yorkshire people will naturally be in 1676 terested in the quality of life in their own county. [Interruption.] It is not a regional question. I am not saying that it is a regional question. I am taking the argument as put by the hon. and learned Member for Solihull. He was arguing that because a person had been born in a particular part of the country. that person was, therefore, interested in the quality of life and how life developed there because—in the hon. and learned Gentleman's own words—there will come a time when the person's working days were over and he might want to return to the area of his birth.
That is an argument that could be applied throughout the United Kingdom. If it has any validity at all—I do not believe that it has—it has validity only at local government level. It certainly has no validity at the level about which we are talking. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman, for whom I have great respect, will examine his remarks and look at the proposition in favour of which he is really arguing. The proposition has no substance whatsoever.
§ Mr. Grieve
I apologise for intervening a second time, but is the Minister really equating this great Scottish Assembly that the Bill will set up with an instrument of local government?
§ Mr. Ewing
No. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that perfectly well. I am dealing with his argument and pointing out how shallow and lacking in substance it was.
I turn now to my hon. Friends the Members for West Lothian and for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). If any amendment to the Bill attracts the universal condemnation of my two hon. Friends, that amendment must surely be wrong. There can be no validity for suggesting—
§ Mr. Ewing
The hon. Gentleman should control himself. There can be no validity for suggesting that we ought to accept such an amendment.
There was one other point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian that I should correct before our sports writers in Scotland get it wrong. It was on the question of the Scottish international football team. There are two players in the Scottish international 1677 team, Rioch and Masson, who would not qualify for a vote even under the amendment, because neither was born in Scotland. Yet they are going to Argentina next year to help us win the World Cup.
Finally, on the question of births, it must be perfectly clear that a birth that takes place in England must be registered there. There can be no question concerning a birth taking place in England. I do not want letters sent to my Department about this, and I am making that point clear.
The standard principle in the United Kingdom is that citizens have a vote in the areas where they have a permanent residence. The responsibilities of the Scottish Assembly will be exercised in relation to Scotland and will most affect—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I wish that some Conservative Members would
§ do some reading. The responsibilities will most affect the people resident there. The strength of feeling of the expatriate Scots for their country is not to be discounted. What is proposed would be illogical and not found—
§ It being Eleven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded pursuant to the Order [16th November] and the Resolution yesterday, to put forthtwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question, That the amendment be made,put and negatived.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Eleven o'clock.
§ Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 188, Noes 153.1679
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clauses 6 to 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.