§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I beg to move Amendment No. 94 in page 7, line 33, at end insertwhich has not been passed prior to the first meeting of the Scottish Assembly being held as laid down by section (7) of this Act
§ The Chairman
With this we may take Amendment No. 95, in page 7, line 33, at end insert 270but such amendment or repeal shall have effect only after a draft has been laid before and approved by affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament".
§ Mr. Griffiths
In these amendments and in this clause we are coming to the heart of the Bill and to the heart of the objections that many of us on all sides of the House feel towards it. Above all we are dealing with the legislative provisions of the Bill which, more than any others, create implications for the unity of the United Kingdom and for the supreme authority of Parliament. Indeed, I am sure that hon. Members on all sides of the House will recall Clause 1 which has been struck out of the Bill, which stated precisely that nothing in the Bill shallaffect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of Parliament".The amendments are intended to make clear beyond peradventure what the Government have maintained throughout—namely, that there is nothing in fact or in constitutional doctrine that will impair the supreme authority of this Parliament. My amendments are designed to achieve that.
I wish to put three general points to the Minister of State. First, if the Scottish Assembly, as this clause maintains, is to have power to repeal Acts of Parliament within the areas of its competence, it must be regarded as a parallel and in some ways as a rival authority to this place. That cannot be gainsaid because under the Bill the Assembly could pass an Act and this Parliament could pass an Act to reverse the Assembly Act. But then the Assembly could repeal that Act of Parliament which reversed the Assembly's original decision.
I am advised that that is precisely the position. The Scottish Assembly passes a Bill within the area of its competence, and this House, on the advice of the Secretary of State, concludes that that Bill should not stand—for various reasons of national policy, not because it is extra vires. This House can then pass an Act to overcome that Scottish Bill. But there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Scottish Assembly from then using its powers to repeal that Act of Parliament. That illustrates the absurdity of creating a rival authority that is capable of repealing Acts of this House which in turn may illegitimate some action of the Scottish Assembly.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Indeed it could. We could have a ping-pong game between Westminster and Edinburgh. This is exactly what we all, including the Minister of State, wish to avoid. It cannot be right to create a situation where either Assembly is put in a position of repealing or repassing each other's Acts.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)
Before the hon. Member impales himself too firmly on the horns of a dilemma, I must say to him that if this Parliament wished to repeal an Act of the Scottish Assembly it could entrench the position and ensure that it could not happen again.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Let us put such a provision into the Bill. The Minister is illustrating that he has not thought of this. Let him accept the amendments because they would achieve his purpose. Unless these amendments, or something like them, are accepted, the purpose of the late and unlamented Clause 1 will not be achieved and the supreme authority of this place will be in doubt.
My second point is that throughout the debates that we shall have on these amendments and on this clause, we shall be dealing with the generation of legislative powers. It is the granting of legislative powers, not of executive powers, that raises the whole issue of the number and the rôle of Scottish and Welsh MPs. It raises the West Lothian question—and I pay tribute once again to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).
No longer will Parliament be legislating for Scotland. Scottish MPs will be able to vote on matters that concern England but not when they concern Scotland. If executive powers alone were to be devolved, the Secretary of State would be as answerable to the House as is his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment for the way in which local authorities operate their powers. It would not be quite the same but it would not be very different.
The granting of legislative power is separate. It is through that grant of legislative power that the executive will be able to act in totally new ways in the devolved sphere. From that devolution 272 of legislative powers would flow the danger of creating totally new and divergent policies. It is this principle behind the devolution of legislative power that is important rather than the actual effect of the handover of power. After all, in regard to many of these areas which are being devolved from time to time, Parliament is already leaving legislation to the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to dispute this, perhaps he would be interested in some figures. I would be very happy to give them to the Scottish nationalists. The figures might even help the Minister of State, who needs all the help that he can get.
§ Mr. John Smith
The hon. Gentleman is in much more need of help than I am if he thinks that the Scottish Grand Committee legislates.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I did not say that. I said that Parliament leaves the practice of legislation to the Scottish Grand Committee. Lest there be any doubt about the matter, may I be allowed to say something about it, since I did once serve on the Scottish Grand Committee? There was a time, when I first came to the House, when it was difficult to fill the Scottish Grand Committee with enough English Conservative Members, and I did my apprenticeship there.
§ Mr. Griffiths
No, because I think that the hon. Gentleman might listen before he objects. Between June 1970 and March 1977 the Scottish Grand Committee took the Second Reading of 22 Bills. Four Bills were not referred to the Committee because the House of Commons objected on two of the four occasions, for quite technical reasons. Nineteen Scottish Bills were at the same time taken on the Floor of the House, though in the case of only five was there any Division on Second Reading. This demonstrates that I was correct in saying that Parliament leaves the task of this type of legislation—much of it non-contentious—to the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ Mr. MacCormick
I think that the hon. Gentleman is getting confused. For 273 a start, does the hon. Member not appreciate that so far as the Scottish Grand Committee is concerned the votes are taken on the Floor of the House? To that extent, we cannot be said to be legislating.
The hon. Gentleman's argument is confused even further. In Scotland the main argument of the Conservative Party against the Scotland Bill is, oddly, that it means that Scottish Members will be able to vote on English matters. Yet the hon. Member has pointed out that English Members serve on the Scottish Grand Committee and vote on Scottish matters.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This has been and is, rightly, the position in the Scottish Grand Committee, but it will cease to be so once this devolution measure goes through.
The point that I am making—the hon. Gentleman is very assiduous in these matters—is that it is the devolution of legislative power, not so much executive power, that creates the new situation. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues wish to see a total devolution or a total suppression of these powers. I want to see the opposite. The act of devolving legislative power from this House is the heart of the matter. Executive power can be and is controlled, for example, in the case of the county councils.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Surely, the hon. Gentleman has not quite got the distinction. It is not, with great respect, the case that the Secretary of State is responsible for executive decisions which are within the sphere of local government. The point is that there is local government everywhere and, therefore, all Members of the House are in the same position in regard to their responsibilities for matters which have been executively devolved to local government.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not disagree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on this matter, but I proceed with the main point that I am making. What distinguishes this Bill, and what will create the difficulty, is devolution from this House of the ability to legislate to the Scottish Assembly. It is to that that I am objecting, and it is that which the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) wishes to see.
§ Mr. John Smith
Before we leave this. reference to the Scottish Grand Com- 274 mittee, would the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) not agree that all that happens is that the Second Reading of certain Bills, provided 12 Members do not object, is referred to the Scottish Grand Committee, and the Scottish Standing Committee does the Committee stages of Scottish Bills but those Bills have to come back for Report and Third Reading to the Floor of this House? It is a gross misrepresentation of the present situation to say that the Scottish Grand Committee, or any other Committee, thereby legislates.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Minister of State describes it quite accurately, but I do not think that he is disagreeing with my principal point. At the moment we leave to the Scottish Grand Committee the responsibilities for dealing with a lot of those matters in detail. That is right. We achieved it within the Westminster Parliament. But the difference is that, if this Bill were to be passed without my amendments, a new situation would arise in which we no longer had a Scottish Grand Committee doing a job on behalf of the House and, quite fairly, reporting back to it for decision. From the start of separation of this House we have something quite new. We have a Scottish Parliament with devolved powers and, as far as I can make out, the ability to oppose or repeal other Acts of Parliament of this House through its own separate legislative competence.
That is the heart of the matter. I am sorry that the Minister of State has misunderstood my point. I am saying that at the moment we achieve a degree of delegation of legislative functions to the Grand Committee, responsible to us, which is our normal procedure. In the case of this Bill, we shall be creating a new creature with separate legislative powers.
The third general point is that, in the procedures of this Bill, if I read them correctly, Scotland, at a stroke—if I may use that phrase—would be converted to a single-chamber system of government. There would be no procedure to iron out faults in its Bills, and we would—almost by sleight of hand, as this has not been fully canvassed with public opinion—be removing for all time the functions of the House of Lords from the very wide areas for which the Scottish Parliament henceforth will be responsible.
275 We should be removing for all time the competence of the House of Lords to give scrutiny to the Bills which concern a very wide range of matters to be devolved, and that general point needs to be brought out.
My last general point is simply about the technical question of repeal. The question is whether Parliament can repeal for ever an Act that is passed by the Assembly. Even if Clause 1, or the part of it referring to Parliament's powersto make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it",were to be restored, Clause 18(2) says clearly:A Scottish Assembly Act may amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament.So even if Parliament passed an Act to reverse an Act of the Scottish Assembly, as I read the Bill the Assembly could then reverse that Act. There is nothing in the Bill that makes that point clear, and it is therefore necessary to introduce amendments of this kind.
I turn now to the detail. Let us take for example the retrospection position. Supposing the Assembly were to decide that it wished to change, repeal or alter some Act of this Parliament already on the statute book in respect of Scottish education or local government, or something of the sort. It would by that Act be creating an entirely new situation within Scotland. It may well be that that is what the Minister visualises.
I give an example—the Zetland County Council Act, covering the Shetland Islands. There were not, it must be said, very extensive debates on that legislation when it came to this House, and I have to confess that, until such time as I was recently privileged to go to Shetland, I had not appreciated the significance of the Act for the Shetland Islands or, through the Shetland Islands, for the whole country because of the special significance of the Shetlands in respect of the landing of oil. But there is no doubt that it is a local government Act and that it would fall within the competence of the Assembly.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. If he tells me that it 276 is not a local government Act and would not fall within the competence of the Assembly, that might curtail my remarks. It would be a considerable "plus" if we were told that that Act was immune from action by the Assembly.
§ Mr. John Smith
If the hon. Gentleman will read the Press, he will see that I have written to the Chief Executive of Shetland County Council answering some of these points, which were made to me by members of the delegation which came to see me. This is a long and complicated matter. The hon. Gentleman should remember that neither energy nor ports is to be devolved. That is an important factor to take into account.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I was aware of the hon. Gentleman's letter, although I have not studied it. But, with great respect to him, it is one thing for him to write a letter—and I am glad that he has done so—and an entirely different thing to leave an Act of Parliament open on this question. My understanding is that, although the oil and the financial aspects are not devolved powers, the reality of the Zetland County Council Act is that it confers by way of the local government machine particular powers to the council which are unique, and since they are local government powers—and I speak as one who had some responsibility for local government for some time—I do not believe that any letter that the hon. Gentleman writes can take away what Parliament gave to the Shetland County Council by Act of this House.
It cannot be right that the Scottish Assembly, once it is set up, because it has authority over local government, should be able to reach back into the past and amend, repeal or modify in any way an Act of this House which, in respect of the Shetlands, conferred particular powers in respect of planning and of the attracting and build-up of a fund which will be used to assist the pastoral, fishing and other industries of the Shetlands for the future, and which also creates in the Shetlands a particular system of local government which is quite different, because it is a single-tier authority, from the rest of this country.
There precisely is one example—and there are many others—where, if these 277 amendments are not accepted, the Scottish Assembly will have the retrospective power to reach back into the past and change fundamental Acts of this House in respect of certain areas—namely, the Shetlands. I think that it cannot be right for it to be able to do so.
§ Mr. MacCormick
The hon. Gentleman is making great play of whether the Assembly would have power to deal with the special position of the Shetlands. What guarantee have the Shetlanders that this House would regard that Act as entrenched?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Shetlands have no right to seek to bind the omnicompetence of this House. This House is sovereign—and the hon. Gentleman is right to point that out. The difference is that, for the first time, we shall have removed the omnicompetence of this House to determine what shall happen in any part of the United Kingdom—in this instance, the Shetlands—and we shall be devolving that power on to another body, the Scottish Assembly, which, as I read the Bill, would be capable of altering, amending, repealing or modifying that fundamental Act of this House in respect of the Shetland Islands. That is a power that ought not to be conferred on a parallel or rival body. That is precisely why Amendment No. 95 has been put down, for it would make that impossible without further action on the part of this House. That is an example of the retrospective action which could be taken and which I believe ought to be prevented.
§ Mr. MacCormick
Surely there is no way that one can say that that would be retrospective action, any more than it world be retrospective of this House to repeal an Act existing now.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It would be a case of reaching back into the past and altering an Act of this House, and the alteration would he made by some other body. In my view, that is retrospection.
I want now to deal with a more serious matter, the future effect of the Scottish Assembly being able to amend or repeal an Act of this House. Manifestly. as the Minister will no doubt point out, the Assembly can only repeal Acts Acts of this House or amend within the areas of its competence. I am aware of 278 the rather complicated procedures—one looks at the next clause, which refers one to the schedule, which sets out in detail what are the areas where the Assembly is not supposed to treat. For example, there is the question of what is to happen for the future.
I think that for the sake of clarity and brevity I should give two examples which divide the two sides of the House. Let us suppose that a Conservative Government with a sizeable majority was returned to Westminster and that the Administration, exercising their powers as the Westminster Parliament, were massively to extend the frontiers of private health care and private education, thus, in the eyes of Labour Members, reducing the extent of public provision in these two areas. Surely it should be within the supreme authority of the British Parliament to extend those decisions to Scotland. It would be quite intolerable if, given the supreme authority of this place under the Government's Bill, they were then prevented from exercising that authority in Scotland.
Let me take the reverse. Let us suppose that a strong Labour Government were returned to Westminster and that they set out to abolish private health care and private education, as one day they might seek to do. It would be within the supreme authority of this Parliament to do that. But are we then to be told that this House could be prevented by the Bill from extending such statutes to Scotland, and that if it attempted to do so the Scottish Assembly, which might have a Conservative majority, could then repeal such statutes?
The Minister must tell us whether this House will have the ability to extend its decisions to Scotland, given that the Scottish Assembly might have a different political majority from Westminster and given that as the Bill stands the Assembly could simply repeal the Westminster Act. This is a fundamental issue. It would create tension between Westminster and Edinburgh, and I am concerned about that.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
The hon. Gentleman seems to be condemning himself out of his own mouth with the Big Brother attitude that he is adopting. Does he recognise that Scottish education, to take just one example, has 279 always been dealt with separately under the existing unitary arrangements? In that case would it not be right and proper for the Scottish electorate, who arc consumers of the education system, to have the right to decide what educational structure should exist in Scotland?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I go a long way with the hon. Member. I strongly believe in the delegation and devolution of powers from one part of the United Kingdom to another. But I am concerned here with the powers of the British Parliament. As the Bill stands, unless these amendments are made or something to their effect is carried out, the position is clear. The United Kingdom Parliament could take decisions about health, education, local government and other matters, but as the Bill stands the Scottish Assembly could then repeal, modify or alter the decisions of the House. That could not he right under a unitary system.
I can imagine many situations in which the Westminster Government might consider it to be in the national interest to extend legislation to Scotland. This might be based on reasons connected with the balance of payments, with the European Community, or with international or domestic political matters. If this House decided to change the educational system on, for example, comprehensives or standards in schools, or to change the health system in terms of the financing or staffing of the hospital system, it would be logical to extend the changes to every part of the United Kingdom.
I accept that the Scottish nationalists want out altogether. I do not. If the Minister of State believes in what he said in the debates on Clause 1, and if he believes in the language of the next clause and the schedule that this Parliament shall retain its supreme authority, he should provide in the Bill, first, that the Scottish Assembly shall not be able to repeal or amend Acts of this House. Secondly, he should provide that there will not be a ping-pong match—it might be something much more severe than that—back and forth between Westminster and the Edinburgh Assembly. Thirdly, he should provide that in any event—here I turn to Amendment No. 95—before there is any amendment by the 280 Assembly of an Act of this House, a draft of that proposed amendment or repeal should be laid before this House so that hon. Members could consider it, and that it should be effective only if there were an affirmative resolution of each House in favour of it.
Labour Members may well take the view—since they have a different attitude to the other place from me—that it would be sufficient for an affirmative order sustaining the Scottish repeal of our legislation to be carried by this House alone. I would not agree with that, although I would not quarrel with it if that were their view. What is important, however, is that if a majority Government at Westminster wish to apply to Scotland measures relating to education, health or local government, it should not be open to the Scottish Assembly to scrap any Act without that proposition having been laid in draft before this House for consideration of the implications for the nation as a whole.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If we are searching for a sporting metaphor in reply to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), I suggest that the sport should be boxing, karate, judo, or one of the more violent sports. It should not be ping-pong.
I wish to return to the question of the Shetland letter. I asked in the Library this morning, as others may have done, for a copy of the letter, but it was not forthcoming. I do not rebuke the Minister of State for that, but I repeat the suggestion that I put to Ministers before the debates began. We are entitled to ask for it because both in public and in private I have said that the deficiencies of the Bill have nothing to do with bad drafting or sloppy presentation, and that the Scotland and Wales Bills are the work of able Ministers and clever and conscientious civil servants doing almost the best possible job from their point of view.
§ Mr. John Smith
In case there is any misunderstanding about the letter, let me explain that the Library asked my office to provide it for the Library, and that it was immediately provided.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I asked for it this morning. That is all I can report.
In the circumstances of a guillotine on a constitutional measure, may I suggest 281 that if a Question is asked in the House the Member asking it has certain rights. He has the right, first, to a reply within 24 hours simply saying whether the Front Bench considers it worthy of serious answer. Secondly, he has the right to know whether it is irrelevant; thirdly, whether it would be unduly costly to answer; and, fourthly, whether it is unanswerable. If it is considered worthy of serious answer, there should be a reply within a week and a copy of the reply should be placed in the Library for all hon. Members to see, with another copy put on tile for the Press Gallery. It seems that that would be an orderly way of setting about these difficult matters.
In the past couple of weeks, when I have been voting from time to time—not, in my view, in the Conservative Lobby, nor for any Conservative amendments, which I opposed, but against my own Government—I have been asked with varying degrees of tact and politeness "What is different about you?" The truth is that there is only one thing different about me. It is that ever since May 1962, three weeks before polling day in the by-election in West Lothian, I have had an SNP candidate as my chief opponent, so I have had 15 years of contention, not three, as most of my hon. Friends have had. This focuses the mind wonderfully on what the SNP is all about and what gives it electoral success.
This brings me directly to Clauses 18 and 19, and the observation, born out of a decade and a half's experience, that SNP electoral success does not come from a desire for more laws, further legislation or even, on the whole, for different laws. Let no English Member of Parliament imagine that the Scots are thirsty for a string of Acts from a Scottish Assembly or that they want a basinful of Scottish legislation from a devoluted Parliament with the hallmark "Made at the Royal High School" stamped all over it. or that this will quench the thirst of the SNP stalwarts and romantics who want a separate State.
These things are a little difficult to prove, and I will explain why In the summer of 1969 I undertook for the late Dick Crossman a survey of 1,000 homes in my constituency on attitudes 282 towards a contracting-out scheme to try to obtain more kidneys for transplants. I spent 42 days doing this and received a lot of relevant comment. In 1976 I decided to do roughly the same thing on devolution. In contrast to my experience seven years earlier I was met on that occasion with polite amazement on the doorstep. The same people who were perfectly prepared to talk to me about the destination of their kidneys were not nearly so forthcoming on devolution. I must say to my hon. Friend the Government Whip that I was second in the Ballot for this Friday for Private Member's business, and I shall be raising the question of kidney donors, not devolution, for which Government Ministers will be grateful.
The people I met were not forthcoming on devolution. Sometimes I was asked to explain what it was all about, but more often I was met with remarks of "An Assembly? Devolution?" and slightly embarrassed wonderment. But they added "While you are here, you are just the man I want to see about my drains. my fence and my tax problems at Centre One at East Kilbride. Why are they charging me too much income tax?" My survey ended in despair of getting a cross-section of my constituents to talk to me properly about devolution. They would certainly talk about many other subjects, but not about devolution. Tinkering with the constitution, though it may lead to a separate Scottish State, will not dissuade those who are minded to vote for the Scottish National Party.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the late Richard Crossman. Has his attention been drawn to Mr. Crossman's expression of the philosophy of nationalism? He said:It is a concomitant of a nation—an essential of freedom.That is on page 193 of his book "Planning for Freedom".
§ Mr. Dalyell
That is another instance of where the late Dick Crossman, whom I admired greatly, was wrong.
It is true that Scottish Members do receive complaints, almost always from those directly affected about, for example, the difference between Scottish and English divorce laws or between Scottish and 283 English licensing laws. If any hon. Member answered a complaining constituent by saying that there was not enough parliamentary time to do what he or she wanted done, such an answer would be palpably an excuse and not a reason.
The reason why the change in the Scottish licensing laws took so long to achieve is that there were deeply held convictions, and diametrically opposed convictions, among Scottish Members of Parliament themselves. It is wrong to blame either the English or the Westminster system for that, and anyone who did so would be taking an easy way out.
A lot of people say that there is a great need for reform of Scottish law. What is less clear is that there is great agreement on how Scottish law should be reformed. Once a consensus is achieved on what to do, Westminster will present few hurdles to its being done. For example, as the Minister of State knows, I should like to see the law on stated case procedure in relation to police officers altered. The stumbling block is not Westminster. It is diverse opinions among Scottish lawyers ——
§ The Chairman
Order. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have great admiration for the way in which he pursues these matters in this Committee, but I must put it to him that he is going rather wide of the amendments before us, which deal with a rather narrow point.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am centring home on the guts of the issue, Mr. Murton. One can play musical chairs with laws, but changing laws without cost will not satisfy those whose expectations have been aroused by Assembly candidates.
How many people come to our surgeries saying "We want an alteration to Section 34(3)(V)(e) of the Rent Act"? What they say is "We want our house repaired more quickly." Such laws as the Scottish Assembly will want to pass will certainly cost more money.
This is where we come back to the subjects raised by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. The grievances, real or imagined, of people in Scotland are seldom related to a shortage of laws or too little legislation. On the contrary, I am sure that the voters of all parties in West Lothian are convinced that there are 284 too many laws already—certainly not too few. Yet here we are in the House of Commons solemnly passing laws to set up a subordinate Parliament which will churn out yet more laws. If the 150 Assembly persons in that subordinate Parliament fail to churn out more laws, how on earth will they justify themselves and their salaries?
We come back, therefore, to the situation posed by Clauses 18 and 19. What will happen is obvious. First, to fill up its time, the Assembly will meddle with local government, with hospital boards, with universities and any other body or thing on which it can try to get its clutches. That is one possibility.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It is not entirely a Second Reading point. What we are discussing is the production of legislation, a legislation factory. Second, since it cannot take up all its time in meddling with the local authorities and so on, it will do something else, and that will be squabbling with London. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds called it ping-pong. We need not use too many sporting metaphors, but this will be an increasingly sour and uneasy relationship.
Clauses 18 and 19 do not provide the occasion to say too much about local government, but I must refer here to the statement by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh)—whom we miss so much in these debates—in the Sunday Mail to the effect that he would abolish the regions. That is meddling with local government. Incidentally, we do not make any decision more local by abolishing the regions. This means either centralisation in Edinburgh or 50 to 60 all-purpose local authorities.
I put it solemnly and seriously to the Committee that people like me are the best devolvers of decision making of the lot. It is just that we are not quite so good at the jargon as some hon. Members are. We really believe in local government. The regions are more local than an Assembly in Edinburgh could be, and they are settling down, beginning to be a success and beginning to work. Of course, they had teething troubles. But the idea of those who think as my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian does, that one can wave a wand and do 285 away with the regions, is nonsense. The cost is mind-boggling, and in any case it has nothing to do with bringing decision making more locally to those who are affected by the decisions, and to claim that an Assembly in Edinburgh will bring government closer to the people is sheer cant.
I shall not go into what was said in the Sunday Mail—I leave that to my hon. Friend—but there would in practice be fruitful argument about competences. Any meaningful Housing Act in Scotland would need, or be thought to need, more than a Scottish share of the national cake. I refer at this point to what was said at one point in his speech on 22nd November by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison):I imagine that in Scotland, as in England, in an election campaign not merely great national matters are raised but one is asked about local issues. People ask 'What will you do to get a hospital here? What will you do to get a road here, or to improve the schools in this area?' Scottish candidates will have to say 'I am sorry, but these powers have been taken away from us by our own decision and handed to an Assembly in Scotland.' Are they happy in their hearts about what they will be voting for?At that point, I asked the hon. Gentleman to give way, and he responded in these terms:I am sure that I should quite agree with what the hon. Member for West Lothian is about to say, but because of the guillotine I must press on."—[Official Report, 22nd November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 1344–5.]I must tell the hon. Member for Aylesbury that it is not true that Scottish Members of Parliament in Westminster would be expected to do nothing about it. The hon. Gentleman's understanding is incomplete to the point of being wrong. If we said that we had nothing to do with housing, back would come the answer "But it has a great deal to do with housing and to do with you." People would say that it is our job to extract more money from the English for the Assemblymen who cannot honour promises.
The truth is that, in the eyes of many people our main task as 71 Scottish Members of Parliament, mongrel Members—I repeat the phrase "mongrel Members of the House of Commons", for that is what we should be—would be to come here to extract cash from the Treasury in England for the Assembly. 286 That would be our major responsibility. This is a situation which could not possibly endure, and there would in fact be endless arguments about powers.
Returning directly to Clause 18, I shall now quote from a letter sent to me by a young——
§ The Chairman
Order. The Chair has been very tolerant, but I should be grateful if the hon. Member, as well as referring to Clause 18, would refer to the amendments which we are discussing.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It is directly related to the amendment, Mr. Murton, and the passage is very short. Mr. Brian Fairley, of the West Lothian Constituency Labour Party, did me the kindness of reading a book which I wrote, and he put a point to me in these terms:On page 27, paragraph 1, regarding the budget proposals for the Assembly, you make an important point regarding overspending. However, you may have missed a more important point, that is, could the Assembly deliberately overspend in order to have the block grant increased?This clever young man says:Supposing you have a Labour-controlled Assembly and a Tory Parliament. The Tories order cuts in expenditure, and the grant is cut accordingly. The Labour Assembly then deliberately sanctions finance for massive housing developments all over Scotland. Then the Assembly tells Parliament that unless the grant is increased the health service in Scotland will collapse due to lack of finance.All I can say is that we have very perceptive young Socialists in the West Lothian constituency. That is a basic point which at some stage will have to be answered.
We come back once more to the argument that we cannot have a subordinate Parliament in part, and only part, of a unitary State. The leader writer of the Glasgow Herald may think that this Bill is starting off a great democratic adventure. I will concede that no one else has tried this particular experiment. Why?—because people have coolly thought about it and realised that it is bound to fail, and Clauses 18 and 19 epitomise some of the basic reasons why it is bound to end up as something very different from that which my hon. Friends intended.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
I rise merely to tell the Committee that in our view the amendments 287 raise profound matters at the absolute centre of the Government's scheme for devolution, but matters that can be dealt with most effectively by Amendment No. 247. Although I agree in large part with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) and the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), I do not wish to take the time of the Committee, in view of the extremely curtailed guillotine procedure under which we are operating and suffering, by expanding on the issue. If I catch the eye of the Chair I hope to give my views when we debate Amendment No. 247.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Whatever may be thought about the amendments in general, the question of Shetland has been raised on them, and I feel bound to say few words about it.
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office, will no doubt explain the effect of Clauses 18 and 19, but it seems to me that one answer to the fears of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is that Clause 18 is subject to Clause 19. Clause 18 begins:Subject to section 19 of this Act, the Assembly may make laws".But that is only subject to Section 19, which says:A Scottish Assembly Act shall be law only if or to the extent that it is within the legislative competence of the Assembly.Subject to what the Minister says, I believe that that rules out much ping-pong.
Although I hope later to make a longer speech about what I take to be the views of my constituents in Shetland—not necessarily only those of the Shetland Island Council, but, as I understand them, the varying views of the Shetlanders—it might be useful at this stage to clear up one or two points. First, there are two Acts of importance to Shetland. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds mentioned both, but I am not sure that he clearly distinguished between them.
There is the Act by which the Shetland Island Council was created. That was part of the general change of local government in Scotland. It is true that that Act can be amended or revoked by this Parliament or the Assembly. It is true that no Parliament and no Assembly— 288 indeed, no local authority—can bind its successor. It may be that in the course of time the Shetland Island Council itself will wish to have new powers, and if so it will be entitled to ask for them. But at present, as far as I know, no party proposes to diminish the Council's powers in any way—certainly not the Liberal Party, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party or the Scottish National Party. Therefore, at any rate for the time being, it is a fairly remote possibility. I suppose that it is possible that Plaid Cymru might suddenly come forward with drastic proposals, but, short of that, it is a bogy which need not worry us too desperately.
The other Act is the Zetland County Council Act, giving the Council certain powers in relation to oil and related matters. I must tell the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds that it is untrue that the Act has not been considered. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) objected to it, quite properly. As a result of his objections, we had a prolonged debate in the House. The measure was then, again quite properly, debated further in the House and examined for no less than a fortnight in Edinburgh. A Committee of the House travelled to Shetland to look into the whole matter. It is not true that we have had no opportunity of finding out what the Act says. It gave the Zetland County Council originally, and now the Island Council, certain powers in regard to oil and harbours.
§ Mr. Dalyell
To be fair, the right hon. Gentleman must know very well that I objected to the measure because that was the only procedure by which that important matter could be debated in the House. My only reason for objecting was that I thought that it should be debated.
§ Mr. Grimond
That is only partially the true story. The hon. Gentleman was got at by one of the principal opponents of the measure in Shetland and took up the matter at his behest. However, I do not intend to go on about this. The hon. Gentleman had the right to have the measure debated here, and he had it debated. It is not true to say that it was not debated in the House, because it was debated here and in Edinburgh and Shetland
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am not normally got at. I am only persuaded. Can the right hon. Gentleman remind me who got at me? I have honestly forgotten if anybody got at me.
§ Mr. Grimond
I do not object to what happened, because it is part of the parliamentary procedure, but the fact is that the hon. Gentleman objected to the measure and it was debated here. I took part in the debate at some length.
The Act deals with oil and harbours, matters which are not devolved in the Bill. The Minister of State has written a letter, and I want to get its status clear, because it will be referred to again in these debates. As I understand it, it gives no new pledge on behalf of the Government but gives the hon. Gentleman's opinion as a Minister in charge of the Bill, and as a distinguished Scots lawyer, about the effect of that Act and various other Acts which were raised with him when I went with some members of the Shetland Island Council to see him.
We shall possibly debate all those matters when we come to later amendments, but it is important to say that we do not depend on that letter. What we depend upon is whether we think that the letter is a true description of the Act. So far no one has said that it is not.
I propose to leave the matter there, but I wish to make it clear that there are two Acts which may come up in our debates, and that the second, dealing with oil and harbours, concerns matters that are not devolved. One of the points of importance to Shetland is the protection of the funds built up from oil revenues. Important as those funds are—and they are very important—they will not make good the destruction of sea fishing, crofting and the knitwear industry in Shetland. That has nothing to do with the Bill. It has to do with the impact of oil upon the economy. It is important that the House should realise that Shetland is being greatly affected, for good and bad, by oil and that that is to a large extent an issue separate from the Bill.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
I never cease to be amazed by, and to admire, the ingenuity of hon. Members, with their ability to work into the Committee stage of a Bill discussion of its 290 principle, and in effect to a great extent to make Second Reading speeches.
My hon.—and dare I say "questionable "?—Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) presented some interesting—land no doubt from his point of view damning—arguments against the principle of devolution, in the guise of attacking Clauses 18 and 19.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) made heavy weather of the two clauses, doing less than justice to the Scottish Grand Committee—or rather, perhaps doing more than justice to it—by according to it a rôle that it does not have.
The Scottish Grand Committee is not a legislative Committee. It plays its part in legislation, and so does any Committee in this House. It is wrong to give the impression that it can initiate, go through and conclude any piece of legislation. All legislation must come through this House, be discussed at the Report stage and have a Third Reading. The Scottish Members of the Scottish Grand Committee can make up their minds about a matter. It can even go through the Scottish Standing Committee and then be defeated by a majority of English Members in this House. It is inaccurate, therefore, to say that the Scottish Grand Committee has the powers which are ascribed to it by the hon. Gentleman.
I accept that the speeches that we have heard so far from my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds indicate some of the difficulties which develop when we try to put on paper a constitutional matter such as this. It has been said before in the House and in Committee that if we tried to do the same thing with our own Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament, we should find ourselves in enormous difficulties, yet somehow or other we manage to iron them out in our day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year proceedings.
I am sure that it is right that the Scottish Assembly must have law-making powers, otherwise there would be little point at all in having an Assembly. No doubt that is what my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian would like, and it is also near and dear to the heart of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and other hon. Members. They 291 just do not want to have a Scottish Assembly. If it is agreed that there is to be a Scottish Assembly—and it was agreed on Second Reading—it would be a meaningless and impotent instrument if it were not given powers to make laws.
The limitations of the Assembly's powers in this respect have been clearly defined. There are some hon. Members who wish to have a Scottish Assembly with greater powers. They believe that the limitations and restrictions on the Assembly are far too narrowly drawn and that the Assembly should have wider powers. I believe that the balance has been reasonably struck, and that my right hon. and hon. Friends are correct in the way in which they have defined the limits and restrictions within which the Assembly will have the power and the authority to make laws.
But in agreeing with the principle of the Assembly's powers in this respect, I want to make this point clear. I think that the powers granted to the Assembly to make laws should be as wide-ranging and as sweeping as possible, but it is one thing to do that and quite another to wipe the slate clean entirely and start de novo—in other words, for the Assembly to have the authority to make enactments in regard to much of what has already been done in this House and is waiting to be put into effect.
I draw the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to the fact that there are provisions in certain aspects of legislation which make it encumbent upon this Parliament to devolve powers, for example, from new town corporations to the elected representatives of the new towns. This is already embodied in the New Towns Act 1968. I would deprecate any possibility of the Scottish Assembly coming into being and then saying "We have devolved to us the authority to do what we like in this matter." If that were to happen, the years of good work put into the creation of the new towns concerned would go with the wind. For this reason, I believe that a limitation should have been put into the Bill.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to take into consideration at least the advice—I do not see why it cannot be advice—that could 292 be given to a Scottish Assembly in respect of matters which are waiting for one little step to carry them into fruition.
In respect of the transfer of assets from a new town development corporation to the elected representatives of that new town, if the Scottish Assembly is given the authority to declare null and void the progress which has been made up to now, it will be three, four or five years before these matters can be considered again from the very beginning. That would be a complete waste of the time of hon. Members who in the past have worked so hard to bring this particular matter to the stage that it has reached.
I am quite clear in my mind that the amendments which are now under discussion in no way answer the necessity ——
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Before he sits down, will he say quite clearly what is his position on the following matter? In the event that this House were to decide, on some matter of general United Kingdom policy on education—it might be, for example, to go away from selection to comprehensive schooling—that it should apply to all parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and the Scottish Assembly, having a different political majority, decided to repeal that Act and not to apply it in Scotland, is it the hon. Gentleman's view that that would be permissible, while at the same time wishing to retain the supreme authority of this Parliament?
§ Dr. Miller
I do not think that that is a situation which would develop, because education will be devolved to Scotland. I believe that it is right that Scotland should have the authority to make laws, even though these laws are not the same as would apply in the rest of the United Kingdom. I think it is correct that that should happen. The Assembly will be starting from a new base and I think it is right that it should happen. It can happen, in any case. The laws relating to education are not static and do not remain exactly the same for ever. I do not see any objection to the Scottish nation, the Scottish people, having the right to make laws which are different from the laws of the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Of course, one accepts the merits of Scottish education being handled in Scotland, and there is no argument between the hon Gentleman and myself on that. The point, however, is this: suppose that the United Kingdom Parliament, in introducing some new educational law, considered it to be of such supreme national importance, notwithstanding what the Scotland Bill said, and notwithstanding the powers of the Scottish Assembly, that it was essential to the United Kingdom as a whole that the powers of the Scottish Assembly in this respect ought to be overridden, and that the new system should apply on a United Kingdom basis, is the hon. Gentleman saying that it would be proper in a unitary kingdom for the Scottish Assembly to discard that argument and to repeal the measure?
§ Dr. Miller
With respect, the hon. Gentleman is jumping the gun because what he is saying is a matter of opinion. The Westminster Parliament might decide that something was in the national interest but the Scottish people might decide otherwise. If the lion Gentleman is bringing into this argument matters of security or defence which could be affected by some aspect of education legislation, then, of course, he is right and the Scottish Assembly would not have the right to supersede that. But I can envisage situations in which the United Kingdom Parliament might decide that what it was doing was in the overriding national interest with which the Scottish Assembly disagreed.
That would be the position that we would have to live with. My answer is; yes, I still believe that such authority and power should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, otherwise it makes the whole idea meaningless. That is the great dilemma in which hon. Members who do not believe in devolution get involved.
Before I was sidetracked, I was merely asking my right hon. Friends to take into account the situation which could arise not only in respect of new towns but other matters where the final step is not far from fruition. Would it not be possible to give some kind of advice to the Scottish Assembly when it is set up so that the Assembly would take such matters into consideration and not place them far down on the list?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Like my hon. Friend, I represent a new town. Do I take it that with his experience my hon. Friend feels that the Assembly should in no sense meddle in the new town development corporation or in the running of new towns? Since his new town is more mature than mine, I should welcome any comments that he has on this issue.
§ Dr. Miller
I did not quite say that. What I was saying was that the stage which has been reached in the development of new towns at the moment is such that some of them are ripe for handing over to the elected representatives over a period of years. Once that is done I do not think that the Scottish Assembly should have any more right to interfere in the affairs of new towns than it has to interfere in the rights of any other local authority. I should like that situation to develop in the near future and I ask my right hon. Friends to look into it.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
I am not sure where the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) stands in relation to the amendments. It seems to me that either he has misunderstood the nature of Scottish legislation and Scottish admistration, or, alternatively—probably more rightly—he dislikes the Bill, and any method of hamstringing it will suffice. I also believe that the hon. Gentleman made a mistake in his assessment of the role of the Scottish Grand Committee.
Purely by chance—I do not think the Scottish Office would have sent it out specifically for this debate—I received Factsheet RF 20 in my post this morning. It is entitled" A Guide to the Structure and Functions of the Departments of the Secretary of State for Scotland", starting with that memorable event in 1707 and coming up to the present. I warmly recommend it to all non-Scottish Members.
After talking about the Scottish Grand Committee being established in 1907 to consider Scottish Public Bills referred to it by the House of Commons, on page 12 it says:It includes all the Scottish members and a limited number of English members when necessary to make up the political balance in the House of Commons as a whole.It continues:After second reading on the floor of the House or consideration by the Scottish Grand Committee, Scottish bills are passed for295detailed examination to the Scottish Standing Committee. This consists of a minimum of sixteen Scottish members, again supplemented by a number of additional members if required.We therefore have a situation within the United Kingdom set-up by which it is tolerable for English Members to be added to the membership of the Scottish Grand Committee.
I recall that six months ago there was an interesting sight in the Scottish Grand Committee when we were discussing education colleges in Scotland and the attempt by the Secretary of State for Scotland to close certain colleges. When it came to a vote, a full column of English Members was summoned by the Conservative Party for the occasion. It was not necessary, because there were sufficient Scottish Members, including one or two valiant Labour Members, who voted against the Government. That makes the point that at present in this House in certain political situations English Members can affect Scottish legislation or, indeed, Scottish administration.
It must be within the knowledge of many hon. Members that the present structure of local government in Scotland was imposed against the wishes of the then Opposition by an English Conservative majority. That is exactly the sort of reform of local government that is giving rise to some concern.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
Can the hon. Gentleman elaborate on that? I have no recollection of a vote in this House against local government reorganisation being defeated by English politicians.
§ Mr. Wilson
The constitution of Strathclyde as a region is an example. That made a great difference to the structure of local government in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to depart from either Grampian or Tayside and go to Strathclyde, he will soon learn the views of many people in Strathclyde, particularly those living outside the centres of population, about that particular regional authority.
I was making the point that during the course of consideration on the Bill reference has been made to the West Lothian question. To my mind that question would probably be answered satisfactorily if New Clause 10 in the 296 name of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) were to be passed by the House. To put it another way, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds enunciated the enigma of a situation where the intimate details of Scottish administration may be permissively altered by English votes without a similar opportunity being given to Scottish MPs. Speaking as a Scottish Member and not just from my nationalist position, I find that situation unsupportable.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. Gentleman has referred to New Clause 10. For the sake of coherence in Hansard, I had better read it.On the commencement of the Assembly, Members of the House of Commons representing Scottish constituencies shall not speak or vote in the House of Commons on matters certified by Mr. Speaker as being of exclusively English concern.Two questions should be asked. First, is it easy for the Chair to decide what is an exclusive matter of English concern? As we have seen, there are so many financial implications that to raise but a few is a very difficult matter. Secondly, if the new clause is accepted, what will it do to sustain the British Government? That is the problem which was raised by Mr. Hardy in the correspondence columns of The Times and subsequently answered by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson). I do not know what the answer to it is.
§ Mr. Wilson
We must leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East to explain it himself. I do not think that it would be difficult for Mr. Speaker to certify certain areas of English concern. It happens already with regard to Scottish Bills. Indeed, my hon. Friends and myself find it reasonably easy to decide what is English business and what is not.
I turn, then, to the second argument advanced by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), which is whether it would be possible to sustain a British Government if Scots Members were debarred from voting on English matters. My answer to that is "Yes". A British Government would be able to produce legislation for Britain as a whole. Where 297 the legislation affected England as a whole and did not have majority support within England, presumably the Government would have to bring forward changes in their own policy to suit the nature of the English situation in order to get support within the House of Commons from English Members and to take account of electors in England. That is a perfectly fair situation, and I recommend it to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. However, I must leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East to give a more detailed answer.
Coming to the two amendments, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds referred to two possibilities—changing legislation enacted before the establishment of the Assembly and for the future. One example which he put forward in connection with a change of legislation which had been enacted before the constitution date of the Assembly was the County of Zetland Bill providing for the control of Sullom Voe and certain other financial matters connected therewith.
It would be possible—though this is an arguable point—but it would not be an excuse to hamstring the Scottish Assembly from dealing with matters of purport enacted in Parliament in times past. But it would be almost impossible to change the law of Scotland on education, local government, social work, housing and so forth if the Assembly could not change preceding Acts of Parliament. The rules under which they are administered at present have been enacted in years past by a whole succession of Acts of this House.
Looking to the future, I have to put it to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds that his argument will be viable only if he is prepared to say that there should be an integration of Scottish administration of Scottish education within the United Kingdom as a whole. If he is talking in terms of integration and of having a single education service and system and of having similar terms of service for Scottish and English teachers, and if he is in favour of the same sort of structure for local government and the National Health Service, he should say so, because it is in those circumstances that, with a unitary Parliament with supreme authority, it would become especially rele- 298 Vant—always assuming that the Conservatives are still in favour of such authorities since they knocked out Clause 1 last week.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
It is right that within our country certain powers and responsibilities should be delegated and devolved to the regions. That must be so with education, health and many other matters covered by the Bill. But I am concerned with the supreme authority of Parliament if it wishes to override any subordinate legislation. It makes no difference whether it is on education, energy, health, or any other subject. My concern and that of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends is to preserve the overriding authority of this Parliament to exert its supreme authority over all others.
§ Mr. Wilson
Where the hon. Gentleman is making a fundamental mistake is that Scotland is not just a region. It is a nation. If he were talking in terms of regions and if Scotland were a region of the United Kingdom in the same way as, say, Cumbria, there would be no difference in structure between Scotland and those other regions. What would be allowed within that regional devolution would be an opportunity to interpret the structure and to take certain specific decisions which had been devolved.
However, the hon. Gentleman must realise that Scotland has a separate structure of government. It is for that structure that the Scottish Assembly in our view is an embryonic form of Parliament, even though as envisaged it is the limit from the Government's point of view. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to find a logical solution which does not involve devolution, to say nothing of federalism or independence, he must go to a situation where Scotland is fully integrated within a uniform system of government throughout the United Kingdom. In that way, government from London might work. I do not myself think that it would.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is possible under a system of devolution for parts of the country to have very widely varying systems of education, National Health Service, social services, legal services and so on, without the unity of the United Kingdom being adversely affected? It is quite possible to do this so long as the 299 structure is worked out within the limitations which we have already decided.
§ Mr. Wilson
There is a difference to be drawn between unity and uniformity. What I think might be a passable state of affairs is that there should be a Scottish Assembly with powers to remodel and to change Scottish legislation in order to update it to suit changing conditions. What would not be acceptable is that Scots law, for instance, should be assimilated into English law. It is founded on an entirely different system not, as the hon. Member for West Lothian said, on the basis of case law, but on Roman civil law. It is the principles of a Roman civil court which apply in Scotland.
§ Mr. Brittan
Does not the fact that for 200 years there has been a Union between England and Scotland in which that heritage has not been impaired seem to indicate that it is possible for that heritage to be retained without independence for Scotland?
§ Mr. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. There are many Scots lawyers, excluding the Minister of State, who would say that Scots law has been impaired as a result of Union and that the problem of trying to marry two separate legal systems has produced some peculiar results. They are fundamentally distinct. The Scots system is more akin to that of a European court of law. This is an interesting subject for discussion and one over which I could enthuse for quite a while. However, I return to the two amendments being debated.
The amendments are intended to smother——
§ Mr. Wilson
Certainly they are intended to smother the proper legislative competence of the Scottish Assembly. If we are to set up an Assembly of this kind, as we decided on Second Reading, we must allow the Scottish Assembly reasonable room in which to work.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Garscadden)
In answer to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), my mind is ambushed by the conduct of the Scottish National Party of recent date in defying 300 the principle of Clause 1. As I interpret the clause, it is the Madame Defarge clause under the guillotine with someone in a tartan shawl.
The whole idea originally was destroyed in the ambush, and the similarity is contained within the competence of this clause, as I read it. It provides in subsection (2):A Scottish Assembly Act may amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament.I think that there is a weakness in drafting there. I should have preferred the insertion of the word "any" in place of the word "an". That would have covered past and present. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is a lawyer, will know that an Act of Parliament has no destination and no time scale at all. Such a provision could relate back to Greek law.
Having watched the Stormont creation, which is now prorogued, in my view this Parliament defrocked Stormont, and it is unlikely that we shall give it a cloak again
My interest is aroused when we write an Act of Parliament in this style. What provisions are there for Her Majesty in Council at a given state and time to enact any philosophy if there is a contest between a Scottish Assembly repealing an Act passed by the Assembly, and this is approved by Her Majesty in Council? The problem at the end of the day may be that the Scottish Assembly is a nonstarter.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does my hon. Friend recollect that on Wednesday 23rd November the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) was reported in the Scotsman as saying that Clause 1 of this Billattempted to tie the hands of the Assembly unnecessarily. This vote liberates it and allows it to grow in authority.Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that the SNP sees this as an enlargement of the Assembly's authority?
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
One of the most remarkable and objectionable features of the Scottish National 301 Party lies in its extraordinary ability to invent and perpetuate total myths. I call them myths although, if courtesy did not forbid me from so doing, I could call them by another name.
The trouble with myths is that when they are stated in this House, they tend to become widely circulated through Scotland. For example, we had the myth today that change in Scottish local government was carried through in this House only on the backs of English Members. However, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) was picked up by one of my hon. Friends who pointed out that on that legislation there was no vote either on Second Reading or Third Reading. Therefore, that matter could not have been carried through on the backs of English Members. The hon. Gentleman then retreated quickly and said that he was talking only of Strathclyde—which, of course he was not, because he had not mentioned Strathclyde until that point in the debate. He also forgot that Strathclyde was debated in Committee when only Scottish Members were present.
That is another typical myth which the SNP attempts to perpetuate in Scotland when seeking to apportion any blame—although in respect of local government many of us would not regard it as blame. The SNP knows that a number of people in Scotland do not like the present form of Scottish local government, it knows that many people like something to hate, and therefore the SNP is trying to fasten that hate on to the English. That myth should be destroyed before it gains any more credence. I notice that the hon. Member for Dundee, East does not even rise to answer that point. I shall gladly give way to him if he wants to contradict me.
§ Mr. Sproat
The House, the country and perhaps the Press, if it reports this debate, will enable people to drawn their own conclusions.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller
The hon. Gentleman should withdraw some of his myths about social security payments.
§ Mr. Sproat
The hon. Gentleman should not tempt me.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said that this Bill was the production of able Ministers and conscientious civil servants. I shall not quarrel with either epithet, but were those Ministers never so able or civil servants never so conscientious, they would not be able to produce a Bill founded on a wrong principle. The Committee is fortunate to have this short debate before we reach the wider amendment, No. 247. The wrong principle to which I refer is that it is impossible for a Minister, be he man or angel, to back a policy which attempts to give subordinate legislative power to another Assembly within the unity of the United Kingdom and within a unitary State. It cannot be done.
The overwhelming reason why many of us oppose the Bill root and branch is that we believe that it is a step down the slippery slope to separatism. In that argument we are always confirmed by the enthusiastic agreement of the SNP, whose Members at the same time are most enthusiastic supporters of the Bill.
This amendment illustrates yet again that this is yet another step down the slippery slope. In this situation the Scottish Assembly may pass a measure which may be repealed or overturned by this House. The Scottish Assembly will then take back that measure and say "We disagree, and we shall pass the measure once again". It will be more than a game of ping-pong because it will be much more destructive. It will be more like an artillery barrage from one side and then a return barrage from the other side. In terms of the SNP in a Scottish Assembly, it will be a barrage of nuclear weapons. The aim of the SNP is not merely to get through a piece of legislation but to drive a wedge between this House and the Scottish Assembly—in other words, between England and Scotland—and to destroy the Union and also this House. Therefore, I repeat that it is much more dangerous than a mere game of ping-pong.
We must be under no illusions that if the Scottish Assembly is set up, SNP Members in that Assembly will seize every opportunity to stir up the maximum amount of discord between that 303 Assembly and this House. These provisions are a positive incitement to constitutional conflict. This is not just something that might arise by chance, but it is bound to arise because it is the raison d'être of the SNP. This Bill will give them the weapon they want. That is why SNP Members are so constantly and consistently in favour of this measure.
This inevitable game of ping-pong, by which pieces of legislation will go between the Scottish Assembly and this House, is the inherent flaw in the Bill. One cannot extract the ability of the Scottish Assembly to disrupt legislation in this way without destroying the Bill. There is no way in which one can grant such powers to a Scottish Assembly within a unitary State. It cannot be done. One can have a unitary State and a federal system, although I do not agree with a federal system. Some of my hon. Friends favour a federal system, and at least it has the merit of being intellectually tenable. But what is not intellectually tenable, and indeed is politically dishonest, is to pretend that one can set up a Parliament in between a unitary State, such as that we now have, and a federal State and that this will not cause endless discord between the two. Therefore, if that situation is not avoided, I believe that it could lead to the breakup of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why a federal system would not cause disunity whereas a devolved system would do so?
§ Mr. Sproat
I do not advocate a federal system, but in such a system the powers of each part of the State are separate. There is no overall Government which can say "No, we disagree with you on that matter." The point of the Bill is that the supreme authority will rest in this House. Therefore, there could be circumstances in which that supreme authority could be used to overturn what a Scottish Assembly wished to do. Under a federal system that could not happen. Under a federal system one would not have discord, although there are other objections to such a course. However, under the system in the Bill, discord is inevitable. I believe that it could lead to the break-up of our country.
§ Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)
I wish to intervene briefly in this debate to emphasise one point which has not been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) or by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). The most abrasive issue that will divide a future Scottish Assembly and the Westminster Parliament will be the block grant. We see from the list of devolved subjects set out in Schedule 10 that almost every item passed by a Scottish Assembly could affect the adequacy of the block grant. If the block grant were to take such legislation into account it would be penalising the rest of the United Kingdom. If, on the other hand, it did not take into account such legislation passed by the Scottish Assembly, it would thwart the aspirations of that Assembly. Either way, the abrasive, disruptive force that that would exercise would be great.
Every hon. Member who has been a member of a local authority in any form will know that, whereas in local government one sits and grumbles about the actions of Westminster, there is no action that one can take because one would be ultra vires and would be surcharged. However, in this case, such disciplines and restrictions would not apply. There would be inducements to oppose legislation that would be at variance with what is required in assessing the whole block grant by the United Kingdom Parliament. Therefore, in those circumstances it must be right to retain the power of approval of the House of Commons. Otherwise the supreme authority, of which we have heard so much today, would be rendered nonsense and it would be dangerous nonsense at that.
§ Mr. John Smith
In some instances the debate has ranged wider than the precise matters contained in the amendments. However, the plain effect of the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) would be to smother the legislative competence of the Scottish Assembly. It is proposed that there would have to be a procedure here for dealing with the matters covered by the amendment.
I should like to outline quickly the main point and purpose of Clause 18, which confers legislative competence on 305 the Scottish Assembly. This must be read together with Clause 19. As the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds knows, the legislative competence of the Assembly would be related to the devolved matters described in Schedule 10. Of course, when the Assembly comes into existence it will inherit a corpus of legislation that has been built up over the years by the United Kingdom Parliament on such matters as Scottish housing and education. It would be extremely odd if we did not give the Assembly powers to repeal provisions contained in Acts relevant to devolved matters when building up new legislation on such matters.
I can quite understand some hon. Members who have apocalyptic visions of doom—such as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat)—addressing themselves not towards improving the Bill and its provisions but to giving us thundering speeches about doom and so on. If they wish to use the time of the Committee in such a destructive way, that is a matter for them. However, I shall address myself to the amendment that proposes that Parliament should have another go at legislation after it has been passed by the Scottish Assembly.
I believe it was the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds who introduced a slightly different matter, that of a single Chamber system. I gathered that he was in favour of a bicameral legislature and I hope that we shall see amendments to that effect for the Assembly on the Order Paper—although who am I to demand that hon. Members should put down amendments? However, I doubt that that suggestion would receive much support in Scotland or in the House.
Another hon. Member raised a question about the repeal provisions. I have explained that they are necessary because there will be a corpus of legislation inherited by the Assembly that will relate to devolved matters. There is no substance in the point that an Act could be repealed by this Parliament and then again repealed by the Assembly, because Parliament may provide that Acts of Parliament cannot be repealed by the Assembly. The constitutional purists and theorists should address themselves—
§ Mr. Smith
I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman did not hear. I said that if the United Kingdom Parliament wishes to entrench an Act so that it cannot be repealed by an Assembly, it can make such a provision in the Act and then the Assembly would not be able to repeal it because it would be contrary to the provisions of the Act. It is perfectly simple. I had thought that the hon. Gentleman had not heard me, but it is clear that he did not understand. I do not think that he understands, but that is not my fault because it is quite clear that if the United Kingdom Parliament wished to put in an Act a provision that the Act's provisions were not to be repealed by the Scottish Assembly—even if the Act covered devolved matters—it could do so. That would be an easy way of solving the problem.
I should like to draw another matter to the attention of the constitutional purists and theorists, who are making objections. There is no resolution of the problems of the messages that go between this House and another place. I do not know whether one would call that game ping-pong but there can be a problem when messages go between the two Houses. However, we do not have to write the solution down in an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Brittan
It was a mistake for the Minister to give forth that proposition because there is a clear way of resolving that problem, which is provided by the provisions of the Parliamentary Act.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Member has not grasped my point. My point was about parliamentary messages going backwards and forwards. I am sorry that some hon. Members of the Opposition are not co-operating on this amendment so that we can reach Amendment No. 247, and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman has my sympathy in this. The problem of repeal could be dealt with easily.
We can take the argument the other way round. It would be foolish if the Assembly did not have the capacity to repeal Acts of Parliament concerning devolved matters because otherwise 307 whenever the Assembly wanted to make changes it would have to come to this Parliament, and that would not make much sense. I can understand that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds wanted these matters canvassed in debate but I think he will now realise that there is not much in this point about repeal.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I am trying to understand. The Minister says that this Parliament could so entrench any Act as to make it impossible for the Assembly to change it. However, the language of the Bill is clear. Subject to Section 19—and I understand what that means in confining it to devolved areas—the Assemblymay amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament".A provision made under an Act of Parliament may include an entrenchment, and there is nothing in the Bill that says different. If this Parliament entrenched an Act then, according to the Bill, unless the Act fell within a non-devolved area, the Scottish Assembly could decide to repeal or change it.
§ Mr. Smith
With respect, that is not so. It would not be necessary to make provision in that form and it is never necessary to put into a Bill provisions covering that proposition, because that follows from the inherent authority of Parliament. Parliament could put in a provision saying that an Act would not be subject to repeal by the Assembly and that it would be beyond the competence of the Assembly. By those entrenchment provisions in the Act the matter would be taken out of the competence of the Assembly. That would have to be read together with the Scotland Act. I know that the hon. Gentleman is in disagreement with me, but I assure him that that is the position.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I simply want to understand how it is to be done. I want the Minister to be right, but I disagree with his interpretation of the language of the Bill. The Bill says clearly that unless a matter is covered in Section 19 the Scottish Assembly can repeal any provision. The mere fact that an Act has been entrenched would not make it unrepeatable. The only way that the Minister could achieve that would be by amending this Bill.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller
Is my hon. Friend saying that, little by little over the years, this Parliament could whittle away the authority of, and the laws made by, the Assembly until, in the end, we are back where we started?
§ Mr. Smith
As a matter of constitutional theory, it is possible for this Parliament to do anything it likes because sovereignty remains at Westminster. The Bill provides that powers should be delegated. That could have happened in the case of Stormont in Northern Ireland, but I cannot imagine any United Kingdom Government or House of Commons following the sort of policy suggested by my hon. Friend.
I am dealing with academic and theoretical arguments put forward by hon. Members opposite and am trying to lead them to a clearer understanding of how those academic problems can be satisfactorily solved. This is all highly academic and unreal. After we have given legislative competence to the Assembly, it will get on with the fashioning of laws on education, health, housing and other devolved subjects, and I hope that it will do a very good job.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Those who fashion laws often involve themselves in a great deal of public expenditure. It is fair to ask the question which I put indirectly through the letter of my constituent, Mr. Brian Fairley, and which was better put by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). All this fashioning of laws will cost a great deal of money. Suppose the block grant is necessarily limited, what will happen then? If there is a finite block grant, particularly one for a four-year period, which I regard as an unrealistic suggestion, money will be involved and the question put directly by the hon. Member for Buckingham has to be answered.
§ Mr. Smith
It does not. We are discussing Amendments Nos. 94 and 95—although I notice that my hon. Friend 309 did not address himself very much to them. The question of financial control and how the Assembly Administration will operate is dealt with in another part of the Bill. I have to deal with one part at a time. It would be disrespectful to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, who took the trouble to put down the amendments and to argue them before the Committee, if I departed into other matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian talked about the fashioning of laws in his speech and said that there were too many laws. That is a totally absurd and simplistic statement. We may have some laws of varying quality and we may have some that could be improved, but I do not begin to comprehend such a populist and simplistic statement as that made by my hon. Friend. It is the quality of legislation to which we should direct our attention.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) asked about the law of Scotland and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian was wrong in his articulation of the principles of the Scottish legal system. It is not built up on case law. That is the tradition of the English common law.
This Parliament has often failed to behave with proper sensitivity towards the differences between the English and the Scottish legal systems. I put that cautiously, but I know that many of my professional colleagues would put it a great deal more forcefully. Great violence has sometimes been done to the law of Scotland by the simple, crude translation of an English legal term into the nearest Scottish one. I hope that the Assembly will undertake the important task of fashioning new legislation for Scotland.
If we are to have devolution—and the House has approved the principle of the Bill—we should do it properly and give appropriate powers to the Assembly. One of the important pieces of equipment that the Assembly needs is the legislative competence provided by the Bill. The amendments seek to hamper the Assembly in such a way that it would not be able to operate effectively. It is tremendously important that the Assembly is given these powers.
We are giving the Assembly the power to amend previous legislation in areas 310 for which it is responsible. I have given a common sense justification for this and dealt with the academic theories of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. The wisest course would not be to approve the amendments but to stick with the clause as it stands. It is a perfectly adequately framed piece of legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) raised a point of detail about the position of new towns. I think that he was referring to the powers which the Secretary of State for Scotland has under Section 36 of the New Towns (Scotland) Act and the possibility of development corporations being wound up or some of their responsibilities transferred to local authorities.
The Government's view is that this must be a matter that is within the legislative competence of the Assembly, but I take on board what my hon. Friend has said about advice, consultation and co-operation in the handover period from the United Kingdom Government to the effective devolved Administration. There will be a number of problems, but I hope that the new elected Administration and the United Kingdom Government will approach them in a spirit of co-operation. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will have taken careful note of what my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride has said on behalf of his constituency and local authorties.
§ Mr. Benyon
The Minister has implied that I was not speaking to the amendments, but I was speaking to Amendment No. 95 and I hope that he will answer the questions posed in the debate.
§ Mr. Smith
I was not casting any reflection on the hon. Gentleman. I was casting reflections on my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. There is a great deal in the Bill and rather than move from one clause to another, it makes for a much clearer debate if we deal with the point before us at the time. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds nods in agreement. We can have a full debate on the financial provisions later. I hope that the Committee will reject the amendments and adhere to the clause.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The fact is that the hon. Member for Buckingham asked directly 311 the question that I asked, perhaps, indirectly, and I hope that we shall get an answer. If there are to be 150 Assembly persons spending four or five days a week, 37 weeks a year fashioning laws, then, my God, they will not fashion laws without a great deal of expense.
§ Mr. Smith
I do not know how far that observation takes us in the illumination of the matters under discussion. Let me give my hon. Friend some advice. He rises to give us lectures, advice, exhortation and visions of doom. I do not know whether this will take the constructive work of the Committee much further. I have given a constructive reply to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon).
We ought to deal with matters as they arise in the Bill. Most hon. Members are seeking to take a constructive attitude, but my hon. Friend has been far from constructive in trying to expose Second Reading points on every amendment. That is entirely a matter for him, but if we hear complaints about the guillotine and the restricted time for discussion, I hope that none will come from him.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I was about to congratulate the Minister and thank him for the reasonable way in which he responded, but at the end of his speech—and this was quite out of character—he launched into an unnecessary attack on the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr.
§ Dalyell). Therefore I can give him only half marks.
§ The Minister said that he had to deal with theoretical and academic points. He dealt with those, but he did not deal with the practical points. If this House decides, on matters such as education, health and local government, that there is something of supreme importance to the nation which should be applied to Scotland, I do not think that it should be possible for the subordinate legislature in Scotland to veto our decision. That is what the amendments are directed to cover.
§ It would be wrong for me to detain the House any longer. I shall withdraw Amendment No. 94, but, because the Minister has not dealt with the question of the supreme authority of Parliament, but has rather left it open, I think the House should vote on Amendment No. 95.
§ I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed: No. 95, in page 7, line 33, at end insert:
' but such amendment or repeal shall have effect only after a draft has been laid before and approved by affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament '.—[Mr. Eldon Griffiths.]
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 69, Noes 189.313
|Division No. 22]||AYES||[5.40 p.m.|
|Biffen, John||Holland, Philip||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||James, David||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Lawrence, Ivan||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Buck, Antony||Lloyd, Ian||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Carlisle, Mark||McCrindle, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||McCusker, H.||Shepherd, Colin|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Macfarlane, Neil||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Dykes, Hugh||Marten, Neil||Stainton, Keith|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fell, Anthony||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Moate, Roger||Stokes, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Molyneaux, James||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fox, Marcus||Montgomery, Fergus||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Wall, Patrick|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wells, John|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morgan, Geraint||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mudd, David||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Neubert, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grist, Ian||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Iain Sproat and Mr. W. Benyon.|
|Hall, Sir John||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Allaun, Frank||Golding, John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Anderson, Donald||Gourlay, Harry||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Graham, Ted||Ovenden, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Grant, John (Isington C)||Pardoe, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Harper, Joseph||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Penhaligon, David|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bates, Alf||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Radice, Giles|
|Bean, R. E.||Hatton, Frank||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Beith, A. J.||Henderson, Douglas||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham Sm H)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hunter, Adam||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Janner, Grevill[...]||Sandelson, Neville|
|Buchan, Norman||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Selby, Harry|
|Buchanan, Richard||John, Brynmor||Sever, J.|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Campbell, Ian||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sillars, James|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Small William|
|Clemilson, Ivor||Kerr, Russell||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lamble, David||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Coleman, Donald||Lamond, James||Stallard, A. W.|
|Coleman, Donald||Leadbitter, Ted||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Corbett, Robin||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Litterick, Tom||Stoddart, David|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Loyden, Eddie||Strang, Gavin|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Luard, Evan||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Cryer, Bob||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Thompson, George|
|Dalyell, Tam||McCartney, Hugh||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Davidson, Arthur||MacCormick, Iain||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McElhone, Frank||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Deakins, Eric||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Ward, Michael|
|Dempsey, James||Mackintosh, John P.||Watkins, David|
|Doig, Peter||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Watt, Hamish|
|Dormand, J. D||Madden, Max||Wellbeloved, James|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Welsh, Andrew|
|Eadie, Alex||Marks, Kenneth||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Edge, Geoff||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||White, James (Pollok)|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Whitlock, William|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Maynard, Miss Joan||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Mitchell, Austin||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Molloy, William||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Moonman, Eric||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Flannery, Martin||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Woof, Robert|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Ford, Ben||Newens, Stanley|
|Forrester, John||Noble, Mike||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Oakes, Gordon||Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. James Tinn.|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Ogden, Eric|
|George, Bruce||O'Halloran, Michael|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. Brittan
I beg to move Amendment No. 247, in page 7, line 33, at end insert:' Subject to subsection (3) of this section—(3) Parliament shall retain the right to make any law for the United Kingdom or any part of it, including laws relating to matters within the legislative competence of the Assembly.(4) Where any Act of Parliament is enacted after the coming into effect of this Act, and it is expressly stated in the Act that it extends 314 to Scotland, any Scottish Assembly Act whether passed before or after the Act of Parliament, shall be read subject to the Act of Parliament, and so far as it is repugnant to that Act, but no further, shall he void.(5) Any order, rule, or regulation made in pursuance of, or having the force of, an Act of Parliament shall be deemed to be a provision of an Act of Parliament within the meaning of this section.'.Last week the Committee voted against the inclusion of Clause 1 in the Bill. In doing so, those of us who followed the 315 guidance that was given from this Dispatch Box did so for two reasons. First, we did so because that clause contained a statement which we do not believe to be true—namely, that the provisions of this Billdo not affect the unity of the United Kingdom".We believe that to be a false statement, not only because of the specific provisions of the Bill hut because of what we see as being the almost ineluctable consequence that would follow from its passage and the setting-up in Edinburgh of an Assembly of the kind that is created by the Bill.
Secondly, we voted against Clause 1 because in addition to stating wrongly that the provisions do not affect the unity of the United Kingdom, the clause went on to say that these provisions do not affectthe supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it".We voted against that part of Clause 1 not because we do not believe in the legislative supremacy of Parliament and its overriding right to make laws for the United Kingdom but because we do not feel that that bold statement, conferring or restating the supreme authority of Parliament, is an adequate and effective way of ensuring that Parliament remains truly sovereign. In an attempt partly to rectify the damage we immediately tabled these amendments to Clause 18. I specifically and clearly use the wordspartly to rectify the damagebecause the damage caused by the attempt to enact a scheme of government which in our view will affect the unity of the United Kingdom and could potentially lead to its break-up is not damage of a kind that is capable of being rectified by any amendment. That threat and risk is created by the basic structure of the Bill.
The second criticism— that the Bill purports to reaffirm the supreme authority of Parliament but actually fails to take the legislative steps that are necessary to achieve that—can be rectified. We can make the legislative correction but we cannot correct the political damage which is being created by the Bill.
When one considers the legislative rôle of the Assembly one embarks upon the 316 most controversial area of all. During the previous debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), some of the potential areas of controversy and conflict were discussed at length—and that was right. If one is creating within a unitary State a body such as the Scottish Assembly which is given legislative power within a defined area, one is creating a time bomb and seeking to do something which has never been successful, except in different circumstances and on a minor scale.
If there is to be any chance of success at all for an experiment of this kind—which we regard as parlous, undesirable and unnecessary—one thing is clear above all. It is that there must be absolutely plain provisions to ensure that any conflict between the Scottish Assembly and the Westminster Parliament can he resolved. There must be a ready mechanism for doing that. It must be a mechanism which, so long as the unity of the United Kingdom is genuinely to be protected, must ensure that Parliament is sovereign. For that reason we have sought to persuade the Committee to accept the words in the first subsection of the amendment:Parliament shall retain the right to make any law for the United Kingdom or any part of it, including laws relating to matters within the legislative competence of the Assembly.If the Government are sincere in saying that they wish to retain the sovereignty of Parliament, if their provision in the defunct Clause 1 is sincere, there can be no possible basis for objecting to a specific statement and enactment to ensure that Parliament doesretain the right to make any law for the United Kingdom or in any part of it, including laws relating to matters within the legislative competence of the Assembly.That is entirely consistent with the Government's own explanation of what the Bill does. The only difference is that they referred to it in Clause 1 in a non-legislative, oblique, cryptic and ineffective way. We are dealing with the matter in an effective, properly legislative and clear-cut way. There is no difference of philosophy if the Government are to be taken at their word.
It does not follow that this is a provision which, if the scheme that the Government favour is adopted, will be used frequently. I accept that the proper working of the Government's scheme envisages that the 317 Scottish Assembly will legislate within the devolved areas and that this Parliament shall not interfere. That is, of course, what the Government would like to happen. But the Government themselves recognise that it is desirable for the purposes of the general constitutional structure of this country that this Parliament should have the right to intervene if it wishes.
The Minister of State, in dealing with other points to which I will come shortly, expressly prayed in aid the right of this Parliament not merely to legislate where the Scottish Assembly has already legislated but quite specifically to intervene and even to prevent the Scottish Assembly from coming back and repealing a Bill which has been passed by this Parliament. So the Government recognise, as I understand it, that, however undesirable it is that it should be used at all, it is necessary, if the unity of the United Kingdom is to be retained, that Parliament should have the right to legislate even for Scotland, even within the areas devolved. Therefore, I commend the first part of this amendment to the House in the hope that it will be regarded not as in any sense altering the essential structure of what the Government are doing but actually doing it in a proper legislative fashion.
It is wholly inadequate to rely on the override provisions of Clause 36 because, as I am sure the Minister of State would concede, they only provide for Parliament to prevent a Scottish Assembly Bill coming into effect in very limited circumstances. The override provisions do not in any way give the House the positive opportunity of expressing the sovereignty of Parliament by actually in rare cases legislating in the devolved sphere for Scotland.
However, that is not the end of the matter. One has to face the problems which may arise which are not, with due respect to the Minister of State academic matters which he castigated my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds for raising. I do not see how, with all humility—a quality which ought to be present at least in small measure even in Governments when enacting legislation of this kind—one can with such confidence predict the outcome of an ad- 318 venture and an experiment which has not yet been launched in such a way as to say that the fears which my hon. Friend expressed are purely academic. I am sure that we all hope that they are purely academic, but they are none the less real possibilities which we would wish should be taken care of in the legislation and not left to the chance of the operation of the Scottish Assembly.
Therefore, one has to consider the question of what happens if the Scottish Assembly passes an Act which is inconsistent with a United Kingdom Act of Parliament. Plainly, if we are to have a legislative Assembly in Edinburgh at all it must have the right to do that because, as the Minister of State I think explained—to this extent I would agree with him—if an Assembly is taking over responsibility for a whole area of policy, it will inherit, affecting Scotland, a whole corpus of legislation dealing with the area, and it cannot effectively alter policy if it is to be a legislative Assembly in that area without having the right to pass Acts which are inconsistent with the United Kingdom legislation which has previously been applying to Scotland.
Therefore, if one is embarking on this road—I have made it clear that we do not want to start the journey—there must be a way of avoiding that consequence. A legislative Assembly must be allowed to pass Acts which are inconsistent with the United Kingdom Acts. But what then happens, if in the exercise of its parliamentary sovereignty and supremacy, this Parliament decides that, in spite of all that, the matter is so important and so serious that this Parliament ought to legislate in such a way as to imply the repeal or amendment of the Scottish Assembly Act which has been passed in order to repeal or amend a United Kingdom Act?
§ Mr. Brittan
I will give way in a moment. The point that I am on is slightly intricate, and it will be better developed for a few moments more before I happily yield to an intervention.
What happens in that situation? The answer is in one sense quite clear. It is that the matter can go back to the Assembly if the United Kingdom Parliament has decided to legislate and to repeal the Scottish Assembly 319 Act; then the Assembly can repeal the United Kingdom Act which has been passed, and then it has to come back to the United Kingdom legislature, which can repeal the Scottish Assembly repeal Act. So the political ping-pong goes on.
The Minister's answer is that it is possible for this House to entrench a matter in these circumstances. Let us say that we are passing legislation, say, to nationalise various industries in Scotland in spite of the fact that the Tory-controlled Assembly does not want it—I give this as an example. He says that we shall entrench such a situation by laying down that the provisions will not be capable of being amended by the Assembly.
If that happens, there are two objections to such a course being carried out. First, let us recognise what it is. It amounts to a pro tanto amendment to the Scotland Bill. The objections to that are, first, that if Clause 1 is deleted, as it has been, and if nothing is put in its place, how do we know that the Assembly will listen to an amendment of its Bill, or to repeal of its Bill, or to any entrenchment in a Bill that this Parliament purports to enact?
The Minister treats it as axiomatic. He says that it is because of the inherent sovereignty of Parliament. But if this House has rejected a clause restating that inherent sovereignty, and then refuses to put anything in its place, it seems to us that there is a real argument that could be used by those who are seeking to drive a wedge between Scotland and England. It is the effect that, in that case, there is a new policy altogether, a new constitutional settlement, and that the mere say-so of this Parliament asserting the sovereignty of Parliament cannot be guaranteed to be sufficient to secure that end in a political situation of a highly explosive kind.
But there is a second point which, as the hon. Gentleman does not like apocalyptic vision but prefers practical considerations, I will put to him. If we are really trying to make this work, and if we do not want conflict, when this House has decided that a certain measure is so important that it has to be imposed on Scotland, even though it is within a devolved area, with all the passions which 320 will then have arisen, and with the shuttle-cocking backwards and forwards until finally this House decides that the provision has to be entrenched and the Scottish measure has to be amended, would it not be better in that heated political atmosphere to make it clear from the outset that in such a situation this House will he able to ensure that the will of this House and Parliament prevails?
It will be much better to do that in the constitutional enactment setting up the Assembly than in response, in a highly-controversial situation, to a particular piece of legislation in Scotland which, for some overriding reason, this House wishes to repeal. It is for that reason that subsection (4) of the amendment reads:Where any Act of Parliament is enacted after the coming into effect of this Act, and it is expressly stated in the Act that it extends to Scotland, any Scottish Assembly Act whether passed before or after the Act of Parliament, shall be read subject to the Act of Parliament, and so far as it is repugnant to that Act, but no further, shall be void.That is a carefully drawn provision. If, however, the Government, while accepting in principle, object to the drafting, we would happily consider amendments.
The provision is carefully drawn because it makes it clear that this should not be done by a side-wind. It is only if there is a clear decision of this House and Parliament, exercising the sovereignty which the hon. Gentleman has said is inherent in it, and only in such circumstances—the Assembly purporting to act contrary to that assertion of sovereignty—that the Assembly's will shall not prevail.
But even then it is not a question of striking down the Scottish Assembly Act altogether but merely regulating its rightssubject to the Act of Parliamentand only in so far as it is "repugnant to that Act" shall it be void. This is a workable, practical and realistic way of ensuring that, instead of waiting for a hotly-contested political issue and inviting this House then to entrench a provision regarding Scotland, we set up a scheme which is consistent with the Government's professed intentions from the outset.
It seems to me that the proposed provision also is in no way inconsistent with or a wrecking of the Government's basic legislative scheme for the Assembly 321 —quite the reverse. If anything, it but-tresses it because it deals with the constitutional situation which the Minister is confident will not arise but which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds says might arise. At any rate, it deals with that situation, and if it does not arise I cannot see why the Government should object to our proposal in any shape or form.
There is precedent for a provision of this kind. It is in Section 6 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920—an Act which sought to confer at least as generous a grant of legislative power to the Assembly created by it as this Bill does to Edinburgh, and possibly a more generous grant of a more federal kind. It nevertheless included a provision closely parallel to that subsection of the amendment. If that was so appropriate in the Government of Ireland Act, it should be equally appropriate in this Bill.
Faced with these arguments in favour of the amendment, if the Government resist it there are bound to be suspicions—which in the hon. Gentleman's view would be unnecessary—about the Government's good faith in wishing to express their support for the sovereignty of Parliament and the supremacy of the United Kingdom legislature. One thing is clear. Nothing in this amendment would prevent the Assembly from working within its legislative area in the way in which the Government want it to work. Therefore, if the Government oppose the amendment, I wonder whether it is because of a political fear that to concede on this point would give an impression of weakness—I hope not—or whether it is because the political pressures operating on the Government make it impossible for them to enact, in the only way that is really effective, a genuine protection for the United Kingdom legislature in the exercise of its sovereignty.
I hope that the Government will show on this occasion the readiness that they have expressed publicly to respond to amendments which are not wrecking amendments but which express the values and beliefs that at least the majority of parties in this House share—above all, the belief in the overall importance of the supremacy of Parliament and the unity of the United Kingdom. It is because the amendment would give real 322 effect to that belief in the unity of the United Kingdom that I commend it to the Committee.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I attempted to interrupt the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan)—I understand that he did not give way because he was in the course of developing an intricate argument—to give one answer among many to his rhetorical questions. One thing that would happen in the situation he posed is that the SNP would have a field day and would bring to bear, through the media and through every means at their disposal, a whole lot of supposed injustices about Westminster, Whitehall in general and the Treasury in Great George Street in particular. That is how the argument would be termed. I accept many of the legal points that he made, but this would be the political reality of the situation, a situation which would lead to break-up.
I am rebuked for making unconstructive speeches. I was so rebuked this afternoon. However, I do not see a whole lot of my hon. Friends bursting to make speeches. It is not as though I am pushing out anyone else on this side of the Committee. If a queue of my hon. Friends was waiting to speak, naturally the Chair would not have chosen me. The constructive speeches by my hon. Friends have therefore been remarkable by their absence.
We repeatedly return to the fact that the venture upon which my right hon. and hon. Friends are embarked is a "mission impossible". We return to this same question about the position of an insubordinate Parliament in part of a unitary State, a Parliament that will not go away. It is to that that we return every time.
I refer now to the speech by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby. I cannot refrain from quoting a delicious gobbet from the Scotsman of Wednesday 23rd November in relation to what was said about Clause 1. The Scotsman, which is not exactly on my side in this matter, said:One Minister commented ruefully about the first clause 'We thought it was important, until we lost it.'I will not try to identify the indiscreet Minister who said that, but I am sure 323 that it was no one present here today. However, what he said was very much the case. One could have been forgiven for believing when we were discussing Clause 1 that it was highly important. As soon as the clause was lost its importance diminished within minutes.
Secondly, I must repeat, for the benefit of those who did not hear it when I quoted it, the answer that was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small) by the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) as reported in the same newspaper. The hon. Gentleman saidThe clause attempted to tie the Assembly's hands unnecessarily. This vote liberates it, and allows it to grow in authority.We all know what he meant by that kind of remark.
I say therefore to the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby that this matter will go far further than he suggested. His amendment is a bit egregious because I still have not discovered whether he believes in the Assembly or not. Sooner rather than later the hon. Member and his right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) will in these proceedings have to reveal to us whether they believe in an Assembly. I will willingly give way if I may have an answer to that question. The hon. Member and his right hon. Friend appear to be consulting on the matter. Either they believe in the Assembly or they do not. Which is it? It seems that they are not prepared to tell us. That is an impossible situation. Until I get an answer to the question I will not consider voting for a Tory amendment. I have voted against every Tory amendment and will continue to do so because theirs is a false position.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby talks about a ready mechanism to resolve conflict. I can tell him that there is no such mechanism. Here I have the support of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) because he knows at the end of the day that it will be either his position or mine that will succeed. He knows that he has the great organisation and camaraderie of a political party to support him. They are in business to get, through political conflict, the situation they desire. Once 324 the hon. Member and his hon. Friends come into being in the Assembly, and granted that no one can go into coalition with them or, in the gorgeous phrase of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), into wedlock with them, where does that put us? It puts us in an impossible position. I say to the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby that there is no ready mechanism for resolving the conflict. If there had been any such mechanism he could bet his boots that my right hon. and hon. Friends would have thought of it a long time ago.
I take issue with the hon. Member on another matter. He talked about normal legislation within devolved areas. There is great doubt about whether we can talk about legislation being in a compartmentalised devolved area. I must reveal to the House that at five minutes to seven on Saturday morning I nearly cut myself with my razor. At least I dropped the razor. What was this all about? It was caused by a report on the BBC of something the Foreign Secretary had said the night before in Edinburgh at the "Scotland in Europe" meeting. I was invited to it, but I went to the prior engagement of the Bo'ness Labour Party dance—[Laughter.] Hon. Members can see that I have my clear priorities——
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
The Foreign Secretary might have done better to have gone to the Labour Party dance.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Indeed he might because we had some enlightening discussion there on the question of devolution, and my right hon. Friend could have listened to Charles Snedden, the ex-Provost of Bo'ness, on the subject.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was reported on the BBC as saying that the Scottish Assembly should be consulted as an Assemby in relation to the United Kingdom's relations with the EEC. I tried to get a copy of the transcript of the meeting, but, as with so many other transcripts, this one was not forthcoming. If my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary chooses a major occasion in Edinburgh to say such a thing, how are we to be certain that even foreign policy is not to be a devolved subject? I can imagine the sort of things that would be discussed. It is implied that some good controversial subject 325 such as fishing limits would come within that category. Would the Foreign Office consult the Scottish Assembly or its representatives on fishing limits in relation to Mr. Gundelach and Brussels and all that? If so, what would Hull, Humberside, Grimsby, and Lowestoft have to say about it? If the Scottish Assembly is to have a special political clout in relation to foreign policy—and that seemed to be the purport of the Foreign Secretary's message—it raises important questions on the whole issue of United Kingdom foreign policy.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
As I had the advantage of being at that dinner in question, perhaps the hon. Member will permit me to explain that the Foreign Secretary suggested that the Assembly representatives would be on the fringe of meetings in Europe as part of the British delegation.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Are the representatives of Hull, Humberside, Grimsby, Lowestoft and Fleetwood to be on the fringes? We come then to a question of semantics. I want to know what happens when a subordinate Parliament is on the fringes of foreign policy decision making. No one can say that policy in relation to fishing is non-contentious or unimportant. It is one of the things that the SNP representatives in the north of Scotland are all about. They get far more votes from discontent among fishermen than from any support for changes in constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I hope that my hon. Friend is right. There is a serious point here if we have a senior Government Minister, speaking on a major occasion, and fully reported by the BBC, saying, in effect, that the Scottish Assembly, a subordinate Parliament, is to have its finger in the pie of foreign policy-making. There are great issues here for the United Kingdom as a whole. We return yet again to the fact that, unintentional though it may be, the Bill is leading to the break-up of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Powell
There is no inconsistency between the moving of this amendment and the moving out of the late Clause 1 326 of the Bill. The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) was perfectly justified in disclaiming any such inconsistency. Those of us who were glad to see the back of Clause 1 were so relieved because we did not consider that it was realistic. We did not consider that it described correctly the situation that would be created by the Bill.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby and those who support him in his amendment say "Very well, we will import the practical reality, in terms as precise as we can draft, into the Bill." He says that that is the right way to go about it, and I agree with him. The interesting thing, however—and this is not to dispute the validity of the amendment—is that in endeavouring in proper legislative terms to create and confer the powers that must exist if there was any reality in the claim of Clause 1 or, indeed, if there is to be any reality in the continuance of the United Kingdom under a sovereign Parliament, and as we study the terms of the amendment, we begin to see the fundamental difficulties that they raise. That, l think, is the value of this amendment. It is an attempt to resolve the vague generality of the former Clause 1 into the conferment or re-assertion of specific powers, and when we do that, the same defects, the same old impracticabilities and inherent instabilities reveal themselves.
The Government may be unwilling to accept this amendment or anything equivalent to it. I wonder what will be the grounds on which they will do so. Will they disagree with the proposition that Parliament will retain the right to make any law, including laws within the legislative competence of the Assembly? Presumably not, because they are asserting that the unity of the United Kingdom under the sovereignty of Parliament remains unaffected. So if they object to subsection (3) of the amendment, they are objecting to the public statement of that which they wished implicitly to be believed.
Then we come to subsection (4), which is the attempt, if there is to be any reality in the exercise of overriding the legislative powers of the Assembly, to avoid an absurd conflict, theoretically an unresolvable conflict, a backwards and forwards, a navette between the House and 327 the Assembly. Yet no doubt the Government start back from providing in cold print that if the House legislates for Scotland, in effect its legislation for Scotland is to be immune from the attempt of the Scottish Assembly to assert its legislative competence within its own sphere of devolved responsibility. So the very blatancy in this amendment is its virtue, because if we do not like this amendment, we do not like it because we do not really intend that this House shall remain effectively sovereign and effectively in possession of legislative power over all parts of the United Kingdom.
The Government have got themselves into a difficulty over this and, as usual, it is only another form or another facet of the old West Lothian paradox. They have got themselves into a difficulty by asserting that even after this Bill, indeed, even after acts of devolution more extensive than this Bill imports, Scotland will continue to be represented in the House as at present. That was made clear at a very early stage in this history. There was nothing further from the Government's thoughts than to reduce the representation of Scotland in the House of Commons. When someone asked what the Scottish Members were to do, he was given the answer "There will be plenty for them. There are foreign affairs, there are the subjects which are reserved, they can busy themselves with those."
But there is much more implicit in full Scottish representation than that. Let us suppose that a General Election in the United Kingdom has taken place and that one of the major subjects, perhaps a subject which influenced a great many of the votes which brought, let us say, the Labour Party to power, lay within the area of education, housing or health—or all those three. Let us suppose that those who sent to the House of Commons a majority from the United Kingdom as a whole were principally thinking about the policies affecting those three major subjects which were professed by the victorious United Kingdom party.
With the phalanx of 71 Scottish Members of Parliament—not all behind them but at any rate sitting on both sides of the House and playing, we are told, their 328 full legislative part—is it possible for the Government thus installed in office to say "By the way, the opposite of what we held out may well be going on in Scotland. There may be an entirely different housing policy and entirely different laws governing education in force north of the border. But never mind about that. As a matter of fact, in what we put before the nation at the General Election we were concerned only with what would happen in England."?
Earlier today the example was given of one such subject—comprehensive education. If a party believing in the principle of comprehensive education wins a majority in the House, on a manifesto embodying that principle. and forms the Government, then, with Scotland fully represented on an equal basis in this place, it would be sheer impossibility for that Government not to seek to secure consistency upon that principle between the legislation north of the border and the legislation which applied to the rest of the United Kingdom.
Thus, there is a dilemma here between the assertion of the unaffected unity of the Kingdom, with the continued representation of Scotland in this United Kingdom Parliament as heretofore, and our unwillingness to envisage the implications of that as expressed in our reluctance to contemplate—indeed, the inconveniences which we immediately discern in contemplating—the exercise by the House of Commons of its legislative power in the very spheres in which it might be called upon and even duty-bound to exercise it.
"No", say the Government, "we arc not prepared to see written into the Bill a provision which says that the House of Commons could legislate on education and housing over the head, if necessary, of a Scottish Assembly."
§ Mr. Harry Selby (Glasgow, Govan)
Has there ever been an election fought on housing and education as the primary subjects of that election?
§ Mr. Powell
It is my impression that it is the view of the difference in the handling of those and similar subjects, mostly devolved subjects, between the two main parties on either side of the House which may well have been decisive in more than one election since the war. I am, indeed, sure that it is what the public believe will be the consequences 329 for the administration of these subjects and for the priority given to them which can influence and has influenced the outcome of General Elections.
§ Mr. Henderson
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether elections in Northern Ireland are decided on the basis of housing, education and other such matters?
§ Mr. Powell
Certainly, if the hon. Gentleman wants a digression on Northern Ireland, but he will remember that we were talking about what it is that decides the majority in the House of Commons——
§ Mr. Powell
—that was the subject—in a United Kingdom General Election. It is quite true that, as long as the overwhelming question for the people of Northern Ireland is whether they are to belong to this Kingdom, all other issues, however important elsewhere, will be subordinate to that. But I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman would say that at General Elections which we have experienced in the last generation it has been that issue which has been decisive of the outcome or, indeed, has been the material of the debate in the campaigns which preceded them.
No doubt the Government will say—indeed, they are obliged to say—" How can we contemplate a United Kingdom Minister producing at this Dispatch Box legislation on subjects for which he is not responsible in a part of the United Kingdom where he is not responsible for them?" They will say, and rightly say, that there is a contradiction there. They will say that legislation is proposed here by Ministers who are responsible for it over the full extent to which it will apply, and they therefore are unable to contemplate the introduction of legislation for Scotland on devolved subjects.
Very well. But in that case they have gone much too far. They have an argument which proves much more than their case, for if the House of Commons is to retain legislative supremacy, as we persist in asserting and as the Government asserted in their lost Clause 1, it must have more than legislative powers over the whole of the kingdom. One cannot separate the responsibilities involved in legislation from the oversight of administration. It is impossible to 330 imagine that a Minister could come to the Box with legislation being responsible for the making of the law but not responsible for the manner in which it is carried out.
The contradiction which is thrown up by the amendment is that it unrealistically distinguishes between the functions of legislation and the functions of administration—this was a point raised earlier, inadvertently, I think, by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths)—for if Parliament is to act in accordance with the powers asserted in subsection (3) of the amendment, the Minister who introduces a housing Bill or an education Bill which covers Scotland must be a Minister who has been capable of listening to and answering an Adjournment debate on those subjects or a Supply debate on those subjects and who has been capable of answering Questions on them, since legislation and the right and necessity to legislate must spring out of involvement with and, indeed, responsibility for the subjects to which the legislation relates. The notion of responsibility for administration totally divorced from responsibility for legislation is a chimera. The two hang together.
It may be asked" But how does this square with the fact of local government?" It squares very well. This House by law has decided upon certain aspects of administration which it will allow to be differently administered in different parts of the country on the responsibility of locally elected bodies. That is a legislative act of the House, and it is, in the most genuine sense of the term, devolution.
But, of course, just because housing is a local government subject it does not mean that the Minister refuses to entertain Supply debates on housing. He does. As I said, housing is one of the major subjects of political debate in the United Kingdom and on the Floor of the House. He cannot possibly confine himself to passing housing Acts and then wash his hands of the manner in which those Acts are to be carried out—hence the very narrow and careful definition of those aspects of policy and executive action which are left at the discretion of local authorities.
So I say that the amendment reveals to us an extension, a rider upon the West Lothian proposition, and the 331 rider is this: not only is it impossible to devolve legislative power to an elected Assembly in one part of the kingdom but not in others, without dissolving the unitary parliamentary State, but it is not possible to devolve a much more extensive responsibility for administration in one part of the kingdom unless one can do so in the other parts. The same anomalies, the same contradictions and the same differences of function for the Members of this House arise if we attempt to do that.
We have in this country a system of local government which, with the exception of the Province from which I come, is universal. Throughout this country the same range of executive decisions is devolved by this House to the control of elected bodies. But if to an elected Assembly in one part of the kingdom we devolve the administration of a much wider area of policy, of a much more extensive range of subjects, than in other parts of the country, we shall find that we are caught on the West Lothian paradox, because in the last resort the legislative power, the power to fix in the form of law what is to be the overriding policy, cannot be divorced from the responsibility and oversight of the administration.
If the Minister were to say that those of us who come from Northern Ireland are in a different position from the rest of our colleagues at present, that would be perfectly true, because we can question Ministers in this House and hold them responsible for matters which in all the rest of the kingdom are the responsibility not of Ministers but of elected local authorties. That is another of those de minimis contradictions with which we live in the minimal case of Northern Ireland, but which, if we attempted them on the scale of Scotland, would prove just as destructive in the long run as the anomaly of local legislative competence which the amendment performs the service of highlighting.
§ Mr. Henderson
Every speech we have heard so far, both in the previous debate and in this, returns to the basic proposition that some right hon. and hon. Members cannot conceive of any form of transfer of power to Scotland, but wish to have the overriding veto of this House applied to everything that happens.
332 There was an alarming development today, because we heard from the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths)—and I detected it in the words of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—that such right hon. and hon. Members were far from accepting that Scotland had a right to separate provisions and separate consideration in such matters as education and housing, where traditionally we have had separate Scottish legislation because we have separate Scottish institutions and a separate Scottish system. There was even a suggestion today that the United Kingdom Parliament might wish to render these matters uniform throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles—
§ Mr. Powell
Certainly, because the legislation on those subjects is the legislation of the United Kingdom Parliament, and the responsibility for them is borne to this House by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson
The right hon. Gentleman is correct. If I misunderstood him, I apologise. He is talking as though there would be a desire in this House to introduce a new Bill on education which should apply throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles and that in those circumstances it should override whatever powers were given to the Scottish Assembly. It has always been accepted that, whether it is passed here or in the Scottish Assembly, separate legislation is required for Scottish education. I hope that there is no suggestion today that there should be a unified system of education within the United Kingdom, because we are very proud of the distinctive features in our education system as we are of those in our system of local government.
It was even suggested today that there might be a unified system of local government. The local government system in Scotland is very different, in a way which perhaps is not as desirable to many Scots as they would have liked. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) referred earlier to the attempt to defeat the inclusion of the 333 Strathclyde Region in the Local Government (Scotland) Bill. My hon. Friend did not then have the reference in front of him. That attempt was defeated in the House on 22nd October 1973 by 152 votes to 79, mainly by English Members, as there were 26 Scots against the proposition and 22 in favour of having Strathclyde out of the Bill.
The core of the amendment and others which have preceded it is that they are designed to wreck the Bill. I make no apology for saying that. We are hearing the same old arguments over and over again. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has one speech, which he repeats time and time again.
§ Mr. Henderson
I shall not give the hon. Gentleman the chance to make it yet again now. He has made it about five times today. He occasionally brings a small new aspect to it, but he has only one speech.
§ Mr. Brittan
Whatever one's general views on the nature of this legislation, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to explain what there is about the amendment that is inconsistent with the Government's scheme under the Bill?
§ Mr. Henderson
It is for the Minister to explain what is inconsistent with the Government's scheme. The hon. Gentleman failed convincingly to explain the amendment. He put it down although his party had voted to remove something similar from Clause 1. It can only be that the Conservative Party realises that it made an almighty bloomer last week and is now trying desperately to retrieve the position. It is trying to present to the world a nice, smiling Unionist face, which we all know is its real character.
§ Mr. Henderson
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, because it would be such a shame to miss his comments.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I simply intended to ask an inquiring, artless question: would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to sit on the "fringes" in relation to fishing policy when a Scottish Assembly was consulted by the United Kingdom Government on their relations with the EEC? Would he not want to be in the action?
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Gentleman made this point during the course of his remarks, and I shall answer him. I thought that the Foreign Secretary made quite an interesting contribution. I was at the Cruden Bay SNP dance the night before. It was a very good dance and we did not waffle about the views on devolution of the hon. Member for West Lothian. We had a happy time. I heard the remarks made on the radio the following day. Quite clearly, since at the present time the Secretary of State for Scotland is consulted by other Ministers in relation to the Scottish interests in the fishing issue in the EEC, it is only natural that the Assembly should take an interest in this matter and that there should be a mechanism for consultation as to the Assembly's views on these things.
The Secretary of State for Scotland at present goes to many of the negotiations and represents Scottish fishermen. We do not have a Secretary of State for Humberside to represent Humberside fishermen. That is done by the Minister of Agriculture. He represents the English interest and the interests of English fishermen in these matters, just as the Secretary of State for Scotland is there to represent Scottish interests.
The hon. Member for West Lothian chose a particularly bad example when he mentioned the fishing industry. I am certainly not prepared to sit on the fringes of it. It will be a matter of give and take between the group from the Assembly which meets the group from the United Kingdom, which has to go into battle with the EEC on these matters, as to how far the representations and the views are given weight and how strongly they are based. It is a matter that we shall be taking up at the appropriate time.
The suggestion by the Foreign Secretary was, I thought, quite constructive and helpful. I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Lothian—who is, I believe, a very strong pro-European—should resent it. I should have thought that he would welcome the fact that a greater number of people were to be consulted on these EEC matters than at present.
The basic fact is that there are hon. Members who just cannot thole the idea of the Scottish people making any decisions for themselves. That is what all 335 these amendments are about and all this talk of a veto. The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) referred to some kind of mechanism for resolving disputes. Why should the mechanism be an English veto in this House? Disputes are surely resolved by discussion and by negotiation between different bodies. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman likes confrontations, as the Conservative Party seems to do in industrial matters. Perhaps he wants to carry this appetite as far as confrontation with the Scottish Assembly.
We were even asked to suppose that this House had decided to legislate for some form of educational system for the whole of the United Kingdom. Why should this House want to legislate for an educational system for the whole of the United Kingdom? I can only regard such a suggestion as mischievous and impertinent. People who make suggestions of that kind are trying to stir up trouble.
It has always been accepted that Scotland should look after its own educational system and that should continue to be the case, whether through the mechanism of Members elected to this House or through Members elected to an Assembly in Scotland. Those Conservatives and those rebels on the Government side who make suggestions of this sort are trying desperately to make this legislation unworkable. That is the whole purpose of these amendments, and I recommend to my right hon. and hon. Friends that we should resist them.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Once again the Committee is invited to consider a key constitutional element of this Bill without the presence of the Lord Advocate and without the presence of any of the other three Law Officers. It would have been helpful to the Committee if one of them had been here. My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) says that we are better off without them. Perhaps he is right.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), as often happens during these debates, touched almost by accident on a very important matter. It is a matter of regret to the Committee that we do not have before us the text of the 336 extraordinary speech that was made by the Foreign Secretary in Scotland last Friday. It was clear from even a cursory reading of the reported text of that speech that the Foreign Secretary has hardly glanced at the Bill. The hon. Member for West Lothian illustrated the impossibility of defining the areas which are within the legislative and executive competence of the proposed new Assembly.
In Group 14, in Schedule 10, fisheries are stated to be within the legislative competence of the Assembly and within the powers of the Scottish Executive. It is true that the competence of the legislature and of the executive is limited toany part of the sea up to a distance of 3 nautical miles from the low water mark of any part of the mainland or adjacent islands ".I am told that this refers to salmon only, but it would certainly be within the interest of the EEC that we should have a preservation policy within three miles of the coastline. The hon. Member for West Lothian was right to draw attention to the difficulty of defining exactly what are the areas within the legislative and executive competence of the proposed new Assembly.
When we were debating Clause 1 last week, the Minister of State was at pains to explain to the Committee that the sovereignty and the supremacy of the House would be unaffected. We on this side of the Committee voted against Clause 1 because we believed that there was a fundamental conflict between the wording of Clause 1 and the wording of Clause 18. It is really anyone's guess as to what would have been the judicial interpretation if ever this Bill had become law with both Clause 1 and Clause 18 in it. If both clauses had been submitted for judicial interpretation, which would have been supreme?
Clause 18(2) states thatA Scottish Assembly Act may amend or repeal a provision made by or under an Act of Parliament.The late Clause 1 said that nothing in the Bill would affect theauthority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it.I submit that the wording of Clause 1 and the wording of Clause 18 are totally incompatible. That is why we were right to get rid of Clause 1.
337 The amendment suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) clarifies the position still further and, if I may say so, most admirably, for here we are really seeking to put into clear draftsmanship precisely what the Minister of State told us was the purpose of the Government when we were debating Clause 1. We on the Conservative side have therefore come to the assistance of the Government to improve the draftsmanship of the Government's own Bill. The Minister of State ought to be extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, whose amendment spells out not only the policy of the Opposition Front Bench but also, as we learned from the Minister of State's own words last week, precisely the policy of Her Majesty's Government. My hon. Friend's amendment, we find, is greatly superior in its draftsmanship to what was produced by the Lord Advocate and all those folk who are dithering away in the Lord President's office and in the Scottish Office. I hope that when the Minister of State replies to the debate he will accept this fact gratefully and graciously.
I do not know why my hon. Friend should not offer his services full time to the Government in order to assist them in their draftsmanship. It would greatly improve the Bill——
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he agrees with the point of order that I made at 3.30 p.m.? I contended that, given the delicate issues of judicial review by the Privy Council, it will be essential for the Attorney-General to attend our debate tomorrow. He is, after all, as I understand it, the Minister who answers in the Commons for the Lord Chancellor, to whom the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is finally responsible.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gow
Yes, I do agree with the point of order that was raised by the hon. Gentleman at the start of our proceedings at 3.30 p.m.
The amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby spells out something that we have been urging all along, namely, that if we are to preserve the unity of this kingdom it is essential to preserve the legislative supremacy of the House. It 338 is all very well for the Scottish Nationalists to assert that it is impudence for the House to retain its legislative authority over Scotland, but it goes to the whole essence of our concept of the United Kingdom that the House should retain full legislative supremacy over all parts of the United Kingdom and, ultimately, in all matters.
§ Mr. Henderson
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he does not believe that the Scottish people should have any right to decide any question for themselves?
§ Mr. Welsh
When the hon. Gentleman talks about the supremacy of this Parliament does he not really mean the supremacy of the English majority within this Parliament? Does he not have enough trust and faith in the Scottish people to run their own affairs without introducing an English-dominated veto?
§ Mr. Gow
The hon. Gentleman does not understand what is meant by unitary government or what is meant by United Kingdom. It would be possible to argue that the people of East Sussex, East Cornwall or even East Aberdeenshire are in a permanent minority with regard to representation in this place.
As in the past the hon. Member for West Lothian has asked my colleagues on the Front Bench for a statement about the Scottish Assembly. I must give him a clear answer on my part. I am strongly opposed to the setting up of an Assembly in Scotland because I believe that it will be the first step towards the break-up of the Kingdom.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby has done a service to the House and to the Government by the forthright and vigorous way in which he has drafted the amendment and in the unanswerable way in which he has presented it to the Committee.
§ Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)
I followed with interest the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson), but I was distressed when he referred to the amendment as being designed to wreck this legislation. 339 He also used the phrase that it would be mischievous or impudent of this House at Westminster to think that it had any right to legislate on education in Scotland. By doing so the hon. Gentleman quoted the nub of the Scottish nationalist case for independence for Scotland. But he totally misconstrued the amendment.
A point which has not yet been made in this important debate—I hope the Minister of State will listen, because it is an important point—is that we must read the amendment in conjunction with Clause 35, which we have not yet reached. Clause 35 will cause us very great difficulty, because that is the clause that provides:Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any such amendments of the law of the United Kingdom or any part of it (including any provision contained in this Act) and such further provision as appear to Her to be necessary or expedient in consequence of any provision made by or under any Scottish Assembly Act.That clause gives powers to the Government of the day to change any past legislation of this House which is consequent on legislation which has been passed by the Scottish Assembly.
The Scottish Assembly could decide on compulsory purchase of private homes in Scotland to be sold at minimal prices. The Government of the day in this place —a Labour Government—might say that in order that there should not be discrimination between the two sides of the border, they wished to pass a provision in this House that was similar to or consequent on the Scottish Assembly Act. That will cause a great deal of worry when we come to it.
But the amendment moved so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby is, I believe, the mirror image of Clause 35. What it is reasserting is the ultimate legal supremacy of the Parliament of the United Kingdom as represented here at Westminster. I believe that my hon. Friend was oversanguine when he thought that the Government might accept the amendment. I agree with all his reasons for it, but I fear that the Government have already sold the pass and also—this is the message of the SNP—that freedom once given cannot in any shape or form be taken back.
340 What the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East wishes to make quite certain is that once the Bill has been passed, there shall be no path left in this House to change it in any shape or form. In essence, he is saying that there will no longer be legislative authority in this House of Commons. It is precisely for that reason that I believe the amendment to be so very important.
It comes down to the principle of whether this House of Commons will be able to repeal the Bill. It is essential for us to establish the principle that we shall be able to repeal the Scotland Act if at some time in the future this House decides that that is the right thing to do.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that Government Back-Bench Members are outnumbered by Government Front Bench Members by three to one?
§ Mr. Renton
I was going on to say that Clause 1 had within its bowels its own contradiction. That might equally well apply to the position of the Government and the Labour Party at the moment. They have within their bowels their own contradictions, and that is why there are no Members present on the Government Back Benches other than the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) himself.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East queried why it was that we were now moving this amendment when we had voted, as he did, to throw out Clause 1. But it is surely fairly simple to see why. Clause 1 had within its bowels its own contradictions, because at one and the same time it reaffirmed the unity of the United Kingdom but added that nothing would affect the supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it. It is now perfectly possible for this Parliament to make laws that do away with the unity of the United Kingdom. Therefore, the declaratory statement in Clause 1 was insufficient and imperfect.
The amendment that we now wish to insert would reinforce the defunct Clause 1 and would make specific what was previously both contradictory and declaratory. In order to avoid conflict between the Assembly and this House at Westminster it is essential that there be a legislative Assembly that will be able to sort 341 out the flaws in this legislation that will certainly become apparent in the years ahead.
Any flaws that are developed by lawyers or by argument in Edinburgh will affect the unity of the United Kingdom. There must be a legislative chamber, therefore, to which the issue can be returned, if necessary. This amendment specifically restores to this House the ability to put right those matters which in later years prove to have been badly defined or misstated in the Scotland Bill.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for West Lothian say that he could not support the amendment. He then indulged in some knockabout stuff about wanting to know what Tory Party policy was on devolution. But with all respect to him, this has nothing to do with the Tory Party's policy on devolution. For anyone who believes as strongly as he does against devolution and for anyone who shares our wish, as he does, to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom to say that he cannot support our amendment is a matter which greatly surprises Opposition Members. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was capable of more than that, because, if he believes in the unity of the United Kingdom, if he believes in the legislative supremacy of this House, and if he believes it necessary to have one Chamber where flaws in this Bill can be sorted out, it is essential that this amendment be passed.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does the hon. Gentleman believe any kind of Assembly to be impossible? I think that certain members of his own Front Bench are being a little hypocritical, if that is a parliamentary word, in wanting to get the best of both worlds as they see it. I will not even consider supporting any Conservative amendment until we are clear whether the right hon. Member for Cambridge-shire (Mr. Pym) and the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) want an Assembly at all. I asked the hon. Gentleman a very simple question, and I ask him again. If the Opposition want me to consider adding my support to their amendment, let the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby answer "Yes" or "No" to a very simple question. Does he want any kind of Scottish Assembly, or does he rule out that possibility altogether?
§ Mr. Renton
The argument of the hon. Member for West Lothian seems to rest on the proposition that the Bill is like the curate's egg: it is bad in parts. So he does not want any truck with any attempt to make it better. That is a defeatist argument. The Opposition did not win the day on Second Reading. Therefore, I believe that it is our duty to try to improve the Bill as much as we can.
This is an argument which would have the effect of removing some of the evil parts and reducing many of the potential dangers which lie in the Bill as it is drafted without Clause 1. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will change his mind and support the amendment.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
The empty Labour Benches speak more eloquently than any of the important speeches in this debate about the attitude of Government supporters towards this fundamental constitutional Bill. But it goes beyond that. With the honourable exception of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), the disgraceful feature about this Committee stage is that no Government supporters, either for or against the Bill, are taking the trouble to play an active part in the Committee's deliberations. Whatever the differences of view may be between the various parties on the Opposition Benches, right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the Committee are doing their duty to their constituents in putting forward their views of the Bill, whether they be for or against it.
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Member has overlooked the fact that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Selby) made a two-sentence intervention a few minutes ago.
§ Mr. Rifkind
That is quite true, and obviously I must apologise to the absent hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Selby) who made that one contribution.
I intend to intervene only briefly in this debate in order to comment on the speceh of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson). I am not sure whether his tongue was in his cheek, but it was extraordinary that he of all the members of this Committee should have had the brazen nerve to accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) of seeking to 343 produce a wrecking amendment designed to destroy the purpose of the Bill.
The purpose of the Bill is clear. It is not to create an independent Scotland. It is not to create a federal United Kingdom. It is to create a devolved Assembly. If devolution means anything, it is that the United Kingdom Parliament is to remain the ultimate sovereign Parliament for Scotland as well as for the rest of the United Kingdom on all matters. Powers are not being surrendered to a Scottish Assembly. The Assembly is being given power to legislate and to take decisions in those matters devolved to it. Whatever one may think of the amendment, clearly it will not go beyond a devolved structure.
But what are the Scottish nationalists seeking to do? They have tabled Amendment No. 101, and presumably they believe in it. It seeks a Scottish Assembly with powers to bass laws on any subject other than half a dozen specific topics, including the making of peace and war, the conclusion of treaties, matters concerning the defence of the Realm, treason and trade furth of Scotland. That might be a legitimate point of view, but it has nothing to do with devolution.
If that amendment were carried, we should be creating a federal structure. The Scottish Assembly would be sovereign, except in the specific matters exempted. So, if any amendment is to be considered wrecking in the sense of seeking fundamentally to change the nature of the Bill, it is Amendment No. 101 tabled by the Scottish nationalists.
§ Mr. Rifkind
That is a matter of opinion. But certainly it would so fundamentally change the proposals put forward by the Government as to produce a form of constitutional change totally different from that proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) is one of the fairest hon. Members in the Committee. I am sure that he will not go on in this vein for too long. If he accepts the principle of the transfer of powers and responsibilities to Scotland 344 for certain functions, it becomes a matter for debate whether it be four, five, six, seven or eight functions. The purpose of the amendment is to improve the Bill and to ensure that we have control of those other functions.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I must disagree with the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East. This Bill is intended to produce a devolved Assembly. The hon. Gentleman's proposal in Amendment No. 101 would create not a devolved Assembly but at the very least a federal structure in terms of the relationship between an Assembly and this House. It is a wrecking amendment in the sense that it would destroy the purpose of the Bill.
However, the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby would not change in the slightest the legal powers enshrined in the Bill. If it were passed and the rest of the Bill remained unchanged, it would remain a devolved structure of Government, for good or ill, which was being approved by this House.
Whatever the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East thinks of the Government's proposals, he has no right to suggest that this, of all amendments, is a wrecking amendment. There are many others from which he can choose if he wants examples of wrecking amendments. There is no shortage of them on the Notice Paper. They have been tabled by his own hon. Friends and by other hon. Members, and they would destroy the fundamental objective of the Bill. To suggest that this one is a wrecking amendment is to suggest that the hon. Gentleman has not read it. On the other hand, if he has read it, clearly he is being mischievous.
§ Mr. Sproat
It is essential that we take every opportunity that we can to entrench the fact that the House must remain sovereign. That is what we were trying to do by the two amendments which we discussed in our previous debate and which were not so comprehensive as this one. It is this essential principle to which we return.
In a rather condescending and patronising manner, the Minister of State ticked off the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) for making what he described as Second Reading speeches. 345 However, they were not Second Reading speeches. They were taking the central principle of a Second Reading speech and applying it in detail to the matters in the amendments. Those who believe that this is a bad Bill have a clear duty to do that.
I agree with the hon. Member for West Lothian that if we do not pass this amendment we are inciting constitutional conflict. Those in the Scottish Assembly who may be members of the SNP are so anxious to prove their political strength and virility that they will choose every opportunity to fight Westminster—unless we spell out the fact, as the amendment proposes, that the House is sovereign. Otherwise we are inviting even more conflict than will inevitably follow in any case. Even if we pass this amendment, there will be dispute. There is no way in which one can have simultaneous functions at Westminster and in the Scottish Assembly so that there will be no conflict.
§ Mr. Sproat
I am prepared to use the British majority to put forward British legislation for British voters. The fact is that the present Labour Government have 36 Labour Members from Scotland, and that enables them to tell people in England what they should do. At present it is the Scots who tell England what to do, but that is a necessary consequence of the fact that we are a united kingdom. We must entrench that idea wherever we can and spell out the legislative supremacy of the House. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.
Arising from what the hon. Member for West Lothian said, I was not shaving at 6.55 in the morning and did not hear the report about the Foreign Secretary. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Member was asleep."] I probably was asleep, or even working up some amendments on this Bill. I did not hear the Foreign Secretary, who was reported as saying that a Scottish Assembly would be consulted on how the United Kingdom should conduct relations with the EEC. That is an 346 incredible stone to throw into our debate. Suddenly we are being told that the Scottish Assembly will have power to influence British foreign policy.
Last night the House discussed the common fishing policy and the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) spoke in favour of a 200-mile limit. Both major parties in the House are in favour of only a 50-mile limit. No doubt that matter will be discussed at the Scottish Assembly, and if the SNP Members had their way, they would go for a 200-mile limit, but what about the hon. Members who spoke in the debate last night and who are concerned about Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood and Falmouth? Only one SNP Member was here throughout that debate. Are we saying that a Scottish Assembly will have more power over British foreign policy in terms of fishing than will the great ports of Hull and Grimsby? That is a ludicrous proposition. We must try to nail that canard.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that the report which I mentioned was considered important enough to be the first item dealt with on Saturday morning in the BBC Scottish News. Furthermore, I checked the matter with those who had been there, in case I had misunderstood the position. A former Labour Member of the House who was present confirmed the gist of what I said.
§ Mr. Sproat
I shall be happy to believe the hon. Gentleman if he will give me the information. We can then table a Question asking the Foreign Secretary to lay a copy of the speech in the Library so that we may see for ourselves how certain members of the Government see the powers of the Scottish Assembly ever increasing. Originally we were told that the Assembly would only deal with subjects such as housing and roads. Now we are suddenly told that it will deal with foreign policy.
§ Mr. Sproat
This point is relevant to this amendment, because the further we extend this principle the more there are grounds for a dispute between the House and a Scottish Assembly.
§ Mr. Sproat
They are co-ordinated, as we know from every memorandum that comes from Brussels. In about the fifth paragraph of each memorandum we see words to the effect, "It is the duty of the Foreign Secretary to co-ordinate policy on these issues". I suggest that the duty of the Foreign Secretary relates to foreign policy. Therefore, I do not accept that point.
This instance points to a considerable widening of the area of policy with which the Scottish Assembly will deal. It widens the area of possible dispute. If this Bill goes forward, disputes between Edinburgh and Westminster are bound to follow. At least this amendment seeks to limit that area of dispute.
§ Mr. John Smith
There is one point on which I should like to comment because it has been raised in this debate. It relates to a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Edinburgh on Saturday night. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the matter. I think that my hon. Friend has completely misunderstood the words of the Foreign Secretary or his words may have been misreported by the BBC. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) will contain himself and not subject me to so many sedentary comments, I shall try to make myself clear.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The Minister should treat the Committee Members, who are trying to assist, with a little more courtesy.
§ Mr. Smith
We would all progress very much more speedily if people did not make sedentary comments before one has even got part of the way into one's remarks. I am trying to deal with a matter raised in this debate, and perhaps for once the hon. Gentleman will listen.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian must know that the Foreign Secretary was talking about the relationship of the EEC to the Assembly. I hope that my hon. Friend will seek to check what was said. I am sure that he has misled the Committee in the account he has given of my right hon. Friend's remarks.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If the Minister is so certain that I have misled the Committee, let me say that I have checked this matter with people who were there. I repeat that it was the first item on the BBC that day. I asked the Library for a transcript of the speech, because I am careful about these things. That transcript has not been forthcoming, and the Library says that it cannot get a transcript of the speech. Those are the facts. It is through no lack of effort on my part.
§ Mr. Smith
What the BBC in Scotland chooses to put at the top of its news items is not always regarded by me as a measure of its importance. We have had some experience of that recently on a number of issues. I am surprised that my hon. Friend has taken this line. I think that my hon. Friend has misunderstood the Foreign Secretary.
I want to say a few words in reply to the points made by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), but I wish merely to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian that if he discovers that his remarks about the Foreign Secretary are wrong he will inform the Committee.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
With respect to the Minister, he should be careful before defending a speech made by the Foreign Secretary which he did not hear and has not read, as I did. I think that the Foreign Secretary did not refer merely to the representatives of the Assembly being on the fringes of Europe and attending meetings in that capacity, but drew a comparison with the German Lander in which members of the federal Parliament attend meetings in Europe.
§ Mr. Smith
That may well be the case and I understand that the hon. Gentleman was there. I am trying to make the point that the consultation was in respect of devolved matters for which the Assembly was responsible. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian seeks to make out that the Foreign Secretary was talking about fishery matters. He must know full well that fisheries is not a devolved subject, except in a limited extent in 349 respect of freshwater fisheries. However, as far as I am aware that is not a major item of concern in the Community.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Rifkind
Will the Minister be willing to use this opportunity to avoid doubt and to state categorically that it is not the intention of the Government that there should be any consultation with the Scottish or Welsh Assemblies on any matters that would not come within their devolved responsibilities?
§ Mr. Smith
There would be no relevance to any such consultations, because consultations can be brought about only through mutual responsibilities. There would be a great deal to be said for consultation between the United Kingdom—which alone can represent this country in the EEC—and the Scottish Administration in respect of matters for which the Assembly was responsible and which might become the subject matter of EEC regulations or directives.
My understanding of the Federal Republic of West Germany is that such consultations take place between the Lander Governments and the Federal Government before the Federal Government make propositions within the Council of Ministers of the European Community. I am confident that the Foreign Secretary's reference was within that territory. That was a side issue that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian and some hon. Members opposite.
The argument put forward by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby seemed to hinge on the decision of the House on Clause 1 of the Bill. He talked about repairing the damage and rectifying the situation, and I received a slight hint of a bad conscience from his having found himself in the same Lobby as the SNP during that Division. Mixed motives took hon. Members into that Lobby, and I shall not comment further on that. It is not for me to speculate on the motives of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Brittan
The Minister might perhaps not allow himself to be accused of imputing a bad conscience to me, but what he is expressing is sour grapes.
§ Mr. Smith
That might be thought to be wit and, if it is, no doubt it will be appreciated. The hon. Member for Cleve- 350 land and Whitby has difficulty in explaining the Opposition's position on this and it was his party's bad conscience rather than any effort of his own to which I was referring. I was referring to a collective bad conscience. The hon. Gentleman is aware of the collective confusion that has been illustrated in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian asked the Tory Front Bench whether it was in favour of a Scottish Assembly. He asked repeatedly and received no reply. It is all right for the Bourbons on the Back Benches opposite who are against devolution of any sort or shape to launch attacks against any effort towards devolution, but it is not so easy for the Front Bench.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby says that in the absence of Clause 1, this provision ought to be put into the Bill and argued that subsection (3) in the amendment would accurately state the position of the United Kingdom Parliament. Our view of the position is that there are no limits to the authority of Parliament over all matters and persons within its jurisdiction. That authority does not rest on explicit provisions and statutes. Such provision is not necessary to create or maintain Parliament's supreme right to legislate. That right is unabated and in no way affected by the provisions of the Bill.
The House will recollect that during my closing speech on the debate on Clause 1, I said that the clause was a useful it no higher than that. I said that it was there to affirm the supremacy of Parliament, not to safeguard it, because Parliament's supremacy is there in any event. There are various ways of stating such a proposition. We believe that that formulation was the most desirable way of putting it.
We now come to subsection (4) upon which there is more disagreement between the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby and me.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
Before we leave subsection (3) and go on to subsection (4), will the Minister make absolutely clear whether he is saying that subsection (3), as proposed by the Opposition Front Bench, is unnecessary and would make no difference to the reality of the sovereignty of Parliament as instrinsically understood and embodies in the Bill or constitution?
§ Mr. Tim Renton
Is the Minister saying that he would be prepared to accept subsection (3) of the amendment?
§ Mr. Smith
No. It is not necessary to have such a provision at all to safeguard the sovereignty of Parliament. The Government believed that it would be useful to have the statement contained in Clause 1 which affirmed the sovereignty of Parliament. The House took a different view. The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby put forward a different proposition.
§ Mr. Brittan
There is genuine doubt in our minds about what the Government have in mind. If it would be useful to restate the position in Clause 1, why would it not be useful to restate it in Clause 18—albeit in a slightly different form and in more legislative language?
§ Mr. Smith
It is not necessary—even when cast into more legislative language, whatever that may mean. The proposition is differently formulated from the one drafted in Clause 1. I was asked directly by the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) whether it was necessary to preserve parliamentary sovereignty—either by the formulation in Clause 1 or by the formulation put forward by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is not. Parliament's sovereignty does not have to be safeguarded because it exists.
The Minister has answered a question that I did not put. He has explained why he believes that it is not necessary but not why it is not useful although he thought that Clause 1 was useful.
§ Mr. Smith
I have made clear that we preferred the formulation in Clause 1. The hon. Gentleman has put forward a different form of words and we preferred the form that the Committee, regrettably, did not choose to accept.
The whole of the amendment is tied together. According to subsection (4) there would be provided a rule of repugnancy which would be introduced so that there would be a rule of construction 352 when the courts had to consider together Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament and Acts of the Assembly. The repugnancy would operate. As the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby said earlier, it is true that there were such provisions in the Northern Ireland Act of 1920, and he might well ask why, if they were considered useful thug, they are not considered useful now. Without going into the possible differences between the two Acts, it is interesting to note that in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, which was drafted by a Tory Government, similar provisions were not included.
I wonder whether the rule of repugnancy is such a desirable one to have in a statute—and if the 1920 statute is brought in aid, I ask why it was not included in the 1973 Act. I know that it is not fair to ask this of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby because he was not a member of that Government and had no hand in the formulation of the legislation. However, the House should bear that in mind.
Instead of a rule of repugnancy operating when a court considers legislation, it is much better that there should be the ordinary rules of statutory interpretation. Although the United Kingdom Parliament will be the sovereign institution while the Assembly will have its powers delegated to it, Acts of both Parliaments will have equal weight and be considered together in the courts in the same way as would two Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament. Courts often have to deal with the provisions of two United Kingdom Acts. I believe that they could deal with an Assembly Act and an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament and construe them according to the normal rules which they apply.
There is no particular merit in having a repugnancy rule. One difficulty would be that all Assembly legislation would have to take account of it, and this is casting an eye far to the future because the Assembly would have no competence over any of the provisions which might be repugnant to an Act referring to Scotland passed by the United Kingdom Parliament. The amendment refers to Acts which apply to Scotland. That means a change from the rule that Acts automatically extend to Scotland. No doubt the hon. Member for Cleveland 353 and Whitby has in mind the special provisions.
Anything passed by the Scottish Assembly could be repugnant. If the United Kingdom found itself in conflict with the Assembly, the United Kingdom Parliament's legislation would be paramount and it would be better to face up to the problem in the drafting of the legislation rather than having the repugnancy rule. In practical terms, there are certain advantages in not having the repugnancy rule, and this is probably why it was abandoned in the 1973 Northern Ireland Act.
Is the Minister telling us that if, after the coming into operation of the Scotland Act, this House passes a measure which includes a provision that the Scottish Assembly shall have no power to amend it, Clause 18(2) will not apply?
§ Mr. Smith
I am saying that if the United Kingdom Parliament wants to entrench a particular provision, it can be put within a United Kingdom Act. Since this is the sovereign Parliament and the Assembly is operating merely on the basis of delegated powers, we could do that. Another technical way of doing it would be to amend the Scotland Act and put the matter outwith the competence of the Assembly. This House alone is the sovereign institution. We have never pretended that the Assembly is something that it is not. We do not have to provide for the sovereignty of Parliament. It is in existence already.
§ Mr. Rifkind
There is some confusion here. At one stage the Minister said that this House will remain sovereign even in devolved matters, but earlier he referred to interpreting possible contradictions beteen an Act covering a devolved matter and the Act of an Assembly. How does he reconcile those statements?
§ Mr. Smith
I can do so quite easily, and if the hon. Gentleman thinks about them, he will be able to do so as well. We are talking about a United Kingdom Parliament that is a sovereign institution. The Assembly is different. When there are two Acts, they have to be construed together. In the highly unlikely situation of a United Kingdom Parliament choosing to legislate in a 354 devolved area, one would hope that the Parliament, which would, presumably, be taking action to replace legislation of the Assembly, would take the trouble to frame its legislation to ensure that its Act prevailed.
If it wishes to preserve its sovereignty, the United Kingdom Parliament should be careful about drafting its Acts. It has the power to do that. That is how the situation would be resolved.
§ Mr. Dalyell
How does that fit in with the rôle that is to be given to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council?
§ Mr. Smith
The rôle of the Judicial Committee is to deal with questions of vires. If the United Kingdom Government wished to challenge legislation of the Assembly on the basis that it was ultra vires the powers of the Assembly, the matter would be decided by the Judicial Committee. However, that is another matter. I am dealing with the argument about the sovereignty of this Parliament. The most effective check against the Assembly extending its powers is the use of the Judicial Committee, but I have to counter arguments from the Opposition dealing with a rather academic matter. The vires check would be used if the Assembly sought to extend its powers by, for example, taxing oil revenues. It would then be checked by the Judicial Committee.
There is always the possibility, since this is the sovereign Parliament, that we could legislate by repealing the provisions of the Assembly Act. But that would be a clumsy way of doing it. That is why we have devised the vires check and the override provision. I have sought to explain why, on balance, the repugnancy rule is undesirable and why it would not be a practical way of dealing with the matter.
§ Mr. Brittan
I apologise for intervening again, but I hope that I am raising points of genuine concern to the Committee. Will the Minister deal with the point on which I laid some stress? I accept that this House could pass legislation which expressly repealed an Act of the Assembly and could entrench it by amending the Scotland Act, but would it not be preferable, instead of specifically amending a constitutional enactment in 355 the face of a political situation caused by a particular piece of legislation which this House regards as intolerable, to provide in advance a constitutional enactment so that we arc not put into the position of pointing the finger at the Assembly and saying that it is doing something that we will not stand for? Would it not be better simply to say in advance that this is not an insult to the Assembly but we are making provision for such a situation without waiting for a constitutional crisis and without making amendments to legislation on an ad hoc basis?
§ Mr. Smith
There is something in what the hon. Gentleman says and this is what led us to provide the vires check and the override provision. They will enable conflicts to be dealt with in a way that will not necessitate Parliament passing fresh legislation. The hon. Gentleman says that it would be useful to have this provision in advance and before the pos-
§ sibility of conflict arises. I part company with him here because I do not believe that the repugnancy rule is an effective way of doing it, particularly in regard to future Assembly legislation. The Assembly would have to look carefully each time it passed legislation to see whether there was provision in any United Kingdom Act that would make it repugnant. There would be uncertainty in legislation about whether the rule would operate in disputes before the Courts.
§ I part company with the hon. Gentleman for sound practical reasons. He has raised an important point and argued it with great cogency, but, for practical reasons, I advise the Committee not to accept the amendment.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 131, Noes 169.357
|Division No. 23]||AYES||[7.49 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Neubert, Michael|
|Alison, Michael||Hampson, Dr Keith||Newton, Tony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Hannam, John||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Haselhurst, Alan||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Benyon, W.||Hodgson, Robin||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Biffen, John||Holland, Philip||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hurd, Douglas||Rathbone, Tim|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brittan, Leon||Kershaw, Anthony||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Buck, Antony||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Budgen, Nick||Knox, David||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Burden, F. A.||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Lawrence, Ivan||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Carson, John||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Luce, Richard||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||McCrindle, Robert||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||McCusker, H.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Macfarlane, Neil||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Cope, John||MacGregor, John||Spence, John|
|Cormack, Patrick||MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Sproat, Iain|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stainton, Keith|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Marten, Neil||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Mather, Carol||Stokes, John|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Mayhew, Patrick||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Forman, Nigel||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Mills, Peter||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Fox, Marcus||Miscampbell, Norman||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Moate, Roger||Viggers, Peter|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Molyneaux, James||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Monro, Hector||Wells, John|
|Goodhart, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Goodhew, Victor||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Younger, Hon George|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grist, Ian||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Mr. Anthony Berry and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.|
|Hall, Sir John||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Allaun, Frank||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Palmer, Arthur|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Hatton, Frank||Pardoe, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Heffer, Eric S||Parker, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Henderson, Douglas||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hooley, Frank||Penhaligon, David|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bates, Alf||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Radice, Giles|
|Bean, R. E.||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Beith, A. J.||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Hunter, Adam||Rooker, J. W.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Boardman, H.||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Janner, Greville||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Rowlands, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||John, Brynmor||Sandelson, Neville|
|Buchanan, Richard||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Selby, Harry|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Jones. Alec (Rhondda)||Sever, John|
|Campbell, Ian||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kerr, Russell||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Lambie, David||Sillars, James|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Lamond, James||Silverman, Julius|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Lee, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Small, William|
|Cohen, Stanley||Loyden, Eddie||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Luard, Evan||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||MacCormick, Iain||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cryer, Bob||McElhone, Frank||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Dalyell, Tam||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Stoddart, David|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Madden, Max||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Deakins, Eric||Mahon, Simon||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Thompson, George|
|Dempsey, James||Marks, Kenneth||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Doig, Peter||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Tinn, James|
|Dormand, J. D.||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Edge, Geoff||Maynard, Miss Joan||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|English, Michael||Mikardo, Ian||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Ward, Michael|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Watkins, David|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Mitchell, Austin||Watt, Hamish|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Molloy, William||Welsh, Andrew|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Moonman, Eric||White, James (Pollok)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Whitlock, William|
|Flannery, Martin||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Forrester, John||Newens, Stanley||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|George, Bruce||Noble, Mike||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Gourlay, Harry||Oakes, Gordon||Woof, Robert|
|Graham, Ted||Ogden, Eric|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||O'Halloran, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Orbach, Maurice||Mr. Donald Coleman and Mr. Joseph Harper|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Ovenden, John|
§ Question accordingy negatived.
§ Mr. Brittan
I beg to move Amendment No. 248, in page 7, line 36, leave out'and approved by Her Majesty in Council'.In moving this amendment I hasten to explain that I have no objection at all to the involvement of Her Majesty in these matters. The amendment is primarily a probing amendment. That does not mean that it is lacking in importance. We have no particular wish to remove the rôle of Her Majesty in Council and we seek to find out what the Government mean by the provision.
358 We seek to discover how that provision is to be regarded as in any way consistent with other language in comparable provisions. Clause 18(3) states:Proposed Scottish Assembly Acts shall be known as Bills, and a Bill shall become a Scottish Assembly Act when it has been passed by the Assembly and approved by Her Majesty in Council.The wordsApproved by Her Majesty in Councilare a formality which appears in Acts of Parliament. It does not mean a personal involvement of Her Majesty. It means that somebody on her behalf exercises 359 some discretion as to whether an Act shall become law.
If that is the intention, which at first glance one would expect it to be from the wording of the subsection, one must ask who will act in that capacity and advise Her Majesty whether an Assembly Act should be approved. Is it to be the Secretary of State or the United Kingdom Government? Who is it to be?
If it is a purely formal matter, is there any need for such a specific provision? Is it not confusing, because one would normally expect from the words that are used that there is to be some specific political body acting in the way that is provided by the Bill giving approval or otherwise to an Act? If it is intended to be a formal provision and that Her Majesty in Council should act as a sort of conduit pipe, the words are inconsistent with the language in the rest of the Bill. The wording is confusing if the provision is meant to mean that anybody—Her Majesty or the Leader of the House—has any say about whether an Assembly Act is approved.
Clause 20(4) contains a related provision:If the Judicial Committee decides that a Bill is not within the legislative competence of the Assembly the Secretary of State shall not submit it to Her Majesty in Council for approval.A number of questions arise from that. The provision seems to indicate that the powers of Her Majesty in Council are exercised by the Secretary of State. That is because under Clause 24 the Secretary of State is supposed to submit matters to Her Majesty in Council. He cannot, therefore, be submitting them to himself. If this is meant to be a formality the phraseology is confusing. If it is a formality, why use such language?
I observe that there appears to be no requirement that the Secretary of State should submit legislation to Her Majesty in Council for approval if the Judicial Committee either does not disapprove or does not have to consider it. There is no obligation to submit legislation for approval if the Judicial Committee says that it is intra vires or if the Committee is not invited to consider the matter. That is not covered by Clause 18(3). There is no obligation on Her Majesty in Council or on the Secretary of State, but one 360 would expect that the Secretary of State would have a positive duty to consider it before it goes to Her Majesty in Council.
This matter creates echoes of what we were told about Clause 4(1)(b), which states that the Assembly shall be dissolved by order of the Secretary of State. I asked what would be the difference if the wordsby order of the Secretary of Statewere removed. I was told that that was the mechanism that was used. I thought that it seemed to be a confusing way of going about it. If it is purely a matter of machinery, why is it that that machinery is the Secretary of State and not Her Majesty in Council in that part of the Bill when Her Majesty in Council must approve a Bill before it can become law?
So one has a series of alternative provisions. It is not clear which are meant to involve the exercise of a political discretion. It is not clear who is supposed to be exercising that political discretion, if a political discretion is to be exercised. It is also not clear if it is intended that there should be no exercise of a political discretion, why different words and apparently different machinery are provided in different parts of the Bill for those formal provisions.
In case the Committee thinks that I am taking up time on pure formalities, I would make two points. First, it important when one is embarking on a new procedure of this kind to use these hallowed phrases in a very careful way, when one talks about Her Majesty in Council and matters of that kind, and not just to put them in in a rather slapdash way. It may well be that the Government have a consistent and clear-cut answer explaining what is formal and what is political, but it is not readily apparent to me. I have tried to study the Bill as carefully as I can, applying the constitutional precedents that are known to me. I hope that that can be clarified.
There is a matter of slightly greater substance. We are provided once again with an illustration of the sort of difficulties, this time perhaps only of an informal kind, that face the Government because of the nature of the type of devolution that they are creating. Because of the difficulty of attempting legislative 361 devolution within the context of a unitary State, they are having to resort to very great and difficult twists and turns to fit in the formalities of the dissolution of the Assembly on the one hand and the passage of this legislation on the other.
The contrast with the situation in Northern Ireland is, again, an interesting one, as it was in the last debate that we had. In the Northern Ireland situation the Government seemed more ready to face the realities of that sort of situation and actually provided for a Governor-General. Whatever phrase they used, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, and whether one believes that the phrase "Governor-General" would offend Scottish sensibilities and that some other phrase should be used, the real point of substance is not any kind of patronising or colonial attitude towards Scotland—quite the reverse. The point is that as long as we have a situation in which Scotland is still under the Crown, if there is a formal power to be exercised by somebody other than a United Kingdom Minister and a formal power to be exercised, in a sense, directly between Scotland and the Crown, that ought to be clearly indicated.
The way in which one would do that would be to provide some titular of that kind who would be expressly referred to and to whom would be allotted the formal powers. I am not advocating that such a person should be created, but that would be more consistent with the sort of arrangement that the Government have in mind than straining at the leash and using the Privy Council, Her Majesty in Council, or other even more obscure ways of going about it. There is a real difficulty, which emerged last week when we considered the question of the dissolution of the Assembly, when there was much talk about the Prerogative and direct access to the Monarch.
Again, I stand to be enlightened but I did not find it possible to understand what the Government were trying to say. What is meant by all this wording about direct access to the Crown and absence of direct access to the Crown? We have a very simple situation in which a Scottish Assembly is granted by the Bill certain powers to pass Bills within a limited area. There is the provision for making sure that the Assembly does not exceed 362 its powers by the Judicial Committee's having a look at matters under Clause 20. But, that having been done, I should have thought that a Scottish Assembly Act could become an Act. I cannot see what direct access to the Crown and the Prerogative have to do with it which would stop the Act operating in that sort of way.
For some reason the Government think that there should be a formal procedure. Surely the right formal procedure, if the Government feel that they must have it, is to have a Governor-General or Viceroy, whatever one might wish to call him. Let us remind anyone whose susceptibilities are capable of being affected by that kind of provision that it is a question not of England standing against the Scottish people but of the British Crown having a specific Scottish expression, at least for these formal purposes. I am not in favour of doing that, because I am not in favour of this whole way of going about things, but I am making this point to show what a mess the Government have got themselves in. They cannot even get the formalities right.
There is no answer to these questions, and it seems to me that, in relation to the use of the phrases "Her Majesty in Council" and "formal powers of the Secretary of State", the Government have failed to produce an answer that is clear as where there is a real discretion and where there is none, and that they have also failed to provide a clear channel for such formalities as they think necessary.
Most important of all, in practical terms there is the simple point that Clause 18 makes it seem that there is someone acting on behalf of the Crown who may or may not decide to approve a Scottish Assembly Act. If there is no such person it is dangerous to use the wordsapproved by Her Majesty in Councilwithout any further mechanism for ensuring that it is clear to all and sundry that it is a pure formality. These are muddy waters and I hope that they will be clarified.
§ The First Deputy Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)
I call Mr. Smith. I think, judging by the nice smile on the face of 363 the Minister, that he may have complete answers to these questions.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) said that these were muddy waters. He himself muddied them a little. I listened with admiration to the ingenious way in which he managed to make a case. I am not clear whether he is in favour of there being a Governor-General. The Government are not. That is our clear answer on that point, and it is clearer than the answer we got from him about it.
The provisions for having Royal Assent to the Bills passed by the Assembly parallel the provisions in this Parliament. The phrase "Her Majesty in Council" means the Privy Council, and that is largely a formal procedure. The hon. Gentleman took us to Northern Ireland and said that at least in Stormont there was a Governor General. He spoke as though the last legislative provision for devolution in Northern Ireland was the Government of Ireland Act 1920, but in fact it was the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. The then Conservative Government did not provide for a Governor General in that Act; they provided that the measures, as they were called, of the Assembly should be approved by Her Majesty in Council. That is precisely the provision in this Bill. No doubt the considerations that led us towards the formality that we have in this Bill carried the same weight with the Conservative Government in putting such a proposition in their 1973 Act.
One advantage, as the hon. Gentleman noticed, was that when we have the necessity for Royal Assent it allows the Secretary of State to operate the provisions of Clause 20, because the obligation is on him first to consider the Bill and, if he is of opinion that it is no within the Assembly's legislative competence, to refer it to the Judicial Committee. That procedure is gone through before he puts it to Royal Assent. It would be more difficult for him to operate in that way if he were the person who had to signify consent. There is a great deal to be said for following the way in which United Kingdom legislation is done, and that was how it was proposed that the measures of the Northern Ireland Assembly should be done.
364 I admire the hon. Gentleman's ingenuity, but it does not raise major points on the Bill. There is an acceptable procedure in the Bill. I do not think that it is of significant importance that the phrase "Her Majesty in Council" should be used in one provision but not in certain others. It does not matter one way or the other. I do not see the advantage of necessarily having the same phrases throughout the Bill. No failure of meaning has been demonstrated; nor has it been shown that a formal expression is required throughout the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman asked why we do not specify that the Secretary of State "shall" submit a Bill once it has gone through the hoop of the Judicial Committee. It is not necessary to prescribe all that. We do not expect that any Secretary of State would unreasonably refuse to put a measure forward for Royal Assent. One could think of all sorts of situations to cover in the Bill, but we do not think that it is necessary to put them in the Bill.
§ Mr. Brittan
As I understand it, the Privy Council is the body that exercises the formalities. What is to ensure that it is formalities that are being exercised, taking into account the fact that the Privy Council is obviously capable, in another emanation, of being a politically-operative body? In Clause 4, there is reference to dissolution being by order of the Secretary of State. We were told that that was a formal order. Why not specify "shall be dissolved by Her Majesty in Council"? It seems a curious discrepancy. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say that it does not really matter whether it is the Crown, Her Majesty or the Privy Council in that provision. The least that one can require in talking about formalities in a constitutional context is consistency of formality.
§ Mr. Smith
We are dealing with different matters in Clause 4. The Secretary of State there does have discretion. He has a descretion as to time either side of the date of the election. That is the exercise of some political discretion. It would be inappropriate to ask Her Majesty in Council to deal with that.
§ Mr. Brittan
I am talking of Clause 4 but the hon. Gentleman is talking of 365 Clause 3. Last week we had a debate on the phraseshall be dissolved by order of the Secretary of State".The Secretary of State himself dealt with it. I asked him why it was necessary to have the wordsby order of the Secretary of Statewhen the decision as to dissolution was to be made, under the terms of Clause 4, by the Assembly by two-thirds' majority. I pointed out that there was then no question of there being any genuine political decision to be taken. I was told that it was purely to provide a formal mechanism. If that is so, why is the formal mechanism in Clause 4 the Secretary of State and in Clause 18 Her Majesty in Council?
§ Mr. Smith
Clauses 3 and 4 deal with the same matter—dissolution of the Assembly. To have one type of machinery in Clause 3 and a different type in Clause 4 would not make sense. The machinery should be the Secretary of State. In particular cases of premature dissolution, it makes as much sense to use the Secretary of State for that provision as for the formal procedure in Clause 3. In the unusual situation provided for in Clause 4, why not have the same machinery doing the same thing? We could go on arguing the niceties of some of these provisions, but should we not be making progress with some of the more substantive parts of the Bill?
§ Mr. Brittan
That observation does not lie in the mouth of the Minister of State since he and his right hon. Friends have taken steps to ensure that we make all too rapid progress. These are substantial points, and in that case why not, if it is so convenient for the Secretary of State to operate the formalities in Clause 4, give him that right in Clause 18 as well?
§ Mr. Smith
I am prepared to be patient with the hon. Member and to answer all these questions. He says that somehow we are hurrying the discussion. But surely the Opposition have a certain responsibility in those circumstances to direct the attention of the House to the matters they think are important and should be thoroughly discussed. I am entitled to observe that there may be some more important matters in this Bill 366 than the formalities of the way in which the Royal Assent is given to Bills.
Let me answer the question why, since we have machinery under Clause 4 for dissolution, we do not employ the same machinery in Clause 18. The two clauses deal with different propositions. Clause 4 deals with the dissolution of the Assembly and Clause 18 with the giving of the Royal Assent to legislation. We think it desirable that where proposed legislation becomes law the Assent should be given by Her Majesty—perhaps it is a formality exercised through the Privy Council—as with United Kingdom Acts of Parliament.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby described his amendment as a probing amendment, and I hope that I have been able satisfactorily to respond to him. I have explained the logic of the Government's position. I must remind the Committee that in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 the Conservatives arrived at much the same conclusion and came up with much the same provisions as we have here. That was a devolution Act of a Conservative Government. Whether it lasted long or not is not germane to the argument about this mechanism. The fact that it was included in that Act indicates that there is some sense in the Government's provisions, and I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will withdraw his amendment.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am all for progress, but I must recall what my hon. Friend the Minister of State said on an earlier occasion when he commented:I should explain that the position in the Scotland Bill is no different from the position under the Scotland and Wales Bill. Nothing in the transfer of powers involved in devolution affects the position of Her Majesty, who would, for instance, continue to receive advice only from Ministers, not direct from the Scottish Executive."—[Official Report, 22nd November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 1396.]In reality might not this be a bit difficult? I think that this issue could well arise in the discussion on Clause 24, and that might be a more appropriate place in which to discuss it.
The hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Britian) described this as a probing amendment. Matters related to the Palace are always among the most delicate that the House has to deal with. 367 However, the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby says that we are simply talking about Her Majesty in Council. I am not so sure, because this is the first subject ever on which Her Majesty the Queen, on a famous occasion a few weeks ago, has expressed her views. It was understandable that she should do so, and since certain matters were raised in in relation to herself, should not there be some kind of statement on these matters of what she thinks? She has every entitlement to express views, although that might be better done through her new Private Secretary, Sir Philip Moore.
There is some obligation on the House of Commons to find out what the Queen thinks about this, because she is very closely affected. It is all very well to talk about formalities, but these are not the normal kind of formalities. I am wholly in favour of the Crown being kept out of political argument. But when Her Majesty is so personally affected and when people make speeches about what they expect her to do or not to do, the matter takes on a slightly different aspect.
There was a well-known discussion and controversy about what Her Majesty did or did not say to a member of the SNP at Stirling Castle——
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Yes, but the fact is that it has become something of a public controversy.
Furthermore I must say to the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) that his party was quoted on page I of a very recent edition of The Sunday Times as saying that it wanted the Queen to be present, but apparently she was to be present not at the opening of the Scottish Assembly but at a flag-lowering ceremony to mark the end of the hegemony of the British Parliament.
When that kind of statement appears on the front page of a major newspaper in this country, the time has come to inquire what is the view of the Palace. 368 Clearly, the Queen would accept whatever advice Her Government gave her, but this seems to be a rather different case. People are now expressing very definite views about what Her Majesty should or should not do, and it would be legitimate to obtain the view of the Palace on this delicate issue.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
I wish to lay it firmly on the line that when self-government of the type envisaged by the Scottish National Party comes into being we explicitly wish the Queen to remain Head of State.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Should I take it, then, that the reference in The Sunday Times to the Queen being present only at a flag-lowering ceremony was inaccurate and unfair?
§ Mr. Dalyell
I agree that newspapers do not always get everything correct, but I should like to have a clear version of what was said. Is the statement in The Sunday Times totally unfair or is it fair?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
I do not know how the debate suddenly diverted to The Sunday Times, the lowering of flags or whatever else it may be. I remind the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—I hope that he is not a candidate for the post of Viceroy of Scotland—that on page 426 of "Erskine May" the reference to the use of the Queen's name is as follows:Her Majesty cannot be supposed to have a private opinion, apart from that of her responsible advisers—the hon. Member for West Lothian has acknowledged that—and any attempt to use her name in debate to influence the judgment of Parliament would be immediately checked and censured.I think that the hon. Member for West Lothian has gone far enough in his views on what Her Majesty would or would not say. I suggest that we should get on.
§ Mr Dalyell
I accept that, Sir Myer. I say, in defence, that this is the first time that she herself has made a speech on what might be deemed to be a political issue.
I have indicated that this is a probing amendment. I cannot pretend that I feel that the situation is totally clear, but since we do not particularly wish to achieve a specific legislative goal by this amendment and by removing these words, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
In replying to the last debate the Minister said that he hoped to persuade the House that there was some sense in the Government's argument. I think that there probably was. I hope that he will accept that what is being put forward in Clause 18 as it stands, without the acceptance of some of the excellent amendments moved by my right hon. and hon. Friends and without the acceptance of our amendment to the original Clause 1, which has disappeared, the clause does not maye sense and will be a recipe for conflict.
I hope that the Minister will be able to give some clear assurances on this clause, for otherwise it might not be possible for us to accept it as a reasonable clause. In our discussions so far the Minister seems to have been working on the assumption that we shall be dealing with sensible and reasonable people at Westminster, a sensible and reasonable Government, and a sensible and reasonable Assembly. In an ideal world, if we had this situation we should resolve our problems with good will and understanding. The Minister of State has sometimes said that although he himself is a sensible and reasonable person, some of his colleagues and some of his hon. Friends on the Benches behind him are not sensible and reasonable people.
I am sure that with your long experience of Parliament, Sir Myer, you will accept that no everyone in Parliament is as reasonable as you are. Obviously, therefore, we have the possibility of flash-points if things are going wrong and if there is a difference of opinion.
Again, Sir Myer, I am sure that you will accept that there is the possibility of conflict if we have a Scottish Assembly and a Parliament here with different political parties in power and, perhaps, individuals who are clashing with one another because of economic difficulties. 370 For example, if we have a Labour Government continuing in power, Scotland's economic difficulties will become far more serious. We already have 180,000 unemployed, with no prospect of an end to it, and in situations of this kind there will always be a recipe for conflict between Edinburgh and London if we do not lay down the rules and demarcations correctly so that there is no doubt about what the relationships and procedures will be.
I regard this clause as one of the most important in the Bill, and for this reason I think it deplorable—I am sure that you will agree, Sir Myer—that again we have to draw attention to the fact that on the Government Benches there is only one Back Bencher present, the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who, we know, is——
§ Mr. Taylor
Certainly not. The hon. Gentleman is always dropping the most terrible bricks, and I do not want to dig his grave even deeper.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. According to my arithmetic, the number of members of the Government and their supporters outnumbers the Conservative Opposition.
§ Mr. Taylor
That is certainly not my arithmetic, Sir Myer, and I wonder whether you are adopting the metric system in a rather unusual way. I can see several of my hon. Friends present. But what is important, whether we agree on this matter or not, is that it is deplorable that on a Bill which the Government say is vital they cannot—[Interruption.] Is the Minister trying to say something?
§ Mr. Harry Ewing
I was saying that the hon. Gentleman's statement that there are several members of the official Opposition present is so far removed from reality as to be questionable, to say the least.
§ Mr. Taylor
The Minister is just being rather silly. Looking over my shoulder, I can see two of my hon. Friends present, and now my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Stradling Thomas) has come in to join us, so we have another. But this is a Government Bill, a Bill 371 which they say is vital, a Bill which they say the people of Scotland support, yet we do not have one of their Back Benchers present to cheer the Government on. This is most unfortunate, especially when we are discussing a clause of such significance as Clause 18.
The Government must accept—I am sure that they will—that perhaps above all others this is a clause which we must get right. We must clearly establish what the demarcation is, and we must try to minimise whatever conflict there may be. With your long experience of local government, apart from parliamentary government, Sir Myer, you will be well aware that there may be occasions when, for example, the local authority in Glasgow can come into conflict with the Scottish Office, although there would be no question of that local authority having to share legislative powers. This is, I think, in the nature of things when questions of money and legislation arise. Even when reasonable people are involved, there can be conflict, and with unreasonable people, of course, the conflict can be considerable. We must, therefore, lay down the demarcation clearly.
We believe that Clause 18 presents many recipes for conflict. Neither in this clause nor anywhere else is there a clear statement that Parliament is supreme and that Acts of Parliament take precedence over Acts of the Assembly. When this question was discussed on the amendment, the Minister presented several arguments which, he said, would overcome the difficulty. He said that our amendment was unnecessary. I can only say that that is a rather unusual argument because, if it was unnecessary in his view, yet we regarded it as of substantial importance, the Minister should have made at least the gesture of accepting it.
However, the Minister put forward a number of other arguments. He said that we could rely on the override clause. The override clause is Clause 36, which we shall debate later. That clause does not give the Secretary of State unlimited powers to present to Parliament a Bill that he thinks should be overturned. It gives him limited powers concerning Assembly Bills containing provisions that might affect, directly or indirectly, a reserved matter and Bills that he believes would not be in the public interest if 372 enacted. Therefore, Clause 36 is not of universal application but can be used by the Government only in certain specific circumstances.
First, the Secretary of State must get the House to approve the overturning of the Bill. Secondly, the clause is limited to specific Bills, Bills which in the Government's view affect a reserved matter, and which in their view would not be in the public interest. We understand that a reserved matter is one that concerns Scotland but is not within the legislative competence of the Assembly. Therefore, although the Minister suggested that the override clause would sort the matter out, we see that it is not of universal application but is limited to specific categories of legislation.
The second thing that the Minister said was that we could rely on the ultra vires arrangement. But they are not of universal application. They refer only to Bills that the Assembly is seeking to put forward that are outwith the scope of its work as laid down in the Bill. The position here is similar to that of the override clause.
In addition, the ultra vires arrangements and, in particular, the override provisions come into effect only once a Bill has been passed by the Assembly. Suppose Parliament passed a Bill on rents of local authority houses to be applied throughout the United Kingdom and the Assembly brought forward a separate Bill that the Government thought should be overturned there would be a full discussion and the Scottish Bill would be passed by the Assembly, which would be a considerable recipe for conflict. We see that the Government's first two arguments do not have universal application.
The Government's third argument was that there could be entrenchment clauses. The Minister said that we could pass in the United Kingdom Parliament a Bill applying to Scotland or the whole United Kingdom and put into it a clause saying that in no circumstances could the Scottish Assembly overturn that Bill. That is indeed possible, and I fully accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that we in the House of Commons could do it. We could pass an Act tomorrow saying that the Scottish Assembly could never change it, but that, too, would be a recipe for conflict.
373 Does the Minister honestly believe that a Scottish Assembly seeking to put forward legislation on a particular matter would be happy if it heard that the Government proposed a Bill containing a clause that virtually prevented the Assembly from even having the chance to put forward legislation on that matter?
The Government's proposals will not resolve all demarcation problems and prevent all conflict. Therefore, we must try something more.
The Minister advanced another argument. He said "If you, the Conservatives and others making up the opposition to the Bill, are really so concerned, if you are really so anxious to do something about the demarcation issue, making clear that Parliament is supreme, why did you turn down Clause 1?" That argument was also advanced by some Members of the minority, fringe parties. We made absolutely clear our views on Clause 1. We rejected it because it was simply a pious-hope clause.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that he made a blunder on Clause 1? Having voted against it, his party then had to try to reintroduce it. There was consternation on the Tory Front Bench when those who sit on it realised exactly what they had done in voting against the unity of the United Kingdom and the supreme law-giving powers of Parliament at the same time. It was a shocking performance by the Conservatives.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman would appear to be either blind or deaf —I am sure that he is not—for when we defeated Clause 1 there was great delight on the Conservative Benches. The reason was that we had taken the opportunity of pointing out to the people of Scotland that Clause 1, in our view, was a fraud, because the Government were claiming something which was not true, namely, that the Bill wouldnot affect the unity of the United Kingdom or the supreme authority of Parliament".It was simply a pious hope.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman has stronger opinions than my own but, 374 speaking for the Conservative Party as a whole, I can say that we certainly regarded the clause as expressing a pious hope.
The Minister will recall that when we were debating Clause 1 we took steps to try to strengthen it and to give it teeth. We put forward what we felt was a suitable amendment to it to ensure that it would be a solid enactment. Unfortunately, the Committee turned down our proposal, and for that reason we later rejected Clause 1. It would simply have expressed a pious hope.
The Minister has put forward what he regards as safeguards, but we think that they are not safeguards at all. They do not make absolutely clear where responsibilities lie, in our view, and they do not make clear where precedence lies.
Does not the Minister accept that we could have what would be virtually a ping-pong situation, as mentioned in the last debate? Parliament could put forward a Bill and the Assembly could put forward a Bill, and it seems that there would be nothing to stop its going backward and forward on two or three occasions. Even if it was not done as deliberately as that, there would undoubtedly he circumstances in which Acts of Parliament might appear to conflict with Acts of the Scottish Assembly.
I therefore put a straight question to the Minister. There may be an easy answer to it. If there is, I am not aware of it. If there were an Act of Parliament and a Scottish Assembly Act which on some particular matter appeared to conflict, what would happen when the issue went before a court of law? Is there a clear and precise answer to that? I am not aware of it from my reading of Clause 18. That answer should be determined straight away.
The Minister may think that this trouble would rarely arise, but I know how clever some lawyers can be in putting cases before courts. We have some of the most distinguished lawyers on our own Benches here. They argue cases with determination, vigour and accuracy, but not all lawyers are so entirely full of integrity. Sometimes there are lawyers who are just doing their best for a client! To that extent it is desperately important that it should be 375 absolutely clear where responsibility lies and where precedence lies.
It is also vital when we are giving these very substantial powers to legislate, with certain reservations, that it be made clear that the supreme responsibility for making law rests with Parliament here. That is why we felt that our Amendment No. 247 was entirely acceptable. We were seeking there to make it absolutely clear that Parliament retained the right to make any law for the United Kingdom or any part of it, including laws relating to matters within the legislative competence of the Assembly. We also said, in the second part of the amendment, that where any Act of Parliament——
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Clause 1 has been disposed of, as has Amendment No. 247. The hon. Gentleman should stick to the question whether Clause 18 should stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Taylor
I had just appreciated that the hon. Member for Scotstoun is here. He was not present earlier. He has been a very regular attender of the Committee——
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. Once a clause or an amendment has been disposed of, hon. Members may not go back to it. At the moment, hon. Members may discuss only the contents of Clause 18. I make that ruling in case this position arises again.
§ Mr. Taylor
Having rejected Amendment No. 247, which we cannot discuss now, I am suggesting that unless the Government are prepared to insert something similar, we shall not regard this clause as acceptable.
We want an assurance from the Government that, perhaps at a later stage, they will write into the clause one or two clear and specific provisions. First, we want them to make absolutely clear that this Parliament retains the right to make legislation for all parts of the United 376 Kingdom, including those things which come within the legislative competence of the Assembly. Secondly, we want them to make clear that if there is any question of conflict, parliamentary laws passed in this House would take precedence. This should also apply to delegated legislation.
We are passing a desperately important clause and we believe that, unless we get the wording and the safeguards right, it will be a recipe for conflict. I am in no doubt that, unfortunately, the wording in the clause as it stands will be a recipe for conflict, because the demarcation is not absolutely clear, although it may be clear in the Minister's mind. It is not acceptable because there is no question that when it comes to a clash between laws, the clause is not clear to me and, I am sure, to the many others who will read it.
I therefore believe that the Minister should make a determined effort to make sure that he gets the wording right, bearing in mind that we may be embarking on a major new constitutional development. Unfortunately, I feel that the Government have not got the wording right. The Minister must endeavour to go some way towards meeting the genuine feelings of Opposition Members, who feel that there may be heated passions if and when the Assembly is established.
There could be the problem of having different parties in power in London and Edinburgh. I am sure the Minister will accept that, for example, we could have a Conservative Administration in Edinburgh and a Labour Government at Westminster. That is a possibility, and the two bodies will undoubtedly come into conflict with their general views on what the future of Scotland should be.
It is therefore desperately important that we try to minimise that conflict. We on this side of the House have made absolutely clear that we feel that the Bill as it now stands is a recipe for a constitutional disaster and for non-stop conflict. That is why we voted against the Bill. But as Parliament wished otherwise it is now important to make every possible endeavour to minimise the possibilities of such conflict.
Let us get the rules of the game absolutely clear. I understand that the Minister is a keen supporter of football. If 377 Clear rules are not laid down in football and if we do not have a referee who is generall acceptable—like my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve)—a football match can develop into a shambles.
That is the fear of many hon. Members on this side of the House. We feel that the Scottish Assembly could develop into a shambles unless we have clear, precise rules of demarcation which are clearly laid down so that there is no misunderstanding on either side.
The Minister may say that we are looking for problems. But I can assure him that if the Assembly is established and he is still in a position of authority, he will have no need to look for problems. They will come showering down on him. We must have the right wording in the Bill now. The Minister must take more seriously the constructive and positive argument that has been put forward by the Conservative Opposition. If he cannot respond to that argument positively, I am afraid that we shall have to vote against the clause.
§ Mr. Crawford
My party is not totally overjoyed with the Bill but we commend the involvement of the Crown which the Government have written into Clause 18.
Many hon. Members have said how they have admired the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan). I suggest that his ingenuity is absolutely nothing when compared with the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). I always understood that the English language meant what it said. Subsection (3) of the Conservative amendment to Clause 18 reads:Parliament shall retain the right to make any law for the United Kingdom or any part of it.That is not a million miles from the words of Clause 1, which the Conservatives voted against and which reads:They do not affect the … supreme authority of Parliament to make laws for the United Kingdom or any part of it.It is clear that the Conservatives have done a complete volte face after the farce of their vote last week, and I suggest that all that the hon. Member for Glasgow. Cathcart has been doing is indulging in a scandalous and monstrous waste of time. He knows that the guil- 378 lotine comes down at 11 o'clock, and I assume that he is trying to avoid any debate on the proposed tax powers.
The hon. Member for Cathcart spoke earlier about referees. You, Sir Meyer, are the best referee that we have at the moment. In any event, I suggest that the hon. Member should have been sent off, if not by the referee, at least by his own team. In the past 19 minutes, he has been kicking the ball through his own goal. The sooner that we get on with our discussions of these amendments, the better.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Until my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small) came into the Chamber, I was hoping to speak for the unanimous view of the Government Back Benches. Unfortunately, I can make no such claim. That plan has been foiled, like so many others.
I wish to use my time to look seriously at the likely behaviour of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). I am glad that he is here because he will doubtless contradict me if I am wrong. I want to pose two situations to him neither of which is impossible. The first is that the hon. Gentleman is one of the leaders and supporters of a party which has power in Westminster and not in Scotland. The second, to which I shall come a little later, is that he is himself a Member of the Assembly.
We are on the theme of conflict. I spelled this out on page 252 of a certain book and, although it is a little indelicate to read from it, I think that I ought to quote two sentences from it;If, on the other hand, a left-wing Assembly in Edinburgh tried to force independent schools in Scotland to go comprehensive—and the Conservatives were in power in London—it is hard to imagine Edward Taylor, MP, not leading an indignant delegation begging Mrs. Thatcher to do something about it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
No. It is not his book.
This is a situation which is all too real, and it is one of the ingredients of conflict. If the hon. Member for Cathcart was in a minority in a Scottish Assembly and in a majority in a British 379 Government, whenever the Assembly took any action in terms of education, housing or health which went against his wishes, he would run to Downing Street, bang on the door of No. 10 to demand an interview with his leader, were she to be Prime Minister, and ask her to overrule those silly chumps in the Scottish Assembly. I cannot imagine the hon. Member for Cathcart not doing that. He is an active politician, and any active politician would try to do it. Even if he did not want to do it, he would have to, otherwise he would be told by his supporters that he was being inactive. He would have people such as James Anderson knocking on his door asking why he was not trying to overrule the Scottish Assembly.
That is the reality of the situation. Does the hon. Member for Cathcart deny it? It is in his nature to do it. That is the kind of politician he is. That is why he gets a lot of support from people. Assuming that he does not deny it, let us say that there is a real basis of conflict here.
Then I take situation No. 2 in which the hon. Member for Cathcart is a Member of a devolved Assembly. It is in the very nature of Assemblymen wherever they go to spend their time arguing the importance of the institution to which they happen to belong. I know this happens. Often I do not approve of it, but I know that a great deal of time in the European Assembly is spent trying to increase our own powers. It is in the nature of the beast that if that person is a member of the Assembly he will be arguing his corner for financial power in the Assembly. The hon. Member for Cathcart——
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Before the hon. Gentleman deals with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), perhaps he will try to bring the Committee back to the debate on whether Clause 18 should stand part of the Bill. That is what I am concerned with.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am coming back to the question of conflict. Conflict was the whole basis of the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I am seeking to deal fairly, and not to the hon. Gentleman's advantage or disadvantage, with the situation. 380 If the hon. Gentleman were an Assemblyman, he would be trying to fulfil the promises made in Cathcart—or promises made by the three Members for that area because, as he has told us, it would take three people to do the job—and he would be demanding financial power no less strongly than would SNP Members, or my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), or anyone else there. He would be demanding financial power to carry out the promises he had made.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The hon. Gentleman referred a little earlier to Europe. Will he accept that the great advantage in the European situation is that demarcation between national Governments and the European Parliament is clearly and precisely laid down, and the problems are equally clear. But does he not accept that the difference between Clause 18 and the European situation is that Clause 18 and the Bill are not precise enough?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Not only are the demarcation lines much clearer, but there is no major party in the European Assembly that is absolutely committed to the breakup of the European Community.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Yes, that may apply to the hon. Gentleman, but not one major party in Europe—the Democrats, Socialists or even the Italian Communists—is committed to the break-up of the European Community. In the case that is before us the situation is quite different. One major party will be dedicated to the break-up of this kind of arrangement. If the hon. Member for Cathcart were an Assemblyman, he, as every other Con servative, Liberal, Labour, Scottish Labour or Scottish Nationalist, would be arguing his corner for more powers and certainly more money. Therefore, we shall return ad nauseam to all the complaints the hon. Gentleman will then make about the parsimony of the English Treasury in Great George Street. Those demands for more power and more money will be made. They are the ingredients of breakup. That is why in this discussion on Clause 18 we are dealing with arrangements for the break-up of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. John Smith
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) said that he would ask me one straight question. When that happened, it crossed my mind what the other questions would be like.
The question he did ask related to the position if there were an alleged inconsistency between an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament and an Act of the Scottish Assembly. The answer is that that would be construed according to the ordinary rules of construction in the courts, in the same way as they would construe any alleged inconsistencies between two United Kingdom Acts of Parliament.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The Minister says that the normal rules would apply. Is he saying that there is no question of an Act of this Parliament having supremacy over an Act in the Scottish Assembly?
§ Mr. Smith
The Acts of the Assembly will be treated as having the same effect as Acts of Parliament. A different situation may arise if there is an entrenched provision in a United Kingdom Act. However, I think the matter is clear, and alleged inconsistencies between a provision in a Scottish Assembly Act and a United Kingdom Act would be treated in the same way as if two United Kingdom Acts were read together. There is no great difficulty about that aspect.
Some hon. Members may wish to spend a lot of time on the debate on the Clause rather than discuss the amendments and if that is the way they want to handle the Committee, I must accept it.
§ Mr. Smith
I have said that the normal rules of construction would apply. It is not wise to go into hypothetical situations. The hon. Gentleman is referring to later Acts taking precedence, which is one of the rules, and I imagine that it would apply.
The hon. Member for Cathcart talked about recipes for conflict and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian 382 (Mr. Dalyell) seemed to be saying that the hon. Member for Cathcart was a walking recipe for conflict in himself. That is not exactly fair to the hon. Member for Cathcart. If that is a description of the hon. Gentleman, I cannot imagine how to describe my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian in the context of the Bill. We do not advance the matter by such personal considerations.
Clause 18 confers legislative competence on the Scottish Assembly. The hon. Member for Cathcart raised questions about demarcation. If he were talking about the allocation of responsibilities between the Assembly and this Parliament, the answer is that those are dealt with by other provisions of the Bill. The control mechanisms on vires and override are dealt with in other clauses.
However, I wish to draw the attention of the Committee back to Clause 18 which says that the Scottish Assembly will have legislative competence, subject to some other restrictions contained in Clause 19.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It was not that I was being personal about the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), and I do not think that he took it that way. I was hoping to describe how an active politician, given these far from hypothetical situations, would behave in real life.
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend has a vivid imagination and gave effect to it in his intervention, but that does not help a workmanlike Committee to take a workmanlike look at the Bill.
I have heard many hon. Members saying that they want to take an active part in the Committee stage of this Bill and the longer that we spend on the debate on the Clause the less time we shall have later. All hon. Members know that. We listened to a long speech from the hon. Member for Cathcart and I am sure that he would not deny that he expatiated at length.
We believe it right that the Assembly should have legislative powers and there would be little point in devolution without them. The Front Bench opposite appears to want some form of devolution that has neither executive nor legislative powers. I wonder what is the form of 383 devolution to which the Conservatives are committed in principle. The Government stand for legislative and executive devolution, and in this part of the Bill we are dealing with the powers for legislative devolution. If the Bill is to
§ mean anything at all, the clause must stand part of the Bill.
§ Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
§ The committee divided: Ayes 161, Noes 129.385
|Division No. 24]||AYES||[9.8 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Grant, John (Isington C)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Anderson, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Ovenden, John|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Harper, Joseph||Palmer, Arthur|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Pardoe, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Parker, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Hatton, Frank||Penhaligon, David|
|Bates, Alf||Henderson, Douglas||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bean, R. E.||Hooley, Frank||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Beith, A. J.||Hooson, Emlyn||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hunter, Adam||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Sever, John|
|Buchanan, Richard||Janner, Greville||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||John, Brynmor||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Campbell, Ian||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sillars, James|
|Canavan, Dennis||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Small, William|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kerr, Russell||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Lambie, David||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Lamond, James||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Coleman, Donald||Loyden, Eddie||Stallard, A. W.|
|Crawford, Douglas||Luard, Evan||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Cryer, Bob||MacCormick, Iain||Stoddart, David|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||McElhone, Frank||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Dalyell, Tam||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Thompson, George|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Deakins, Eric||Madden, Max||Tinn, James|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Mahon, Simon||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Dempsey, James||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Doig, Peter||Marks, Kenneth||Ward, Michael|
|Dormand, J. D.||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Watkins, David|
|Edge, Geoff||Maynard, Miss Joan||Watt, Hamish|
|English, Michael||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Mitchell, Austin||Whitlock, William|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Molloy, William||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Flannery, Martin||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Newens, Stanley||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Forrester, John||Noble, Mike||Woof, Robert|
|George, Bruce||Oakes, Gordon|
|Gourlay, Harry||Ogden, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Graham, Ted||O'Halloran, Michael||Mr. Thomas Cox and|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Orbach, Maurice||Mr. Jim Marshall.|
|Adley, Robert||Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Alison, Michael||Buck, Antony||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Burden, F. A.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Baker, Kenneth||Carlisle, Mark||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)|
|Benyon, W.||Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Forman, Nigel|
|Biffen, John||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Fox, Marcus|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Cope, John||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Cormack, Patrick||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Drayson, Burnaby||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Brittan, Leon||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Goodhew, Victor|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Grist, Ian||Mayhew, Patrick||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Hall, Sir John||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mills, Peter||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Miscampbell, Norman||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hannam, John||Moate, Roger||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Molyneaux, James||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Monro, Hector||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Hodgson, Robin||Montgomery, Fergus||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfleld)|
|Holland, Philip||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Spence, John|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Sproat, Iain|
|Hurd, Douglas||Morgan, Geraint||Stainton, Keith|
|James, David||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Stokes, John|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Nelson, Anthony||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Neubert, Michael||Tapsell, Peter|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Normanton, Tom||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Nott, John||Tebbit, Norman|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Knox, David||Page, Richard (Workington)||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pattie, Geoffrey||Viggers, Peter|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Le Merchant, Spencer||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Wells, John|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Luce, Richard||Rathbone, Tim||Winterton, Nicholas|
|McCrindle, Robert||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Younger, Hon George|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|MacGregor, John||Ridsdale, Julian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Rifkind, Malcolm||Sir George Young and Lord James Douglas Hamilton.|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.