HC Deb 15 February 1978 vol 944 cc533-607
Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I beg to move Amendment No. 69, in page 38, leave out lines 17 to 22 and insert— '(2) If it appears to the Secretary of State having regard to the answers given in the referendum and all other circumstances that this Act should not be brought into effect he may lay before Parliament the draft of an Order in Council providing for its repeal.'

Mr. Speaker

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 70, in page 38, leave out lines 17 to 22 and insert— '(2) If it appears to the Secretary of State, having regard to the answers given in the referendum, that the provisions of this Act should not come into operation in accordance with section 79 of this Act, he may lay before Parliament the draft of an Order in Council for the repeal of this Act.' No. 71, in page 38, line 17, leave out "40" and insert "33⅓".

No. 72, in page 38, line 17, leave out "40" and insert "60".

No. 73, in page 38, line 17, leave out "40 per cent." and insert "one in three".

No. 74, in page 38, line 18, leave out "entitled to vote" and insert "voting".

No. 75, in page 38, line 20, after "Act", insert ', or if less than 33⅓ per cent. of those persons entitled to vote have voted".

Mr. Canavan

The purpose of this amendment is to reject the 40 per cent. rule which was introduced into the Bill in Committee. My amendment would return the Bill to its original state. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that my amendment would still mean that the referendum would be consultative, in the sense that the Secretary of State, having regard to the turnout, the percentage of people voting a particular way, and so on, would be able to take into account those circumstances. If he wished he could table an order and put it before Parliament for it to decide whether the Bill should come into effect.

8.0 p.m.

The Bill as it stands is unworkable. Subsection (2) speaks of less than 40 per cent. of the persons entitled to vote in the referendum". But 40 per cent. of what? The size of the electorate cannot be exactly defined: it varies from day to day.

It is perhaps appropriate that the matter should be discussed on this day of all days, because 15th February is the day the new electoral register for Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom is published. That register is already out of date, because there are on it the names of some people who are not eligible to vote.

In a referendum the electorate would consist of all those whose names appeared on that register, provided they were over 18 and still alive. It is easy to define those who are 18 or over, because their birthdays are entered on the register. The returning officer can count the number of young people coming on to the register by a particular day, but the people who die are uncountable. Therefore, there is no accurate way of defining the size of the electorate. I gather that there is no communication from the registrar of births and deaths to the electoral registration officers in the various local authorities.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

Subsection (2) as it stands gives the Secretary of State a discretion to decide the number entitled to vote. It does not say "the number on the electoral register"; it says "entitled to vote". The Secretary of State could well determine—my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and I have tabled an amendment which spells this out—that the number entitled to vote if the referendum were held in October would be only 90 per cent. of the number on the electoral register.

Mr. Canavan

That will be a matter for the courts to interpret if the Bill goes through as it stands. There are doubts in the minds of my hon. Friends the Members for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) and Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) about this point. Otherwise, they would not have tabled Amendment No. 77, which is an attempt to tidy up what is in fact an illogicality, a numerical imperfection in the Bill.

Moreover, some people's names appear on the register more than once, if they are domiciled in various places. For example, I could possibly qualify to vote in the Westminster constituency if I wished, because of my domicile here, although, because my main domicile is in my constituency, I shall be voting for myself at the next General Election, and I shall also cast my referendum vote in West Stirlingshire.

Dr. Colin Phipps (Dudley, West)

That was the position in the European referendum. I was registered where my house is and also in London, because I have a flat here, but I was able to vote in only one of those places.

Mr. Canavan

The point is that when the Common Market referendum Bill went through Parliament no minimum percentage was laid down. The very fact that hon. Members are intervening in my speech shows that they understand what I am getting at, that the Bill is imperfect. Otherwise, my hon. Friends would not have tabled Amendment No. 77. That amendment may not be reached. It is up to us to see that a Bill is as near perfect as possible when it leaves here. Heaven knows what the other place will do to the Bill.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)

We knew all this when the original text was drafted. It was fully taken into account. The matter can be explained more fully later in the debate.

Mr. Canavan

Only if Amendment No. 77 is reached. I am glad that my hon. Friend now admits that the Bill as it stands is imperfect. The clause is unworkable, because it talks about 40 per cent. of x—an unknown quantity.

In addition to speaking of the arithmetical possibilities of the clause as amended in Committee, I refer to the weird arithmetical possibilities which might become reality if the Bill went through, even if Amendment No. 77 were accepted. For example, the turn-out of the people of Scotland to vote in the referendum could be about 60 per cent. That is not unlikely, as it was about the number that turned out for the Common Market referendum. If 66 per cent. of those voting voted "Yes" and 34 per cent. "No", the result would be that only 39.6 per cent. of the electorate voted "Yes". In other words, the vote would not clear the hurdle in the clause.

I can well imagine the outburst that such a result would cause in Scotland. It could be a recipe for conflict. People in Scotland would say that this House had been unyielding, because the Government would be statute-bound to table an order to annul the Bill. I ask hon. Members to imagine the political atmosphere that that would create in Scotland—the tension and potential conflict.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the matter would still be open to the House? Speaking for myself, I can say that if we had a result of the kind he has envisaged, with 39.6 per cent. voting in favour of devolution and only half that percentage voting against, I would certainly vote against a motion to repeal the Act. The discretion would be in the hands of the House. What we are seeking to do is to ensure that the House retains control.

Mr. Canavan

I accept that the discretion would be in the hands of the House, but the Secretary of State would be statute-bound to lay an order on the Table. One can well imagine the tension back in Scotland, where the people who turned out had voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of an Assembly. Tensions would be built tip between the moment of tabling the order and its debate on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Gerry Fowler (The Wrekin)

Does my hon. Friend agree that what is not realised by some of the English supporters of the Bill as it stands and by my hon. Friend's opponents is that the only party that could benefit from the kind of situation he is describing is the Scottish National Party? Neither the Labour Party nor any other unionist party in the House could conceivably benefit.

Mr. Canavan

My hon. Friend sums the matter up admirably. The opponents of devolution, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) whom I see smiling, are simply playing into the hands of the Scottish National Party. They are unwittingly the SNP's biggest allies. They do not even realise it.

I turn to Amendment No. 73, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). If my amendment fails to secure the support of the House, I strongly recommend hon. Members to vote for Amendment No. 73, as the lesser of two evils. I emphasise this. It is an evil, albeit the lesser of the two.

Let us look at the arithmetic again. There could be a turn-out of 55 per cent. for the referendum. As many as 60 per cent. of that figure could vote in favour of setting up an Assembly, yet that would not clear the hurdle as defined by Amendment No. 73, because it would not meet the 1 in 3 qualification. There would be only 33 per cent. in favour of instead of the 33⅓ per cent. The Glasgow Herald poll on Monday showed that 55 per cent. of the people of Scotland want an Assembly. If we had a 60 per cent. turn-out and 55 per cent. of that figure voted in favour, that would not clear the hurdle as defined by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central.

Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)

My hon. Friend is very much helping the House by giving us these hypothetical examples of what might happen under different amendments. It is implicit in what he is saying that he would accept each of those results as valid. It would help the House, in deciding whether to support his amendment, if he could indicate at which percentage figure he would say "No".

Mr. Canavan

That is a valid point, to which I shall come later. It is wrong for this place to build in an arithmetical hurdle, particularly an ill-defined one, in advance of the referendum. Let me explain why. The principle behind the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central is the same as the principle behind the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. They are changing the rules on referendums as they go along. Some people in Scotland may have been resident in Northern Ireland when the referendum was held there, but for most people in Scotland the only referendum of which they have had experience is the Common Market referendum. No minimum percentage figure was laid down there. It is interesting to note that the results of that referendum in Scotland produced a "Yes" vote of 35.7 per cent. and a "No" vote of 25.4 per cent. In other words, both sides failed the 40 per cent. hurdle and the "No" side, the side I was on, failed to clear the 33⅓ per cent. hurdle. Had those rules been operating then there would have been stalemate.

I know that hon. Members who are anti-Common Market think, in retrospect, that it would have been a good idea to include a minimum percentage figure. However, when the referendum was held in 1975 the status quo was Market membership, not non-membership. Our task as anti-Marketeers would have been made much more difficult if we had had built in a percentage hurdle similar to that proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

Mr. George Cunningham

Does my hon. Friend remember that the introduction of the referendum was something done in the previous Bill, last year? That was a change made, in the wisdom of the House, as a desirable thing. Is my hon. Friend saying that because that was a change made after the first Bill was introduced he is opposed to the whole idea of having a referendum on this issue?

Mr. Canavan

No. I am not opposed to a referendum on constitutional issues; I am opposed to building in these minimum percentage rules and I am suspicious of hon. Members who were conspicuous by their silence at the time of the Common Market referendum and who are now changing the rules because they are opposed to devolution. It is as simple as that.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the problems here is not the question, when we come to the referendum, of whether we are for or against devolution in principle? The question is about this Bill, which will ultimately become an Act. Many people in Scotland are in favour of devolution but not in favour of this form of devolution. That will be an offsetting factor in the turn-out which makes the introduction of a hurdle even more pernicious.

Mr. Canavan

I do not accept that completely, because I believe that hon. Members who are in favour of devolution in principle should support the Bill. I believe that the Scottish people have enough wisdom to see that even though the Bill may be imperfect in some respects they should vote for it if they believe in devolution in principle.

There is a more important principle at stake here. Until now it has been part of our tradition that democratic decisions in our society are taken by the people who take the trouble to turn out. Until now the calculation of the result has always been on the basis of those who have turned out. This is the first time that a result on a crucial vote will be calculated not just on the basis of those who have turned out but those who did not bother to turn out—the apathetic, the lethargic, the lazy, the "don't knows". All of them will come into the reckoning of the final result. That is a dangerous precedent. It could encourage apathy and we, of all people, should be encouraging democratic participation in decision-making.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)

Does my hon. Friend accept that this is not a precedent? The customary practice of this House is that there has to be a quorum before decisions are taken.

Mr. Canavan

I am glad that my hon. Friend raised that point. The quorum in this House is 40. If everyone is still alive there are 635 hon. Members of this House. Suppose that 21 voted for a decision and 19 voted against. The vote would be carried. Yet 21 votes out of 635 is less than 4 per cent. That is what is needed to carry a vote in the House of Commons, the Mother of Parliaments, yet some people here claim that the people of Scotland must turn out and clear either a 33⅓ per cent. or a 40 per cent. hurdle.

If the Bill is passed as it stands, and even if the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central is carried, it could lead to other built-in minimum percentages in other elections. I am sure that there are some people who would politicaly conspire and connive at using this as a precedent in order to interfere with other democratic decision-making and democratic machinery in our society.

Let us suppose, for example, that we had the 40 per cent. rule for local authority elections. Suppose that a candidate for a local authority had to have a minimum 40 per cent. of the electorate voting for him before he could be returned. Suppose that we bought it down to the alternative vote system in order to get that minimum 40 per cent. At present, the situation is that we would not have any councilors but would have direct rule from this House. The Secretary of State would have to send in local government commissioners in order to carry out the functions of local government.

Similarly, suppose that we had such a rule in a General Election. I wonder how many hon. Members now sitting here would still be in this place if we had a minimum qualification of 40 per cent. of the electorate. Let us take the 170 Members who voted in Committee for the amendment which introduced the 40 per cent. Hurdle. I wonder how many of them would have cleared the 40 per cent. hurdle or even the 33⅓ per cent. hurdle.

Some research assistance has been given to me in this matter, and I understand that of the 36 Labour Members who voted for the 40 per cent. hurdle only 10 would have cleared it in the October 1974 General Election. It is interesting to note that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, who had a comfortable majority in October 1974, nevertheless got the support of only 34 per cent. of the electorate in his constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central got the support of only 27 per cent. of the people of his constituency. In other words, neither of them would have cleared their own hurdles.

Dr. Phipps

Would not my hon. Friend agree that we are talking here about something rather different—an irreversible constitutional change? Whereas I accept that the election of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) would be a matter of national importance, I do not believe it to be a matter of irreversible constitutional change.

Mr. Canavan

My hon. Friend is arguing that the people who should be taking the ultimate decision on this constitutional change should not be subject to the same rules for election as in a referendum.

I have been referring to some of my hon. Friends. I see the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) sitting opposite. He voted for the 40 per cent. hurdle, and no doubt, even as a fall-back position, he might even vote for my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central's amendment. He got the support of only 27 per cent. of his electorate. The man who hopes one day to become Secretary of State for Scotland—I shudder at the thought of that ever happening—the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), got only 32 per cent. support from his electorate. In other words, neither of them cleared even the lower of the two hurdles.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

Perhaps I can help to confirm what the hon. Gentleman is saying. If the 40 per cent. rule had applied at the last General Election, perhaps none of us would have been sitting here today.

Mr. Canavan

It would have been a vastly diminished Parliament if that rule had been applied. It is also significant that the amendment which introduced this hurdle was passed in Committee with the support of only 27 per cent. of the electorate of the House of Commons.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

My hon. Friend is drawing a parallel between a referendum and a General Election, but there is a qualitative difference between the two which makes his comparison inapt.

Mr. Canavan

I realise that there are degrees. Nevertheless, at the end of the day I hope that my hon. Friend is not arguing that a referendum is more important than a General Election, or the other way round. I can see some sense even in saying that a minimum number of people must turn out before the referendum becomes valid, but that is not what the Bill says. The Bill as it stands says that there must be not a minimum percentage of the people turning out but a minimum percentage of people actually casting a vote in a particular way.

Mr. Ian MacCormick (Argyll)

I am agreeing with the hon. Gentleman when I ask whether it is not the case that, if we are here as Members of the House of Commons, we are surely the people who decide changes in the constitution, and we do not have to have referendums and so on. If we decide to make a change in the constitution, why not jolly well just make it?

Mr. Canavan

Again, I must underline that the referendum is of a consultative nature and that it will be up to this House at the end of the day to take a decision one way or the other. Yet, as the Bill stands, the rules under which we operate are different from the rules under which the people of Scotland are being asked to operate, during the referendum campaign.

I have had representations made to me by the trade union movement in Scotland, which is concerned to see this 40 per cent. rule thrown out in its entirety and not even the half-way house or compromise of 33⅓ per cent. accepted. I understand that the Scottish TUC and the Scottish Executive of the Labour Party are in favour of my amendment because they see the arithmetical minimum percentage hurdle as being an attack on the Bill itself, an attempt to sabotage the Bill. They also see it as a dangerous precedent.

I wonder how many Opposition Members would like to see minimum percentages similar to those proposed built into trade union rule books, for example. We often hear them complaining about decisions taken at union meetings by a minority of members. Instead of encouraging more union members to turn up to meetings, they castigate the ones who do turn up. It would be far more responsible to encourage democracy by getting more people to turn up rather than building in all these minimum percentage rules, which might at the end of the day make democracy unworkable.

This referendum must not only be fairly constructed but must also be seen to be fair. We see referendums in other parts of the world which are obviously rigged—the Pinochet referendum in Chile, for example. That kind of activity merely brings democracy into disrepute. I would not like to see this House bringing democracy into disrepute in the eyes of the people of Scotland. But, unless the Bill is changed, that is how the people of Scotland, including the Labour Party and the trade union movement, will see it. That is why I ask the House to support my amendment.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am glad to follow the speech of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), simply in the sense that there is an amendment in my name and that of several of my hon. Friends which has the same effect as that moved by the hon. Gentleman.

The kind of debate that we have had, the kind of interruption, and the kind of example that has been given in relation to the question whether we should have a referendum and whether the percentage figure is right, very much bear out the view of people such as myself that we were very foolish in the first place ever to go down the path of a referendum in terms of constitutional practices in this country.

It is precisely with the principle of referendums that I want to deal this evening. To follow up one particular point made by the hon. Gentleman, what worries me particularly concerning the practice, as opposed to the principle of referendums, is that in the Common Market referendum no test was built in. It is offensive in some respects to opinion in Scotland that for the purpose of this Bill, over which there is great controversy, a test should be built in when this was not done for the previous referendum.

8.30 p.m.

If a decision had been taken, quite apart from the Bill, on what kinds of tests should be used in relation to referendums, it would be possible to look at this question in a very different light. The position that we now have in the Bill is offensive, in that there is an impression, rightly or wrongly, that the House of Commons is changing the rules to suit it as it goes along, instead of following established constitutional practice.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The point about no test being built into the referendum on the Common Market constantly arises. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) had New Clause 15 on the Paper at the time of the Common Market referendum Bill. He wished to move that the vote in the referendum should be declared null and void if there was an overall vote of less than 60 per cent. of those eligible to vote, and if there was not a two-thirds overall majority voting one way or the other. It was not called. Had it been called, the situation might have been much healthier. It was not by default on the part of Labour Members that the issue was not raised; it was simply a matter of the rules of the House concerning the calling of amendments.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am not impugning the motives or intentions of hon. Members concerning referendums. My point is that the House, when it has discussed referendums previously, has at no time accepted a test. No matter what might have been debated or introduced, no practice has been laid down and no principle has been accepted in relation to referendums. That is why, whether in relation to a referendum on the Scotland Bill, the Wales Bill, capital punishment, immigration, or anything else, I believe that it would be offensive to have a test built into a piece of legislation rather than into legislation on the broad principle of referendums.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

The hon. Gentleman has repeated the accusation that an attempt is being made to change the rules as we proceed. I know that this is the Scottish National Party viewpoint, but it is shared by others. We have had a Bill presented by the Government in which there was no provision for a minimum percentage of votes. When we were on the Second Reading and hon. Members attempted to make various points, they were told not to make Committee points during the Second Reading, as there would be an opportunity to make them in Committee. They were told that there would be a chance to improve the Bill in Committee. My hon. Friends have put forward amendments which have been accepted by the House in Committee. That is not a matter of changing the rules. It is the procedure of the House. Whenever a Bill comes before the House, amendments are put, sometimes by the Government and sometimes by Back Benchers on either side. When they are sensible amendments, they get the support of the majority of hon. Members. There has been only one referendum so far, and that was on the Common Market. From some of the statements by hysterical sections of the Scottish Press—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. Mr. Buchanan-Smith.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Evans) for his intervention, but it demonstrates how little he understands the position. He speaks as though we are not dealing with a matter of principle, and as though it is simply a matter of practice one way or the other. Indeed, it also shows the extent of the alienation of this House from opinion in Scotland. Hon. Members should realise that taking action of this sort will be offensive to certain sections of opinion in Scotland.

Whether in this context or in any other, I believe that the referendum is a matter of constitutional principle. If we use this constitutional tool to change the rules, the House is hiding its head in the sand if it believes that it will not be seen as offensive by genuine sections of opinion, not just Scottish opinion. Many reasonable people in Scotland feel as I do. Whether hon. Members feel that it is proper or not, that is how this matter is genuinely seen.

I want to make one other point. I shall be brief. I do not want to repeat the same arguments that I made in Committee. I support the view of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire. If we are to be consistent with what happened previously, the percentage level should be set as close as possible to the level accepted as being conclusive in the EEC referendum. That is all I want to say with regard to practice. I would certainly support the fall-back position, but only as a fall-back position.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Will my hon. Friend tell the House what percentage he thinks would have been acceptable as the minimum when the referendum took place on the EEC?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am totally against referendums as a matter of principle. Therefore, I shall not start talking about percentages one way or another, because I believe that that is purely academic when one talks about a principle in which one does not happen to believe.

The point that I want to make is exactly the same as the one I made in Committee. I am against referendums. I believe that this debate demonstrates that they are eroding the sovereignty of this Parliament.

Ordinary people have put it to me in recent weeks that when Parliament cannot make up its mind on things like Europe or the Scottish Assembly—matters that require a great deal of thought, consideration, knowledge and judgment—it passes such matters over to the electorate to give its decision. But issues like capital punishment, immigration and others on which the general public have strong views demonstrate the nonsense of referendums, because Parliament does not give the electorate the opportunity to take a decision on them. That is an important point. It demonstrates that this House can pick and choose what is proper or not proper for a referendum.

In that way we are creating complete and utter constitutional nonsense. I therefore believe that what is now happening justifies the views of those who were against the introduction of the referendum on the EEC.

I go a stage further, and repeat what I said earlier. We are dealing with a consultative referendum. I begin to wonder what on earth is the point of putting a test into such a referendum in order to trigger off certain other mechanisms. If it is a purely consultative referendum, and if we still believe in the sovereignty of Parliament—as I do—no test should be built in at all. In the light of that consideration it should be left to Parliament to make up its mind. The moment we build in a test we are setting our feet on the slippery slope.

At the time of the EEC referendum many of us argued about making a consultative referendum into a mandatory referendum. We are moving by stages and by stealth to the position where the referendum becomes an established part of our constitution. When we reach it the whole sovereignty of Parliament will be eroded completely. For these reasons, on the ground of both practicality and principle, I think that it is wrong to build in any sort of test.

I know that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends share my views about the principle of the referendum. To them I say that there is only one thing that we can do tonight—vote in favour of the amendment of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire. If we believe in the sovereignty of Parliament we should not seek to introduce referendums into the constitution.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that in certain circumstances she may use a referendum. For purely practical reasons I think that if we in the Conservative Party embrace that kind of idea—I hope that we do not—and if we vote against the amendment of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire, we shall be hanging an albatross around our necks.

On the ground of practicality—on which I do not place a great deal of weight—and of principle, particularly for those of us who wish to maintain and preserve the sovereignty of the House of Commons, the only course is to support the amendment.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

It is a pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). I agree with the burden of his speech, This whole approach bring Parliament and the House fundamentally into contempt.

The principle of the referendum is that intrinsically there are certain issues on which this House cannot decide. This is a greater attack on and condemnation of the House than anyone could make in any specific direction. I was the only hon. Member on this side of the House who voted against the EEC referendum in principle, because I believed that the decision should have been taken on the Floor of the House and that we should not have passed the buck to the public outside.

What has happened on this Bill has brought the House into contempt. Many hon. Members voted for the principle of the Bill at Second Reading when they did not really like it at all. They thought that they would kill the measure by voting against the guillotine. As a result, the guillotine was defeated and the first Bill collapsed. The Government brought in a second Scotland Bill and we had Members of the House voting for the Second Reading once again when they were on public record outside as being opposed to it in principle. Because the guillotine on this occasion was made a quasi issue of confidence, they voted for it. Now, they have decided to try to stop the Bill by creating the hurdle outside the House— one that is impossible to obtain. They have tried to support the Bill in the House yet they will go outside at the referendum and try to defeat it.

Ordinary people outside the House do not understand why hon. Members who voted for the principle of the Bill should go outside and campaign against it in the referendum. They do not understand this. If hon. Members have any courage or respect for the traditions of the House, they will vote as they believe in the House and that should be final. To put in special tests, whether it be this percentage or that, is of no value and destroys the position of this House.

8.45 p.m.

We have an extra addition to the joke that is being perpetrated on us tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) asked what the House would do if there were a two-to-one majority for devolution but if the total "yes" vote was 39 per cent. instead of 40. My hon. Friend said that the matter would come back to the House for settlement and the House would say "If the people of Scotland want this by a two-to-one majority, that was not the percentage we wanted but we shall be willing to pass it." What percentage in the case of a two-to-one majority would my hon. Friend go down to before he felt that the House would agree to act on its own opinion?

Mr. Douglas-Mann

That will be a matter we shall decide when the time comes.

My hon. Friend referred to the parallel of our going into Europe. That was an issue on which we as Members of Parliament could make up our minds on merit or demerit. In regard to 90 per cent. of Labour Members, or certainly a high proportion of them, I believe that the only reason why we agreed to support the Scotland Bill was that we were told that there was an overwhelming demand in Scotland for the measure. There is no other reason. Most of us think that it is a bad Bill but that it is wanted in Scotland. Many of us wanted to have a referendum to find what was the real opinion on this matter. There is no other case for the Bill than that Scotland wants it. If Scotland wants it, that is fair enough, but let us know that before we can legislate on the matter.

Mr. Mackintosh

My hon. Friend condemns himself out of his own mouth. There are many people outside the House who want things that are not supported in this House. We have only to take the subject of capital punishment and also the question of proportional representation to discover that there are strongly held views outside the House. There are many such issues.

The principle on which the House operates is based on the judgment of the House, and that is what should govern us. If my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden is fundamentally opposed to devolution, he should rely on his own judgment and face his electors rather than vote for it and then try to kill it in this way. It brings the House into contempt when people are prepared to behave in that way.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

Whatever the issues in the Bill for or against Scotland, I think we can all agree that there is nothing in it for Merseyside. I am told by some Scottish friends that the Bill is necessary. I am told by other Scottish friends for whom I have equal regard that this measure is not wanted. We fear that the Bill contains some risks for Merseyside. If the Conservatives say that the Bill is necessary, who cannot they produce four out of 10 Scots to come and vote for what they have been told is wholly demanded by Scotland? Why should we on Merseyside take any risk at all?

Mr. Mackintosh

I do not wish to read my hon. Friend any lessons, but, with deep respect to him, I am somewhat taken aback that his test for British measures governing the future of this country is "Is it good for Merseyside?" His test should be "Is it good for this country?" He should have a judgment on this matter irrespective of what goes on in Merseyside.

Mr. Ogden

rose

Mr. Mackintosh

No, I cannot give way. I am answering my hon. Friend's point. He said that there was nothing in the Bill for Merseyside.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) is being dishonourable. He is not listening to the argument.

Mr. Mackintosh

I do not know whether the House can hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) is saying from a seated position.

Mr. Mendelson

If my hon. Friend will give way, I will say it from a standing position.

Mr. Mackintosh

Very well, I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Mendelson

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian often disagrees with many of us, but he always does so honourably. Do not let him depart from that practice on this occasion. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) did not use that argument. It was a passing reference to illustrate the point. My hon. Friend was dealing with a more fundamental point, and my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian should address himself to that fundamental matter.

Mr. Mackintosh

Let me try to guess what the fundamental point was. If I put the interpretation that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone wishes on the intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) was saying that he is not in a position to judge reports that other hon. Members make to him on public opinion elsewhere and that, therefore, he is unaware of how to act. This position and this problem do not affect only Members from Merseyside. It applies to all Members. We have no method of divining these things. Nor should it be the task of hon. Members to say that they have doubts about something, so they will therefore take the popular pulse on the issue and if it is pulsing at 40 per cent. in favour they will go along with it. Hon. Members are here to contribute their judgments on the basis of the information they can get.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) has told me many times that he has never met one person who favours devolution. He must not have spoken to about 18,000 people in his constituency. No doubt he is happy to be in that position. Many people in Edinburgh favour devolution. Perhaps we mix with different people. My hon. Friend could not have come to the STUC conference which pressed for devolution or to the conference of the Labour Party in Scotland which carried by an overwhelming majority a motion supporting devolution. Let us not get prissy about who supports devolution. It has widespread support.

Hon. Members are not here to say that because the majority of people support a certain cause, they must support it. We should support measures if we believe that they are good for Britain as well as for Scotland. That is what we are called upon to do, and when we go in for referendums and sub-specifications, involving percentage turn-outs and so on, and say that if that does not work the whole matter must be brought back here, we only bring this House into contempt.

I regret the whole move towards referendums. The referendum was provided in this Bill only to buy off certain opponents who thought that they could defeat the Bill in this way. The percentage vote provision was put in because those who support the referendum as a killer did not think that they could get a plain majority. It has nothing to do with principle.

If the anti-Marketeers who advocated a referendum on the EEC had not thought that they could win it on a plain majority, they would have pushed even harder for a minimum percentage provision. They did not do that because they thought that they would win.

It is clear from the polls that we have a two-to-one majority in favour of devolution. The opponents of the Bill saw that a simple majority referendum was not enough to kill devolution. Some hon. Members dispute that there is this support for devolution, but there has consistently been a two-to-one majority in all the polls since the 1974 General Elections.

I do not wish to take more time because many hon. Members want to take part in this debate. The percentage vote provision would bring the House into contempt and have a disastrous effect if there were a two-to-one majority that fell short of the 40 per cent. "Yes" vote. The House would be put in an impossible position if it were then to be asked to make a "take it or leave it" decision. It would produce the gravest tension and feelings that injustice was being done to one section of the population.

Referendums are a bad idea. I wish that we had never gone down that track. As we have done so, let us stick at this point. Every election we have held, ranging from General Elections to the one unfortunate example of a referendum, has been decided by a simple majority. If any attempt is made to alter that principle for one referendum, it will be seen as a method of fiddling the result. That cannot be good for democracy, for the Government or for anyone who supports them. I hope that we reject the percentage vote.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I regard the debate as a question of principle. I congratulate the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on his arithmetical prowess, which befits an honours graduate in mathematics, but fundamentally we are discussing a principle.

I regard the decision that was taken on 25th January this year as one of ballot rigging. It was said then and I am saying it now. The Press looked at it and formed its own conclusions. It had no difficulty in separating from reality the cackling hypocrisy that has come from some Members of the House.

A headline in the Glasgow Herald said: Road block in path of Assembly. Devolution stalls at crossroads. The Scotsman said "Rigged referendum". In The Times there appeared the phrase "A spoke in the wheel". It thought that 40 per cent. was far too high. That is not a Scottish paper. A heading in one of the leaders in The Guardian said Dead men win no referendums". The Guardian found, in looking at that decision, for all the arguments which have been put forward in favour of it, that it was proposed by those who were absolutely against the concept of devolution and who, fearing the result in the referendum, had to demean themselves by putting up this barricade of the 40 per cent. which had not existed hitherto.

In the meantime I have studied a document which was issued at the time of the run-up to the previous referendum, the White Paper "Referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Community "presented to Parliament by the Lord President of the Council in February 1975. I refer here to Appendix B.

I have had a look at that document to see what sort of provision had been made in referendums in other countries which the Government in those days singled out as worthy of the attention of the House of Commons. It said that, basically, in countries such as Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland—the United Kingdom itself was not mentioned, but it referred to Northern Ireland, the EEC and Gibraltar—a decision was to be taken on a majority of the votes cast, without any reference to the total of the electorate, alive or dead, on the electoral roll.

The only country that I could find which seemed to give some sort of weighting was Denmark. There was a complicated provision which I thought at first sight related to the motion and the amendment of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). On looking at that again. I see that the position was different. It said that A Draft Law put to referendum is deemed to have been rejected if a majority of those voting vote against it and if the Noes comprise at least 30 per cent. of those entitled to vote. In other words, there was a weighting in favour of the proposal rather than a weighting against it. Otherwise, the weighting throughout the whole history of referendums has been on a simple majority.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

The hon. Gentleman referred to the Danish result. He said that there was a reference to the total size of the electorate. Does he agree that in the case of the Danish result 56.7 per cent. of the electorate voted "Yes"?

Mr. Wilson

My answer to that question is to say "So what?" This was a general provision in relation to the Danish electorate. They had their own vote on that proposal. It was weighted the other way round from the proposal of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. Let us face up to that fact. It was rigged in favour of the proposal rather than against it.

The House, because it dislikes any attempt to chisel away any of its sovereignty, goes out of its way to erect a barrier against the wishes of the Scottish people. I said on 25th January that I had no doubt about the result of the referendum, but here we are talking about a question of principle, and of making sure that that principle is adhered to.

9.0 p.m.

Another thought has been put into the debate—I think that it was adverted to by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire and by some of the newspapers, so it is not entirely my own idea—that certain benefits might flow to the SNP from the situation which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury has, in his enthusiasm, produced. That idea is that the House is sowing a minefield for itself. At the end of the day, it will have to consider whether to trigger off the amendment.

Hon. Members will then have to face the problems that were referred to by one of the other supporters of the original amendment. They will have to decide, in their own judgment, whether the Assembly should be allowed to be put into action, in view of the result of the vote. Hon. Members will have to use their judgment at that time, but if a standard is set in advance it will not necessarily help them in that judgment, since in all matters of this kind a judgment has to be made according to the temper and mood of the time and the facts of the situation. One cannot take such a decision in the cool or heat of this Chamber now, or on 25th January, for that matter. It will be done on reflection after the result is known.

I turn now to what The Guardian had to say on 27th January, in the leading article to which I referred, headed "Dead men win no referendums": In other words, a new rule has abruptly been introduced for the referendum on the Assembly, at the behest of those who are known to want the Assembly to be defeated; it will hardly be surprising if the vote is therefore seen in Scotland as a convenient trick rather than an imaginative constitutional innovation. And even then, if we get a referendum in which, on a 60 per cent. poll (a shade below the turnout for the Europe referendum) nearly two-thirds of the voters back the Assembly, only to be told they cannot have one, the result is unlikely to be to damp down, let alone settle for good the long running controversy over Scottish devolution and Scottish independence.

Mr. Adley

In view of the keenness felt for the 40 per cent. weighting, perhaps we can look forward to hearing from the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) how he intends to introduce some form of weighting to take account of the fact that there are 71 Scottish Members of Parliament and 560 English Members.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman implants another idea in my mind, and I thank him for it.

I turn now to The Observer—not a noticeably Scottish newspaper—which said, in a leading article on 29th January: One other scenario is equally bad. Suppose the referendum is held under the system adopted last week, which requires 40 per cent. of the total Scottish electorate to support devolution. Suppose, on a low poll, there is a substantial majority for devolution, but amounting to only 38 or 39 per cent. of those entitled to vote. Would the demand for home rule disappear? Or would the Scots, feeling frustrated, be angry about the situation?

Those are the realities which newspapers based in London have thought it right to point out.

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

Does my hon. Friend know that I intend to ask the leave of the House to present a Bill to ensure that at parliamentary elections no candidate can be elected unless 40 per cent. of the electorate vote for him and that there shall be successive by-elections until a candidate obtains that proportion? Does my hon. Friend think that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) will sponsor that Bill?

Mr. Wilson

We shall await with interest the presentation of the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury will have a comment to make. At least, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to deal with many of the other arguments that have been presented.

I shall come to a conclusion now, since I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. If the newspapers that I have quoted are correct in their assessment, a battle will develop in these circumstances. It will not be just a battle between people and Parliament. I assure the House that it will be a battle between the Scottish people and the English Parliament, and the Scottish people will ultimately decide the issue.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

It is ironic that there is all this talk about a referendum and about fractions when we recollect that this is the first year when no one in Scotland will be able to have a referendum on the subject of temperance. All those who have such passion for a certain fraction—some seem to think that it is new—fail to realise that they never raised their voices when we wiped out just that last year. We wiped out a fraction formula. If my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) had known that and known anything at all about Scotland, he might have found it useful in presenting his amendment in Committee.

Until this year, any town or ward in a town could have a referendum on the question of "No licence" Let no one think that this is unimportant. On 25th January, when we had our last debate on this matter, one hon. Member coined the phrase "Freedom and whisky gang together."

There was something to wipe out the celebrated freedom of the Scots—namely, to have a drink in their own area. The formula provided that 35 per cent. of those entitled to vote should vote. Further, it was provided that, of those voting, there should be a 55 per cent. vote for the change. Many of those whom I have heard arguing tonight did not like that formula. They thought that that which the formula provided for would be too difficult to attain, although in many instances it was attained. But that feeling persisted. However, there was agreement in the House that resulted in a decision only last year.

Let us not think that referendums are new. Let us not think that formulae are new. There was a far better formula provided than the one cooked up subsequently. It was subsequently discovered that what had been cooked up was not exactly what was meant, with the result that another vague amendment was tabled. That was virtually thrown away when it was claimed that the hurdle would not be cleared with a very small majority and that when the result is returned to the House the House will give it further consideration.

The fact is that, when it is mandatory that the Secretary of State has to bring in an order for repeal and we have to go back to what is contained in the statute, there will be no doubt what will be laid before the House and what those who supported the formula will be demanding.

It is reasonably well known that I am not a supporter of referendums. I never have been a supporter, whether in Shadow Cabinet or in Cabinet. This is the place where people should make up their minds. If there is a referendum every day of the week, there will be a different result every day of the week. A referendum reflects opinion at only a certain time. That is the argument that I have had time and time again with my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). There may be some justification when some action follows the referendum, but having had two national referendums, one on whether we should stay in or come out of the Common Market and one in Northern Ireland in respect of Northern Ireland, I think that there will be some sympathy for those who suggest that we are changing the rules at a time, in a way and in respect of one part of the country that will be construed, and has been construed, in Scotland as a last-ditch effort to make it as difficult as possible to achieve what is wanted. That is a just criticism. That is how such action will be seen and is seen.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) quoted the figures of a 60 per cent. poll. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) had a 60 per cent. poll at the General Election.

Mr. George Cunningham

Yes, I did, actually.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend had only a very small share of the poll. The figure that I saw in The Times really means that he should not be here at all.

Mr. Cunningham

I did better than most, Willie.

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend's formula provides for 40 per cent., and he had nothing like that. I do not necessarily agree with that formula—in fact, I disagree with it—but he must secure that himself if that is what he wishes upon the people of Scotland. That is what he and every other hon. Member must secure.

Mr. Cunningham

I was hoping to say something about the question of the comparability with elections of Members of Parliament if I was called in the debate. I hope that my right hon. Friend has not given the impression that the result in my personal election was as bad as he is suggesting. I got more votes than all the votes of the other candidates added together, which is more than most Members can say.

Mr. Ross

It seems that there were no real victors.

The more that the percentage is raised and a barrier is created, the more the decision depends upon arithmetic, and the more it is that the dead and the disinterested determine the result. That is absolute nonsense. It is dangerous nonsense.

I know that certain Members who voted for this formula do not want devolution. With respect to the majority of Members who voted for Second Reading, in my opinion the people of Scotland will make the decision, but it will be not on the formula but on what is put before them. Let all the statistics be known, and then the matter can come back to the House. If only a narrow majority is in favour of the proposal, the House should turn it down. It will depend on the number of people who vote. That is one of the weaknesses of the formula.

Mr. Cunningham

It produces exactly that.

Mr. Ross

It does not. The hon. Gen-man has laid down 40 per cent. If we get a 60 per cent. poll and two to one are in favour of the Assembly, it can be turned down. That is absolutely unjustified. It will be seen to be a trick and to be erecting unjustified hurdles. I sincerely hope that the House will realise the dangers and will accept the amendment. Let the House itself decide.

Mr. Adley

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down—

Mr. Ross

I shall not give way. I am about to sit down. I trust that the House will support the amendment. If not, I am prepared, and I hope others will join me, to support Amendment No. 70.

Mr. Sproat

I should like to start by commenting on the speech by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), who, I hope, will not leave the Chamber just now. What struck me about his speech was that suddenly we saw the touch of fear coming upon the Scottish National Party. The hon. Gentleman's voice even began to break in the middle of his speech, because for the first time he began to realise that he may not get 40 per cent. of the people of Scotland to say "Yes". Frankly, since SNP Members have been elected to this House, they have been telling us that there is overwhelming support in Scotland not only for devolution but for independence. Now, suddenly, they are afraid that they will not get 40 per cent. in favour of a Scottish Assembly.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dumbartonshire, East)

rose

Mr. Sproat

We now see which way the wind is blowing. Fear is clutching at their hearts. They will get their deserts in the referendum and in the General Election.

We have heard from the SNP that it is a terrible trick on Scotland to interpose some kind of mathematical hurdle, some kind of majority, before the people of Scotland can get what they want. Yet it turns out that the SNP in its constitution, which it has not mentioned, has such a hurdle. I have here a cutting from the Glasgow Herald on Monday, which states: The Provost of East Kilbride was yesterday expelled from membership of his local branch of the Scottish National Party. … A two-thirds majority vote was required in order for the motion to succeed. That is absolutely typical of the double standards and hypocrisy of the SNP, and I hope that this House and Scotland will forget about what that party says in future.

Mrs. Bain

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I hate to interrupt his flight of rhetoric. First, he is most guilty of hypocrisy inasmuch as he accuses the SNP of trying to speak for the people of Scotland when he is trying to take that mantle upon himself. Secondly, does he accept that the SNP, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) said, wants the right for the Scottish people to choose within a free situation, not a situation of bitterness and acrimony which is being imposed upon them by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and his colleagues?

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Sproat

There can be nobody on either side of the House outside those in the SNP ranks who would not agree that the acrimony over matters in Scotland had been introduced by them.

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) quoted my election figures and said that we did not poll 40 per cent. of the vote. That is fair enough. But he must not confuse a vote in a General Election with a vote in a referendum. A vote in a General Election is reversible in five years at the maximum whereas a vote in a referendum, such as that on the Common Market, is for ever. There is, therefore, no comparison between a General Election and a referendum.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

A General Election is a multi-choice election. Here we have a binary choice. I am surprised that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) with his mathmatical leanings, should stray in this direction.

Mr. Sproat

That is true. That is the next point I would make.

Mr. Canavan

It is not a binary situation. One can vote "Yes" or "No" or stay at home. The point I was making was that the stay-at-homes would be taken into account. That is why 40 per cent. is wrong.

Mr. Sproat

I agree with the hon. Member for Cannock. We have heard SNP Members say what a shocking thing it is for the House of Commons to change the rules. There are no rules, because we have had only one referendum. But even if we take this as having set at least some rules, the Government have already changed them. The last referendum was on a United Kingdom basis, and this is to be on a Scottish basis.

What is the reason for that change? If ever there was a swindle, it is that the British people are not to be allowed to decide. The Government know that, if there is any chance at all of establishing a Scottish Assembly, it is by allowing only the people of Scotland to vote in the referendum. The Government are the ones who are cheating by changing the rules.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) asked: if the House of Commons cannot change its mind about a Bill in the middle of its consideration of it, what can it do? It is ludicrous for the SNP to complain about changing the Bill. Members of the SNP have tried to change it. Why should not we try to do so? The Government have already cheated by allowing only the people in Scotland to vote.

Surely, the prime point is that we are not talking about some matter which is reversible if the Government changes. We are talking about the British constitution. If a two-thirds majority is required in practically every local golf club to change its constitution, surely it is reasonable that at least a 40 per cent. majority should be needed to change the British constitution. In fact I think that 40 per cent. is rather low to have the validity to make a change of this magnitude. However, 40 per cent. is what the House agreed to and it is what the House agreed to and it is reasonable.

This is an issue of magnitude which changes the history of our country and the nature of 270 years of perhaps the most successful democratic co-operation that the world has ever known. Surely, we are not going to allow this to be swept aside because of a day, of perhaps appalling weather or because of apathy. We know that there is apathy. Are we saying that the British constitution is to be changed because there is a 50 per cent. vote and 26 per cent. are in favour of the change? Are we really going to throw aside 270 years of history? Of course not.

I hope that the House will not allow itself to be badgered or bullied into it because of the antics of the SNP and the Government. And in fact the Government are doing quite well—I give them that gratuitous help. Why should they be scared? We know, however, that electoral fear was the original motive behind the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) said that he was against referendums. So did the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). I, too, am against them. I, too, have voted against them every time. But the House has decided that there will be a referendum. As someone who prizes above everything the democratic constitution of this country, I at least demand that we write in a safeguard to preserve that constitution. That is why I shall support the 40 per cent. provision and oppose the amendment.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

In the course of my speech I shall refer to Amendment No. 73, which is on the Order Paper in my name. It is very similar to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), but I hope to refer to my amendment rather more than he did to his, in which he appeared to have strikingly little faith.

I should like first to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). It is very striking that those who in the past three or four years have confidently asserted in the House that the majority of the people of Scotland are overwhelmingly clamouring for some form of control over their own affairs, who have been unashamedly claiming to interpret the will of the majority of those people, should now be squealing with embarrassment because of an attempt to specify the number they must get to the polls to prove their assertions.

I was very surprised to hear that this afternoon the Scottish National Party had put out a Press statement saying that the Bill must be changed to its pristine form and that even if the requirement were changed to 33⅓ per cent. and even if the amendment of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns and my own amendment were carried, that would not satisfy it. The SNP said that unless the Bill were changed to its pristine form it would contemplate voting against the whole package on Third Reading.

In other words, if we were to tell the SNP "You must get one in three voters to the polls"—well below the majority of the Scottish people—"to prove your assertion that the Scots are demanding this", it would be prepared to throw the whole thing back into the melting pot. That must cast doubt on the question whether it is confident that it will be able to deliver that kind of vote.

If we had an independent observer amongst us today, I think that he would be very puzzled about the heat engendered in the course of the debate on the principle before us. That principle, commonly accepted by anyone who takes part in public life or belongs to any organisation, trade union or political party, is that if one is to change the rules or constitution one requires more than a simple majority of those who turn up.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) said that he had received representations from trade unions. He will be aware that one of the moving forces for devolution and one of the opponents of the 40 per cent. rule is the National Union of Mineworkers' leader in Scotland, Mr. McGahey, and that if Mr. McGahey wishes to change the rules or alter the constitution of his union he has to deliver a two-thirds majority.

I should be very surprised if my hon. Friend could find any major national organisation—be it even a townswomen's guild or a women's institute—whose rules provide that a simple majority of those happening to vote is adequate to change the constitution. If that applies to so many voluntary organisations, surely it should also apply to the constitution of of the State.

Mr. Canavan

My hon. Friend talks about trade unions, townswomen's guilds, and so on, but we are not discussing the need for a two-thirds majority or any percentage of those who turn up to vote. We are talking about a percentage of those eligible to vote, whether or not they turn up to vote. That is the distinction between the provision that we are debating and the other rules requiring a two-thirds majority of the delegates who turn up.

Mr. Cook

I entirely accept that there is a difference. If my hon. Friend is suggesting that what we should be putting in the Bill is a two-thirds majority qualification, I would regard that as far more demanding and more stringent than the amendment I have tabled. This is a principle that is recognised by other countries who put to the test issues affecting the constitution. The principle of a qualification of the majority that is required is so stringent in Australia that of the 32 referendums which Australia has held on the constitution only five have succeeded in passing the test. I am appalled by the prospect of having 32 referendums on devolution before we reach the end. Nevertheless, there we have a democracy which has quite clearly grasped the principle that if there is to be a change in the constitution more than a simple majority of those who turn up at the polls is required.

The reason why countries accept that qualification for the constitution and why many independent organisations accept that qualification as it affects their constitutions, is that there is a difference between changing a constitution and electing office bearers or Members of Parliament. There has to be an election of a Member of Parliament. If there is a 40 per cent. poll we do not say to the constituents "No Member of Parliament for you until the next election." They have to have a Member of Parliament. We accept that. It is not necessary to change the constitution.

To prove that there is a demand for changing the constitution it is quite legitimate to demand more than a simple majority. Since my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire was good enough to tease me about the percentage who voted for me in my constituency I would point out that I did have to contest the election with three other people. I put it to my hon. Friend with great confidence, and I am sure that, being my hon. Friend, he will agree with me, that had my constituents gone to the polls and found that the ballot paper said "Do you think Robin F. Cook should continue to be Member of Parliament for Edinburgh, Central—yes or no? "I would have got my 40 per cent., if not 60 per cent.

I am struck by the fact that my hon. Friend should be so curiously hostile to those who abstain. In an intervention he said that the electorate had three choices—to vote "Yes", to vote "No", or to abstain. I accept that. The case for abstaining on this issue can be made strongly. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) has left the Chamber—no, I see that he has crossed the Floor; it is difficult these days to find out precisely where he stands. He raised a particularly relevant case, and we could give half a dozen more illustrating why people may choose to abstain. It is a perfectly valid choice.

What my hon. Friend is seeking to do is to ignore those who choose to abstain. Let us take the figure he gave when talking about my amendment. He said that if 55 per cent. of the people voted and 60 per cent. of those voted "Yes", that would still fail. If 45 per cent. of the electorate abstain we are surely entitled to take that into account. We cannot say that that does not matter—that nearly one in two of the electorate were not motivated to turn up and vote. We cannot say that we shall ignore them, shall take no account of the biggest single choice that was made. I do not think that that would be a fair way to treat that choice.

My hon. Friend says that a ridiculously low poll would be caught by the terms of his amendment because the Government could then make a judgment and take that poll into account as part of the overall circumstances. There are two flaws in that argument. The first is that it is the Government's decision whether to bring in the order, and the Government will be campaigning for a "Yes" vote. It has always struck me as being inherently improbable that, however low the turn-out, they would ever say to the House "Well, chaps, it was a disaster. Hardly anybody bothered to turn out. The people of Scotland just do not seem to be interested in these curious proposals we are putting to them. We shall therefore lay the order."

Of course the Government would not say that. It was evident to anyone who spoke to members of the Government in private before the night of 25th January that however low the poll might be it was highly unlikely, provided that there was a straight majority, that the Government would bring in the order.

There is another case. That bolt has been shot. On the night of 25th January this House decided to go for the principle of minimum qualification. That has now been thoroughly aired and debated in the Scottish media.

If the House tonight strikes out any formula whatever and goes back to the previous position, the implication to the majority of the public will be that we have accepted that there shall be no bar on the turn-out and it will not be possible to rely on a ridiculously low poll or for my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) to say that a narrow majority will not do. The thing will hold up in a straight majority in the referendum.

9.30 p.m.

My amendment would alter the 40 per cent. to a "one in three" formula. We should also reject the formula suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) for it is far too high. I know that he agrees that the formula should be fair and should be seen to be fair. I am bound to say that his suggested formula is not seen to be fair in Scotland. I know the sterling work that he has done in trying to sell it in Scotland—he has been on the media more than any other Member in the past fortnight. At least the people of Scotland have learnt that he does not have a Cockney accent as was at one time alleged.

One of the reasons why the people of Scotland do not accept my hon. Friend's formula as fair is that it exceeds the proportion of votes gained by most Governments elected since 1945. I know that that argument is said to be irrelevant, and so it is. Nevertheless, it is a widely populist argument. The majority of Governments elected in this country since 1945 got between 33 per cent. and 40 per cent. support in the electorate. All of them, except those in 1974, would have passed the 33⅓ per cent. test, however. Most people have found that a fair division. They grasp the simple rule that one in three should vote. I have met few who are prepared to say that "one in three" is not a reasonable test. Equally, I have found few who are prepared to accept 40 per cent. as a reasonable and fair test.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

Given my hon. Friend's acknowledgment of the irrelevancy of General Elections to the issue, apart from the appearance that it may present to the electorate, when he asks the question "Is it fair?" I ask "Fair for whom?" Is it not something that affects the whole population of Britain? Is it fair to the people of England or Wales, who would not want devolution at all? Is it fair to this House, when we have to have a complete revolution in our practice, a revolution in the functions of Members? Does not my hon. Friend really believe that he has a duty to consider whether it is fair to Britain as well as whether it is fair to a vociferous minority in Scotland?

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend is making a separate point into which I will not be drawn. He will have the opportunity to make his own speech—a greater opportunity if I hurry on with mine.

The difference between 40 per cent. and 33⅓ per cent. can be put as follows: the 33⅓ per cent. test is a backstop. It would be a prudent step to be taken by the House in order to protect itself against a low turn-out, which, in fact, we do not expect to happen. We would be surprised if the rule had to be invoked. But if it needs to be invoked, it will protect the House against being bound to take note of a particularly low turn-out. The 40 per cent. test is not a backstop but a hurdle—and a hurdle created in the expectation that it will be very difficult to get over. That is the difference. I ask hon. Members to reflect on it when they cast their votes.

I want to refer to the argument that we are changing the rules. I notice that most of those who have complained most vociferously about changing the rules in the referendum were those who objected to the concept of the referendum. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) is no longer with us, but I am sure that he religiously reads Hansard and will study our speeches tomorrow.

Mr. George Cunningham

Only his own speeches.

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend questioned the position that I am taking in voting for the Bill and campaigning for it. It may be that he and I move in different circles. I also suspect that he presents my position in a way that may not be entirely impartial, and it may not be surprising if people are confused by it. Nevertheless, the mere fact that he does not like the referendum cannot let him out of deciding what the ground rules should be.

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns said that he believed that the problem we face tonight showed how foolish we had been to accept referendums in the first place. With respect, it does not show how foolish we were to accept referendums. It shows how foolish we were to get into a referendum without ever deciding what should be the ground rules for referendums.

We are not changing the rules. There are no rules. Nobody who spoke at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Common Market referendum ever said that it would be binding as the ground rules for any future referendum, whether on devolution, wage control—if the Opposition chose to do such a thing—or independence. Although it looks as though we shall not have a second question in this referendum, I shall be very surprised if I serve out my political lifetime without having had at least one referendum on the question of independence.

I invite all Members of the House to consider whether they would be prepared to grant independence on a straight majority, irrespective of turn-out. If their answer to that is "No", I put it to them that they had better change the rules this time. If they do not change the rules this time, they will find it much more difficult to do so when bringing in a referendum on independence.

Mr. Russell Johnston

I shall return later in my speech to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). I, like many hon. Members, am also opposed to referendums as a means of taking decisions. I do not say, however, that my opposition to this is unchangeable. It is something which ought perhaps to be considered and thought about, but the motivation of those who have brought referendums into our constitution is certainly not such as to persuade me of the value of that system.

In the matter of the Bill, as in the matter of the Common Market referendum, those who have argued for a referendum have clearly done so not from a belief in the need to develop new forms of participatory democracy but because they hoped that a vote against would result in their view prevailing in the referendum when it had failed in the House of Commons. They have seen the referendum, in short, as a blocking device, and it is still being seen in that way.

If we regard a referendum in such a light, it is inevitable that our advocacy of it will be arbitrary and capricious, according to what it is we are seeking to oppose. This point was very well made by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). Those who take this view do not, I repeat, see a referendum as a democratic method which could have a particular application or a general application but see it as a pragmatic device to frustrate their opponents. That is how it was used last time and that is how it is intended to use it this time. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) shakes his head.

Mr. Buchan

With respect, it was the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West who initiated the argument for the referendum. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) knows that his observation is not true in my case, and I resent it very much.

Mr. Johnston

The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West precedes the codicil in my argument which I was about to introduce.

A few Members in the House favour referendums as a principle, and the hon. Gentleman is one of them. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) is another notable one. But the prime movers in the issue that we are dealing with today, and the prime movers equally in the issue of the Common Market referendum, people who look upon referendums not as a system of government but rather as an empirical exercise designed to defeat the thing that they dislike. It is inevitable that such people will move quickly from the idea of having a referendum to the idea of the establishment of barriers, since, after all, the object of a great many of them is not to achieve a fair result but to get their own way.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong concerning the Common Market referendum, which was carried out in order to comply with a specific promise to the electorate that it would be allowed to decide on that issue. It was not a gimmick at all.

Mr. Johnston

I think that that point has been answered by some of the interjections from a sedentary position.

The point I am making is that among hon. Members who are so keen on referendums, and who are pressing this change most vehemently, there is to my knowledge none who is even interested in, far less sympathetic to, any form of electoral reform. Indeed, most of them are actively opposed to it. That is quite understandable, since their aim is not to see democracy work out justly but to get their own way by hook or by crook. That is the fact of the matter.

It is not surprising in consequence—this point has been made, but it is worth repeating—to find that the 40 per cent. barrier has been promoted by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), who himself had a percentage vote of 34 per cent. and who supports a Government who received 28 per cent. support.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central says that this is an irrelevant and populist argument. I deny that it is an irrelevant or populist argument. It is a very relevant argument indeed. A referendum itself is the most populist device that one can find.

My first contention is that those who make out that a referendum with a fixed percentage barrier built into it is being introduced as some great constitutional safeguard are arguing a bogus prospectus and their motives have nothing to do with such high-flown matters. My second contention is that having a referendum to create a barrier, in the fashion that has been done, is wholly wrong.

There are five short reasons, some of which do not need to be developed because they have already been mentioned. First, it seems incredible to me, as an advocate of electoral reform who is always being told that none of these changes can be made without conferences lasting many years, or without at least a Speaker's Conference, that it should be thought that we can introduce an arbitrary matter of this kind which has great implications for Scotland without anything which passes for reflection.

Second—this point has already been made by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), both in his speech and in responding effectively to interventions—it is surely a new and most dangerous doctrine that abstention means dissent. That is a new doctrine. It is not a doctrine that I see people pressing to have adopted in any other kind of election. The point has already been made about parliamentary elections, trade union elections or any other kind of election. The point about voluntary organisations was answered most effectively by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire.

Third, if we were to apply this percentage rule to the only referendum that we have had so far—the EEC referendum—we could see how unreasonable its effect is. Not all hon. Members read The Scotsman. Perhaps they will allow me to make a short quotation from an article by Colin Bell on 26th January which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury had certainly read, because he endeavoured to reply to it. This paragraph is relevant to what hon. Members will decide to do tonight. Mr. Bell said: The total turnout in Scotland for that referendum was 61.4 per cent. of those on the electoral registers. It is interesting that, in his article which appeared subsequently, the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said: As a general rule the poll in a referendum ought to be higher than in an election". The hon. Gentleman then points out that the average turnout in General Elections in Scotland since 1950 has been 77.4 per cent., which is rather more than the 61.4 per cent. we got in the referendum.

The article by Mr. Bell continues: Of those, 58.4 per cent. voted Yes, and this has been fairly generally taken as a convincing majority. However, if it had been demanded that 40 per cent. of all those eligible to vote had voted Yes, the Noes would have won—not by the weight of the 41.6 per cent. of the actual votes they got, but by the sleeping power of the 38.6 per cent. of the electorate who did not vote at all, strengthened by the 6,451 individuals who spoiled their ballot papers. In order to have passed the 40 per cent. barrier, the "Yes" vote would have needed to reach 66 per cent. of those actually voting. A vote of 1,300,000 to 940,000 would not have counted, because more than 1 million abstentions—conscious or apathetic—would have tipped the balance.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)

Surely the hon. Member is making the case for the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). In the European referendum, had there been a minimum of this sort, the minimum would have applied to the "No" vote and not to the "Yes" vote. In that case it was the "No" vote which would have altered the status quo and a treaty which had been signed. In this case it is the "Yes" vote that is making the change. Therefore, it was the "No" vote which counted in the Common Market referendum because that was a vote against the EEC.

Mr. Johnston

That is an interesting argument. The contention I am making is quite simple. It is that the percentage introduced by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury would have the effect of preventing the will of what is generally regarded as an acceptable majority from having its way. That is incontestable.

Mr. George Cunningham

I was questioning whether that figure would be generally so regarded. In my article to which the hon. Member has referred, I said that if Scotland had been independent at the time of the EEC referendum and it had been a question of whether we should go into Europe in the first place, instead of getting out of Europe, the result in Scotland alone would have justified its independent Parliament taking another look at the figures before it decided whether to go in.

Mr. Johnston

I do not think that there is any but a hypothetical question here of an independent Scotland having a right to look at the situation again. That was contained in the original proposition that the Government made.

The absent and dead argument has been dealt with by other hon. Members, as has the argument about changing the rules of the game, and I shall not go into either of those. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said there were no rules. I say that the rule generally is that the first past the post wins the election. That is not a rule that I like, but it is accepted.

I do not understand the very clever comment—or so it seemed because of the reaction—by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, who got less than 40 per cent. of the vote in his constituency. He said that, if there was a referendum to approve the continuation of Mr. Robin F. Cook as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, he would get more than 40 per cent. of the vote. I do not see any reason why he should think that. I do not see why all the Tories and nationalists should suddenly vote for this estimable chap.

The provision that we are discussing moves clearly towards making the referendum mandatory. Those who sought to insert the 40 per cent. barrier claim that in the end the decision remains with the House. If that is so, why have we gone to the trouble of making this change at all? That point was well developed by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). In fact, the clear intention is mandatory. That would set a profoundly unwelcome precedent, particularly when embarked upon without any thorough consultation or consideration whatever.

I agree with the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns that the effect of such a change in Scotland would be calamitous. We have been told by the critics of the Bill—interminably by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—that the Bill's contens are divisive and will produce conflict. But nothing in the Bill would in any way match the bitterness and sense of injustice in Scotland if Parliament, having decided to ask the people, then told them that it refused to accept the answer.

I ask the House to accept Amendment No. 69.

Mr. Foot

I wish to state my view and that of the Government on the amendments which are now before the House. Whatever may be the agreements or disagreements which I may have with some of my hon. Friends and with Members in other parts of the House, I am sure that nobody can complain about any attempt to change the provisions of this Bill one way or the other in Committee. That is what the Committee stage is for.

The House of Commons is entitled to make its own judgment about how the referendum should be conducted and how it should be operated. I do not accept from any quarter a charge of ballot rigging in the House of Commons or in Committee. We are seeking to come to a conclusion as to how best the referendum should be conducted.

I wish to emphasise strongly that from the moment it was suggested that there should be a referendum on this subject—which was at the time the Scotland and Wales Bill was introduced in the previous Session—I have always stressed to the House that it was primarily important that we should seek to secure the widest possible agreement about the nature, form and conditions surrounding the referendum.

Whatever may be our agreements or disagreements about devolution or about the desirability of having a referendum—I understand the argument of those who are against that idea—I believe that it is in the nation's interest to try to secure the widest possible agreement about the form and nature of the referendum. The referendum is designed from different points of view to produce a conclusion, and since it is a conclusion to be accepted by the nation at large it is of the highest importance that there should be a widespread feeling that the form of the referendum is fair and the nature of the conditions surrounding it are equally fair. That is what we have always sought to secure, as I am sure the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) will acknowledge.

We accepted the agreement for a referendum at the time of the Scotland and Wales Bill. There was a motion on the Order Paper before the introduction of that Bill—a motion signed by hon. Members in different parts of the House—suggesting that there should be a referendum. The Government accepted that provision and said that they would include it in the Bill. But we then consulted the House and argued whether that referendum would be mandatory or consultative. The general feeling of the House was that it should be consultative. I think that was a proper and right conclusion, and we accepted it and incorporated it in the form in which we presented the referendum.

There were also doubts at the time of the debates on the Scotland and Wales Bill, and at the introduction of this Bill, about the preamble to the questions and about the questions themselves. Many of my hon. Friends criticised the form of the proposed preamble, and similar criticisms were made by Opposition Members. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire tabled an amendment to alter the form of the preamble.

We believed that it was important that we should reach general agreement on this point, so we accepted the amendment, which was in terms that accorded with the representations made by some of my hon. Friends who wanted to secure the preamble in an acceptable form. They wanted to remove anything that might be thought pejorative or prejudicial in its reference to the unity of the United Kingdom, one way or the other.

That was another way in which we sought to secure a referendum that would command general assent for its fairness, whatever the views of hon. Members on devolution.

It is of the highest importance that we should try to reach agreement on the question how the referendum is to be conducted, so that no great section of opinion—I do not say that we can do it so that the belief is 100 per cent., because there are bound to be some who will question it—believes that the form of the referendum and the way in which it is presented is not fair. That is of enormous value and importance for the country at large.

My view on this matter is very much the same as that of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, whatever our differences on the rest of the Bill. I read carefully what he said when we debated this topic in Committee. He expressed the matter so clearly that I am happy to adopt his precise words. He put formidably the case against a 40 per cent. figure, or any particular figure. He said: If the conditions are met, or are nearly met, however closely, shall the House of Commons feel that it is difficult not to proceed on the basis of the figures written into the Bill? We shall de facto, if not de jure, have restricted the extent to which the referendum is consultative. The right hon. Gentleman examined various aspects of the matter and said: On balance, I feel that the House of Commons should leave itself in the position of being able to exercise its judgment in the light of all the circumstances rather than to write a precise figure into the Bill."—[Official Report, 25th January 1978; Vol. 942, c. 1530, 1532–3.] I fully accept that argument. If we retain the 40 per cent. or even, to some extent, the 33 per cent. or, indeed, any figure, we shall to some extent impair—I do not say undermine—the consultative nature of the referendum. We shall impair the final judgment that the House—not the Government—will be called upon to make. The Government have to refer back the House under the provisions of the Bill. If we write in any figure we may prejudice the consultative nature of the referendum, and the House has agreed that it should be a concultative referendum. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and others who have different views on different aspects agree with the primary consultative aspect of the referendum

My argument, and that of the right hon. Gentleman, is that writing in a figure, even though it does not absolutely and precisely undermine the consultative nature of the referendum, comes very near to doing so. Once a figure had been written in, if the results of the referendum came very near to that figure it would be difficult for the House to depart from it.

I come now to the fundamental reason why I am opposed and the Government are opposed to the 40 per cent. provision. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) has put the argument. I am seeking only to emphasise what he said. I shall not quote his exact figures, but nobody could dispute them. We could have a result on devolution, as he said—I am not arguing comparability with the Common Market referendum—comparable to the Common Market figures in Scotland, but under the 40 per cent. provision that would mean that it would not go through unless it was carried through the House under the further consultative arrangements. In other words, there could be a substantial majority voting for the devolution proposals but still not attaining the 40 per cent.

If that happened, if we accepted the Bill as it stands now with the 40 per cent. provision, we should be inviting a very serious constitutional crisis. I believe that if that were to occur there would be a serious risk that the result would be such that, when it came back to the House, many would be able to argue that the requirement of the House had not been satisfied and that therefore the House should not allow the devolution measure to go forward, whereas in Scotland it would be held, with some justice, that such a considerable majority had voted that way that it should go forward. At any rate, there would be a dispute on the matter and, by writing in the figure—I come back to the right hon. Gentleman's case—we would have impaired the nature of that consultative referendum.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Is it not the case that by writing this figure in we are emphasising the consultative nature of the referendum? If we have the sort of figures suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), it will be open to the House to reject a repeal of the Bill. But if we have a very small vote on the referendum it will be difficult for my right hon. Friend to lay before the House a motion for the repeal of the Bill—if there is any majority at all.

Mr. Foot

That is the difference between us. I understand that. That is a major part of the argument and is a matter for judgment. In my opinion, it is much more likely that the result will be very much along the lines of the other instance that I was giving. If that were to be the case the House of Commons would have to say that the devolution proposal should go ahead even though the figures were not those originally laid down by the House as being the ones that were required.

On this aspect of the matter there are differences of judgment. It is a hypothetical question in some respects, but everybody has to make up his mind about it. The Government believe that if we leave in the 40 per cent. figure we should be inviting a first-class constitutional crisis of that nature, and on that aspect of the matter I have the full support of the right hon. Gentleman, because in his last speech he emphasised exactly that point. I am happy to agree with him. One of the interesting and fascinating things about the debate is that we can wait and see whether the right hon. Gentleman now agrees with himself. That is partly what the debate is about.

In conclusion, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook), who put his case with great skill, force and effectiveness as he always does, is that one of the criticisms that I make of the 40 per cent. figure, which I think should be outlawed on many grounds, is that it involves counting those who abstain and those who stay away as some part of the referendum. I do not say that it gives people votes in that way, but it gives them some consideration in the result of the poll and it could lead to the constitutional dangers which I have described.

The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central proposes a figure which does not involve those dangers to the same degree. I think that it involves them to some degree, and I believe that the House, according to the way that the figures turned out, would be in some difficulty there, too. But I fully acknowledge—I do not think that anyone could deny it—that his hurdle is considerably lower than the other one and therefore is a far more tolerable one for those who think that we should not present any special hurdles in this respect but should go forward on the full consultative basis which we had previously set out.

The Government's recommendation is that we should accept the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire. We consider that that is far and away the best method of dealing with this question. We regard it as the clearest and cleanest way of doing it. We believe that it avoids the dangerous constitutional crisis that we foresee if the 40 per cent. is left in. We therefore recommend it strongly to the House.

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) put a similar case. Of course, the case has been put from different standpoints by people with differing views on devolution. But I insist again that what we are arguing about, or should be arguing about—whether we are pro-devolution or anti-devolution, in favour of particular clauses in the Bill or against them—is whether, when Parliament eventually puts the Bill upon the statute book and the referendum goes forward under the provisions of the Bill, that will be accepted as fair and reasonable by the nation at large.

In my view, the best way for us to do that is to return to the original provisions in the Bill. If the House rejects that advice, it will be very much wiser then, in my view, for us to have the 33 per cent. rather than the 40 per cent. But overwhelmingly I urge that, if the House is to protect the constitution of this country and is to protect its supremacy, we now have before us the best way in which to do it.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

I acknowledge at the outset that the Government certainly wanted to conduct the referendum, so far as it was possible, on an agreed basis. They wanted the least possible degree of controversy. I acknowledge that they accepted an amendment of ours relating to the preamble, although I did not know until tonight that the Lord President had had many other representations from other parts of the House on the same point. I do not think that I was aware of that, but I fully accept it.

I think that the reason why it is proving hard to achieve complete agreement is mainly that the referendum is being introduced as part of the Bill and has not been introduced in a separate Bill which would have enabled the House to debate the principles underlying the referendum. I believe that that is the chief cause of the difficulty.

After a quite long debate on 25th January, the House reached a conclusion, under the guillotine, and as a result of that vote subsection (2) was inserted in Clause 80 as it now appears. In my speech in that debate, as the Lord President rightly said, I expressed reservations about the wisdom of inserting a precise figure. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that I put the matter very fairly. I certainly made the points which he has stressed, and I said also that in making a constitutional change of this magnitude the House would certainly require an overwhelming majority of people to be in favour of it.

I rehearsed the disadvantages and I spoke of the need for an overwhelming majority. I do not complain about it too much, but I think that anyone who reads my speech will come to the conclusion that the Lord President was tonight trying to put just a bit too much weight on a part of it. I think that I made a very balanced speech.

At any rate, I did not vote on the amendment that night because, on the balance of the argument, I thought that I should wait and see what the House decided. I thought that it was evenly balanced, but the House decided the matter, against the specific advice of the Government. The Minister of State did not make the sort of speech which I made. He said that the proposal was wrong and that the Government were against it. Nevertheless, the House came to that decision.

The next question was what the Government were going to do. We knew from the speech of the Minister of State that they were hostile to 40 per cent. or any amendment containing a similar provision. We read in the Press that it was apparently "totally unacceptable" to the Government. That is a quotation from The Scotsman of 27th January.

There were many stories in the Press about how the Government were to make a major effort to restore the Bill to its original form. When in due course the Business Committee assembled to set out how the time was to be divided on Report and Third Reading, I was not surprised to be confronted by a special motion to ensure that there would be a re-run of part of what is now Clause 80. I resented very much that the re-run was to take place within the allocation of time, but that is a separate issue.

That motion presaged the reports in the Press. The arrangements of the Business Committee that the House accepted obviously presaged a major Government amendment to put the matter right. However, there is no Government amendment on the Order Paper. There is no alternative proposed on the Order Paper. No revised figure or percentage is tabled by the Government. No attempt is made by the Government to reverse the 40 per cent. decision. There is no sign even of a compromise. There is no constructive suggestion, and not one ministerial name is added to one amendment. Therefore, it might be said to be reasonably fair to presume that the Government were prepared to accept the decision. There is no reason to suppose anything else. If Ministers complain now, I say that they should have been straightforward and open at an earlier stage. It seems extraordinary that the Government should now seek to act by the back door, and a camouflaged back door at that. It is a pusillanimous and ignoble attitude to take.

There is a strong case, which I made in my earlier speech on this issue, for asking the Scots to indicate a decisive "Yes" verdict if they wish the Bill to be enacted. The reason for that is one that I rehearsed in the same speech. It is that this measure would bring about a dramatic and drastic change that does not have broad support in the House or in the country. It would institute a change that for a quite considerable period would be irreversible and, in a sense, immutable. It is hard to define—

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)

rose

Mr. Pym

I shall not give way now as I wish to be allowed to put my argument before the House.

I admit that it is hard to define what "decisive support" or "massive support" means. As we know, many countries require two-thirds of those who vote to be in favour of the constitutional change that is put before the country.

We have heard tonight about constitutional changes in trade unions, but there are other examples. We find one in Clause 3, where it is stated that the members voting in favour of it number not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of the Assembly". Those are the persons entitled to vote. The principle is already established in the Bill. However, Clause 80 refers not to two-thirds but to 40 per cent. That is by a decision of the House.

We must take note of the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). What would be the effect in Scotland now if that decision were to be reversed? That is a fair point to make. Although I adhere to my reservations—why not?—about the wisdom of an exact figure, after the vote by the whole House and the apparent acceptance of it by the Government, it is surely reasonable for the House to say that the decision should stand. It is the expression of the House of the sort of decisive verdict that would be necessary in the circumstances of the Bill. However, the Government have insisted upon a second run so that the issue can be put to the test again.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

On the question of what is reasonable, and the right hon. Gentleman's concern that the people of Scotland should produce an outstanding vote, will he explain why India, with all its millions, should have used the first-past-the-post system, as did all the other countries which earned their independence, and why, when dealing with the aspirations of the people of Scotland, he is so concerned that there should be an overwhelming vote in favour?

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Pym

I do not feel competent to speak about India. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Until the Lord President spoke a few minutes ago, it was not within the knowledge of the House that the Government had the slightest intention, if they should lose the amendment, to try to substitute 33⅓ per cent. There is nothing on the Order Paper to suggest it, and I do not think that the House was aware of it.

The 33⅓ per cent. has been described by one Labour Member as a backstop. For my part, I feel that in some respects it represents the worst of both worlds. It has the disadvantage of a precise figure and it is pitched at a level which is thought by many to be too insignificant for the importance of the change that is envisaged. That is the trouble with it.

About a week after that vote, I was in Scotland. I was interested to note that no one—no journalist and no one in the television world—raised the matter with me at all. I was expected to be questioned about it, but I was not. The Minister of State looks astonished. That is a truthful statement.

It will be recalled that last year the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) made all kinds of forecasts. He foretold that if the guillotine failed, terrible things would happen in Scotland. They did not. I suggest that what the Lord President said tonight about the consequences of the amendment not being accepted are exaggerated.

I should like to remind the House of the reason for the referendum. The Government were forced to insert that provision, otherwise there would have been no Bill. There would not even have been the Scotland and Wales Bill. It will be recalled that the referendum provision was inserted on Second Reading. In this instance, the referendum has been the justification for some Labour Members supporting the Bill even though they are opposed to it. Therefore, we have come to see it more and more as a device of expediency to ease the consciences of some Labour Members. But it has tortured them.

It is at least possible that the Government may find themselves forced to accept a referendum on House of Commons terms, for I believe that the vote tonight is essentially a House of Commons matter. If there had been a separate referendum Bill, we should have been able to debate the implications of a referendum and all the issues of constitutional principle.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) referred to the referendum on the Common Market. That referendum was introduced in a separate Bill, and all the principles could have been debated. Of course, we should debate the principles first. My hon. Friend was right about that. If we had had a separate Bill, it would have divided these debates on the referendum from the highly charged political purpose and nature of the Scotland Bill itself.

Mr. Mackintosh

If there had been a separate referendum Bill which established principles for this unfortunate and unparliamentary device, would the right hon. Gentleman then have said that all matters submitted to referendum should require 40 per cent. support in the United Kingdom or wherever the referendum was held?

Mr. Pym

I think it reasonably unlikely that the House of Commons would have passed a referendum Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I think that that is quite possible. How do we know? It was never tried. The mere fact that a referendum is included as an integral part of the Bill automatically carries implications for the future of this House. There are constitutional implications which cannot be avoided by the mere insertion of this clause in the Bill.

I am unrepentant as a critic of the whole manner and style with which the issue of devolution and the Bill has been handled. I am especially critical of the way in which the Bill has been forced and pressurised through the House. It has been a perversion of parliamentary procedure. It has led to the kind of practice that has been so severely criticised by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). Indeed, it has led to complications and agony over the referendum itself.

The way that the Government have handled the Bill, unfortunately, adds weight to the argument in favour of requiring a decisive referendum result and, in particular, a decisive "Yes" before Parliament can be expected to support implementation of this measure. The verdict of the Committee a couple of weeks ago was that the right expression of that overwhelming, support should be 40 per cent. Tonight, there is another chance for the House to confirm or knock out that conclusion. For those reasons and in these circumstances, I am sure that the House will judge again whether it is right to throw out the amendment.

Mr. Canavan

Can the right hon. Member say why he got his Whips to whip Conservative Members to vote against my amendment tonight when he virtually said in Committee what my amendment says? He said that it was better to allow the House to decide rather than to write something into the Bill. Where was the road to Damascus when he was converted?

Mr. Pym

Exaggeration is a mistake. I made a clear and balanced speech on the last occasion. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) is trying to put undue weight on one half of my argument, just as the Leader of the House did.

Mr. Foot

I quoted two passages from the speech of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). I could have quoted several more in the same sense. Can he quote any passage from his speech which indicates his favouring the insertion of 40 per cent. or any other figure in the referendum? Did he not argue that by inserting a figure the consultative basis of the referendum would be injured?

Mr. Pym

The Leader of the House is trying to put everything on the definition of my reasons for saying that a particular figure was unsatisfactory. I also said that an overwhelming majority was necessary. I said that several times. I said that it was difficult to define what that would be. A fortnight ago, hon. Members took a view on that. Now I am being criticicised for accepting the definition of the Committee. We all have to accept such decisions even if we do not agree with them. That is a reasonable view to take.

My speech was balanced. The Government were passionately against the Committee's decision. There are complications in the change and in the effect that the change will have. But it is reasonable at times to accept a House of Commons decision. Even Governments have to do that.

It is for the House to judge, and in a few minutes' time it will do that. If the Leader of the House has his way, we shall put to the test whether the figure should be 33⅓ per cent. rather than 40 per cent. We must satisfy ourselves that there is an overwhelming degree of support for this measure in Scotland if it is ever to be put into effect. If the House of Commons takes the view that that is the right expression of an overwhelming majority, that is how it should be.

Mr. George Cunningham

Apart from the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), I am only the second Member who has risen to defend the 40 per cent. rule passed by the Committee three weeks ago. If three weeks ago we had passed not 40 per cent. but 33⅓ per cent., all the arguments mounted against 40 per cent. would have been mounted against 33⅓ per cent., and if we had passed 20 per cent. the same arguments would have been mounted.

As the initiator of the 40 per cent. test, I have an obligation resting upon me tonight. I have to satisfy the House that a fair-minded person in good conscience could vote for this proposal believing genuinely that it was the proper way to test the opinion of the people of Scotland on the issue and that it was not properly open to any charge of rigging.

First, let me pick up three points of criticism. I would have hoped that I did not need yet again to put the dead men back in their graves. The dead men are not participating in the number out of which the "Yeses" must get 40 per cent. They never were to be part of that. They were drafted out of it by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann). The clarificatory amendment which we have put on the Amendment Paper is virtually an advertisement to demonstrate this. It is not necessary and it would be better to leave the text as my hon. Friend had it originally, because that text gives the Secretary of State all the discretion he requires to deduct from the numbers on the register his estimate—and, of course, it must be an estimate—of the appropriate number of deaths and, for example, duplications.

This has not been done without our doing our homework. The death rate among the population of the age to go on the register is very static. Over the past few years, it has varied by only 1 per cent. from one year to another. So the dead men argument is not valid.

Secondly, it is said that, if we have this kind of test, the person who stays at home and does not vote has the same effect as a person who goes to the poll and votes "No". That is not the case. What the text ensures is that the person who stays at home and does not vote has that fact taken into account, as my right hon. Friend the Lord President fairly recognised. But it does not count in the same way as going to the polls. If 500,000 people who would vote "No" stay at home and do not vote, they have no effect upon whether the "Yeses" meet the test, but what they certainly do is to deflate the "No" vote and make the result of the referendum more questionable.

The third specific point is the question of what it is that the referendum determines. It does not decide whether devolution goes ahead. It determines whether the result has been sufficiently inconclusive for it to be right for the precise result when it is known to come back to this House for this House then to determine whether it should go ahead.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden, I agree that, however I might vote—and my views on devolution are well enough known—I certainly can visualise results which failed to pass the test, when the Government would therefore be obliged to bring forward a repeal order and lay it before the House but the House would say "We are glad that that had to be done. We think it was right in those circumstances for us to have the repeal order before us, but on balance, in face of political facts, we think that devolution should nevertheless go ahead." The value of doing that, rather than leaving things as they are, is that an advance indication would have been given of the order of the support that is required.

But the case for any such test and for the 40 per cent. figure is basically this. Right from the beginning of the devolution argument, the merits of devolution have not featured strongly in the argument. There are some people who have sloganised and said "If you have an Assembly in Edinburgh, there will be more and better housing and more jobs in Scotland, apart from civil servants", and so on. But there have been very few. Right from the beginning the argument has been that, whatever the merits, there is in Scotland such an irresistible demand for devolution that that substitutes for the case on merit.

Alongside that, there is what I would call the case on demerit. That has only developed and become accepted and appreciated in the House as the debate has proceeded. One must refer in this connection to the West Lothian anomaly, not to go over the whole ground again, but it is very much related to what we are deciding tonight. At present, English Members vote on Scottish legislation and Scottish Members vote on English legislation. That is accepted because we are all in the same boat. It affects us all in the same way. England sometimes gets Labour legislation because Scotland and Wales vote Labour, and it works the other way round too. We are all in the same situation.

10.30 p.m.

After devolution, that will not be the case. After devolution, Scotland will be able to gain the education policy and housing policy that it wants by electing to power the party it wants in the Edinburgh Assembly. That will not be the case with England. In the case of England, the electors will have to elect their preferred party with a sufficient majority to overcome any contrary majority of the other party deriving from Scotland and Wales. The Lord President's answer to this is that that is a price which the English will just have to pay for Union. I have heard him give that answer.

The dynamics of politics are such that this answer will not be acceptable to any party. It will not be acceptable to the Conservative Party, and the fact that if it were acceptable it would benefit the Labour Party does not mean that it could be sustained over a time. It is one of those things which is so manifestly unfair that it cannot be sustained.

It is not just that Scots Members would be voting on our legislation, but that the Scots and Welsh Labour predominance would be changing the political nature of the English legislation. At that point in the argument there are some muddleheaded people who say that it is all right because the British genius for compromise and muddling through will work out a convention by which the Scots and Welsh Members do not vote on English legislation. There is the solution, it is said. What that does is to replace what I have just described, which would be a politically unacceptable situation, by a situation which is totally impossible. I hope that people will think about that.

Let us have a little history. There have been 10 General Elections since the war, of which Labour has won six. Of the six General Elections that we have won, three were won only because the Labour predominance in Scotland and Wales overcame what would have been a Conservative majority among English Members. Think about that. That means that in one Parliament out of three, if past form is anything to go on, there would be a British Labour Government—it would be a Labour Government because that would depend on the political complexion of all United Kingdom Members—trying to pass through a Labour Education Bill on which only the English Members could vote—and the majority of English Members in one Parliament out of three, on past form, would be Conservative. That is not a possible situation.

We all know that in the United States there can be a political divide between the Executive and the legislature because that is the nature of the constitution. We cannot introduce that into our system without changing absolutely everything from top to bottom, back to front, side to side. It cannot be done. That is no way out. There is no way out through a convention.

It is a great pity that there were not more hon. Members present on the second last day of the Committee stage. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) will remember that evening. It was a significant evening in the debate. One Member after another, irrespective of their views on devolution, finally recognised that the West Lothian anomaly was not just an oddity but created an impossible situation.

I particularly remember the words that were used—I think that I remember them exactly—by the hon. Member for Inverness on behalf of the Liberal Party. He said "I shall be frank. I do not know the answer to the West Lothian question."

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) said something like this: "If we are not to create an English Parliament to match the Scottish Parliament under this Parliament, England will just have to put up with whatever makeshift arrangements can be cobbled up in this House." The hon. Member nods his head.

Finally, the Minister of State put the cap on it all by saying that there would be one way of getting rid of the problem. That would be if the Conservative Party could only win half the seats in Scotland, as it did in 1955. When a Labour Minister is forced to see that as a way out of this maze, we all have to recognise that this is an insoluble problem.

In the opinion of the Liberal Party there is one way out of the maze, and it was suggested that evening. The hon. Member for Inverness said that in the Liberals' view the way out was by having a federal State in Britain, so that there would be regional Assemblies in England to match the Scottish Assembly, and everything would be nice and tidy and symmetrical. But I greatly fear that the hon. Member is not taking his thinking on that one stage further, because we would not have to have merely the English regional Assemblies. We would have to have an English national Assembly as well, because we could not have criminal law decided by the regional Assemblies in England.

So the Liberal solution, the Liberal way out of the maze, would be to have a United Kingdom Parliament with a United Kingdom Government, as we have now, an English Parliament with an English Government, and regional legislatures in England with regional Executives. I can only describe that in two words—science fiction. The British public have not begun to contemplate the thought of that.

Mr. Henderson

Nor the Scottish people.

Mr. Cunningham

That was a very good comment from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Henderson

My point to the hon. Gentleman is this. He talked about the British people. I am suggesting to him that the Scottish people have discussed this for a very long time, and we have had enough. But it is not a question of the English versus the Scottish. This has nothing to do with the English people. It is a matter for the Scottish people.

Mr. Cunningham

With great respect, this question has not been faced up to by the English population or the Scottish population. This science fiction scene is one which the Government themselves have not begun to contemplate.

Is there a way out of the maze? There is a very simple way out of it, and the SNP know it. It is independence for Scotland. Then the difficulties disappear. Why are they in favour of devolution? It is because they know that they will be lighting a fuse. Then they can sit back and the rocket will go off automatically, propelled by the most powerful force in politics—the dynamics of electoral politics—and it would go on to independence or to the kind of arrangement that we have described.

This is where we come to the issue that is before us tonight. The demerits against the Bill are enormous and frightening, and yet all that has been overcome with the trump card. That trump card is "Forget it, because the Scottish people, as a political fact, are so demanding of this that all that has to be swept aside. Never mind the merits, never mind that we are changing everything and setting off the rocket that leads straight to independence. It has to be overcome because of the political fact of an irresistible Scottish demand."

It is not just because we are making a constitutional change. There could be other constitutional changes to which this would not apply. It is because we are making a change which has not been justified upon merit but has been put forward only on the basis of an irresistible popular demand that we are entitled to test that demand more severely than would be proper in another case. Also, we are right to pay some attention to those who do not go and vote.

Mr. Hooley

My hon. Friend is saying, in effect, that a result which produces a 41 per cent. "Yes" will satisfy his conditions but that a 40½ per cent. "No" vote will be more valid than one which produces 39 per cent. "Yes" and 10 per cent. "No".

Mr. Cunningham

I hope I have not said anything so daft.

I was saying that if 50 per cent., let us say, do not go to the poll, that cannot be compatible with there being that irresistible majority in favour of the Bill.

Now we come to the issue before the House—the issue between 33⅓ per cent. and 40 per cent. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) put very fairly the conceptual difference between the two. He referred to his own as a backstop, and I agree with that, and to mine as something of a hurdle. That is the difference. The 33⅓ per cent. test would catch and stop the most inconclusive result or the most failed result.

Let us say that the result is 34 per cent. "Yes" and 17 per cent. "No"—that is, two to one—which would be a 51 per cent. poll, virtually half the Scottish people not going to the poll. Is that evidence of that irresistible demand in Scotland which would justify us in bringing upon ourselves all the consequences I have described? I do not think so. I do not think that many Members ought to think so. But it would pass the 33ࡩ per cent. test. That is the case against its being 33⅓ per cent.

One could think of results which would even pass the 40 per cent. test but which would be somewhat inconclusive—40 to 10 perhaps, or something like that—but it is not likely. Let us bear in mind, however, that it comes back to this House. We decide only whether it comes back to the House with an even-handed option, because we have a repeal order before us, whereas otherwise all that we have before us is the opportunity to abuse the commencement date by not going ahead, by refusing to declare a commencement date. I think that that is the case for the 40 per cent. rule.

I resent bitterly the charges about my motives, which I think I know more about than does the hon. Member for Inverness. I am prepared to stand before any audience in Scotland, any hostile audience in Scotland, and make this case, and I believe that many in an audience in Scotland who were not political activists would say "Yes, we had not quite seen these consequences for England. We see them now, however, and there is more to this than we previously realized".

That is why any hon. Member can stand with a good conscience, look his critics in the eye and say that in the circumstances it is reasonable for the test to be imposed. More than that, we are not only entitled to have this kind of evidence of irresistible demand, but we are failing in our duty to Britain, Scotland and the areas we represent in England if we do not require that test.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Rifkind

The House has made its views known about the speech of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). The most remarkable thing about this debate is that it has been left to the hon. Member far West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) to move the amendment.

When the House last considered this matter, the Government spoke strongly against the amendment that was carried. On the following day, the Lord President said in the House: The Government are taking stock of the situation in the light of these amendments and we shall come forward on Report with our own proposals to deal with the matter."—[Official Report, 26th January, 1978; Vol. 942, c. 1605].

Hon. Members

Where are they?

Mr. Rifkind

In the light of that promise, we were entitled to look at the Order Paper to see whether the Government were serious in their opposition. They do not normally leave it to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire to move an amendment on their behalf. We can only come to one assumption—that the Government wish to protect themselves against the second defeat that they expect on this issue. It would have been far more honourable and courageous for the Government must be flattered, too, lookment and given it their full authority, it they really want to see it carried.

Mr. Canavan

It is only natural shyness that prevented me from moving this amendment from the Dispatch Box. I am very pleased that the hon. Member has elevated me to the rank of spokesman for the Government. I am sure that the Government must be flattered too, looking at my previous voting record.

The reason why the amendment is down in my name is simple: it was down on the Order Paper first. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) accuses the Government of not coming forward with their proposals. They have come forward with a firm proposal—to support me for a change.

Mr. Rifkind

It is not for me to appoint the hon. Member as spokesman. The Government themselves have done so by failing to put down their own amendment.

I believe that the amendment should not be accepted by the House because, whatever one's views, it is imperative that there should be the highest possible turnout at the referendum. The worst possible result would be a low turn-out, and there is a powerful case for the inclusion of a minimum. I hope that all those who feel strongly one way or another will go and vote in the referendum.

I was puzzled by the Lord President's argument that the consultative nature of the referendum would be prevented or intimidated if the amendment were not carried. That is a remarkable proposition. The opposite is the case.

If as a result of the referendum there is a narrow majority in favour of the Bill, even on a low turn-out, is it being argued by the Government that the House, without in advance having made any minimum stipulation, could refuse to allow the Bill to be implemented if there were a 50 per cent. turn-out, 26 per cent. in favour and 24 per cent. against? Unless the House said in advance that the minimum requirement was a necessary ingredient of the Bill, it would not be politically practical for the House to do other than allow it to be implemented. That factor must weigh with us when considering the matter.

I talk as one who believes in the principle of devolution, and those of us who have argued for devolution know well that the Bill would have no prospect of getting on the statute book if Members were voting on the matter on its merits. It is a unique constitutional matter that this Parliament is likely to put on the statute book a Bill in which it does not believe. One could go further and say that it is a Bill in which the majority of the British public also do not believe. Therefore, the only argument that is of relevance with regard to the referendum is whether, despite the support of a genuine majority in the House and the genauine majority of the British public, the majority of the Scottish public want devolution and want the Bill.

Many of us on both sides of the House have believed for a long time that there is a majority in Scotland who want devolution. They believe that we should not be frightened of the 40 per cent. requirement. If the latest information poll is correct, showing that if the referendum were to be held at present 55 per cent. of the Scottish people would vote "Yes", that would vindicate those who have argued for devolution. But if it turns out to be incorrect and we were wrong, and if a majority of people in Scotland—60 per cent.—are either opposed to devolution or so indifferent that they are not even prepared to exercise a single vote on it, I am not ashamed to say that that is an overwhelming case for the Bill not being put on the statute book.

It is a simple fact that the House is being asked to do something it has never done in the past. It is being asked to put a Bill on the statute book simply because the majority in one part of the United Kingdom appear to wish to see a major constitutional change.

I believe that the provision which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury succeeded in having included in the Bill was a reasonable proposition. I do not believe that anybody who is in favour of the principle of devolution need be hostile to it. If the people of Scotland genuinely want devolution and want the Bill, they will vote for it and that will resolve the matter in the best possible manner.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

I do not at this stage want to develop some of the long constitutional arguments that have been deployed. I merely wish to examine some of the figures which have most dominated the argument.

The argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) can be boiled down to the simple fact that there is no such thing as a consultative referendum. The House will have to take very serious note of whatever the referendum result is. If there is a fairly low poll, it will be difficult for the House to ignore a majority "Yes" vote. When I examined the results the results of similar referendums in different countries, I discovered that the poll in nine out of 12 referendums was of the order of 67 to 70 per cent. That would mean that if there were a fairly even division of votes with a 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. majority for "Yes", the House would have very great difficulty in rejecting the decision.

The Leader of the House suggested that if we put in a 40 per cent. or 33⅓ per cent. requirement, a constitutional crisis could emerge, but surely that crisis would emerge if there were a small "Yes" majority on a low poll and the House refused to accept the decision.

The 40 per cent. figure is a little high. On a 67 to 70 per cent. poll, which would be typical of referendums, it would be virtually impossible to get the enormous majority for "Yes" which would be required to meet that percentage requirement. An 80 per cent. turn-out would be needed for a small "Yes" majority to meet that requirement.

The compromise figure suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) is sensible and should be accepted by the House. On that basis, a narrow majority on a 67 per cent. poll would be enough to carry the decision and a two-to-one margin would be required on a 50 per cent. poll. Such

results would justify the argument on which the Bill depends—namely, that there is a very great demand for the Bill in Scotland. Those results would mean a convincing "Yes" vote.

I urge the House to reject the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire and the 40 per cent. requirement of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). That is unrealistic in any terms. I urge hon. Members to accept the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central. It provides a figure against which the House can judge the genuineness of the desire for devolution in Scotland.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 243, Noes 298.

Division No. 115] AYES [11.00 p.m.
Adley, Robert Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Allaun, Frank Dempsey, James Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Anderson, Donald Dormand, J. D. Hunter, Adam
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dunn, James A. Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Armstrong, Ernest Dunnett, Jack Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Ashley, Jack Dykes, Hugh Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Ashton, Joe Eadie, Alex Janner, Greville
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Ellis, John (Brigg & scun) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Atkinson, Norman English, Michael Jeger, Mrs Lena
Bain, Mrs Margaret Ennals, Rt Hon David Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) John, Brynmor
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Bates, Alf Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Bean, R. E. Faulds, Andrew Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Beith, A. J. Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Foot, Rt Hon Michael Judd, Frank
Boardman H. Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Kaufman, Gerald
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Kelley, Richard
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Kerr, Russell
Bradley, Tom Freud, Clement Kilfedder, James
Bray, Dr Jeremy Garrett, John (Norwich S) Knox, David
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) George, Bruce Lambie, David
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Lamborn, Harry
Buchan, Norman Ginsburg, David Lee, John
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Golding, John Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Gould, Bryan Lever, Rt Hon Harold
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Gourlay, Harry Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Graham, Ted Lipton, Marcus
Campbell, Ian Grant, George (Morpeth) Litterick, Tom
Carmichael, Neil Grant, John (Islington C) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Grocott, Bruce Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Cartwright, John Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McCartney, Hugh
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hardy, Peter MacCormick, Iain
Clemitson, Ivor Harper, Joseph McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter McElhone, Frank
Coleman, Donald Hart, Rt Hon Judith MacFarquhar, Roderick
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Healey, Rt Hon Denis Maclennan, Robert
Crawford, Douglas Heath, Rt Hon Edward McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Crawshaw, Richard Henderson, Douglas McNamara, Kevin
Cronin, John Hicks, Robert Madden, Max
Cryer, Bob Hooley, Frank Magee, Bryan
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hooson, Emlyn Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Davidson, Arthur Horam, John Marks, Kenneth
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Marshall, Dr, Edmund (Goole)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Deakins, Eric Huckfield, Les Maynard, Miss Joan
Meacher, Michael Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Rowlands, Ted Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Sandelson, Neville Walker, Rt Hon (Worcester)
Miller, Dr. M. S. (E Kilbridge) Sedgemore, Brian Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Mitchell, Austin Sever, John Ward, Michael
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Watkins, David
Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Watkinson, John
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Shore, Rt Hon Peter Watt, Hamish
Moyle, Roland Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Weetch, Ken
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Weitzman, David
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald, King Sillars, James Wellbeloved, James
Noble, Mike Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Welsh, Andrew
Oakes, Gordon Snape, Peter White, Frank R. (Bury)
O'Halloran, Michael Stallard, A. W. White, James (Pollok)
Orbach, Maurice Steel, Rt Hon David Whitehead, Phillip
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stewart, Rt Hon Donald Whitelock, William
Owem, Rt Hon Dr David Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Wigley, Dafydd
Padley, Walter Stott, Roger Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Park, George Strang, Gavin Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch' ch)
Parry, Robert Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Pavitt, Laurie Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Pendry, Tom Taylor, Mrs. Ann (Bolton W) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Penhaligon, David Thomas, Dafydd, (Merioneth) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee, E)
Price, William (Rugby) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wilson, Rt Hon Harols (Huyton)
Radice, Giles Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Woodall, Alec
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Thompson, George Woof, Robert
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thorne, Stan (Preston, South) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Roderick, Caerwyn Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Young, David (Bolton E)
Rodgers, George (Chorley) Tierney, Sydney
Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Tinn, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Roper, John Tomlinson, John Mr. Dennis Canavan and
Rose, Paul B. Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Mr. John P. Mackintosh.
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
NOES
Abse, Leo Costain, A. P. Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)
Aitken, Jonathan Cowans, Harry Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)
Alison, Michael Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Critchley, Julian Grieve, Percy
Arnold, Tom Crowder, F. P. Griffiths, Eldon
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Grist, Ian
Awdry, Daniel Dalyell, Tam Grylls, Michael
Baker, Kenneth Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Banks, Robert Davies, Rt Hon J. (Kuntsford) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bell, Ronald Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Hampson, Dr Keith
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Hannam, John
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Dodsworth Geoffrey Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)
Benyon, W. Doig, Peter Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss
Berry, Hon Anthony Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Haselhurst, Alan
Biffen, John Douglas-Mann, Bruce Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Biggs-Davison, John Drayson, Burnaby Hayhoe, Barney
Blaker, Peter du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Hayman, Mrs Helene
Body, Richard Dunlop, John Heffer, Eric S.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Durant, Tony Heseltine, Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Higgins, Terence L.
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Emery, Peter Hodgson, Robin
Bottomley, Peter Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Holland, Philip
Bowden A (Brighton, Kemptown) Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Hordern, Peter
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Eyre, Reginald Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Bradford, Rev Robert Fairbairn, Nicholas Howell, David (Guildford)
Braine, Sir Bernard Fairgrieve, Russell Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brittan, Leon Farr, John Hunt, David (Wirral)
Brooke, Peter Fell, Anthony Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Brotherton, Michael Finsberg, Geoffrey Hurd, Douglas
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Fisher, Sir Nigel Hutchison, Michael Clark
Bryan, Sir Paul Flannery, Martin Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Buchanan, Richard Flectcher, Alex (Edinbury N) James, David
Buck, Anthony Flectcher-Cooke, Charles Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)
Budgen, Nick Fookes, Miss Janet Jessel, Toby
Bulmer, Esmond Forman, Nigel Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Forrseter, John Jones, Arthur (Daventry)
Carlisle, Mark Fowler, Norman (Sutton, C'f'd') Jopling, Michael
Carson, John Fox, Marcus Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Channon, Paul Fry, Peter Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Churchill, W. S. Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Kimball, Marcus
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Garden, Edward (S Fylde) King, Evelyn (South Dorest)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) King, Tom (Bridwater)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Glyn, Dr Alan Kinnock, Neil
Clegg, Walter Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Kitson, Sir Timothy
Cockcroft, John Goodhart, Philip Knight, Mrs Jill
Cohen, Stanley Goodhew, Victor Lamond, James
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Goodlad, Alastair Lamond, Norman
Cope, John Gorst, John Langford-Holt, Sir John
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Neave, Airey Shepherd, Colin
Latham, Michael (Melton) Nelson, Anthony Shersby, Michael
Lawrence, Ivan Neubert, Michael Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Lawson, Nigel Newens, Stanley Silvester, Fred
Leadbitter, Ted Newton, Tony Sims, Roger
Le Marchant, Spencer Nott, John Sinclair, Sir George
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Ogden, Eric Skeet, T. H. H.
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Onslow, Cranley Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Lloyd, Ian Ovenden, John Spearing, Nigel
Loveridge, John Page, John (Harrow West) Speed, Keith
Luce, Richard Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Lyon, Alexander (York) Page, Richard (Workington) Sproat, Iain
McAdden, Sir Stephen Paisley, Rev Ian Stainton, Keith
McCrindle, Robert Palmer, Arthur Stanbrook, Ivor
McCusker, H. Parker, John Stanley, John
Macfarlane, Neil Parkinson, Cecil Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
MacGregor, John Pattie, Geoffrey Stoddart, David
MacKay, Andrew (Stechford) Percival, Ian Stokes, John
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Peyton, Rt Hon John Stradling Thomas, J.
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Phipps, Dr Colin Tapsell, Peter
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Pink, R. Bonner Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Madel, David Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Tebbit, Norman
Marten, Neil Price, David (Eastleigh) Temple-Morris, Peter
Mates, Michael Prior, Rt Hon James Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Mather, Carol Pym, Rt Hon Francis Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Maude, Angus Rathbone, Tim Townsend, Cyril d.
Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter Trotter, Neville
Mawby, Ray Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) van Strubebzee, W. R.
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Mayhew, Patrick Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Viggers, Peter
Mandelson, John Rhodes, James, R. Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Richardson, Miss Jo Wakeham, John
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Ridley, Hon Nicholas Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Mills, Peter Ridsdale, Julian Walters, Dennis
Miscampbell, Norman Rifkind, Malcolm Warren, Kenneth
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Weatherill, Bernard
Moate, Roger Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Wells, John
Molloy, William Robert, Why (Conway) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Molyneaux, James Robinson, Geoffrey Wiggin, Jerry
Monro, Hector Robgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Winterton, Nicholas
Montgomery, Fergus Rooker, J. W. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Moonman, Eric Ross, William (Londonderry) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Moore, John (Croydon C) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
More, Jasper (Ludlow) Rost, Peter (SE Derdyshire) Younger, Hon George
Morgan, Geraint Royle, Sir Anthony
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Sainsbury, Tim TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Morris, Michael (Northampton S) St. John-Stevas, Norman Mr. Leslie Spriggs and
Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Mr. George Gardiner.
Mudd, David Shelton, William (Streatham)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Speaker

It is now my duty under paragraph 9(1)(b) of the allocation of time order to put the Question on Government amendments and any amendments standing on the Amendment Paper in the name of any hon. Member if moved by a member of the Government. I understand that the Government now wish to move Amendment No. 73.

It being after Eleven o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the

Order [16th November] and the Resolution yesterday, to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Eleven o'clock.

Amendment proposed: No. 73, in page 38, line 17, leave out '40 per cent.' and insert 'one in three'.—[Mr. John Smith.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 240, Noes 285.

Division No. 116] AYES [11.15 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Belth, A. J. Bray, Dr Jeremy
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Armstrong, Ernest, Bennett, Andrew (Stockprot N) Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)
Ashley, Jack Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Buchan, Norman
Aston, Joe Blenkinsop, Arthur Buchanan, Richard
Atkinson, Norman Boardman, H. Buchanan-Smith, Alick
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Booth, Rt, Hon Albert Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)
Bates, Alf Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)
Bean, R. E. Bradley, Tom Campbell, Ian
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Roy (Newport) Radice, Giles
Carmichael, Neil Hunter, Adam Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Richardson, Miss Jo
Cartwright, John Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Robert, Gwilym (Cannock)
Clemitson, Ivor Janner, Greville Roderick, Caerwyn
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Coleman, Donald Jeger, Mrs Lena Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roper, John
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) John, Brynmor Rose, Paul B.
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, James (Hull West) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Cronin, John Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rowlands, Ted
Cryer, Bob Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sandelson, Neville
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Sedgemore, Brian
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Dan (Burnley) Sever, John
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Judd, Frank Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Kaufman, Gerald Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Kerr, Russell Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Deakins, Eric Knox, David Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Lambie, David Skinner, Dennis
Dempsey, James Lamborn, Harry Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Dormand, J. D. Lee, John Snape, Peter
Dunn, James A. Lever, Rt Hon Harold Stallard, A. W.
Dunnett, Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Steel, Rt Hon David
Eadie, Alex Lipton, Marcus Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Litterick, Tom Stott, Roger
English, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Strang, Gavin
Ennals, Rt Hon David Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) McCartney, Hugh Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Faulds, Andrew McElhone, Frank Thomas, Defydd (Merioneth)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. MacFarquhar Roderick Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thomas, Mike (Newcastle S)
Flannery, Martin Mackintosh, John P. Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Maclennan, Robert Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Forrester, John McNamara, Kevin Tierney, Sydney
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Madden, Max Tinn, James
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Magee, Bryan Tomlinson, John
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Mallallieu, J. P. W. Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Freud, Clement Marks, Kenneth Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
George, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Gilbert, Dr John Mason, Rt Hon Roy Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Ginsburg, David Maynard, Miss Joan Ward, Michael
Golding, John Meacher, Michael Watkins, David
Gould, Bryan Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Weetch, Ken
Gourlay, Harry Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Weitzman, David
Graham, Ted Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Wellbeloved, James
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mitchell, Austin White, Frank R. (Bury)
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) White, James (Pollok)
Grocott, Bruce Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitehead, Phillip
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Whitlock, William
Hardy, Peter Moyle, Roland Wigley, Dafydd
Harper, Joseph Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch' ch)
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Noble, Mike Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Oakes, Gordon Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis O'Halloran, Michael Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Health, Rt Hon Edward Orbach, Maurice Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Hicks, Robert Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hooley, Frank Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Woodall, Alec
Hooson, Emlyn Padley, Walter Woof, Robert
Horam, John Park, George Wrigglesworth, Ian
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Parker, John Young, David (Bolton E)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Parry, Robert
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Pavitt, Laurie TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Huckfield, Les Pendry, Tom Mr. Robin Cook and
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Penhaligon, David Mr. John Watkinson.
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Price, William (Rugby)
NOES
Abse, Leo Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Bradford, Rev Robert
Aitken, Jonathan Benyon, W. Braine, Sir Bernard
Alison, Michael Berry, Hon Anthony Brittan, Leon
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Biffen, John Brooke, Peter
Arnold, Tom Biggs-Davison, John Brotherton, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Blaker, Peter Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East) Body, Richard Bryan, Sir Paul
Awdry, Daniel Boothroyd, Miss Betty Buck, Antony
Baker, Kenneth Boscawen, Hon Robert Budgen, Nick
Banks, Robert Bottomley, Peter Buimer, Esmond
Bell, Ronald Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Butler, Adam (Bosworth)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Carlisle, Mark
Carson, John Hurd, Douglas Page, Richard (Workington)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hutchison, Michael Clark Paisley, Rev Ian
Channon, Paul Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Palmer, Arthur
Churchill, W. S. James, David Parkinson, Cecil
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Pattie, Geoffrey
Clark, William (Croydon S) Jessel, Toby Percival, Ian
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Cockroft, John Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Phipps, Dr Colin
Cohen, Stanley Jopling, Michael Pink, R. Bonner
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Cope, John Kaberry, Sir Donald Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Costain, A. P. Kilroy-Silk, Robert Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cowans, Harry Kimball, Marcus Prior, Rt Hon James
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) King, Evelyn (Sough Dorset) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Critchley, Julian King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rathbone, Tim
Crowder, F. P. Kinnock, Neil Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Kitson, Sir Timothy Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Dalyell, Tam Knight, Mrs Jill Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Lamond, James Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lamont, Norman Rhodes James, R.
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Langford,-Holt, Sir John Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Dodsworth Geoffrey Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Ridsdale, Julian
Doig, Peter Latham, Michael (Melton) Rifkind, Malcolm
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lawson, Nigel Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Drayson, Burnaby Leadbitter, Ted Robinson, Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Le Marchant, Spencer Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dunlop, John Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rooker, J. W.
Durant, Tony Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Ross, William (Londonderry)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Emery, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lloyd, Ian Royle, Sir Anthony
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Loveridge, John Sainsbury, Tim
Eyre, Reginald Luce, Richard St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lyon, Alexandr (York) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fairgrieve, Russell McAdden, Sir Stephen Shelton, William (Streatham)
Farr, John McCrindle, Robert Shepherd, colin
Fell, Anthony McCusker, H. Shersby, Michael
Finsberg, Geoffrey Macfarlane, Neil Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Fisher, Sir Nigel MacGregor, John Silvester, Fred
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Mackay, Andrew (Stechford) Sims, Roger
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Sinclair, Sir George
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson, M. (New Bury) Skeet, T. H. H.
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Spearing, Nigel
Fox, Marcus Marten, Neil Speed, Keith
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mates, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fry, Peter Mather, Carol Sproat, Iain
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Maude, Angus Stainton, Keith
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Stanbrook, Ivor
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mawby, Ray Stanley, John
Glyn, Dr Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Mayhew, Patrick Stoddart, David
Goodhart, Philip Mendelson, John Stokes, John
Goodhew, Victor Meyer, Sir Anthony Stradling Thomas, J.
Goodlad, Alastair Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Tapsell, Peter
Gorst, John Mills, Peter Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Miscampbell, Norman Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Tebbit, Norman
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Moate, Roger Temple-Morris, Peter
Grieve, Percy Molloy, William Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Griffiths, Eldon Molyneaux, James Townsend, Cyril D.
Grist, Ian Monro, Hector Trotter, Neville
Grylls, Michael Montgomery, Fergus van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moonman, Eric Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Moore, John (Croydon C) Viggers, Peter
Hampson, Dr Keith More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Hannam, John Morgan, Geraint Wakeham, John
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Walters, Dennis
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Warren, Kenneth
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mudd, David Weatherill, Bernard
Hayhoe, Barney Neave, Airey Wells, John
Hayman, Mrs Helene Nelson, Anthony Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Heffer, Eric S. Neubert, Michael Wiggin, Jerry
Heseltine, Michael Newens, Stanley Winterton, Nicholas
Higgins, Terence L. Newton, Tony Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Hodgson, Robin Nott, John Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Holland, Philip Ogden, Eric Younger, Hon George
Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Oppenheim, Mrs Sally TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Howell, David (Guildford) Ovenden, John Mr. George Gardiner and
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, John (Harrow West) Mr. Leslie Spriggs.
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Speaker

The remaining Government amendments are Nos. 83 to 86, 88, 90, 91, 93, 106, 107 and 109 to 111. If there is no objection, I propose to put them en bloc.

Forward to