§ [ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Now that we have completed the long Committee and Report stages of the Bill and reached Third Reading, I hope that I may start what I have to say this afternoon with one matter that will be uncontroversial. Although my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and myself dealt with a number of matters in Committee, the vast bulk of the work has been done by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Privy Council Office. I think that the House as a whole—particularly those Members who have taken an active interest all the way through—will agree with the tribute that I should like to set on record to my hon. Friend not only for the long hours that he has put in on the Bill but for the extremely capable and carefully argued contributions that he has made in Committee. We are grateful to him for that.
Since Second Reading the Bill has had a number of changes made to it. Some of those changes have been unwelcome to the Government. I shall refer to some of those changes later.
The claim that has been made in certain quarters, that the changes make the Bill unworkable or incapable of getting the necessary support of the Scottish people, is grossly exaggerated. The fact is that the basic structure of the Bill stands as it was on its introduction to the House. It still provides for a legislative Assembly with a wide range of functions.
A number of changes have been made, as I said, and I should like to explain briefly what the Government intend to do about the more important of those changes.
First, the old Clauses 1 and 40—concerned respectively with the unity of the United Kingdom and pay policy—were basically declaratory. The Government 1446 have already made clear that they will not try to put them back into the Bill.
New Clause 81, which deals with the date of the referendum if a General Election comes first, is, we believe, unnecessarily restrictive in view of the undertakings given by the Government on the date of the referendum. But, again, we shall not attempt in another place to change the Bill in that respect.
I shall not go over our previous debates on the 40 per cent. test of the electorate. There is considerable doubt about the drafting of Clause 80, but I do not want to deal with that matter on Third Reading. I simply reiterate what we said during the debate on this matter: that the Government believe this clause to be damaging. We believe that it could have potentially serious political repercussions in Scotland. Indeed, I think that it has already had such repercussions. The clause is unnecessary also because the referendum was and is to be consultative anyway. The matter will ultimately come back for final decision by this House. Therefore, we do not believe that any further test need be written into the Bill.
I mention this clause because I believe that Members who are against the Bill and devolution and who believe that with this test they have put an insuperable barrier in the way of devolution are deluding themselves. The test means that those who are in favour of the Bill and who will campaign in the referendum in support of it will campaign all the harder. I believe that we shall get a result that will meet the test that the House has written into the Bill. Therefore, it will ultimately be implemented.
Mr. Ian Cow (Eastbourne)
Will the Secretary of State make this matter clear beyond doubt? Is he saying that the Government will not seek to amend Clause 80 in another place?
§ Mr. Millan
We have already said that, and I am repeating it today. We shall not seek to amend that in another place.
I want to deal with one other change in the Bill concerning Orkney and Shetland. I am referring to Clause 80(3). It states that, assuming the Act were to come into force generally in Scotland, but that Orkney and Shetland had voted "No" in a referendum—incidentally by a simple majority with no question of the 40 per cent. 1447 test—the Act would not apply to Orkney and Shetland, but that a commission would be set up to look at the future government of Orkney and Shetland.
Let me make it clear, because there is some misunderstanding about this, that that does not exclude Orkney and Shetland from becoming a part of the Assembly in due course. Some people seem to imagine that it does. The commission could presumably recommend that Orkney and Shetland should be incorporated in the general provisions relating to the Assembly. Following such a recommendation the House could make that its ultimate decision. I also understand that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) accepts—I am sorry that he is not here to hear this, but I think I represent his views accurately—the position that ultimately Orkney and Shetland should participate in the work of the Assembly.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
As one of a number of hon. Members from all sides who went to the Shetlands to discuss this matter, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make it clear that in the event of the Shetland Islanders not wishing to be included in the Assembly, it would be for the commission to report that, through the Government, to this House, where a further decision would be made? Would that affect the Zetland County Council Act as this House has given effect to it?
§ Mr. Millan
It is not affected by devolution in the matters that are worrying the Shetland Islands Council, at the moment in any case. However, I shall come to that specific point.
I understand that the two islands councils want certain safeguards on devolution. Their view on this has not changed since we have had earlier discussions with them during the preparation and earlier stages of the Bill. At that time the discussions related to a number of specific matters about which they were anxious. But on some of these matters—for example, port and oil development generally, which are very much the kind of thing that the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned—we were able to give assurances that the Assembly would not affect their powers in these matters. These are reserved matters which are not affected by the Bill. Therefore we took the view, and we still 1448 take it, that, looking at the Bill in terms of the normal drafting of legislation such as this, no specific safeguards require to be written into the Bill because they already exist.
There were, however, other matters that the councils raised with us where that is not true and on which there are no specific safeguards in the Bill and no general safeguards to take account of the position. One of these is the desire of the two islands councils to retain their present all-purpose status, whatever might happen in the future in terms of local government reform in Scotland. We were not able to give undertakings on these matters, although all the main political parties in Scotland have, outside the question of the Bill, given certain assurances on these matters.
These discussions have been related to specific safeguards, and we note, having had meetings with both islands councils since the amendment was passed, that it is on specific matters that they have anxieties. In view of the decision of the House, and given the general situation, I accept that the House wants some special provision written into the Bill for Orkney and Shetland and I shall come in a moment to what that might be. But the Government accept, and we have told the islands councils, that some special provision should be written into the Bill.
If we accept that, there are two basic possible approaches to this. The first would be by way of specific safeguards in the Bill related to matters on which the councils have anxieties. The second, of course, is to proceed by way of the sort of provision we already now have in the Bill.
Let me say a word or two about the provision already in the Bill because it has considerable disadvantages, and the House should be aware of them. First, the effect of the provision is that Orkney and Shetland would be in a kind of limbo after the Assembly was set up for the rest of Scotland because they would have been excluded from the Assembly. They would presumably then be governed from Westminster for what I believe would be essentially quite a long period while the commission was established and made certain studies and recommendations, and before this House took 1449 certain decisions about those recommendations. It would be a great mistake to believe that that could be done within a few weeks or months.
During that period there would be considerable administrative complications because the Scottish Office would be considerably reduced after devolution, most of the matters on which we have a relationship with the islands councils having been transferred to the Assembly along with the corresponding civil servants.
Thirdly, there will be legislative complications because the Assembly would not of course be legislating for Orkney and Shetland, and it is unlikely that this House would devote a great deal of its time to that task. Fourthly, there are problems concerning certain agencies such as the Highlands and Islands Development Board which operate in Orkney and Shetland at the moment but which will, post-devolution, be the responsibility of the Scottish Assembly and the Scottish Executive and not that of the Westminster Government or the Secretary of State for Scotland.
In addition, there are a number of services, health services being a conspicuous one, for which the islands are dependent on the mainland for many of the most important provisions. Of course, the continuance of these provisions would depend upon the good will of the Assembly and the Scottish Executive. I am putting all these matters on record because I want to make it clear before the Bill goes to another place that the present provision in the Bill concerning Orkney and Shetland has serious disadvantages for them. I am talking about disadvantage or inconvenience not for the Government, the Assembly or the Scottish Executive, but for the islands themselves.
I am arranging further meetings in Orkney and Shetland, and we shall see how things go and whether the Government will want to introduce amendments in the House of Lords. I simply wanted to get these facts on the record at the moment.
§ Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)
May I, as one of the hon. Members who visited Shetland at the end of the Summer Recess and has had contact on this matter with the Shetland Islands Council and 1450 with the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), put forward a couple of points? The Secretary of State said he understood that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland accepted that ultimately Orkney and Shetland should participate in the Assembly. From his discussions with the representatives of the Shetland Islands Council, can the Secretary of State say whether they accept that proposition? I put a point to him arising from what he said on the dangers to Orkney and Shetland of them possibly finding themselves in a limbo after the Assembly is set up. Would he confirm that it is the view of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that, given the work that the Nevis Institute has already undertaken, there is no reason why a commission should not complete its task between the conclusion of the referendum and a possible Assembly commencing its work?
§ Mr. Millan
The hon. Gentleman's second point is completely unrealistic. Any commission that is, among other things, considering whether there should be some relation between Orkney and Shetland and the Assembly and the Assembly Executive could not reach a conclusion on that or put forward a particular proposal without consulting the Assembly and the Executive. The idea that this could be done in a few weeks or a few months is completely misguided.
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has come into the Chamber. I think that the views that I attributed to him are accurate, and that he is on record as being in favour ultimately of Orkney and Shetland participating in the work of the Assembly. If I am wrong about that, no doubt he will correct me. I find some difficulty in obtaining from the councils a firm view of what they believe should be the ultimate solution. I am having another meeting with them on that matter.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
I recognise the difficulties posed by my right hon. Friend, but are we not exaggerating? Would it not be simple to make an amendment in the House of Lords to the effect that existing relationships between Orkney and Shetland and the present Scottish Office which would be transferred to the Assembly would continue until such time as the commission had completed its task?
§ Mr. Millan
What my hon. Friend is saying is that the Bill as it stands will not do. That is all I was saying to the House at rather greater length. I thought it was worth putting those views on record before the Bill passed out of the House.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I must apologise for not being here when the Secretary of State mentioned my constituency. I am attending another meeting dealing with civil aviation in my constituency and I cannot be in more than one place at one time. I cannot in an intervention deal with the question of what will happen, but I confirm that I have always said that in the long run I hope there will be safeguards for Orkney and Shetland and that they will have a special relationship. Clearly, education, crofting and other services must be dealt with from Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Millan
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for confirming the views I attributed to him.
§ Mr. Millan
I think he has. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly capable of looking after himself and, if he wanted a bit of help, he would not go to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). I hope that I shall be able to travel back to the mainland in a moment.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Before my right hon. Friend does so, without suggesting that the considerations he mentioned are not an important part of the question, may I ask whether he agrees that, if the old Amendment No. 149 as it is in the Bill now is sustained, all the options available to Orkney and Shetland, including participation in the Assembly and non-participation in the Assembly, remain open, whereas, if it is knocked out, non-participation in the Assembly is an option which in practice becomes closed? Therefore, the freedom of the people of Orkney and Shetland to make up their minds after they know what is to happen to mainland Scotland is preserved only by keeping the Bill as it is now. Is that a reasonable way to put it?
§ Mr. Millan
No, I do not fully accept what my hon. Friend said. If there is to be an ultimate solution which involves 1452 Orkney and Shetland participating in the Assembly with perhaps some safeguards, presumably the Assembly and the Scottish Executive will have a view on that, and that view might not necessarily get the acceptance of the majority of the House.
I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), or whoever else is opening for the Opposition, will talk about the guillotine on the Bill. The Government are completely unrepentant about the use of the guillotine. No Bill of this nature is possible without a timetable motion. That is the practical reality. It is not possible to get through the House a major constitutional measure if there is disagreement about that measure or active opposition even from a small minority in the House without at some stage introducing a timetable motion.
The Bill had a majority of 44 on Second Reading. The Scotland and Wales Bill last Session had a majority of 45. Both Bills had substantial majorities on Second Reading. On the Scotland Bill we spent 109 hours, over 18 days, in debate. That has to be added to the 127 hours, over 16 days, on the Scotland and Wales Bill, apart from additional debates on the subject of devolution over recent years.
§ Mr. Millan
If my hon. Friend will allow me to finish what I am saying about the guillotine, I shall allow him to intervene.
It is true that many clauses were not debated, although it is fair to say that no amendments were put down to many clauses that were not debated. It is also true that virtually all the major issues have been debated. The questions of finance, revenue-raising powers, method of election, the referendum and most of the major issues raised by the Bill have been debated adequately. I should like to make one comparison, not with the European Communities Bill, for which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire was responsible, but with the Industrial Relations Bill of 1971, which my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) did not favour. Only 37 out of 150 clauses and one out of eight schedules were debated on that Bill. 1453 The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire had some responsibility for these matters. In a fit of frankness, when he was making a speech in Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman said:The Government is right in one matter. Under the present procedure no constitutional Bill could get through Parliament without a guillotine.I am delighted to have that confirmation from the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that we shall not have too much cant about the guillotine in the debate today.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Without wishing to interfere with the Secretary of State's successful effort to put the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) in the dock, I intervene merely to register a dissent. Will the Secretary of State please remember that there is another explanation of the doctrine of the guillotine—that the guillotine should be brought in by a Government only if there has been proved obstruction? I have attended many debates of this kind when the Government have given chapter and verse. What many of us disagree with is that the Government should have the right to introduce the guillotine merely because there is opposition.
§ Mr. Millan
I would accept that doctrine in general terms but not in relation to a Bill of this sort. As a matter of practical politics it is not possible, without a timetable motion, to get a Bill of this nature through a House that is not 100 per cent. behind it.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
The Secretary of State has just told the House that in his view there was no important issue that did not receive adequate discussion. One extremely important issue that was not discussed was incomes policy. The right hon. Gentleman said in a rather airy way that he did not mind losing Clause 40; it was declamatory and did not mean anything. One of the strongest criticisms of the scheme put forward by the Government is that it would be possible for a Scottish Assembly to have no regard for the incomes policy. The Assembly could go for 20 per cent. payments to its servants when the country was thinking in terms of 10 per cent. That has never been discussed. It is a matter of major significance. Surely the Secretary of State accepts that he cannot toss that on one side.
§ Mr. Millan
I am not tossing incomes policy on one side. The point I made applies, and the clause that dealt with incomes policy was taken out of the Bill.
I was going on to some of the more general arguments about the Bill, including the general case for devolution as expressed in the Bill. I repeat my belief that the vast majority of people in Scotland do not want independence or separation. I also believe strongly that independence is completely irrelevant to Scotland's real problems at present.
As for federation, I agree that that solution has a certain logic and coherence—the Government have never denied that—but there are considerable difficulties in the United Kingdom, when the four units of any federation are of such widely disparate size and when England has 83 per cent. of the total population. That would make a workable federation very difficult.
But even more important in terms of the immediate reality, there is not the slightest sign that the English want a federal system. I do not see why the government of England as it were should be substantially altered in a way that the English do not want, simply to suit the Scots and the Welsh. Equally, however, I do not see why, because the English may not want any particular change in government at Westminster, a long-expressed desire of the people of Scotland and Wales should be constantly and permanently frustrated. I think that the argument works both ways.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
Surely the argument that federation would be totally unbalanced because of the great size of England vis-à-vis Scotland applies equally to the independent country of Eire, which is dominated in almost precisely the same way, although it is totally independent. Does that not detract from the argument that it would not be possible to operate a system of self-government satisfactory to the people of Scotland while recognising the realities throughout the United Kingdom? Surely, if the right hon. Gentleman says that the argument for the English—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that points which could be made in debate by hon. Members who are hoping to catch my eye would be much better reserved until then. Interventions have been rather long, 1455 but my list of hon. Members wishing to speak is also very long.
§ Mr. Millan
That is a pity, because it might have been relevant. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's first point was. We can argue this at greater length on another occasion, but his argument about Eire is not a good parallel when it comes to federation. However, in deference to your wishes, Mr. Speaker, I shall not develop that point.
There is overwhelming evidence that the Scots want change and that what they want is devolution within the United Kingdom. First, the case for special features in Scottish government has always been recognised. Indeed, it was recognised in the Treaty of Union itself. Secondly, since the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was created in 1885, the powers of the Scottish Office have been continually extended. The Scots have a strong sense of national identity. They have maintained a separate legal system and separate administration; there are cultural, historical and even religious differences. Scotland is a discrete entity, an historical nation, which has maintained its identity over many years.
Thirdly, the way in which we have dealt with the problems of Scotland by continually extending the powers of the Scottish Office and the Secretary of State has an ultimate limit. I believe that we are pressing that ultimate limit now. Every Government—not only Labour but Conservative Governments—have been pushed, or have moved willingly, as this Government have done over the last two or three years, towards giving more powers to the Scottish Office. In our case, since 1974, industrial assistance powers under the Industry Act and powers in relation to the Manpower Services Commission have been decentralised to the Scottish Office. But there is a limit to what can be done within a United Kingdom system of administration in that direction.
All Governments, because of the political, administrative and economic realities of the situation, have added to the powers of the Scottish Office. It would be utterly repugnant to Scottish opinion and this House, whatever any hon. Member feels about devolution, for 1456 any of those powers to be taken back to Westminster and United Kingdom Departments, and away from the Scottish Office. But there are limits to how we can run the Scottish Office by continually adding these widely disparate powers to the Secretary of State's responsibilities.
That is because—fourthly—there is a problem of democratic accountability. I do not believe that this is unique to the Scottish Office or our arrangements for dealing with Scottish affairs: it applies to other Departments as well. I believe that there is a general feeling in he House that we could improve our systems of democratic accountability. But we can do it for Scotland in a way which, the Government believe, will not prejudice the unity of the United Kingdom and which will meet the long-expressed desires of people in Scotland. That of course is a strong argument for the devolution proposals.
Fifthly, I believe that devolution will lead to better government for Scotland, that it will lead to government which is more responsive to Scottish needs and which determines policies in relation to these matters more closely and independently than is possible when Scotland is governed through the Scottish Office, as happens at present.
I have felt that the more strongly since I have been Secretary of State over the last two years and I believe that most people who have held Scottish ministerial office share that view—that there are certain divergencies of policy and administration at the moment but that they could with great advantage to Scotland and with no detriment to the rest of the United Kingdom be considerably increased under a Scottish Assembly. I believe that that would be better government and that there would be better determination of priorities and a better expenditure of the money available for financing those services.
However, I also believe that it would be a great mistake to break the connection with the rest of the United Kingdom, either explicitly, by going separatist, or by determining a range of functions for the Scottish Assembly which would ultimately lead to that result. The way in which we have determined the split of functions between the Scottish Assembly and the United Kingdom Government in the Bill gives, I believe, wide scope for 1457 independent decision-making in Scotland while reserving to this House and to the Government here the basic decisions about the economy and the rest on which an integrated United Kingdom approach is required.
I believe that the kind of system proposed in the Bill is good for Scotland and for the United Kingdom and that it will increasingly be seen to be good for the United Kingdom as the devolution proposals take effect.
We are implementing in the Bill proposals based on the 1974 Labour Party manifesto, in which we said that we would introduce an Assembly for Scotland. The Liberal Party position on these matters is clear. As we heard the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) explain in an intervention just now, they support the Bill—at least, I hope, they do—but they believe in a federal approach. We know what the position of the Scottish National Party is.
But what about the position of the Conservative Opposition on devolution? They also, in their election manifesto in October 1974, pledged themselves to setting up a Scottish Assembly. At that time they said that they were preparing proposals. It is now four years later and we have not seen these proposals.
All that we have heard from the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, in the debates in this House, is a call for more consultations—for more talk about talk about talk. But we have had ample opportunity for talk on this matter, because, quite apart from the debates on this Bill, the Kilbrandon Commission was set up in 1968, which is 10 years ago now, and it reported in October 1973, which is more than four years ago. The Government issued a consultative paper in the summer of 1974 inviting comments on a number of different options identified by Kilbrandon—no fewer than seven options then.
Only a fortnight ago, in a speech in Edinburgh, the right hon. Gentleman unveiled four options which he said his party would submit to a constitutional conference. It is a pity, incidentally, that the party with this great enthusiasm for reform and with all these ideas fermenting did not take the trouble to submit evidence to the Kilbrandon Commission in the first place, because it was the only 1458 party represented in the House that did not do so.
However, at any rate, after these four years we have now four options. The first is the status quo, but with a Select Committee of Scottish Members of Parliament to investigate legislation and propose measures. But that is not new. It is the old proposal, as far as I can see, of the Douglas-Home Committee, and even the author of that proposal has publicly admitted that that is no longer a valid option for Scotland, and—if I need say it—it does not, of course, provide for an elected Assembly. Therefore, it does not provide for the promises made by the Conservative Party at the last General Election.
Then we have an inquisitorial Assembly, perhaps directly elected but with no executive and only limited legislative powers. But that is not a new idea. It was one of the options published in the present Government's White Paper of June 1974. It was one of the seven options. It is not something that has suddenly come to light or has suddenly been developed by the right hon. Gentleman or the Conservative Party. It was there in the 1974 White Paper.
Then there is the quasi-federal system, which I gather is the third of the options that the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. But again, so far as one can make sense of that—it is a bit vague as the right hon. Gentleman describes it—that is rather similar to one of the options, option B, in the Government's 1974 consultative document, so there is nothing new about that, as well.
The right hon. Gentleman's final option is a separate Scottish Assembly, with executive and legislative powers. That is very much what is provided for in the Bill.
The point about all these so-called options is that they have already been explored at very considerable length, going back at least to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission and, for those of us who have been involved in Scottish politics, they are familiar for years before that. What the right hon. Gentleman is involved in is not a serious study of the problems but a continuation of delaying tactics.
If one looks at the speech that the right hon. Gentleman made on 23rd January 1459 this year, the same speech from which I have already quoted, one can see it actually spelt out. This is how the right hon. Gentleman explained what we should do about devolution:First, there should be an all-party constitutional committee to examine the options.'Presumably the right hon. Gentleman was referring to his four options and anything that anyone else would like to think of. The right hon. Gentleman continued:Second, its conclusion should be put to the House of Commons as a whole.The House would then indicate which option it preferred andconsider the implications for other parts of the United Kingdom.Then,Third, the Government should produce a draft Bill containing various options—so that we could all have another go at deciding what we want. As the fourth bit of the proposal, the right hon. Gentleman said that we should then set up a Select Committeeto examine the detail of the Bill, but not the principles.Then the right hon. Gentleman said:Finally, with the Select Committee's report to hand, the House of Commons should deal with the Bill in the normal way.The next sentence is understandable:this procedure is rather lengthy and a guillotine may be needed in the end.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:In fact, the procedure may take up to three years.It would take that long on that basis.
The fact is that the Conservative Party has not the slightest intention of doing anything about devolution for Scotland. It will not set up an Assembly. It has abandoned its commitment to an Assembly. I think that it would be more honest if the right hon. Gentleman and the rest of the Opposition Front Bench would simply say that. We would have some respect for that. There is a perfectly acceptable argument for no Assembly at all, but there is no argument for continually delaying a decision on this matter by constitutional conferences or anything else.
It is no wonder that the hon. Member for Cathcart in a speech the other day, said:The issue of devolution has been a bit of a political nightmare for the Conservative Party.1460 The hon. Gentleman is a bit of a political nightmare himself.
We believe that our proposals are what the people in Scotland want and we believe that they are workable proposals. We have improved them as the debate has gone on.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The right hon. Gentleman has been scathing about the difficulties. We admit that devolution has been a nightmare for the Tory Party in dealing with a very difficult constitutional issue. However, I ask the right hon. Gentleman a straight question. Would he care to give us an assessment of what would be the result tonight, on Third Reading, if the House of Commons were to express its real opinion about this Bill on a free vote?
§ Mr. Millan
That is a very inadequate answer to what I have said about the hon. Gentleman. The House will give its view tonight, and I believe that it will be a view for the Third Reading of the Bill.
I was about to make one final point. During the course of the debates on the Bill, we have been told that there are possible sources of friction here between the Assembly and Westminster. Of course, I admit that. Any system of this sort has possible sources of friction. Any system of this sort and any scheme of devolution ultimately depends to some extent on good will and common sense. I have never denied that. In fact, I assert it. I believe that we shall get that. I have much more faith in the common sense virtues of the Scottish people than apparently the Conservative Opposition have.
I want just to make the additional point that this House and the way in which we govern the United Kingdom from this House depend on good will, moderation and common sense as well. Even the internal workings of this House depend on good will. But again, in the wider profound sense, what we do here about the Government of the United Kingdom depends ultimately on the general acceptance of the people who send us here, the electorate of the United Kingdom.
If we in this House were to deny Scottish people a change in the government of Scotland for which they have expresed a desire over many years and about which they will soon have a right to take the 1461 ultimate decision, subject to final authority of this House, and if we ignore that feeling in Scotland and deny people there the right to make that kind of choice, the acceptance by them of the House of Commons is called into question as well. I ask hon. Members who may be disposed to vote against the Bill tonight to take that into consideration.
§ Mr. Millan
I am literally finishing my speech.
This Bill, when it leaves here, will go to another place for further consideration. I do not in any way devalue the consideration that it will have in the House of Lords, but I believe that, more important than that, it will go ultimately to the people of Scotland at the referendum for their consideration and for their decision. I believe that the debate now is moving out of this House and to the people of Scotland. I believe that when it goes there we shall have their support and the implementation of the Assembly.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
I should like to say to the Secretary of State, in view of the fact that the House of Commons is so profoundly uneasy and disquieted about this Bill, that there is a very good argument for saying that we ought to find a better way of improving the government of Scotland. As I have listened to and participated in debates on this Bill, or at least on those parts of it that we have had time to discuss, I have felt that I have been through the same experience before. I had—and so has the whole House. It has been a repetition of the late though unlamented Scotland and Wales Bill, one anniversary of which happens to fall today.
I say that because day after day hon. Members in all parts of the House have risen to speak on the Bill but for almost all of the time there has been but one lone voice raised in favour of the proposals it contains—that of the Minister of State, sitting much of the time in splendid isolation on the Government Front Bench, though there were others there from time to time. I support what the Secretary of State has said: we on this side wish to thank the Minister of State for the patience and courtesy he 1462 has shown. Whilst we did not always necessarily accept his arguments, we appreciated the way in which he conducted his business.
§ Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot have the argument both ways. In one breath he says that because of the guillotine hon. Members have not had sufficient time to debate the proposals in the Bill, and in the next breath he is criticising the fact that we who supported the Bill on this side gave ample opportunity to the Opposition to destroy it.
§ Mr. Pym
Behind the Minister of State there was the Under-Secretary and sometimes the Lord President, who were all enthusiastic supporters of the Bill but there were very few others. The Benches behind were empty and the Whips were very reluctant to fill them because they were probably rather afraid that hon. Members might hear the arguments overwhelmingly against the Bill. Hon. Member after hon. Member has criticised each and every aspect of the Bill, founded, as it is, in political expediency.
§ Mr. Pym
I will get on with my speech, otherwise we shall be here for two hours. I do not mind, but some hon. Members might regret it.
There are those who oppose the whole concept of devolution and there are some who prefer some other kind of devolution. There are those in the Scottish National Party who support independence and who have voted enthusiastically for this Bill simply because they know that it is so bad that it must inevitably lead towards that separation they desire. Their national chairman admitted as much.
But where are the supporters of the Bill, the protagonists? Who is proclaiming all the benefits to flow from it? The answer is—nobody in this House or outside, except the Minister. And so, just as with the Scotland and Wales Bill, time and again the Government have lost the arguments although they have won the votes—or most of them. No wonder they were at such pains to introduce the guillotine right from the start.
The Government well knew that if every clause were properly debated, it 1463 would be overwhelmed by the logic of the argument against the Bill. I accept that the Secretary of State quoted accurately what I said on the timetable motion. I also said that the background to any such motion, the processes and procedures gone through before it is ever introduced, are very important and that the procedure he had outlined would be rather lengthy, taking three years. Where are we now after three years of the Government's endless Bill? We are still in a state when the House genuinely does not believe in it.
When the guillotine motion was introduced, I warned the House that if it was passed many important clauses and constructive amendments would go undebated. Little did I realise that so many would receive neither word of comment nor scrutiny. Little did I think I would see entire sections of a major constitutional Bill go through the House without any consideration. That cannot be right. It is a dereliction of our duty. It is irresponsible in an area where this House has responsibility. Yet at this time the Minister of State said:The sensible thing for the House of Commons to do is to examine the Bill carefully, to test Ministers on the arguments they put forward. Hon. Members can do that only in an organised way if there is some structure to the discussion, and that is what the guillotine motion provides.We know now what kind of structure it gave the discussion. A little bit here and a little bit there, and over half of the Bill neglected altogether. Some 58 clauses and 14 schedules went through on the nod, including crucial clauses on finance, the powers to veto Assembly Bills and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, the actual powers to be devolved. On top of that there were 68 Front Bench amendments from this side all designed to test the Bill at a specific point and all actually selected by the Chair but all totally unconsidered. That is reducing the legislative process to a farce.
In their handling of the Bill, which I have criticised from the outset, the Government have made certain that Parliament could not do its job properly. Parliament has failed the nation in its handling of this Bill so far. I believe responsibility for that lies with the Treasury Bench.
But we can at least begin to put it right tonight because if ever there was a case 1464 for the House to rise to an occasion, this is it. It is for the House to decide tonight. The Government, I believe quite rightly, refused to make this a matter of confidence. I believe they were right to turn down the overtures to do so that they received from the Scottish National Party.
This Government have been so sure about this Bill, so sure that they had designed the most perfect scheme imaginable, that right up to the referendum clause there was an unwillingness to accept a single amendment or even the spirit of any amendment or to reconsider a single clause in the Bill. With the sole exception of the preamble to the referendum provision, virtually every change in the Bill has been forced on an unwilling Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) predicted in the debate on the guillotine motion on 16th November last,there will be no concessions to any argument at any stage of the Committee."—[Official Report, 16th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 642–5].So it has proved to be. We on this side have adopted a consistent attitude of strong opposition to the Bill, but our amendments have been constructive. All our amendments have been designed to ensure that if the Bill ever became law it would work more smoothly, so far as that is possible.
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman says "Nonsense", but we tried. If he will look at the 68 undebated amendments I believe he will come to that conclusion. We tried to make the division of powers clearer and to allocate responsibility more clearly. We tried to reduce the elements of confusion and conflict in the Bill, and we tried to introduce judicial procedures rather than political processes where there might be conflict over matters of fact rather than opinion—but all to no avail.
Where we voted against important clauses we did so either because we disagreed or because they had gone undebated and we thought it wrong that we should have no opportunity to discuss them. The Government have been unwilling to accept any constructive amendment.
But despite all our efforts, there were some provisions which the House simply 1465 was not prepared to accept, though I note from what has been said by the Secretary of State that in practically every case the Government are now prepared to accept them. Here I am referring to the referendum and the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
I have heard the Secretary of State say that he will have to consider what amendments he puts down in another place, if this Bill ever gets there. The same applies to pay policy. But the most significant thing of all was on the very first day of the Committee stage, when the House forced the Government to face up to the fact that it just did not believe that the Bill would have no effect on the future of the United Kingdom. The Government's decision not to try to reinstate that clause on Report stage is enormously significant. The House of Commons has asserted its conviction that this Bill will affect the future unity of the United Kingdom and the Government have accepted that view.
In proposing the timetable motion, the Minister said the House had a duty to come to a verdict on legislation, presumably whether or not it was debated. It did so, and most pointedly when it voted out the first clause. Today, unfortunately—and I accept the truth of what the Secretary of State has said—we are left with the Bill in largely the same unsatisfactory state as when we debated it on Second Reading, which is the context in which we have to consider it today on Third Reading.
§ Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)
The right hon. Gentleman constantly talks of the unity of the United Kingdom. Since he has mentioned the inevitability of independence, does he recognise the basic intrinsic merits of that proposition?
§ Mr. Pym
I do not think I said that it was inevitable. I said that it was extremely likely that it could lead to that eventually and that that was why the SNP supported the proposal.
On Second Reading several hon. Members said that they were opposed to the Bill but would vote for it so that they could campaign against it in the referendum. Whatever else I may think about that, I can at least understand it because it is one way of trying to resolve a con- 1466 flict of loyalties. It is attractive to say that we should find out—so far as that is possible—what the Scots really want.
Now that we have spent 18 days considering the Bill, albeit an insufficient number, and now that we have written into the Bill a minimum percentage for a referendum, it may still seem an attractive proposition to put this question to the Scots. But is it fair to put this particular question to the people of Scotland?
One of the principal moving forces behind devolution—and I regret this factor—is disillusion with Parliament and the poor performance of our nation. Does it make sense to say to the people of Scotland. "You have asked for an Assembly, and here it is. We have not had enough time to work out exactly how it will operate in detail, but what we have seen we do not like. But we have passed this measure because we want to pass the buck to you, the people of Scotland. You can tell us whether you want us to bring the measure into operation"?
That attitude cannot be right. It is a kind of fraud, because it contains a deceit and is misleading. The people of Scotland have been led to believe that this is a good form of devolution. We do not think it is and this House, in its heart, does not believe it is. Parliament has a duty to ensure that the option which it puts before the people of Scotland is workable—and we have failed in that duty so far.
§ Mr. Pym
I do not want to give way, because if I do so my speech will take one-and-a-half hours or two hours to deliver.
Everybody knows what the House really thinks of this Bill. Because the House was so conscious of its implications, it decided to require a 40 per cent. "Yes" vote in the referendum. What is being said to the people of Scotland is "We shall put the Bill into effect, but only if the public are prepared to take the blame in sufficiently large numbers".
I do not regard that as government, statesmanship or good parliamentary government. If anything, it is a parliamentary scandal. If the House is so unsure of the proposal, it should vote against the Bill tonight. In doing so, the House 1467 would be voting for Scotland rather than against it.
We should make clear to the people of Scotland that we know that they are dissatisfied and that that is the reason for the Bill. We should say to them "We understand that you want changes. So does the rest of the United Kingdom. But we believe that this change will not work and will harm Scotland and the United Kingdom. We examined the scheme last year, and did not like it. We have now examined it again and are even more convinced that it is wrong. Therefore, we shall vote against it and try to hammer out proposals for Scotland that will actually work and help the Scottish people."
To many people in Scotland this sounds like delay and frustration. I acknowledge that factor. But how much more frustration would there be, if the Bill were ever enacted, if it were to fail? That is the choice we must face.
§ Mr. Gerry Fowler
The right hon. Gentleman has often talked about hammering out propsals for Scotland. However, we have still had no proposals from the Conservative Party. May we know what they are?
§ Mr. Pym
In my view, there is at present no proposal for which there is a genuine majority in this House. There may have been a majority on Second Reading, and I cannot deny that, but it is clear that this House does not believe in the measure. I have been frank enough to acknowledge that no proposal put forward by anybody, including members of the Liberal Party, has had a majority in this House. No proposal has been put forward to find a better way of implementing this matter. Is it not our responsibility to advance such a proposal? That is the procedural background behind the Bill. It is more important for us to get a measure that will work and will be satisfactory and acceptable, instead of plunging ahead with a Bill just because the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum refers to "devolution".
§ Mr. Iain MacCormick (Argyll)
I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to carry out his threat to speak for two hours, but in replying to the intervention of the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler), the right hon. Gentleman spoke of proposals for a devolved Scotland 1468 which were unacceptable. However, does he not appreciate that we are still awaiting concrete proposals from the Conservative Party?
§ Mr. Pym
None of the parties has yet put forward a genuine proposal for which there is majority support. That is a factor which the House must accept. The essence of the matter involves consideration of how we should move in the direction of devolution and the solution which we eventually put forward.
This Bill cannot in the event satisfy the people of Scotland. I want to test that proposition by posing three questions. First, does it meet the demands for the reform of the Government of Scotland; secondly, does it meet the emotional expectations in Scotland; and, thirdly, how will the Bill work?
Let me deal first with the point whether the Bill will meet constitutional demands. I do not believe that we have evolved the most perfect system of government, let alone that it should remain exactly as it is now—far from it. But equally I believe that it should be changed only to meet genuine needs and improvements.
What is wrong and what is being complained of? In my opinion, Parliament has not adapted itself to deal with and to control the vast expansion of modern government activity. In a sense the Executive is out of control. The procedures appropriate to Parliament in the first half of this century can scarcely be man enough or adequate to control the Executive at the present time. Government now permeates every person's everyday life. Once government takes that course, it needs more scrutiny and investigation. Its activities need to be checked more closely by people who possess the appropriate expertise—and it needs to be made more responsive to people's preferences.
But, as we all know, at the same time as government has grown more and interfered more, the more we find Parliament less able to cope. Bills go through improperly examined—as we see with this Bill today—orders and regulations often go undebated, and the reports of nationalised industries and public bodies go unconsidered. Furthermore, the bureaucracies seem to have a life and will of their own, beyond the control of politicians and closed to any access by ordinary people. That is true of the 1469 United Kingdom at large, and perhaps even more true of Scotland with its separate arrangements and government administration.
I believe that it is this constitutional weakness, this parliamentary failure, that is behind the sense and feeling in Scotland that, when things go wrong, it is because people in Westminster, Whitehall and in the headquarters of nationalised industries do not seem to understand Scotland's special needs and circumstances. There seems no way of getting at them to tell them. It does not need this Bill to overcome that situation, and indeed it will not overcome it. There are other ways to go about the matter. The Secretary of State likes to pour cold water on every suggestion we make, but there is enough cold water about to pour on his own proposals, so that he should have some feeling of humility.
The Bill envisages the creation of another tier of government, another Cabinet and another Parliament in Edinburgh. There are no new ideas for the better control of the Executive, but just an extra Executive. There are no new ideas to improve the quality of legislation—just more of it. Finally, there are no ideas on how to increase the expertise available to legislators.
It is an Assembly with the appearance of power and importance, but it will not contribute to the wellbeing of Scotland or the United Kingdom and it will be expensive. The Bill cannot be said to meet the essential constructional need for better investigation and control of Government activity.
Does it meet the emotional call from Scotland? Many people think that it is necessary for Scotland to have an Assembly. Some go further and believe that the granting of executive and legislative powers is some sort of test of its effectiveness. But what is the expectation behind that? What do people think that an Assembly with its own Cabinet will be able to do that Parliament cannot or will not do and that an Assembly without a Cabinet could not do? They expect it to be able to act in the one area that they associate with Cabinet government—the economy, prices and jobs. They think that the Assembly will improve Scotland's economic performance. But this Bill can do nothing about jobs, the economy or prices.
1470 When the flaws in the Bill are discovered in Scotland—as assuredly they will be—there will be a bitter sense of disappointment. Expectations have been raised. People have been misled and there will be a reaction. People will feel let down. In the idiom of modern politics, there will be a call for action. There will be pressure for more power. If and when that is granted, we shall see the beginning of the break-up of the unity of the United Kingdom economy. That would be crazy.
The Assembly proposed in the Bill will not meet the emotional call, except possibly in the immediate short term in the erroneous belief that Scotland has achieved some real benefit for itself. These matters are for individual judgment. Perhaps it could be said that my judgment is wrong, but it is my present conviction and that is why I say it.
The decisive question must be; will the Bill actually work or will it cause more problems than it solves? No doubt, with an abundance of good will on all sides, it could be made to function for a time. But it will not function smoothly or easily, because it is built on an unstable foundation.
It is incredible that even at this late stage the Government have still not answered some of the telling questions that they pose in their own White Paper, "Devolution within the United Kingdom" which was published in 1974. The Secretary of State referred to the White Paper. If he turns to paragraph 56 he will find many questions to which we have not yet had answers. Paragraph 56(a) asks:What difficulties are foreseen when the Scottish and Welsh Governmenst are of a different political complexion from the United Kingdom Government?The Government have not yet expressed a view about that. Paragraph 56(e) asks:is it acceptable to the people of England that while the Westminster Parliament would in general not be able to legislate for Scotland and Wales in matters of health, education, local government, etc., some 90 Scottish and Welsh MPs at Westminster would participate in legislation for England on these matters?That is an early version, the Government's own version, of the West Lothian question. There is no answer to it and the Government have made no attempt to provide an answer. Parliament's answer 1471 is that it is not acceptable. What are the Government now saying? They do not even recognise that there is a problem. They pretend that the question does not exist.
Paragraph 56(g) asks:is it acceptable to the people of Scotland and Wales that their Secretaries of State would disappear in their present form?I dare say that in Scotland with unemployment at 196,000 that might be so. The paragraph continues:Even if they were retained, they would have more limited powers and would not have the support of strong departments.After four years these and many other questions have not been answered. They have been ignored and brushed aside.
§ Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)
During the passage of this legislation the majority of Scottish Members have endorsed it but have been over-ruled by the English majority. I take it from the right hon. Member's criticism of the failure to give economic powers to the Assembly that he is endorsing the proposal by his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) that there should be a separate exchequer.
§ Mr. Pym
All hon. Members are Members of the United Kingdom Parliament. Of course hon. Members from Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom can vote on all matters that relate to the United Kingdom or any part of it. Expectations have been raised about economic matters. There will be disappointment, and that is a great pity.
The truth about the Bill is that it will reduce the effectiveness of Scotland's voice in the Cabinet. We all know that Ministers without a powerful Department behind them are far less well placed in Cabinet. Does Scotland want to exchange her place at the Cabinet table for an ineffective Assembly in Edinburgh?
§ Mr. Pym
Although I have posed and repeated that question time and time again, the Scots have not yet been adequately warned about the consequences of this Bill. No wonder the Government have not answered their own questions. They dare not do so. They have not got any answers. The whole 1472 scheme is riddled with inconsistencies. I shall summarise some of them.
First, there is no clear division of powers. There are many areas of dual responsibility. The Scottish Secretary is sometimes required to act on the instructions of the Secretary of State, regardless of whether he agrees with them or whether they are politically alien to his beliefs. At other times he must act only with the consent of a United Kingdom Minister. At other times both Executives may act but it is not made clear which has precedence. That cannot lead to stable government. At best it must lead to inefficient government and at worst to contentious disputes.
Secondly, a complicated list of devolved subjects are contained in the Bill, followed by a detailed list of exceptions. There is a list of Acts devolved and a list of sections of Acts that are excepted. Almost the whole of that has been left undebated.
Thirdly, having created such a complicated system, the Government have created an equally controversial procedure for resolving the disputes that will inevitably arise. Instead of referring all questions of vires to the Judicial Committee, where an EEC or international obligation is in question, the United Kingdom Government will simply veto the Assembly's action without even a reference to Parliament. Yet such matters are matters of fact and law and open to legal interpretation. Even where the Assembly may be acting ultra vires it will be only for the Secretary of State to refer the matter to the Judicial Committee. Parliament has no say. That opens the way for a co-operative Secretary of State to allow the Assembly to extend its powers without the permission of this House, simply by not referring a Bill to the Judicial Committee.
Fourthly, there are the override powers. Here, the Assembly may act intra vires but be overruled by two simple votes on a Resolution in this House if its actionwould or might affect a reserved matter, whether directly or indirectly.I can think of few actions of which it could not be claimed that they might indirectly affect a reserved matter. The economy is an example. Any devolved education matter must at least indirectly affect the universities, which are reserved.
1473 Whenever that veto is used, it will bear the appearance of a partisan veto, exercised by a United Kingdom Government who simply dislike what the Assembly is doing. Would it not have been better to rely on the power of Parliament to pass an Act revising the Assembly Act? At least that would have provided the safeguard of the procedures required to pass an Act of Parliament. That would be preferable to reversing a Scottish Act by two simple votes after a short debate.
After all, it is the procedure that must be used if a Scottish Assembly Act adversely affects a matter such as health or education affecting only England. Why not use it for the other matters? If the Government had accepted our amendments it would have been easier still, because any Assembly Act would be read subject to any United Kingdom Act passed after the passage of the Bill.
There are plenty of other objections to the Bill, such as the changes in the role of the House of Lords, a very important matter, and lack of any information on the procedure for the allocation and determination of the block budget and the role of the Finance Board.
I am not saying that if this scheme were put into effect the government of Scotland would collapse on the morrow of the Assembly's taking over. What I am saying is that the underlying seeds of frustration, disappointment and unrealised expectations will sow divisions even among men of good will, and in the end they could come to see independence at the only way out of these problems.
At every point in the debate we have returned to the one central defect that has haunted all our discussions. It is simply this: what will be the role of Scottish Members of Parliament after the Assembly is established? Scottish Members will be able to vote on certain matters as they affect England, Wales or Northern Ireland, but neither they nor any other Members will be able to vote on them for Scotland.
It is one thing for English Members to vote on purely Scottish affairs and for Scottish Members to vote on purely English affairs when that can happen both ways. Then it is a matter of United Kingdom Members voting on United Kingdom affairs whether they concern one part of the United Kingdom or the 1474 whole United Kingdom. It is quite a different matter when Scottish Members vote on English affairs when they themselves cannot vote on the same affairs for Scotland.
In fact, the House of Commons would then have five different roles—for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole. There would also be four different roles for Scotland—when a subject is devolved completely, when it is devolved for Executive purposes only, when it is a matter for the Secretary of State, and when Scotland is treated like any other part of the United Kingdom. What a fantastic proposition!
I make this prediction: the day on which the votes of Scottish Members determine an issue for England in a way with which English Members do not agree will be the day the system will break down. We shall not need to wait for it to know that it will happen. Parliament will then be faced with the stark reality of what it has done.
I shall tell the House how I think the sequence of events may proceed from there if the Bill is enacted. First, we shall probably try a convention whereby Scottish Members do not vote on non-Scottish matters. That will collapse on the day the Government are deprived of their overall majority as a result.
Then we shall create an Executive for non-Scottish matters from the party with the largest number of non-Scottish seats. But that will soon cease to work. Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, you will have a terrible time in all this. It will cease to work when the chaos created by two Executives in the same body becomes apparent. The idea of having two different and separate Executive in this House seems absurd.
What shall we do then? Shall we move on to meeting at different times of the week for non-Scottish business? Will it not be long before we decide to elect a separate English and Welsh Assembly with the same powers as that for Scotland? What sort of crazy world would this be? What price Clause 1 now? It is no wonder the Government have not tried to reinstate it.
We should then have arrived at a kind of quasi-federal system, not by choice but by accident, as a result of trying to cope 1475 with the consequences of a bad Bill, which the House should not pass.
The frightening thing is that the Government do not even recognise that their scheme will create these or any difficulties for the role of Scottish Members. It would be one thing if the Government were to acknowledge that there were problems and then to claim that devolution was so overridingly important that we must accept these anomalies. But it is quite another when they refuse to recognise that any difficulties exist.
I know why the Government refuse to recognise the difficulties. It is because they realise that the only result could be the disappearance of their majority based on Scottish votes, and that would destroy the whole object of the Bill from their point of view, which is to keep that majority intact.
Even if there were no other reason to vote against the Bill—and there are plenty—this vital unresolved matter of the role of Scottish Members is surely by itself sufficient.
The Bill is not the only way to change government as it affects Scotland. If the Government and the House were convinced that Scotland must have an Assembly, and the only way to establish such a body was by the scheme in the Bill, that might be a reason to vote for it. But it is not the only scheme. A vote for or against the Bill is not a vote for or against devolution. It is a vote for or against this scheme. The Lord President likes to mock, but that is true. It is a vote for or against this scheme, and that is all.
More than that, there is a better way. The House knows my view. Not everybody accepts it, but there is no view on this subject that is accepted by the whole House. I think that, every party having concluded that there could and should be improvements in the government of Scotland, we should work out the workable options. These have not been put forward for debate in the House, even without the all-party conference for which I have been calling.
I have put forward four options. The Secretary of State is entitled to pour cold water on them, and others can be proposed. We may not reach agreement on any one alternative, but at least we could 1476 agree on what the workable options are and the implications of each for the rest of the United Kingdom. The House has never been invited to go through that process, by which it would be in a better position to express its preference and to bring the matter to a properly considered conclusion.
Because the scheme before us is so fraught with unnecessary danger for the future of our country, and because so many more dangers may lurk in the many undebated clauses, I urge the House to vote against the Bill tonight and to choose another way. If the Bill is defeated tonight, the Government will not fall. There will be no sudden election. In fact, I rather suspect that, like the rest of us, the Government would probably privately breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Like the votes on the referendum last week, it would not be a verdict on the Labour Government, the Conservative Opposition or the Lib-Lab pact, nor would it be a verdict given by the Labour Party, the Liberal Party or any other party. It would be a verdict of the House of Commons on a Bill for which it has no enthusiasm and which in its heart it believes is wrong.
We in this House are the trustees for the time being of our country and its institutions.
§ Mr. Pym
If we fail in our guardianship of our country and its institutions, the judgment of our people and of history will indeed be harsh, and rightly so. Let us do what we know to be right. Let us be true to ourselves and even now throw out the Bill and save our country and her people, whom we here represent, from the awful consequences that will flow from it.
§ Mr. Speaker
I appeal to hon. Members not to come to the Chair to seek to find out their chances of being called to speak. I also give the House the assurance that I shall do my best to see that there is a balanced debate. I shall be here almost throughout the debate. It will be intolerable if there is a constant queue coming up to the Chair and, in the words of my predecessor, it will be counterproductive.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
As I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) I found it hard to believe that he was speaking for the party that in 1967, the year before the Kilbrandon Commission was established, set up a shadow constitutional commision—[H0N. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I can do without the help of SNP Members. If they remain silent I shall resume my seat all the more quickly and they will have a chance to speak. The chairman of the shadow commission was Lord Home, as he now is. It had on it ex-Prime Ministers from Dominions. A Scottish judge, Lord Avonside, was persuaded to join it. It was apparently forgotten that judges have a certain dissociation from politics. The Conservatives were so concerned about the question that they established the commission, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot now come forward and say anything to the contrary on behalf of the Conservative Party. There are Conservative Members who in election after election from 1970 onwards have had devolution in their election addresses, promising the people of Scotland a directly elected Assembly. I have had a sheaf of election addresses from my own Member of Parliament along these lines.
The right hon. Gentleman, despite these facts, comes here today with his condemnation of the Bill. He should be condemning himself and his own party, The Conservatives set up the commission, and it came to a certain point of view, The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that we have had debate after debate on the Kilbrandon Report. Indeed, it was his party's policy to go further forward in regard to devolution. If there is any party to be condemned for its behaviour in relation to Scotland it is the Tory Party.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about fraud and about deceit. After the debate he can come with me to my room and I can show him the headlines in The Scotsman after the declaration of Perth, when the Tory Party committed itself to a directly elected Assembly in Scotland. That was over 10 years ago, yet he comes to the House today and makes the speech that he has just made. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that there was no one more reluctant than myself—
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman is an expert on points of order and in speaking from a sedentary position, but he knows nothing at all about Scotland.
I was reluctant about the creation of an Assembly. I was not sure whether it was a slippery slope or whether it could be a half-way house where we could stop, but I came to the conclusion that we had to have an Assembly because the position here was becoming quite impossible. There were several things happening, and the right hon. Gentleman rightly touched on this. There was the expectation that Governments would enter new spheres of activity and, for example, accept responsibility for planning. That has grown up since the war. Then there was the National Health Service, which was not here before the war. There were also questions of responsibility for economic development in industry and aids for industry. These were all great new burdens coming upon the House of Commons and upon Government.
At the same time, in relation to Scotland, more and more old responsibilities as well as new ones were piling up on the Secretary of State for Scotland. It should be remembered that the Scottish Office was transferred to Edinburgh in 1939. There has been a growth of a tremendous Civil Service dealing with all these necessary responsibilities, but not in Whitehall. There is only a handful of Scottish civil servants in Whitehall. There are over 7,000 civil servants in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Where are the Members of Parliament? They are here.
When I came into the House a Scottish Member was entitled to ask three Questions at Question Time. Now it is not three but two, and matters are slightly congested as to how they are treated. They come up on one day every four weeks. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is enough?
The more that we had these responsibilities piling up on the Secretary of State for Scotland—and rightly so, because they had to be undertaken in Edinburgh—the more difficult it became for the Minister properly to oversee them and be doing one duty in Scotland and another here, especially in the kind of Parliament that we have. Indeed, it was the right hon. 1479 Gentleman's Government which established the first Minister of State, Scottish Office. His job was to stay in Scotland. It was then discovered that he could not, because he had to be in the House of Lords.
There has been a logical development over the years. The Scottish Office developed from 1885. The Secretary of State was first appointed in 1926. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman's father was the first modern Secretary of State for Scotland. Then we had the Gilmour Committee, following which we had the transfer of various powers to the Scottish Office. The logical and right conclusion, therefore, is that we must have an Assembly to ensure that there is democratic control of what we are doing.
As to the functions of the Assembly, I believe that these are right, except that I should have liked to see them go a little further in respect of the law. I should have preferred to see the Lord Advocate in the Assembly rather than down here. It should be remembered that the basis for being able to make such changes stems from the Act of Union, in that Scotland was given a guarantee that the Scottish legal system would continue.
One of the difficulties is that my English hon. Friends, and also my Scottish hon. Friends who represent English constituencies, do not appear to know how Scotland is governed at the present time. They do not appreciate the differences which exist. The tremendous battle that we had in this House about private patients in the hospital service did not raise a flutter in Scotland. In Scotland there are about 60,000 hospital beds, of which only about 100 are private. Having a separate Act of Parliament and a separate administration to deal with our health services, we have exercised our right to be different.
The right hon. Gentleman should be able to see that we are dealing in the Bill with the functions of education, local government and so on. He should be able to see what are the possibilities. He talked about the day when Scottish votes in this House will create a situation which will upset the English Members. I wonder whether he recalls the Committee stage of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill 1973. At that time, when local government was being reorganised, of the 71 Scottish seats, 44 were Labour, 23 were 1480 Conservative, three were Liberal and one was held by the Scottish National Party. But despite the fact that we had the majority of opinion behind us, the difficulty was that it was a Tory Government. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman who in May 1973 was asking Conservative Members to vote in Committee to give back to local authorities power over water matters while at the same time exactly the opposite was being done in regard to England on the Floor of the House.
I repeat my belief that English Members, and Scotsmen who represent English constituencies, had not a clue at that time and have not a clue today as to how Scotland is governed. They ought to appreciate that we are able to make these proposals for Scotland because the Civil Service is already there. It is not a new tier of government. It is a change of those who are overseeing that government. There will be the same civil servants in the same offices, but their masters will be different. They will be closer to the people, and it is right that that should be so.
I think that some of my English colleagues who have certain worries and fears about the Bill show a lack of confidence in the people of Scotland. They are concerned about what the Scottish National Party will do, and whether it will act to destroy the Assembly or at any rate seek not to encourage the proper working of it. If the Scottish National Party does that, it will be dealt with by the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland are the right people to do it. It will not be the people of England who will defeat the Scottish nationalists. It will be the people of Scotland. Indeed, they have already done it in Glasgow. There was a time when the SNP nearly swept the board in the Glasgow local government elections, but when the people had the opportunity to vote, out went the SNP. The people knew by then what the SNP was worth.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
The right lion. Gentleman ought to be aware that we have said on many occasions that we shall seek to make the Assembly work. Although the Assembly is not what we wish, we hope to be there in strength, as we have already made very plain, and we shall seek to play our part in making it work.
§ Mr. Ross
That is rather belated. I do not know whether the hon. Lady was present earlier when the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire expressed a few hopes. He said that the Assembly would not work. He then said that it might work for a short time. He also said that it would work. But when he said that it would not work, from where did the cheers come?
That is the kind of reaction that we have had from the Scottish National Party during the whole debate on this Bill It has created the fears that have been expressed in the Division Lobbies. I ask my colleagues to trust the people of Scotland. We shall deal with this matter because we are the only people who can deal with it.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the blemishes in the Bill and about the celebrated West Lothian question. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever read the Kilbrandon Commission Report. But this question was raised in Kilbrandon. It was one of the first questions answered by this Government when I was Secretary of State. We suggested that there should be no reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament.
What we are doing is devolving matters. We are not necessarily for ever giving away powers. We reserve the right to legislate over the head of the Assembly. This House retains the authority over such questions as finance, national policy in relation to Treasury and taxation and foreign and economic affairs. Does anyone believe that this is the time to reduce the number of Scottish Members? The right hon. Gentleman has not faced up to what has been happening with regard to Scottish affairs.
This morning, The Times talked about logic in terms of what this House was giving up. I do not know why it talked only about this House. There are two Houses here. When one examines the other House, to which this Bill now goes, logic does not enter into it.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire can surely put up with some Scottish Members of Parliament, not all of whom will disagree with him. He forgets that for the best part of 50 years, while Stormont was in existence, 12 Members of Parliament came from Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Ross
The principle is the same. But there was not a murmur from the Conservative Opposition when those 12 Members voted on Scottish or English legislation. The right hon. Gentleman may be differently disposed to that principle at present, because he cannot guarantee the loyalty of those Members from Northern Ireland. But there was a time when, come a General Election, the Conservatives started off with an advantage of 11 or 12 Members. The Conservative Party should face up to its own past.
It may well be that we can work something out, but this is not the Bill in which to do it. There are blemishes in the Bill. I dislike the 40 per cent. rule, simply because it seems to be something specially created not so much to test Scottish opinion as to make it difficult to get a particular result. Those hon. Members who supported that proposal have forgotten certain events that happen.
I have never suggested that there was an overwhelming desire among the Scottish people for devolution. As a politician, I thought that it was necessary because things would be difficult if we did not have something like it. But I do not think that it is a No. 1 priority with the Scottish people. We must thank the debate of last week for alerting the people of Scotland to the importance of it. I believe that the net result of inserting the 40 per cent. rule will be that we shall get a heightened interest in the referendum when it takes place, because in the minds of some Scottish people is the thought that the House has deliberately voted to apply something to Scotland that it has not applied elsewhere.
I sincerely hope that the Bill receives a Third Reading. I am sure that what we are doing is right. I am sure that it is something that will provide good and better government and at the same time help the Government of England and the United Kingdom to provide more time, both in this House and in Committee, for necessary work.
There is also the question whether in a modern society the system that has persisted in this House for so long is desirable and right. I do not think that it is. 1483 I am glad that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire did not run away from what he said about a guillotine being necessary on a Bill of this nature. During discussion on the Scotland and Wales Bill we saw how half-a-dozen hon. Members were determined that no progress would be made. We saw that also during discussion on the celebrated House of Lords amendment legislation when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House allied with some hon. Members on the other side to see to it that no progress was made. Half-a-dozen hon. Members can do that.
Let us face it, this applies not only to constitutional Bills but to major Bills of whatever Government. Sooner or later we shall have to face the fact that timetables may be required—we should not run away from it—if we are to have legislation which is responsive to the needs of the people.
I believe that this Bill will mean an improvement in Scottish government as well as an improvement in United Kingdom government.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
I am not sure whether I ought to declare an interest—personal if not financial—since my great grandfather left Scotland together with his younger brother to become a publisher in London. As such he was welcomed and was able to prosper and succeed. Of course, had he stayed in Scotland and prospered and succeeded I should have had to declare a financial interest in this Bill because we would no doubt be in receipt—as are some of our rival publishers in Scotland—of a regional subsidy which, perhaps, the British United Kingdom Parliament would not be quite so willing to maintain at a later date if this devolution legislation goes forward.
Keeping to the publishing analogy, in those days novels were produced as threedeckers—in three volumes. Later there was a single-volume cheap edition. We now seems to have come on to the single-subject Bill, which is an extremely cheap edition of what was originally a two-decker. I have no doubt that the second Bill—the Wales Bill—will be an equally cheap edition when it is brought before us in due course. The subject matter of both editions is very much the same.
1484 This is a bad Bill and is dangerous to the unity of the United Kingdom. All the arguments that were deployed with such effect against devolution on Second Reading of this Bill, and during the Committee stage of the Scotland and Wales Bill, are—as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) pointed out the other night—still valid and effective. Nothing that has so far been said in the debate, certainly not by the Secretary of State, seems to have altered in any way the conclusion drawn by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury in his powerful and moving speech which ended the Report stage of this Bill.
It seems to me that no case has been made for devolution according to the provisions of the Bill on their merits. What has been put forward by the Secretary of State and others are a series of statements which are acts of faith—that after this Bill is enacted things will be better, government will be improved, the burden on the Secretary of State will be lessened and the control of the Civil Service will be better. No one has yet shown how by adding another tier of bureaucracy to the pile under which we labour already, another tier of elected representatives will be able to exercise better total control than that which we would get by simplifying and improving the existing structures.
If we add an Assembly on the grounds put forward by the Scottish Secretary—to increase democratic control of the Civil Service in Scotland—we are also adding to the whole apparatus of government by the special Executive which has to be controlled by that Assembly, as well as maintaining the apparatus of the Scottish Office which has to be controlled by Scottish Members in this House.
The Secretary of State reiterated that very few people in Scotland, except for the Scottish nationalists, wanted separation. I think that he is right. But it is not a question of what people want. It is a question of setting up pressures that will push people inexorably along the road, once we open the gate and start them down that road.
The Secretary of State gave examples of things which were different in Scotland and which required separate administration and a separate Assembly. The curious thing is that all these things are being dealt with separately at present. 1485 The burden of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that we do not know how differently Scotland is governed. But he was saying that Scotland, without an Assembly and a special Executive, is already governed differently from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He is telling us that there are differences, and we do not understand them. Maybe we do not, but do we want to increase them by establishing a directly elected Assembly and Executive?
I think that there are many things that one can do or continue to do in life which become dangerous if the formality with which they are done is increased. There are differences that flow from historic reasons, changes in systems of law, the failure of the union of the Crowns and the existence of the treaty bringing the Union of Parliaments. If these differences are codified there is a danger that they will grow beyond the point at which any code can confine them.
It is on that basis that the Scottish National Party supports the Bill falsely. It believes that in setting up an Assembly—which it supports wholeheartedly—we are establishing a vehicle and a forum in which its representatives can continue their relentless arguments for separation. They will quote every failure of the United Kingdom Government, this House or the Assembly, not for the real reasons underlying those failures but because Scotland is not yet separate.
That is the main reason why I beg the House to reject the Bill this evening. I do not want to go into the reasons why it was introduced. I think they were shabby. I think that the Government were simply seeking to appease Scottish nationalism and collect a few votes from the SNP. I do not seek to deny that there is a need to do a great deal to improve government in both Scotland and the United Kingdom.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) spoke of the difficulties facing the Secretary of State for Scotland as a result of the increasing complexities of administration and the role of government. But these are difficulties that face every Minister, not just the Secretary of State for Scotland. There may well be a strong case for trying to ease the administrative burden in different ways—ways which I accept might be different in 1486 Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom, but they are not ways that are contained in this Bill.
§ Mr. William Ross
The right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) must appreciate that there is a difference with the Secretary of State for Scotland. His office contains the functions of nine separate United Kingdom Ministers.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am fully aware of that. I am only saying that perhaps we should have another look at how this is dealt with in the organisation of the United Kingdom Government. I do not think that it will make it any easier for the Scottish Secretary if there are other people who push him from one side to the other. He still has to deal with the Treasury. He is setting himself in the centre of a conflict which might well tear him in pieces.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock referred to the attitude of various people on this side of the House over the years over the question of so-called devolution. I remind him that there is alleged to be greater joy over one sinner who repenteth and who sees the error of his previous ways than over the more virtuous remaining so. I have been deeply suspicious of devolution ever since I first heard the word and realised that it meant not a system of government but steady progress down a road the end of which I did not like to contemplate.
I remind the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock of the original reasoned amendment about the Assembly which the Conservative Party tabled to the White Paper. I abstained, so suspicious was I of the words. It is fair to say that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who felt that there was a need to meet some of the points put forward by the right hon. Gentleman saw the validity of his demands and felt that these could be met through some sort of Assembly, elected or not. But as soon as we heard the argument in detail it became clear to most of us that this was too dangerous a solution. A directly elected Assembly on a national basis has never yet failed to lead to separation, except in the case of Northern Ireland where the pressure for cohesion has been a fear of a more powerful neighbour, and this as overridden the pressure for separation.
To me this is the end process of a fascinating parliamentary argument in 1487 which day after day the relentless logic of the situation and the arguments put forward have shown that the Government, whatever their motives in starting on this course should, by now—had their motives been honourable and their intention been to benefit Scotland in the United Kingdom—have been convinced that they have got it wrong. If they have not been so convinced, let the House decide to reject the Bill and have done with it.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)
I shall go into the Lobby in support of the Bill, not because I like it or think that it is a good Bill but because it is the only Bill that the Scots are likely to get from this House.
The people of Scotland came here asking for bread and they were given a stone. They were jeered at, treated with scorn and, cynically, were given this Bill. To say that I feel disappointed would be a gross understatement. My feeling is one of outrage.
Many years ago, when I first came into politics, I sat at the feet of men whose names are writ large in the story of the Scottish working class. They were men who, in the dark days, conjured up hope when there seemed to be none. They conjured up dreams of a better world, a better Scotland and a better life for the Scottish people. They saw that this could be achieved partly by the establishment of a parliament in Scotland—a Scotland living in peace with the world, a Socialist Scotland. I have spent all my adult years pursuing that aim. I was convinced that it could and would be achieved by the Labour movement in Scotland. To my mind it had to be a Socialist achievement but, alas, seemingly that is not to be.
On 25th January, the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) made a remarkable speech. He said that Scots Members were prisoners of this House and that the Scottish people were prisoners of English Members. How right he was, but how could it be otherwise, for this is the English Parliament? It is the Parliament of England; it always has been and it always will be.
In the past weeks, hon. Members may have imagined that they were discussing 1488 the setting up of a subordinate Parliament in Edinburgh. In fact, they were doing something much more significant. Whether they knew it or not, they were determining how sovereignty will come to Scotland. That is now the issue.
Whatever chance devolution had—and I was one of the advocates of devolution—that option has gone for ever. The question now is about an independent Scotland. The option of devolution was killed stone dead in this House. All the House can do now is to determine how an independent Scotland shall emerge.
I earnestly hope that it can come in a spirit of peace, from a spirit of generosity and in comradeship and friendliness, but of one think I am sure—it will come. This is probably the last time that I shall speak in this House, so I paraphrase the words of an old song and end with this plea: "Let our people go".
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I follow the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) with great pleasure. I was in almost total agreement with his speech. The thought that a free Scotland might be a Socialist Scotland does not frighten me. The fact that it might not be a Socialist Scotland does not frighten me either. That will be a question for the people of Scotland to decide. If, in the end, there is a democratic Government, that is all we can ask at this stage.
The hon. Gentleman was correct to claim that he has been a consistent backer of devolution. Over the years, long before I came here, he has been one Member whose utterances we have followed because he is a man who has spoken up for Scotland. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) almost, but not quite, ended by saying "England expects". My party is looking at what Scotland expects.
The hon. Member for Paisley was right when he said that this is an English Parliament. That was proved some years ago when this Parliament celebrated the 700th anniversary of Simon de Montfort's Parliament. If there had been a genuine fusion in 1707, that event could not have been marked in that way. It was an admission that this is the English Parliament continued.
1489 Despite prolonged and often unfair opposition, the Bill has reached its Third Reading. If it has not died the death of a thousand cuts, it has suffered some severe bleeding. It started as a minimal degree of decision-making being returned to Scotland. My party sees nothing abnormal in the modern free world in an ancient nation having rights enjoyed by free nations everywhere of making its own decisions in its own way. In its progress in Committee, many booby traps were laid to try to destroy the Bill.
The Secretary of State was entirely right when he said that the Bill would improve government. Lord Kilbrandon is on the record as saying at the end of last year that a Scottish Assembly would haveremarkably wide powers to set the Government machine on its feet in a way which could make democracy into something real in Scotland.The smaller unit of government which it would represent would offer a chance of more efficient functioning and of a Government more acceptable and directly accountable to the people. It says much about the basic temper and outlook of the die-hard anti-devolutionists of Westminster that this potential expansion of the democratic process has been put in considerable jeopardy by blatantly anti-democratic rigging of the referendum.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Would the right hon. Gentleman care to say which anti-devolutionist in the House has made speeches of a blatantly racial nature, to use his own words?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman raised this subject earlier as a matter of privilege. I have kept my powder dry because I believe that it may be referred to again. I ask to be excused from dealing with the matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I am not prepared to go into a matter which might be sub judice.
Since the Union, Scotland has been deprived of politics in a real, representative sense. There has been no democratic platform for the advocacy and counter-advocacy of changes specifically affecting Scotland. The debate has been in London, where Scottish elected representatives have rarely been able to challenge the old order with new ideas. That state of affairs is the direct consequence of the stubborn persistence of central Govern- 1490 ment to view Scotland merely as a region. The time has come for the relegation in status to end once and for all.
In these debates it has been suggested that the Scots should not be allowed to run their own affairs, not even the smallest part of them. "Take away English supervision and we would throw human rights out of the window. Take away Engish supervision and we would destroy our Health Service and our reputation for medical care and medical teaching". That was said even though the reputation was built up long before the National Heatlh Service was created.
It has been impressed upon us that we were quite unable, without English guidance, to do things that the Danes and the Irish managed to do. "Take away English control and the Scottish universities would crumble". It is said that our universities will become tenth-rate establishments, even though we had founded more universities in Scotland by the middle ages than the English had founded in England by the end of the eighteenth century.
I could go on listing the allegations that have been made. The arguments against were bad enough—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is quite clear that the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) is not giving way.
§ Mr. Stewart
The arguments against were bad enough, but the tactics employed were even worse. We saw the 40 per cent requirement introduced at the last minute. It is clear that the rules were changed, although one hon. Member said that they were not.
At least the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) made some case for making the change. There was no doubt that the rules were being changed. I was opposed, as I still am, to entry into the Common Market, but in the debates on that issue it never crossed my mind, as it did not cross the mind of anyone else, to introduce a 40 per cent. requirement—[HON. MEMBERS: "It did".] I never saw such an amendment.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself for admitting that he did not read the Order Paper on the Referendum Bill. If he had read it, he would have seen New Clause 15, which laid down that if 60 per cent. of the electorate failed to vote, or there was less than a two-thirds majority, the referendum should not be binding on entry. I accept that the new clause was not selected, but to say that it was never on the Order Paper is a gross mis-statement of fact, comparable only to the gross mis-statements of fact that the right hon. Gentleman has made throughout the whole of his speech so far.
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot remember that. I was watching the Order Paper and voting in all the Divisions when the House dealt with that Bill.
§ Mr. Sillars
If New Clause 15 had been selected, does the right hon. Gentleman think that it would have been passed by the House?
§ Mr. Stewart
I understand that it did not get anywhere.
It is interesting to make an analysis of some of the votes that took place during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill. On 10th January we voted on taxation powers for the Assembly. In that vote 40 per cent. of Scottish Members voted in favour of the amendment, which was lost. In fact, 90 per cent. of those who voted were non-Scottish. There was the vote to amend the 33⅓ per cent. hurdle and to introduce a 40 per cent. hurdle. In that vote 43 per cent. of the Scottish Members voted against the amendment and 90 per cent. of those voting were non-Scottish. [HON. MEMBERS: "You abstained."] We abstained because we did not accept the principle. We were not prepared to accept any sort of fiddling. We would have abstained on an amendment introducing a 5 per cent. hurdle. We were not prepared to accept that principle.
There was the vote to consolidate the 40 per cent. amendment and to include it in the Bill. In that vote 47 per cent. of the Scottish Members voted against and 92 per cent. of those voting were non-Scottish. When we voted on the Orkney 1492 and Shetland issue, 40 per cent. of the Scottish Members voted against and 90 per cent. of those who voted were non-Scots. I could go on to complete the whole list of Divisions.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire referred to the horror—I use the word that he used in in earlier debate—that the Scots might some day be able to overturn the English requirement. That is a situation that we faced in 1707 and have faced ever since. The only occasion that I remember when the intervention of a Scottish Member altered the course of English legislation was in the 1920s in connection with the English Prayer Book. That was surely an occasion when the Member concerned should have minded his own business. That was the only time that we achieved that. However, we have had to put up with the situation in reverse time and time again. That was the position when we voted on the 40 per cent. requirement. We have had to face that time and time again. It has not happened yet to English Members, but already the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire is talking about it.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not seriously saying that English legislation of a political nature has not been passed although it would have been passed if only English Members had voted. If he is saying that, he is overlooking at least three Parliaments since the war, to say nothing of various Parliaments before the war.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am saying that the Scottish view prevails only if it suits the bulk of the House. For example, there was the Caledonian Power Bill 1936, which would have set up the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board years before it was set up, to the benefit of the Highlands of Scotland. The majority of Scottish Members of all parties voted in favour of the Bill, but the Bill did not pass through the House, because there was a large English majority against it. That is what I am talking about. I have not seen the opposite situation.
One of the great pretences—it was referred to again by the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan)—
§ Mr. Stewart
I have not said anything yet. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, 1493 West (Mr. Buchan) is ready with his answer before he has heard the argument.
There has been the pretence that hon. Members have suddenly discovered that the aim of the Scottish National Party is independence. I have heard that said time and time again. It has been said "Now we know. We never knew that before." Every piece of literature from the SNP makes it clear that our aim is independence. However, we shall back the Bill and work in the Assembly.
For my party there is no stage between the status quo and independence when it will say "Thus far and no further". We shall place the case before the Scottish people as a democratic party, as we have always done. It will be up to the people to say how far they wish to go. If the Scottish people vote for independence at the end of the day, are there any hon. Members in this place to gainsay that that should be the case?
The Scotland Bill has taken a beating, as has democracy, in some recent debates. As the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has found, there is widespread anger and resentment. That feeling is not confined to the Scottish National Party. There is general anger and resentment about what has been done to the Bill in the House. The Bill is a poor thing. There is a great deal missing, but I cannot speak about that. The clear trend of Scottish opinion that has been demonstrated in election after election must convince any unprejudiced mind that the will of the Scottish people is to move towards re-establishing national sovereignty, and that nothing can stop that process. I ask the House to face that reality.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
What I have to say will be very different from what I would have said if I had been called before the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart). If my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) had heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I wonder whether he would have been so confident that it will be easy for the Scottish people to deal with some of the issues that will arise and will be exploited in the Assembly, when there will not be the same opportunity for opposition.
1494 The right hon. Member for Western Isles made a disgraceful and un-Scottish speech. The right hon. Gentleman is the man who, for the past 24 hours, has been accused of trying to spread hatred by allegations, and has tonight repeated a continuous series of assertions attributed to unnamed persons on the question of the universities becoming tenth-rate, and the social services in Scotland depending on England, and so on. This is the technique of the big lie, and I am ashamed for Scotland.
Earlier, the right hon. Member for Western Isles sheltered behind the argument of the matter being sub judice. That followed a headline in The Scotsman yesterday:MP Talks of English Hates.I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman last night:I have read the reports of your speech in today's paper. Like me, I am sure you would deplore and avoid the stirring up of hatreds, whether between Scots and English, or, for that matter, blacks and whites as in the recent arguments about immigration. For example, you mention blatant racialism' in this connection. These are strong words, and no doubt you can substantiate them.You will have powerful examples in mind otherwise you would not have made such an assertion.I would be glad to know, therefore, which 'English MPs' you are referring to; what did they actually say to merit such descriptions, and when did they say them.Though, in view of your statement, you clearly have the references and examples immediately at hand, it would be sufficient if I could have these before today's debate, so that I too could answer these MPs as I would also do in the event of anti-English remarks made by Scottish MPs.I am waiting for the answer. I ask the right hon. Gentleman: which English Members of Parliament made "blatantly racialist" remarks? Is he correct, Mr. Speaker, in saying that he cannot answer because of the question being sub judice at present?
§ Mr. Buchan
He refuses to answer. This is the technique of the big lie. I repeat, it is a disgrace to the great Scottish tradition of the democratic intellect which has served our nation so well.
The reasons must be looked into. The Scottish National Party has now moved 1495 into the most dangerous position in all politics when it equates the party with the nation. It follows that any lies are sufficient if they help the interests of the SNP. It is terrifying. It is not only a hatred of Englishness that develops here but, perhaps even more sinister, a hatred towards those Scots who say that they cannot equate the interests of the SNP with the Scottish nation.
I am thinking of the kind of battles of the great trade union movement in Scotland. If anything created a radical tradition in the Western Isles, from which the right hon. Gentleman comes, it was the combination of the fight of the crofters together with the great trade union and Labour tradition of Scotland.
The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) is reported The Scotsman as having said:This is why I must ask the Scottish Council on Development and Industry—which the SNP calls in aid so often and of which the hon. Gentleman was a member and adviser—and the Scottish Council of the TUC … if they really are true Scots.I find that dangerous, sinister and frightening. I do not believe that material of that kind can be handled easily by the people of Scotland in an Assembly, as was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock. We would be shutting our eyes to the real situation if we were not also aware of the dangers inherent in passing the Bill.
The question that we have to decide is: where lies the greater danger—the passing of the Bill or the failure to pass the Bill? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was right when he said that the matter now properly passes from this House to the people of Scotland. Therefore, the greatest danger would lie in defeating the Bill tonight. This is a matter which the Scottish people will decide in the course of the referendum. I hope that every Member here recognises that fact.
My support for the Bill remains, despite my grave anxiety, because the other possibility is so dangerous. I have stressed from the beginning that I rested my support on two or three pillars. The first is that the Assembly must be responsible. In other words, it must under- 1496 the financial obligations imposed upon it in consequence of its own actions. If there were no financial responsibilities, if it were not given the duty—not the right—to raise money for services that it wanted to provide above the block grant, we should be creating an insatiable Assembly in which there was every political reason to demand everything and every reason why it should be refused. That is the first point—the danger of creating an irresponsible Assembly. We are passing a Bill with that new additional risk against the political background of an insatiable Assembly.
Secondly, it is dependent upon removing the kind of flaws which could precipitate the situation from a political crisis into a constitutional crisis. We have not dealt with the main flaw in that connection—the West Lothian question. I do not believe that it can be logically dealt with. I do not believe that that of itself will wreck the Assembly, but it could wreck the Assembly and the unity of the United Kingdom unless the third pillar of my support for the Bill is taken into consideration.
I believe that it is possible to deal with the West Lothian question by developing a modus vivendi. I do not believe that constitutions work because when first framed they are perfect. They work because there is a general will to make them work and by giving them time in which they can be worked out in practice. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, pointing to the other end of this corridor, asked "Who in his senses would have devised a constitution that stipulated that at the other end of the corridor there shall be an unelected body that can delay, dismiss, distort or change legislation from the democratic body?" We would have laughed such a constitutional proposal out of court. But it has worked—though badly—because there was general acceptance that it should work and because it was given time to find a modus vivendi in which it knew when or when not to challenge the power of this House.
If we proceed without providing an opportunity for the modus vivendi to be worked out to deal with the West Lothian question, we shall be in danger. Therefore, I believe that my third requirement is right—namely, a referendum on that matter so that the general will is there 1497 to make the Assembly work, especially during the first few crucial years.
My proposal for such a referendum was misunderstood. I argued for a referendum which would have within it the basic question of independence. That has not happened. The present referendum is to be only on the question of devolution. That is not only not half of what I asked for, but the precise opposite. I argued that there was no need for a referendum on devolution, because it did not infringe the sovereignty of the State or of the House of Commons. However, there was a need to establish the political will behind it to prevent it from being wrecked. That was the argument for a referendum on independence.
We are now in a very dangerous situation because, unless we can change it as a last glorious swan-song of the House of Lords, we shall have allowed the Scottish people to set up the parameters, the boundaries, between the status quo and devolution, but they will not have decided the parameters between devolution and independence. Therefore, we shall not have settled the first question, because it should not be "Do you want devolution and something else?" but "In the meantime, do you want only devolution?"
They will not be asked to settle that. They will be asked whether they want devolution, and that could lead to something else. Therefore, two things will arise. First, we shall not have established the political will for the time being that only an Assembly is what is wanted, if that is the decision. It will be claimed that if there is a "Yes" vote for devolution the people want independence. Time will then be needed to work out the constitutional problems to prevent a political crisis developing into a constitutional crisis. At the same time those nasty chauvinistic arguments that we read in the newspaper yesterday and that we heard from the right hon. Member for Western Isles today will not have been confronted politically.
We have to confront the suggestion that this Parliament must be, by definition, an English Parliament. Is that suggestion made on the basis that this Parliament celebrated Simon de Montfort? There are 71 Scottish Members in this House, and it makes as much sense to say that it is an English Parliament as it does to say that 1498 it is an anti-London Parliament because only 81 of the hon. Members here represent London constituencies. On the same basis, one could say that it was an anti-Merseyside or anti-Lancashire Parliament because only about 50 hon. Members represent that part of the country.
This is a nonsense that can be created only by the equation of a Scottish State with a single party. It is a frightening concept that requires that 71 Scottish Members must by definition be connected with only one political view. I beg the right hon. Member for Western Isles to consider carefully the morass into which his arguments are pushing him. This is a frightening situation, and he had better get himself out of it, because, after all, he is a moderate.
If the SNP wants to prove that this is an English rather than a United Kingdom Parliament it must explain figures such as these. Let us take, for example, the regional preferential assistance given to industry in the assisted areas. For Great Britain the figure is £48 per head per annum. For Scotland the figure is £68, and for the assisted areas in England, which are strictly and totally comparable with Scotland, the figure is £37. Scotland gets a bias in its favour of something like two to one.
Let us look at the figures on housing. In Scotland the sum is £61.2 per head per annum, and in England £49.8. On health and personal social services the English figure is £69.59, and the Scottish figure is £75. Far from making statements about anti-Scottish racialism among English MPs, the right hon. Member for Western Isles, like Clive when he was accused of bribery, should stand astonished at their moderation. If the right hon. Gentleman raises these kinds of hatreds, he may sow the seed, but he will reap a bitter crop as a result, and he had better watch out.
Let me deal with the kind of dishonesty that emerges. I have made the case for a referendum, and I give notice now that I shall do everything that I can to have that second question inserted in the House of Lords. The other place, having served its country well on that score, will make that its last step, because I shall then proceed to its abolition.
Let me deal with the question of the 40 per cent. requirement. That was a stupid error, because it is a counter- 1499 productive provision. Even from the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and those who support the proposal, it will be counter-productive in two ways. First, it will boost the kind of nonsense we hear on the anti-Scottish aspect. In addition, it will undoubtedly boost the "Yes" vote. But it does not lie on the lips of the Scottish National Party to criticise that proposal. Of all the people who have been claiming that a majority of one is enough, the SNP members are the only ones in the country who have written into the constitution the provision that a 40 per cent. vote in the Assembly on all issues is sufficient to block legislation passing to a referendum for decision. It is not, therefore, for the SNP to challenge the 40 per cent. I am perfectly entitled to reject it, but they cannot.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
Let me pursue this matter with the hon. Gentleman, because we have had an exchange on this matter on the radio before. The 40 per cent. requirement applies to a single-Chamber Parliament, not a Parliament which has double-Chamber balance. The 40 per cent. requirement proposed by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury relates to a referendum. There is no example of such a requirement elsewhere in the world so far as I can discover from reading documents published by the British Government.
§ Mr. Buchan
That is typical of the squirming and distorting behaviour that we see from the SNP. I am putting forward one simple fact. Members of the SNP, of all people, cannot challenge a formula for voting based on the 40 per cent. requirement because they say it is undemocratic. The SNP is the only party to have included such a requirement in its constitutional proposals.
I hope that the Bill is supported tonight.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Western Isles will have the decency to seek to repair the damage that he has done to the good faith of our country—
§ Mr. Buchan
If SNP Members want to talk about smears, they should read their Scots Independent, which called me a 1500 louse. It said that I was ugly, creeping, blasted mercenary and waspish. If the Scots Independent wants to use strong language of that kind I can do the same, but I choose not to. I believe that the Gentleman responsible is much more decent than his words would seem to show. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Member for Western Isles either to repudiate his statement or to provide evidence to support it.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
It is strange to stand in this relatively thinly attended House and speak on the Third Reading of the Bill. As one who introduced a Bill for self-government for Scotland a decade ago in quite different circumstances. I imagined that if one ever got to this stage one would be addressing a House which was charged with atmosphere and filled with hon. Members. That is not so. There is certainly some passion, but not so much as one would have expected.
The Order Paper is very bland, as Order Papers always are. It simply refers to the "Third Reading". There is then the motion in the name of the Opposition, which readsOn Third Reading of the Scotland Bill, to move, That the Question be not put forthwith.I therefore ask what the Conservative Party is up to. I leave to one side the hon. Members for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), whose views are clearly known and frequently expressed. What is the official Conservative view, apart from being that nothing be done forthwith?
An editorial in The Guardian of 7th February turned its attention to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). I say with modesty that the article puts the point more clearly, succinctly and effectively than I feel I can myself. It reads:My assessment of the present state of the devolution argument,' said Mr. Francis Pym in Edinburgh yesterday, 'is one of public bewilderment and confusion'. Right, And let no one, including Mr. Pym, underestimate the richness of the Conservative contribution to creating that bewilderment and confusion. The Conservatives were early to embark on the devolution road, eleven years ago, under the guidance of Mr. Heath and Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Since the Government began to legislate, they have faltered, then turned back; and recently the nearest thing they have to a policy 1501 has been an agreement to have no policy at all. Mr. Pym, meanwhile, has had to do the best he can flourishing an expedient here and a vague promise there but committing no one to anything—except to some grand constitutional conference in which all parties would get together and all previous dissension might, miraculous, begin to abate.'The view has been put—perhaps unreasonably, because he is a fair-minded man—that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire is a devolution weathercock, willing to consider any point of the compass, depending on the current state of the wind. I say to him and to the Conservative Front Bench that the concept of a constitutional conference was not a dishonourable concept. It was a view that the Liberal Party took towards the end of 1973 and throughout 1974. Indeed, I wrote to the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), suggesting that it would be right for the Government to have such a conference before they reached final agreement on their Bill and published it. That was the Scotland and Wales Bill. There was some justice in that argument, but it is far too late now to adopt that policy in view of all the discussions we have had.
I know where the hon. Members for North Angus and Mearns, Aberdeen, South and others stand, but where does the Conservative Party officially stand? The Leader of the Opposition said that she was passionately in favour of devolution. All right. It is not unfair to ask the Opposition to give the Bill a chance and see how it works if they cannot easily decide on the precise form of devolution they want.
Then there is the attitude of the SNP. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) made remarks about blatant racialism and suggested that remarks of that character have been made by unnamed persons in the House. There is the background of some of the campaigns run by the SNP—the rich-Scots-and-poor-British campaign—which, for their motivation, depended upon the encouragement of attitudes of envy and greed. At the same time, to pretend that we have the Bill because it naturally emerged reasonably and inevitably within the Labour Party in Scotland, or in any part of the United Kingdom, is nonsense. If the SNP had not existed and had not been the catalyst, we would not be 1502 engaged in reading the Bill for the Third time this afternoon.
Equally, it must be said that a party which attracts the support of one-third of the Scottish people must contain amongst that one-third a number of reasonable people. In logic, it is not unreasonable to say that.
We know that the SNP favours independence. In pursuing that aim—which, in fairness, it has never concealed—it is unfair for hon. Members or others to say that the SNP has been hiding its aim under a bushel. It is not so. I have never had any delusions about the aim of the SNP to achieve independence, nor have I felt that the SNP has concealed that aim.
Given that, I would hope—particularly on the day after its leader's remarks—that the SNP would make a conscious effort to avoid stirring up bitterness which might obstruct or adversely affect the proper working out of the Bill, the Third Reading of which they will vote for tonight.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the SNP is honest about wanting independence for Scotland and has never made any bones about it? Does he not agree that the SNP cloaks that aim by saying that it does not want a separate Scottish army, a separate Scottish navy or a customs post on the border? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that if the SNP wants a completely independent Scotland, that is what it should be telling the Scottish people?
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not think it necessary to pursue that argument. An independent Scotland pursuing an independent economic policy would have a customs post on the border; that is logical and inevitable.
Finally, I hope that in future the people of Scotland will realise that to achieve a reasonable objective it is not necessary to vote for extreme policies.
The Secretary of State said that special provision should be made for Orkney and Shetland. The amount of time given to Orkney and Shetland by the Secretary of State—he gave 15 minutes of his 45 minute speech to the question—and by the House in Committee has been considerable. If the fear of the people of 1503 Orkney and Shetland is that their vital interests might be overlooked by the House, that is not true.
I speak as one who sat on the Royal Commission on Local Government and was responsible for a note of reservation signed also by the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) arguing for the establishment of a separate island authority within the local government structure for Orkney and Shetland and for the Western Isles. It is not a question that one does not understand that island people are in a different situation. With respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who has been most active in this matter, in contrast to a number of anti-devolutionists who have discovered an unexpected fascination for Orkney and Shetland not previously evinced by them, I do not see that in the end there is any justification for the suggestion that Orkney and Shetland would not be fairly treated by the House or by a Scottish Assembly. The Western Isles are not to be treated separately. In practice, they are in precisely the same situation as are Orkney and Shetland.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Is it not one consideration that the authorities of Shetland, both last Session and this Session, made representations to hon. Members who have responded to the representations that they have received from the local authorities representing the area?
§ Mr. Johnston
There is force in what the hon. Gentleman says but, with respect, I suggest to him that if we were considering Orkney and Shetland against the background of an argument for a Faroese, Channel Islands or Isle of Man solution, my view might be different, but that argument has not been made over a sustained period. There has been no such argument about it. That is why I am hesitant to accept the basis on which the Shetland Islands' local authority is taking the lead. Orkney has been quiet and its attitude has been coloured by its neighbour's views which, in turn, have been coloured by its oil revenue. One must look at it in the longer term.
Then there is the Labour Back Bench attitude to the Bill, expressed in many speeches by the hon. Members for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), Islington, South 1504 and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). As the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian and I agree, it is unnecessary for me to dwell on his views, but I would say something about the views of those other hon. Members, because it affects our attitude to the Bill. They say that if the Bill becomes law it will lead to unfair treatment of the English regions and, even if that is not proven, there may well be unfair treatment of England as a whole.
As to the first contention, we have had many resource arguments to the effect that x per cent. has been spent on Scotland and y per cent. on various regions of England, and so forth. I fail to understand why the passing of the Bill should change the United Kingdom estimate of economic need within the United Kingdom.
Secondly, I fail to understand why, if the estimate of need which accounts for the statistics given in answer to parliamentary Questions is not well-founded, it should be criticised. We are, after all, producing a devolutionary settlement which sustains the economic unity of the United Kingdom, so I do not see why one should advance arguments which are essentially divisive and are usually advanced by those who suggest that the mere bringing forward of the legislation is itself divisive.
I do not think that that takes us much further forward. The real argument for devolution is an argument about better democratic control of the Civil Service and not an argument about grabbing more money for any particular part of the United Kingdom. However, I think that there is a real problem in regard to England as a whole.
This is the West Lothian question, which has been referred to and well set out not only by the hon. Member for West Lothtian himself but by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury in what I thought was a brilliant speech the other night, although I disagreed with him.
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury reminded me that I had said that I could not answer the West Lothian question. I confirm that. Nevertheless, I reach a different conclusion from that of the hon. Gentleman. It is significant that the Secretary of State 1505 did not mention the West Lothian question. It is foolish to evade real difficulties. The matter was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire.
The Liberal answer is federalism, the logic of which, I was glad to see, was recognised by the Secretary of State, but it is not in order for me to develop that now.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Surely the pressure will come from a demand in English constituencies for a regional Assembly of their own—not because of any arguments about federalism or the Government in England on their merits but simply because Scotland has an Assembly.
§ Mr. Johnston
We could have a lovely dialectical exchange about what is meant by backing an argument on its merits and about whether the fact that Scotland had an Assembly had any relevance to the merits of an Assembly in the North of England. But I do not want to pursue that now. I am trying to answer the hon. Member for Islington, who has been extremely logical. Democratic political change, of whatever kind, takes place only when the public is willing. That does not happen all the time. When it comes to devolution, that situation now exists in Scotland. I do not know enough about Wales to say whether it exists there.
Therefore, as a believer in Home Rule, I must take advantage of that situation. That is a fair political view, I believe.
I believe that Home Rule will result in better government in Scotland. That is an assertion. As politicians, we are in business not simply to reflect people's views but because we believe certain things. That is one of the things that I believe.
In those circumstances, I believe that we should pass this legislation, but given the rejection of federalism, I believe that the House or the parties, whether by means of a Speaker's Conference or otherwise, must determine soon how to consider the position of Scottish MPs in relation to English devolved subjects. [An HON. MEMBER: "That sounds like Pym."] Not entirely, because it is on a very narrow question. I see no other way around it.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
The hon. Member was a member of the Wheatley Commission, which considered local government in Scotland and confidently asserted that reform would lead to better local government. Few people in Scotland now agree with that. Does not the hon. Gentleman also see the inherent danger of the constitutional problem which would arise of how to deal with English devolved matters? That is the danger of turning this House into what the SNP erroneously assert is an English Parliament—and that would lead to even greater dangers.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is true that the Royal Commission said that reform would improve local government in Scotland. However, in fairness, the coincidence of reform and the highest inflation that we have ever known meant that the assessment of the new local government system in Scotland was warped. The first thing that the new authorities had to do was cut services, which had nothing to do with reorganisation.
On the second point, I simply do not agree. I do not accept that the existence of the problem and its non-resolution is a reason for holding up the Bill.
I do not like referenda as a system, nor do I think that the 40 per cent. stipulation is fair. It has been introduced without sufficient thought for the consequences. I know that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury resented my suggestion that his motivation was wrong. I did not mean that it was wrong in his opposition to devolution. That is straightforward. I suggested that putting a barrier in the referendum should have been related to one's judgment of the democratic thing to do rather than to whether one wanted devolution or not. I do not think that a barrier which would have been unjumpable-over in the case of the EEC referendum is proper when it comes to devolution.
I agree with the Government that independence questions should be excluded I do not agree with the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). For example, if 25 per cent. voted for independence, it is a fallacy to think that that would kill the idea.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman must not say that the 40 per cent. is a barrier which cannot be jumped. Obviously it can be: plenty of 1507 hon. Members assert that it will be. Also, not in Scotland separately but in the United Kingdom as a whole, that barrier was comfortably jumped in the case of the EEC referendum.
§ Mr. Johnston
It was jumped comfortably in the United Kingdom as a whole, but not in Scotland, which is what we are talking about.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is not nonsense; it is a fact. The Scottish vote on the EEC referendum did not reach 40 per cent. of those on the electoral roll. Yet a majority were in favour, and most people in Scotland recognised that it was a reasonable majority.
That leads me finally to expressing, very briefly—because I am aware that the interruptions have stretched my speech—the Liberal view about this situation. As I have said, for me, as someone who was responsible, quite a long time ago, for a Ten-Minute Bill for self-government, on 30th November 1966, it seems that this is quite an exciting moment. It is not all that terribly often that Liberals see things for which they have striven coming to pass, even in different situations.
The Bill is lacking in many respects. It has a grossly unfair and, indeed, almost fraudulent electoral system. It has no tax-raising powers. It has no economic powers. It is certainly open to a lot of objection. But it establishes a Parliament with wide powers in Scotland, the first genuine democratic focus that has existed in Scotland since 1707, when we had the two Acts. I am not sure why everyone keeps talking about "the" Act of Union, because there was no single Act of Union. There were two separate Acts, one passed by the Scottish Parliament and one by the English Parliament.
This is the first time that we shall have such a democratic focus since that time. It provides a democratic control over the administration of a wide range of our affairs which has not previously existed, as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, and he, as a long-standing Secretary of State, should, more than most, have known the answer to that question.
1508 We should give the Bill a fair wind and a good chance. It is not only a step but a long stride in the right direction.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I am particularly pleased to be following the speech of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), which I very much enjoyed, as I usually do. I particularly welcome the hon. Member's genuine attempt to talk about the merits of the Bill, because I want to confine myself, on this occasion of the Third Reading, to only two propositions, and they follow naturally upon what the hon. Member said.
I think that it is incumbent upon the promoters of the Bill in particular—I shall come to the alleged supporters shortly—to prove merit. It is equally incumbent upon those of us who are refusing to give support to the Bill to give serious reasons, beyond party interest, which might stand up in future when the period is reviewed. If either cannot be done, the case on either side falls to the ground.
I have believed all the time, and Third Reading is probably the point to put it on record once again, that on merit there is singularly little argument in favour of the Bill, and that this has been its major weakness in the whole debate so far. It is one of the reasons why there is so little interest in the country.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House report that in their private conversations and in their not-so-private consultations hardly anyone raises this matter with them in their own constituencies. All my correspondence on this subject has been opposed to the legislation. I have not had a single letter from either my constituency or any other part of Yorkshire asking me to support the Bill. I can only refer to the experience of other hon. Members.
I believe that one of the main reasons for this lack of interest is the inability of the promoters of the Bill to discuss its merit, and that is why they are not doing so. I contrast this with the period, for instance, when we introduced the National Health Service. There was debate throughout the land, and great interest—mainly for; some against; some sceptics. But there was debate. I do not want to put this Bill any higher 1509 than that major reform, but I would not put it any lower, either, in terms of the future interests of the British people as a whole and the interests of the people of Scotland. But there is no such debate taking place.
Secondly, as I see the situation—I hope that no one will be hurt by this formulation; I am deliberately using shorthand, so that it may be discussed again later, when after some years we can examine whether the analysis on either side of the argument was correct—I think that we also have quite a number of people among the promoters of the Bill who are not at all convinced of its merits.
It would be invidious to talk about individual members of the Government, but I do not detect that there is a unified legion of Cabinet Ministers going around the country every weekend proclaiming the merits of this piece of legislation and urging people in all parts of the country to support it. I think that on that proposition, at least, I would carry the support of supporters of the Bill, as well. It would be invidious to be more particular than that, but the evidence is conclusive.
On the other hand, we find that people are urged to support the legislation on all sorts of grounds that have nothing whatever to do with the Bill being discussed and up for Third Reading tonight. There are all sorts of arguments, and, again, I do not want to go into too much detail about them because I do not want to make too long a speech. If pressed, however, I could produce a great many of these arguments. All are regarded as serious and genuine by some of the promoters of the legislation, but they are nothing whatever to do with this Bill.
It is more than a coincidence that we should find that this is so. It is so because the Bill has been created in response to an immediate political need and not as part of a grand design to reform the constitution of the United Kingdom. Here we have reached the crux of the matter. Again, this is not a very controversial proposition. People who take different views on the legislation can unite in supporting this as a mere statement of fact.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the hon. Member for Inverness has just told us that he is in favour of a federal solution. But when we turn to the Prime 1510 Minister and many of the senior Cabinet Ministers, we find that federalism has nothing whatever to do with their future design for Britain. They are not federalists, and they would accuse anyone trying to represent them as federalists of misrepresentation.
In the same way, there are others who support the Bill. They say that they will support it in the Division Lobby tonight, but they are not finding a good word for the legislation. That is another startling fact. One of my hon. Friends from the newly founded Scottish Labour Party, which now has two Members in the House, spent all his time denouncing the Bill in outright terms, from beginning to end. He found nothing good in it whatsoever, but he will be voting for it.
Then we have the representatives of the Scottish National Party. It was rumoured last week, and we were all properly alerted by the rumour, that its members would consider very seriously opposing the Bill tonight. But what happened? They had a meeting with their elders, in Edinburgh, I believe, and it was announced at the end of the meeting of the elders that not only had they unanimously decided to vote for the Bill tonight but that there was no need to take a vote. It reminds me of those Stakhanovite's unanimous decisions which always created the greatest possible suspicion about figures and about agreement and disagreement. But let that pass. They are determined opponents of the Bill, but they will be supporting it.
One therefore reaches the conclusion that this is a Bill promoted by people who are not convinced of its merits—because they do not talk about them to the electorate—called upon to be passed by people who are in many cases against it, and most enthusiastically supported by those who are free in their denunciation of it. That is the curious situation in which the House finds itself on the eve of the Third Reading Division.
I turn to the other side. This would be only a negative picture and would prove that there was little merit in the Bill and that there was no general majority for it in the House, if my analysis so far were to be accepted; but I have yet to make good the other claim, if it can be made good, that there are important reasons, which go beyond immediate party interest, to be unpersuaded 1511 on Third Reading about supporting the Bill. I shall attempt to advance some such reason.
I believe that the claim for support for a measure of this kind must be one backed by the representatives of the British people as a whole. I believe that it cannot be in the interests of the Scottish nation, the people of the United Kingdom as a whole, or of anyone who is concerned about the future of democracy, that it should be a decision that is made by a reluctant Parliament, because we are told "Unless you do this, some people in Scotland will create a great deal of alarm and will find a more desperate solution."
I say at once to the SNP spokesman that if at any one moment in the future—I hope that it will never happen, and I am confident that it will not happen, but I may be wrong, as I have been wrong on many other things before—it were to happen that by a specific mandate in a normal democratic election, after due constitutional process and process of law, a clear majority of the people of Scotland were to say they wanted to separate from the United Kingdom, I cannot imagine anybody who would set themselves up in opposition to that. I certainly would not. That would be a situation which anybody who calls himself a democrat or has any political sense at all would have regretfully and reluctantly to accept; but this is not what the Government are asking us to do tonight. This is not the issue that we are debating.
We are not faced with any such clear demand by a clear majority of the people of Scotland. We are asked to give the stamp of our political judgment to this particular Bill and the Scottish National Party representatives, though they have no belief in the Bill have, quite rightly from their own technical point of view, decided unanimously and without a vote to support the Bill. They are the most eager supporters of the Government because they want this not as a steppingstone towards better government for the people of Scotland but as a basis to prove that the people of Scotland will continue to be misgoverned and that therefore separation and not devolution must be the answer. That is why they are supporting the Bill.
1512 What I am refusing to do is to say tonight that our political judgment supports them. That is what is at stake tonight. It does matter, and they have realised it, intelligently in my judgment. I say without any disrespect that it will be very important for them if the argument is joined in Scotland with the stamp of approval of the House of Commons behind it—that is what they want to use it for—and therefore it is no mean measure that we are debating tonight.
Secondly, and equally important, if, as the hon. Member for Inverness suggested, there is to be discussion of a serious grand design of improving our system of government—my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) with his governmental experience, made a similar point—that is not at issue tonight because if we were set on producing a grand design of constitutional reform I would be arguing that it would need the support of the House of Commons as a whole and could not be done through any particular timetable, particularly if it was to be a such a grand reform.
In passing, I do not disagree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on his interpretation of the guillotine. I believe it was right. I believe that it was not just a handful of Members but 40 or 45 who prevented the last attempt to reform the House of Lords, because that attempt at reform—some of my best political friends were involved in it and one, now dead, did a very able job—again was not part of a grand design to improve our democratic system of government but an afterthought brought about for technical, day-to-day reasons. That is why it was right that a number of determined Members should have set themselves up, and should have spoken more and more with the approval of the House.
There was another reason. They wanted to alert the country. I believe that we can agree that part of the process of democratic government is to give the country time to think and consider it. I say without hesitation that the part played by the Lord President in that enterprise will always be an honourable part in political history and will never be looked upon in any other way. That being so, when we talk about agreements—we have just been reminded of an agreement made in 1707, and the passage of 200 years or 1513 more—it is no argument to say that perhaps the electorate should have another look at it, and that we must do it now or worse will befall. Most serious consideration of future decisions of the Scottish people within a United Kingdom as to the way in which things should be arranged is in no way impaired, and we show no disrespect if we say that we have found that this is not the right way of doing it.
There are quite a number of people in many constituencies who, not at all for petty or selfish reasons, will begin to be concerned if, after the change comes about, as here proposed, we have this preponderance of opinion on all kinds of subjects not equalled by any other part of the United Kingdom. I do not argue the case—it is not part of my case, although it has been argued by others—that because Scotland has a certain constitutional change other regions will want it. I do not regard that as a particularly good argument and I would resist it if my constituents tried to urge it on me. They have not done so so far.
I see a much more dangerous argument developing. I see endangered the co-operation, friendliness, tolerance and pride in working with each other of so many different people, some of whom sometimes send people of their own family to another part of the kingdom—people who have married and have gone back and brought more people to yet another part. I think particularly of a former Minister of Labour, the right hon. Member for Farnham, (Mr. Macmillan), son of an eminent Prime Minister. I see that endangered. It has been the only lapse this afternoon by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart)—and I think it was only a lapse—but this might become the common coin of debates among our people in the future. If those things are endangered, they might be involved, and if all that is at stake there can be only one guideline for hon. Members of this House tonight—not party, not General Election dates, not the achievements of individual Ministers or Back Benches, but a vote according to conscience.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
It is a very real pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Penistone 1514 (Mr. Mendelson). His was a fine speech. It was a moving speech in its concluding remarks and its constitutional approach was profound and precise. I do not want to say any more about the speech, because I agreed with it. I want to start by saying something about two speeches with which I did not agree, but how different was my attitude in my disagreement.
The first speech was that of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). I disagreed with his conclusions, but when one listens to a speech by him there is never any attempt to cloud his reasoning, to use emotive language, to twist argument or to deceive. What a difference from the speech before his! When the hon. Member spoke of the speech that had preceded his—the speech of the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who is not present but to whom I sent a note saying if I were to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker I might mention what he had said—he condemned it and the speech that the right hon. Gentleman had made in Glasgow. He condemned both the tone and the content of the speech that the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon, and he spoke for all decent people in Scotland—Conservative, Labour or Liberal. In that respect he made a fine speech.
As for the right hon. Member for Western Isles, what a fall was there! The right hon. Gentleman is a man who has banked with us in this House considerable affection and respect over the years that he has been here. I suggest that he has very nearly drawn the end of that great respect and affection in the two speeches that he has made this week—the speech that he made this afternoon, which I thought was the most abominable I have ever heard him make, and his speech in Glasgow, which was reported in a headline in Scotland as "MP Talks of English Hate".
I have listened to 90 per cent. of all the debate on this subject through the Bill's Committee and Report stages, and so on, but I have never heard any hatred whatsoever evinced by any Member representing an English seat. Sometimes, to paraphrase the comment of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West—which he attributed to Clive, though I thought it was from Warren Hastings I stand amazed at their moderation.
1515 My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), who would rightly rejoice in the title of a true-born Englishman, has gone out of his way time and again to point out that the reason why he objects to the Bill is that it would break up the Union between England and Scotland. My hon. Friend admires the contribution of the Scots to British achievement. That is the opposite of hatred. If there has been any hatred shown in these debates it has been displayed in the content and tone adopted in speeches from the SNP Benches.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles pretended to recall the hatred shown by the English, but refused to name a hon. Member or give an example. I shall give him an example of hatred shown by the SNP. I remind the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), who now occupies the SNP Bench, of the emotional remarks that he made to the House last Wednesday. He could not contain his emotion and his voice cracked when he said: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".—[Official Report, 15th February 1978; Vol. 944, c. 554.]
§ Mr. Sproat
The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear". That was the kind of speech we have never heard in this House before. It is part of the distasteful emotionalism and hysteria which SNP Members have introduced, not only in this House but throughout Scotland. I hate to see that trend. It is the remarkable unity, tolerance and the working together of people in four different nations in this United Kingdom that has enabled us to make many proud democratic achievements.
I wish to put forward three propositions, which I am sure are not disputed by the majority of Members in their hearts, nor by the majority of the nation in heart or head.
The first proposition is that never before has a major Bill been so much the subject of motives of fear and panic. Secondly, never has a major Bill in this House had such a genuine lack of support in any part of the House. Thirdly, never before has such a major Bill been pushed 1516 through the House with such manoeuvring, manipulation and tricky tactics. There have been manoeuvrings over the subject of the referendum and the guillotine, and this has meant that three-quarters of the Bill has not been discussed at all. Then we had the loitering in the Lobbies, particularly by the SNP, in an attempt to prevent little Shetland getting its way. For a party that claims to stand for the little nation of Scotland, I believe that that was one of the most squalid and disgraceful episodes that has ever occurred in this House in my time.
As a result of all this activity and the actions of the SNP, the merits of the Bill have hardly been advanced by the Government at all. It was noticeable this afternoon that the Secretary of State for Scotland spent the first 15 minutes of his speech dealing with the situation in Orkney and Shetland. Surely on Third Reading the merits of the Bill under consideration should be laid before the House.
The right hon. Gentleman then spent 10 minutes of his speech dealing with gaps in Conservative policy. Why did he spend over half his time dealing with those matters rather than with the positive merits of the Bill? It was because there is none.
On the other hand, the demerits and disadvantages of the Bill have not been disproved. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grange-mouth (Mr. Ewing) sitting in his ministerial place. In a speech last week he displayed a typical example of the Government's attitude. My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) had tabled a sensible amendment providing for the size of the Assembly to be reduced to 100 Members. It was not the most controversial of amendments, but when the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replied he said that the Government had chosen a figure of 150 Members because it was two Members from each present constituency topped up by a few added Members.
That pathetic mathematical analysis was considered by the Government to be sufficient explanation of the matter, instead of the Minister informing the House what he thought the Assembly should do to need 150 Members. I appreciate that the Minister was speaking to a brief, but 1517 a figure of 150 Members appears to be a ludicrous number for the Assembly. That reply was typical in its rottenness—that there will be double the number of Members to do half the work. That is what we have seen in the proceedings on this Bill—no attempt to argue the merits and no arguments deployed to knock down the demerits.
One of the central problems relates to the role of Scottish Members of Parliament. Scottish Members will be able to concern themselves with matters of schools, health, housing and transport in England, but English Members will not have the right to debate such matters as they affect Scotland. That is an intolerable situation; nor should it be tolerated. Every Member must have the right to concern himself with all matters nationwide.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) mentioned the constitution of the other place, and said that because we tolerated unjustifiable methods there, we could and should tolerate totally different problems here. We know that the House of Lords is founded on principles which not many of us—certainly this applies to me—would accept. But it is no answer to the West Lothian question to say that because we tolerate anomalies of a minor kind in another place, we should tolerate different anomalies of a major kind in this House.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West said that he had no answer, but thought that a modus vivendi would emerge. There is no chance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) was right to point out that an unstable element would be introduced and that this would have a damaging effect, and, indeed, be ruinous in respect of this House. That is one problem which has not been faced.
Another problem regarding the United Kingdom as a whole is that it has not been argued in this debate that in a unitary State it is impossible to give a permanent advantage to one part of the United Kingdom, namely, Scotland, in terms of representation, aid and political attention, without at the same time disadvantaging other parts of the United Kingdom. For this reason hon. Members who represent Merseyside and the North-East have suddenly become aware of the 1518 implications of the Bill. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) said that he did not see why there should be difficulties in that respect. He should consult his hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), who made speeches at the week-end saying exactly the opposite.
There is no way in which the House can dodge these issues. The hon. Member for Penistone was right to say that we were being asked to make a political judgment on the Bill. Certainly there has been no adequate attempt by the Government to answer the difficult problems which the Bill has shown up.
I have tried to deal with only one difficulty which the House of Commons will face as a result of this Bill, and also one problem for the United Kingdom in regard to the way in which money is distributed. I shall not dwell on those problems; I merely wish to emphasise that they have not been dealt with. Now let me give some of the problems for Scotland.
Last week, in an interesting intervention, the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) said that when he was the Lord Provost of Aberdeen—and he was a distinguished Lord Provost—there were only two layers of government—his own council, over which he presided, and this House. Today there would be this House, the district council, the regional council, the community council, the European Assembly and the Scottish Assembly.
There is no way in which a semantic juggling of words can disguise the truth. This will mean more government. If it means more government, it will mean more bureaucrats to run it. If it means more bureaucrats, it means more public expenditure to pay for it. If it means more public expenditure, it means more taxation to support it. This is absolutely inevitable.
Not only will Scotland have this tremendous burden placed upon it, not only will it lose by what is imposed upon it; it will lose by what is detracted from it. Loth as I should be to see the number of Scottish Members reduced, it is inevitable that the majority of hon. Members who represent English constituencies would refuse to stand for the present number, which would be reduced. We should lose our influence on such matters 1519 as taxation, oil, defence and foreign affairs. We should lose our influence in these vital areas of life. We should either lose our Secretary of State completely, or the power of his voice in the Cabinet. Without a powerful Department to back him up a Secretary of State loses his weight in the Cabinet.
Naturally, I did not always endorse his views, but I consider that Scotland benefited from having such a formidable person as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock representing the interests of Scotland in the Cabinet. I wonder whether the citizens of Liverpool and Newcastle, who experience problems equal to those in Scotland, might not consider that they should have someone representing them in the Cabinet. I notice that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) nods his head. It is a powerful thing to have a Secretary of State in the Cabinet. Scotland will lose that through the Bill.
My last reason for opposing the Bill is the most important. I believe that the Bill puts at serious risk the unity of the United Kingdom. That is why I first opposed it and that is my last reason for opposing it. I believe that the unity of the United Kingdom is our most precious democratic achievement. I shall not see it put at risk because of a bunch of political psychopaths in Scotland, taking advantage of protest feeling arising out of the economic failure of both Conservative and Labour Governments, suddenly coming to the top of the pot. I shall not give up 250 years of history because of a mere 11 out of 635 Members.
Throughout the debate we have been asked what we propose. I can speak only for myself. I have no doubt that to improve the government of our country many changes are needed—changes administrative, changes legislative and changes constitutional. But all those changes, be what they may, must be such as can affect all parts of this United Kingdom equally. That is the essential principle. I hope that any constitutional convention which may be set up will abide by that maxim at least. I believe that this Bill was conceived in panic. It has gone through the House by way of the shabbiest procedures. I believe that it will be rejected with contempt—if not tonight, at a referendum.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
At the beginning of his speech the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) paid tribute to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). It was a remarkable speech, but I did not agree with it. However, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South said that there was one good thing about my hon. Friend's speech, and I agree with him. He said that the hon. Member for Penistone did not twist words, did not cast aspersions and went straight to the heart of the matter. I say to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South that it does not help to refer to hon. Members as psychopaths in the same way that it does not help to twist words. No one has ever thought that to introduce a democratic control mechanism over the existing Civil Service in Scotland is to introduce a new tier of government. To say that a new mechanism of control might not be necessary is a different argument.
I address myself to the challenge from the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone said that no case had been made out for this legislation. I do not accept that. I and many in Scotland were making this argument before the SNP came on to the scene. I agree that the members of the SNP have provided some of the political steam, but I rather regret their arrival because they have muddied the waters somewhat. The issue has become tied up with nationalism more than is necessary.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone is aware, in Scotland we have 7,000 civil servants working for a single office which is the equivalent of nine English Ministries. These civil servants are able and conscientious men, but they cannot themselves provide political decision making. For how long has it been part of British political philosophy that we are better governed by civil servants even if Scotland is an area set aside in administrative terms? The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South says that the whole of the United Kingdom should be governed in the same way. That is not possible because we already have a separate Scottish Office which creates a separate situation which we have to improve.
1521 As the hon. Member knows, one of the consequences of the situation is that every time a problem arises in Scotland a board, a bureau or a commission is set up to deal with it. A group of people is appointed, and when the Government worry about the democratic issue involved, an advisory committee is set up to watch over the body. That means that there are two appointed bodies—an executive board and an advisory board.
I have tried to total the number of jobs that are in the gift of the Secretary of State. My arithmetic may not be accurate but I believe that they total 5,083. Of these, 90 are paid jobs. There are 204 ad hoc bodies in Scotland under the control of the Secretary of State. I do not include bodies that are appointed jointly with other Ministries. Scotland is a different area of the country administered by a single Department—a competent and capable Department—surrounded by 204 ad hoc authorities, appointed but not clearly responsible to anyone and not checked or debated in this House. This means that a preponderance of policies on health, education, housing and roads, for want of better things, emerge from this bureaucracy.
I am not the sort of person who attacks bureaucrats. I know too many of them. If one had to choose a non-democratic form of government I should choose this form. Ideas emerge from these civil service and ad hoc bodies and from pressure groups which are never submitted to democratic scrutiny. That is the basic case for devolution. A greater say in their own government is what the Scottish people are demanding, as of today, from the Government of the United Kingdom. We want to improve the situation by an effective democratic procedure.
This has been a disturbing debate. One genuine worry has been the degree of complacency in the House. I have had the feeling that many hon. Members believe that if this miserable devolution matter could be got rid of, the government of Scotland would be admirable, there might be a little that needed changing here and there but the basic situation was splendid. That is not so. Members of Parliament are at the centre of government. We have the best opportunity for admiring ourselves and thinking that it goes well, but outside Westminster the 1522 position is not satisfactory at present. If the Bill were defeated here or lost on the referendum, the problem of Scottish government would not disappear.
We have been considering this matter for over a decade. We had a Royal Commission and the Conservative Party appointed its own commission. It would be appalling at this stage to tell the electorate of Scotland, as some people wish, that we are no further forward, that we have no idea how to answer the problems, that we want simply to stop doing anything and leave matters as they stand.
I am disturbed about this, because one must admit that constitutional problems of this kind do not loom large in people's thinking. Most people are bothered about their children's education, their jobs, their health and their welfare. What is disturbing is that underlying these concerns throughout Britain there is a certain gap between the governors and the governed, a certain suspicion of government and politicians, of those in authority and so on.
The gap is worse in Scotland, where government is clear but the democratic control over it is not so evident. We are dealing with a phenomenon which, although it exists throughout Britain, is at its worst in Scotland. We neglect it at our peril.
It is no good for hon. Members to ask "How many people march into MPs' surgeries on a Saturday morning and say 'Devolution is my big point'?" No one does that, because no one thinks of such things. Constitutional issues are not comparable with the National Health Service or with education. We are all sick at times and we shall all die. Many of us were born in hospital. We know about health matters and about schools. The average citizens and voters cannot envisage changes that might bring government closer to the people. They are dissatisfield and disgruntled, but a precise solution is not at the top of their feelings.
Hon. Members might think back to when the British colonies were demanding independence. The standard argument of every hon. Member in those days was they used to say: "It's a minority demand. I have visited Botswana—formerly Bechuanaland—India or wherever it may be. I found many loyal peasants who were worried only about where their next meal would come from. The people 1523 who were agitated about making the government more democratic were a little bunch of wretched "psychopaths", wearing curious dresses and chanting curious songs. Who would pay attention to them?" That is a caricature, but it is the kind of argument that the House in its complacency advanced again and again over Ireland and over various colonies.
I am not suggesting that Scotland is a colony—far from it. But it cannot be imagined that constitutional matters are uppermost in people's minds, for they are not. However, there is the nagging worry that the people running the country are not easily get-attable or controllable on major issues affecting the public.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that what bothered the Scots were economic matters and that the Assembly would not deal with them. He has it the wrong way round. Most people in Scotland know that inflation is a worldwide problem, certainly in the Western world. They know that there are huge unemployment figures in most Western countries. Very few people imagine that such a system as the Bill proposes could create an island of prosperity in Scotland in the middle of a Western world suffering from stagnation in trade.
What matters much more to people nowadays is the kind of school their children will go to, the environment, where the motorway will be built, how the housing estate is planned and inner city decay. Those are not matters that it is illegitimate for people to be worried about. They affect their daily lives. It is an old idea of the Left and extreme Right that only one or two basic economic issues matter to people. They do matter, but they are no longer so important, because the standard of living has risen.
People are worried about what goes on around them. They want to debate and discuss and obtain control over these matters. The whole object of devolution is to make that possible in a Scottish context, where there will be time and opportunities.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire said that there was nothing new in the Bill, that it contained no interesting developments in government. In the first Scotland and Wales Bill, and to a certain extent in this Bill, it was left to the Assembly to devise its 1524 own procedures. I hope that it will take some of the hints in the Bill to develop a pre-legislative committee procedure.
I remember saying to Lord Glenamara, when he was Lord President "It is interesting that you have put in the Scotland and Wales Bill every recommendation for reform made by the Select Committee on Procedure. Why don't you allow us to do the same things here?" In a moment of lucidity and frankness, he said that he had no objection to the Scottish Assembly pinning down the Scottish Executive, but he added "You lot won't pin us down here."
I see no reason why the Scottish Assembly should be a carbon copy of this establishment. I hope that it will not be. I hope that it will develop Select Committee practices which will give it an opportunity to associate Assemblymen with those areas of the quality of life that affect people.
We face a Bill which is not perfect, which I would not have designed in this way. But I am deeply depressed by the attitude of the Conservative Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire came to Scotland and held a Press conference in the room below me in the university, much to my upset. He explained that there were four possible solutions to the devolution problem. I take the right hon. Gentleman's point that there are four fairly coherent positions that could be taken, but after 10 years during which we had the Kilbrandon Commission and the commission under Lord Home, which came to certain conclusions, the right hon. Gentleman could at least have guided the House as to which of the four the Opposition were advocating. The Conservatives could have come to us with a coherent answer, instead of which hon. Members all over the Conservative Benches, and some on the Labour Benches, have given different views.
It was said that an Assembly without the powers to tax is a disgrace, that it means representation without taxation. Then, when we moved to give the Assembly taxation powers, to provide a more coherent form of devolution, the Conservatives opposed it. They said that economic power must rest with the United Kingdom. I should have preferred more devolution of economic powers, but the 1525 Conservatives voted against the Secretary of State's controlling economic position in the United Kingdom although they think this Assembly has too much executive power. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire showed great mental agility. One night he said that the 40 per cent. clause was not a very good idea, and that it bound the House. I admired the great intellectual agility with which three weeks later he discovered he was wrong and advised his hon. Friends to vote for the clause.
The people of Scotland are not deeply concerned about devolution, but they show a general concern like many other people, because they feel that somehow government has let them down over the years. In Scotland that feeling takes the form of worries about the Scottish Office and about how government is conducted. The people hear nothing from this House but the fear that whatever is attempted will not work, that each of the Tory Party's four possibilities is too difficult for the House to reach a conclusion. I hope that the people will realise that the Tory Party has nothing to offer them in the way of serious constructive thought on the matter and that therefore it should not be trusted at the next election.
I turn to the position under the Bill. I do not wish to dwell on it, because we have debated it endlessly. I should have preferred taxing powers. I do not accept that it is impossible to devise them. Every other major State in the Western world except France works a devolved system of government. Every other major State in the Western world except France devises methods by which taxation powers can be given to subordinate States or Assemblies which govern certain areas.
I do not accept the argument of many people that it would be easier to set up a federal system. In my view it would have been more difficult, because in Scotland there is an existing administration on a regional basis that does not exist in the large areas of England. It would have been a revolution in English administration, which is highly centralised to have set up similar regional Assemblies. To do something different for Scotland is a political reflection of the existing administrative structure. There is a certain coherence about it.
1526 Similarly, it is true that to give powers of taxation to all sectors of a federal system creates power outside the federal government, but to give them to one area alone does not cause such a problem. Nobody imagines that decisions by the Scottish Assembly to increase or reduce its expenditure by 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. would affect United Kingdom Treasury demand management. That is well within the Treasury's present margin of error, so there is no problem there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), to whom I apologise if I was brusque with him the other night in a debate, has often suggested that English regions are worried about the present situation. I do not see the force of his argument. If he is worried about a different matter—whether devolution is a sensible system of government—I should have thought it made sense to try it out in the Scottish region, where there is a demand for it and an administrative framework to do it.
If at the end of four or five years it was believed that the experiment in Scotland had been unfortunate, that it was encouraging divisive elements, producing a Government who lacked ability and might even be corrupt, my hon. Friend's case would be proved and there would be no point in contemplating the system for England. But suppose that after four or five years the Scottish Assembly had settled to its job and was producing a greater feeling of harmony between the people and their Government in Scotland. If the Assembly were liked and if good candidates were coming forward to stand for it, surely that would be the time for the House to say that possibly devolution could be spread. Probably the demand would then come from other parts of England.
I cannot see that it is to anyone's advantage to say that, because England is not sure whether it wants this sort of thing in the regions, therefore an area such as Scotland, which wants devolution, and where there is an existing administration, should not have it. I am reminded of what happens sometimes when one of my children sits down at the table and is given a plate of pudding. When he says "I don't want it" and I say "Then pass it to your baby brother who likes pudding", the first child will say "If he wants it, I will have the pudding, even 1527 if I don't like it". There is a certain logic in that but it is not an admirable attitude.
§ Mr. Ogden
My hon. Friend seems to have a very interesting family. I point out to him, however, that there are worries on Merseyside not only about the constitutional effects of the Bill. There are even greater worries about the possible economic advantages which might flow to Scotland, and which might adversely affect regions such as Merseyside. Earlier in the day Merseyside Members spent some time in meeting the management of British Leyland about Speke. What risk can we be asked to take on Merseyside about unemployment?
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I quite understand my hon. Friend's argument. However, if we have devolution, I think that it could well go the other way. When I first argued the case for devolution in this House many years ago, I was approached by Arthur Woodburn, an ex-Secretary of State for Scotland, who had been through these arguments. He said to me "John, you are crazy to make the case for devolution. Don't you understand that as a result of never totting up what Scotland gets and never treating Scotland as an area, we get more for housing, more for health, more for this and more for that?"
Surely it is better, in a democratic country such as ours, to see the block grant out in the open so that we understand what the Scots are getting. Then we can know whether that is what we want, and whether it is a satisfactory method of doing it and whether it is fair to the English regions. Merseyside may have a case in claiming that it is not being fairly treated. I suggest that devolution might well provide a perfectly good argument for Merseyside in claiming fair treatment, and I should be happy to vote for that. I do not want more money for Scotland. I want a reasonable system of internal self-government.
I dislike, as I have often said, the whole principle of referendums. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone in this respect, although I do not think that he joined me in voting against the principle of a referendum. I dislike it whether I think I shall win or lose in this particular situation.
1528 I think that it is a mistake for this House to shrug off the responsibility of using its own judgment. I suppose that this attitude might be criticised as elitist and shocking, but the fact is that this House is paid to spend its time thinking about government. The average person comes to his Member of Parliament with his worries and talks about being fed up with the Government. I remember at the time of the last election coming across a fellow in the street in one small town who looked utterly miserable. I asked him why he was looking so miserable. He said "It's this damned election." I said "What particularly disturbs you about it?" He replied "What disturbs me is that one of you two lots will win."
This attitude is very prevalent. People are disturbed about government. They do not know where it all happens. In Scotland, in particular, people feel somehow that they do not have their hand on government. We ought to produce in this House proposals which will remedy that situation. I believe that the Bill is an attempt to move in that direction. It has weaknesses concerning taxing powers and there is not the clear-cut division of functions that I should have liked to see. I should have thought that functions should either be devolved or withdrawn to Whitehall. I do not think that we want an intermediary Scottish Office lurking in limbo between the two.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that more of the law could have been devolved, but nevertheless this is a beginning, a stepping-stone in the right direction. I do not believe that it is a move towards independence. I do not believe that the bulk of the Scottish people want independence. What I believe is that the Bill is a stepping-stone to a form of greater internal democracy which we, as a drastically over-centralised country, badly need.
I hope that any hon. Member who contemplates voting against the Bill will accept the responsibility of thinking of a new or better method of dealing with the problems of over-centralisation, and with the general air of disgruntlement which will not go away, even if the Bill is defeated. I hope that the Bill will be accepted and that we shall build upon it a better system of government in Scotland.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), not only because of the humour with which he presents his case but because of the realism with which he assesses the position in Scotland.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is totally right in saying that we cannot classify the issue of devolution and the feelings about it in Scotland in the same way as we deal with prices, jobs, taxation and health. The issue of devolution is very much deeper, and it is here that we must exercise our responsibility as politicians. We have talked about devolution now for so long that it is very much a part of the fabric of life in Scotland. Many of the issues involved are taken for granted by people in Scotland. It is in that sense, and with that sense of responsibility, that I hope the House will approach the Division tonight.
Nearly everything that can be said has now been said about the Bill, but for someone in my position, supporting devolution and believing very deeply in the need for decentralisation in this country, one fundamental question arises this evening. Quite simply it is this: is there another way? If there is another way, as opposed to what is in the Bill, if there is another form in which we can have devolution and decentralisation—and have it within a reasonable time scale—I shall be one of the first to consider it and try to decide whether it is a better way.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) that there is need for change. Very few people here will disagree with him that there is need for change. I agree also that if we had the opportunity and if we were ready to reform ourselves in this House of Commons, and to reform the central institutions of government, there would not be the pressure for devolution in Scotland that there is at present. There would be pressure but it would not be as strident as it is at the moment. Although there may be general agreement on the need for action of this sort—and I believe that there is—there is no evidence of such action being taken, particularly in regard to the reform of our central institutions of government.
1530 In this situation, where there is general agreement that something has to be done, but where agreement is lacking as to what should be done, I want, as someone representing a Scottish constituency, to try to consider what it is that should be done. As long as we go on discussing and saying that there must be change but are not prepared to say precisely what that change should be, we only succeed in adding to the frustrations of those who are distant in terms of geography and also politically from central government in this country. There is no substitute, then, to putting forward real proposals. It is no good simply saying that we have general agreement on the need for change of some sort. That is my first point.
When I approached the Second Reading of the original Scotland and Wales Bill, I felt that one of the overriding things that mattered was that the subject of devolution should be debated, and I kept my mind wide open as to what would be my attitude on Third Reading. What concerns me on the Third Reading of this Bill, however, is that although we say broadly that we need change of some sort or another, I begin to wonder more and more whether there is real conviction in this House as to the change that is necessary and as to what that change should be.
I accept that my right hon. Friend is completely honourable in saying that there should be change, and that he believes there should be. I believe also that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) was totally honourable in moving his amendment in Committee. But one has to recognise that there are other hon. Members who would wish to use the referendum as a means of frustrating the measure.
When we put these two things together—the realisation for change, but doubt about what that change should be—then someone in my position—who believes that change is necessary and who has a certain view as to what the change should be—must approach this Third Reading with a sense of realism. We must also approach it in the sense that if this measure is refused we are putting back the opportunity for decentralisation, devolution and, perhaps more important, for starting a process of reform with regard to our central institutions. We are putting 1531 that opportunity back perhaps for a considerable period indeed.
As one who believes in devolution, I say straight away that I would have preferred to see our institutions of Government reformed from the centre. But that has not taken place and I see no prospect of that taking place. This is not an ideal situation, but as so often happens in Governments throughout the world, we never have the chance of doing such major things overnight. However, given the opportunity to reform from the edge, rather than from the centre, one has to look hard at that opportunity and to accept it if one believes that it is right.
That brings me to the second point that wish to raise. Although I believe there is now an opportunity for reform, I do not think that that opportunity should be allowed to pass unless hon. Members have strong reasons for opposing it. I ask myself whether this Bill is right and whether it starts the kind of general process of reform that is necessary for the government of this country. I do not believe that the Bill is ideal in all respects. But it is a better Bill than the one which the Government presented more than a year ago. With regard to the division of power and other matters, I believe that it is a better Bill.
One is then left with the question whether the Bill is workable and whether it will be stable. It is a matter of judgment whether the Bill will be workable. I respect the judgment of those hon Members who think that it is not workable. But for my part I believe that on balance it is workable.
It is workable because of one important element and dimension that is so often written down in Scotland, even though statements by some members of the Scottish National Party do not help. I believe that the good sense of the majority of people in Scotland—who do not want independence—will prevail. I believe that all parties—including the Scottish National Party—will respond to the general will of the people of Scotland. I believe that we shall find the general will to make this Bill work. In terms of workability, I believe that the Bill passes that test.
The other test is whether it will be stable. Can anyone in this House put his hand on his heart and say that the present position is stable? I do not 1532 believe that it is. I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that this Bill is stable. If we were moving from a position that was stable we would have to ask ourselves whether it was right to take this further step. But on balance, and because of the argument of principle that I put earlier, I believe that this Bill has an element of a federal-type structure with regard to the United Kingdom. I believe we can evolve and move towards a more stable type of constitutional structure for the United Kingdom which, at the end of the day, will offer more stability than that which we have at present.
The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian is absolutely right. It is physically and practically impossible at present to move in one step to a federal solution, which I personally would favour. On the other hand, those of us who believe that at the end of the day we shall have to find a stable solution must accept that we must make a start somewhere. Compared with the original Bill I believe that this Bill—because it embodies many of the principles on which a federal structure is built—gives us the opportunity to evolve.
I said that we must come to a judgment tonight. The judgment that I have to make is quite simply a choice between the status quo or the Bill. That is the choice before us. I do not believe the status quo to be tenable. I fervently support the unity of the United Kingdom, but if we remain as we are I believe that we shall move far more inexorably towards the break up of the United Kingdom.
Of course, this is a step into the unknown, but let us remember that democracy is organic. It does not stand still. It must progress. We do not have a written constitution in this country. Therefore, unless we are prepared to move forward, experiment and have a certain degree of faith, it will be not only future generations in this country that we shall fail but also democracy itself.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the next hon. Gentleman, may I advise the House that if hon. Members limit their speeches to under a quarter of an hour each I shall be able to call everyone who has indicated by standing that he would like to speak.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)
The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) has called upon us not to be afraid of developing our constitution. I believe that his advice has put the debate into a healthier perspective. There have been complaints that the Bill has not been debated on its merits and that we have not argued in support of the Bill—particularly hon. Members on the Labour Benches. I think we must accept a measure of rebuke in that respect. But the argument is not lacking. Rather, it is a matter of it not having been put.
Part of the reason has been that the House has not got used to the idea of timetabling major Bills that are taken in Committee on the Floor of the House. We must arrange the breaks to concentrate on the major clauses so that we proceed in a logical way through the major contents of the Bill. The Bill has not been filibustered. I would not accuse any hon. Member of that. But the House has been led into byways and has been diverted from its main purpose. It has even been entertained.
This is the right Bill for the time. It is the right Bill for the state of affairs in the country and in this House. It has evolved by the same process that so many constitutional reforms have evolved throughout our history. The role of democratising the Secretary of State, put by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), is the principle of the Bill. It must be looked at from that perspective by a Member like myself who has represented both an English and a Scottish constitutency. The roles are quite different.
In an English constituency one is batting against an Executive where there is an identifiable Minister dealing with the particular subject on which one can organise parliamentary support which may have a direct effect on that issue. In a Scottish context, although the role and status of the individual Member in human and social terms are every bit as high as in England, in parliamentary terms he is outnumbered eight to one by the mass vote in the House and in Committee of those who necessarily support the position taken by the Secretary of State and the Government. Not that one wishes to contradict the Secretary of 1534 State. It is simply that the political weight in this Chamber is overwhelmingly at his command against the minority of Scottish Members.
That is why we canot achieve the democratisation of control of the Secretary of State's powers in this Chamber. In debate and in our voting, all hon. Members are equal, and I hope that that situation will continue. The difference is in the way in which we can achieve democratisation by the creation of a Scottish Assembly.
It has been argued that there is no serious grand design for the Assembly. But when has this country ever had a serious grand design for constitutional change? I believe in grand designs, but constitutionally we recognise them when they have been achieved rather than creating them in advance through political pressures. It is a piecemeal process. This Bill is part of that process—a process that has been continuing for a long time and will continue in the future.
The point has been made over and over again that the Scottish Assembly cannot be really democratic without financial responsibility. That is a powerful argument. However, to illustrate the continuing pace of change the Inland Revenue has produced a scheme during the passage of this Bill for the total transformation of the PAYE system. A report by the chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue has been presented to the House showing that it is possible to introduce local income tax at any level of disaggregation at which we care to do so—right down to local ward level if we wish. The argument that has been put about the operating costs of local income tax falls to the ground. It will take time to complete the computerisation of the existing system and to remodel it, but the Inland Revenue says that this could happen by 1985. With a little political pressure, I think it could be done by the early 1980s.
It is also argued that we cannot proceed without uniform changes throughout the United Kingdom. There is the West Lothian argument of how Scottish MPs can have a vote on affairs that affect England while not being able to vote on the same business in Scotland, when the Scottish Assembly is in existence. This argument imposes a stultifying uniformity on the constitutional development of this country. We have never accepted that 1535 sort of thinking in the past and I do not see why we should accept it today.
We do not argue that we should not nationalise an industry because that would put the workers in that industry in a different position in relation to this House from that of the rest of workers in private industry. Nor do we argue that because we have a pattern of administration of a partciular social service in one area, the same pattern and method of administration or control of salaries must apply in every other area. We have a necessarily flexible approach to the problems that concern us.
The answer is an evolving one. I do not see us moving by the conscious process of planning an increase of powers for the Scottish Assembly. These powers will develop, first of all into the acquisition of tax powers and then to a degree of economic responsibility. I accept that that development will be accompanied by comparable developments in England. I do not expect it to take the form of setting up regional authorities, which have no place in the hearts and political history of the people of England. But that does not mean that local authorities in England cannot exercise many of the powers that are being given to the Scottish Assembly. Indeed, my old constituency local authority of Teesside could exercise tax powers and industrial development powers quite as formidable as, and even more so than, those enjoyed nationally.
On the political impact of the West Lothian question, it is argued that by hiving off responsibilities for home affairs from Scottish Ministers this will weaken the powers and effectiveness of the Labour-dominated group of Scottish MPs. Why have we had a majority of Labour Members in Scotland in the past? The temptation is to argue that this has come about because of the superior political judgment of the Scottish people, but it is at least partly because there has been a degree of deprivation in Scotland which is not so uniformly spread throughout the United Kingdom.
If the Labour Party is not able to rebuild its appeal in the majority of the cities and suburbs, as well as in the countryside, there is little prospect of our future as a party in the long term in any part of the United Kingdom. Nor can we expect the political balance of the 1536 past to continue in the future. We must look to our own party laurels to ensure that it does.
On the overall unity of the United Kingdom the constitutional process in which we are engaged is coping with an increased degree of interdependence. We are going through a process internationally of harmonising national economic policies and we recognise in Scotland that this process is very important for us and for the Scottish economy. We must contribute effectively to such debates. A part of this process within the United Kingdom and in the Scottish Assembly is the more sensitive response of public expenditure to areas of need. Without it we shall have no democratic control.
The fundamental case for placing the democratic right to control affairs that are mainly our own concern closer to the people constitutes the overwhelming case for this Bill. I hope that the House will give it an overwhelming majority for the Third Reading, and thus launch a successful Scottish Assembly.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) developed a theme that was originated by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). He asked when there had been a serious grand design for our constitution. The answer is that there never has been. Personally, I think that at this stage in our nation's development it is necessary that there should be such a design.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns said with some justification that there was no conviction about the need for change in our democratic constitutional arrangements. I have such a conviction. The root of the difference between us is his belief that we have to make use of devolution as a starting point for change, whereas I want to start at the centre and move out towards the periphery. Logic is on my side but political reality is on his. I suspect that he might be proved right in the long run.
I am in favour of the concept of devolution. I believe in a decrease of the power of Whitehall and a redistribution of powers, rights and discretion to 1537 public and private bodies and private individuals.
The United Kingdom is, and will remain for some time, the most highly centralised country in the Western world. It is as centralised as a number of countries in the Eastern bloc. I am completely in favour of a reduction in the power of government at the centre. How are we to achieve it? It is not good enough for the Government to take hold of a concept, albeit under what they interpret as political pressure, to turn it into a few ideas, translate them into legislation, ram them through Parliament, often undebated, regardless of bitter criticism, and pretend that they have done a great service to the people, in this case the people of Scotland, when, in reality, they have produced a hotch-potch which, as time passes, will lead increasingly conflict and trouble.
The Bill was a bad Bill on Second Reading and it remains a bad Bill. I wish to criticise it on three scores. First, it will establish an unrepresentative Assembly. Secondly, it will establish an irresponsible Assembly and, thirdly, it will breed uncontrollable conflict.
On the first point, if ever there was a case for an Assembly to be elected by a system of proportional representation, it is in Scotland. With four major parties in the field and other fringe parties, such as the SLP, in existence, it is nothing short of ludicrous to pretend that an adequately representative Assembly can be elected—or, and more important, can be believed by the electors to have been elected—by a first-past-the-post system. Why try to push the Scottish people and the Assembly into the straitjacket of a two-party system, which is implied, when, whatever was once the situation in the United Kingdom, it certainly does not even begin to exist in Scotland?
I take the point of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that the 40 per cent. poll provision may encourage more Scots to vote than would otherwise have been the case. That is why I did not vote for it. If the Scots vote for devolution and the 40 per cent. hurdle is jumped, I forecast that soon afterwards, one of the first sources of friction will be the unrepresentativeness of the Assembly.
1538 On my second point, the Assembly will be irresponsible because it is not provided with the duty to raise taxation. Here again, I disagree with my Front Bench. "No taxation without representation" is an old and accepted principle, but the converse is equally important. There should be no representation without a responsibility for taxation. If there is, as there is in the Bill, the ease with which the buck can be passed is unlimited.
The inbuilt potential for conflict between Parliament and the Assembly and between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Executive will be enormous.
This brings me to my third point. The very establishment of an Assembly is bound to lead to conflict between it and the superior or national Parliament. Human nature and politicians being what they are, this is bound to be so, and it is the case in most countries with subsidiary Assemblies. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people may call it constructive tension. Whatever it is called, it is a fact of life.
However, in most, if not all, of those other countries, there is the cushion of a written constitution which takes the pressure out of the conflict. Without that or the duty to tax, which would encourage responsibility, it looks to me as though there is a certain likelihood of trouble.
Of course, I accept that for the Government to have tried to do either of the things that I have suggested in order to reduce or contain conflict would have been politically impossible for them and the House, but that merely demonstrates that there are weaknesses in our political system.
Apart from being a bad Bill, this is the wrong Bill. Ostensibly, it has been introduced to counter the dissatisfaction of the Scots with London government, but that dissatisfaction is not unique to Scotland; it is as prevalent in my constituency as I suspect it is in Kensington, Chelsea, Birmingham, Liverpool or any other part of the United Kingdom.
The disillusionment with Government and Parliament is widespread, and it exists because neither seems adequately to reflect the opinions and ambitions of the electorate. That state of affairs will not be put right by trying to deal with the disillusionment as it affects only one 1539 part of the United Kingdom. It will be dealt with only when we decide to put our own House under the microscope and decide to make ourselves more capable of reflecting the opinions and desires of the electorate, and we shall not begin to do that over any sustained period until we are elected by a system of proportional representation.
The Bill is no more than a diversion, but it is a potentially dangerous and harmful diversion. That is why I shall vote against it.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison) and I may find ourselves in the same Lobby tonight. I hope that I shall be able to show that it will be for very different reasons.
The hon. Gentleman said that the duty of a Member was to reflect the views of his constituents. I want to put on record the fact that what I have to say about the Bill is wholeheartedly supported by my party executive. Its members have given me full backing—and that unanimity has never previously occurred in the 14 years that I have represented the constituency, so I want to get this on the record.
The Members of my party executive have lively minds of their own. In many ways they argue and seek to persuade and convince each other. I have to tell the Minister that they, and I do not like the Bill very much.
I ask Scottish Members to accept that I intervene in Scottish affairs not because I want to but because Scottish affairs intervene in the affairs of Liverpool and Merseyside, and we must take notice of that. Just as I am urged to try to understand the feelings in Scotland, I ask Scottish Members to try to understand the fears on Merseyside, not only about constitutional change but, more important, about the fact that changes of this kind may lead to more economic difficulties for our area. We have two priorities. The economic worries come first and the constitutional matters come second.
I do not want to go into the history of the Bill, but it began in doubtful circumstances, some years ago. This Bill has endured more criticism than praise and has probably survived more because 1540 of the good will of its opponents than of the fervour of its supporters.
The Government had my support on Second Reading, on the guillotine motion, and in Committee, where I voted more times with them than against. No one should complain that I have not provided every opportunity to be persuaded on the merits of the Bill. Now I am asked to support the Third Reading, to make or break the Bill.
Two groups of reasons are put forward to try to persuade hon. Members to support the Bill—first, the merits of the Bill and, secondly, a variety of other reasons.
I am told that the Bill applies only to Scotland. Technically, that may be correct, but it is no county council Bill which we can say affects only Tyneside, Merseyside or the West Midlands, and that if they want it, let it go ahead, because it is only their Bill.
For good or ill, this Bill will inevitably affect every part of the United Kingdom. Every part of the United Kingdom is interdependent. No one part ought to be treated in isolation. I am told that the Bill is what the people of Scotland want and what they must have. I have been told that many times by Scottish friends and by the Scottish Nationalists.
§ Mr. Ogden
Good for ye. It is said that this is what the people of Scotland must have, but my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) said that tonight it is a constitutional matter and that the people of Scotland are concerned with other things. Other Scottish Members whom I respect and admire tell me that this is what the Scottish people want and must have. On the other hand, other Scottish Members, for whom I have equal regard, tell me that this is not what is best for Scotland and not what Scotland wants. It would be a good idea, especially from the point of view of the Scottish Nationalist Party—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) must not keep interrupting from a sedentary position.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am making the point that I have made many times on my feet. It becomes repetitious. I merely wished to remind the various parties in the House of the name of my party. Will hon. Members please try to get it right so that I do not have to interrupt from a sedentary position?
§ Mr. Ogden
I tell the hon. Lady that I shall try to get it right next time.
It is relevant that an English Member should put on record the admiration that English, Welsh and Northern Ireland Members have had over a long period for the quality, integrity and hard work of the Scottish Members who have come to this place over many years. I put on record my envy—it is not merely admiration—for what Scottish Members on both sides of the Chamber have achieved for their part of the United Kingdom. Scotland has been well served in the past and in the present, by the quality of the Members that she has sent to this place.
As for the Bill, there is clearly no guide from Scottish Members. I must tell the hon. Ladies on the Scottish National Bench that the speech of their party leader—I bear in mind the respect and regard that I know most hon. Members have for him—did more to persuade me to go into the "No" Lobby than anything that the Conservative Front Bench has done before. It is a speech of which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will be proud when he reads it again.
My information on the opinions of the people of Scotland about the Bill is that they are about as equally divided as are their representatives in this place. I do not know whether that is true.
§ Mr. Ogden
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I said that my information on the opinions of the people of Scotland is that they are about equally divided. If the hon. Lady and her colleagues had spent some time trying to persuade English Members, or United Kingdom Members, of their case rather than haranguing us from time to time—even in the most charming way—they might have achieved rather more. My information is that the opinions of the people of Scotland are about equally divided.
§ Mr. Ogden
The latter information I have, but the earlier information is new to me. It would have been useful if I had known of it before.
I am also told "There is to be a referendum. Let the people of Scotland decide." I do not like referendums, although I accept that a case can be made out for one on major constitutional changes. My only claim is that if a change affects every part of the United Kingdom, every part of it should have a voice. I recognise that no one in Merseyside is asking for a voice in the referendum, but when we deal with a constitutional change that affects every part of the United Kingdom, surely everybody should have the chance of a voice and a vote. It is true that 5 million Scots may have their say, but 47 million others in the rest of the United Kingdom may not.
The referendum may answer the question "Do you want the Bill?" but it will not answer the question to which I want an answer, namely, "Do you want an independent Scotland?". If that second question were written in and if my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is to reply, were to indicate whether he and his right hon. and hon. Friends will be supporting that second question in another place, that would lessen my opposition to the Bill at this stage.
For those who support the Bill a referendum is logical, but I use a medical analogy for those who cannot or do not support the Bill and yet are asked to support a referendum. It may be that I 1543 am unwise to choose a medical analogy, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) is present.
What would we think of a doctor who said to a patient, after hearing complaints of his health, "Here is a prescription. The medicine will not cure your sickness. It may have grave side effects on the rest of your family. It is up to you whether you take it." That is what the opponents of the Bill are assured to do.
The Bill gives great powers to Scotland, but it gives little power to Dundee, Aberdeen or other local communities down the line. It substitutes Edinburgh for Westminster. It am told that Edinburgh is no more Scotland than Westminster is England. If the Assembly is established, will Scottish Members be less involved in the powers and duties that will be devolved to Scotland than they are at present? As we are now involved in local government, although we have no powers in local government, if Scottish Assembly does something that displeases people or does not do something will not those who disagree with what is being done or not being done come to this place, to their Westminster Member, to seek redress of grievance? Will it not be that Scottish Members in this place will have even less power than at present to provide that redress of grievance? For those and other reasons I am not persuaded of the merits of the Bill.
So we come to the "other reasons". As the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn reminded us, the Labour Party has a manifesto commitment of October 1974. We are legislating in 1978 for a situation that was thought to exist in 1974. How that came about is rather a strange story, and four years is a long time. I recognise that it is also a Labour Party conference decision. It is supported by the Scottish Labour Party and the STUC. I have to weigh that as well. There is also a three-line Whip. If my left arm is slightly bent, it is because my Chief Whip has been taking more than the usual amount of interest in me over the past few days. That has to be recognised, and I do not lightly disobey a three-line Whip.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Did the hon. Gentleman hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who gave a resume of the pattern of events leading to the "inevitability"—I 1544 think that I quote him correctly—of the Assembly legislation? As the hon. Gentleman is interested in the opinions of his party, I ask him to reflect. There is the long-standing commitment of his party, which goes back long before the Hamilton election, to a substantial measure of Home Rule for Scotland—indeed, Home Rule in excess of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman wants to be in keeping with the traditions of his party, will he put the whole history in mind and not merely a little bit of recent history from 1974?
§ Mr. Ogden
The history of my party is that usually, if we are out of step, we try to work out a new formula. We are not bound too tightly by tradition in one form or another. I am trying to explain why, bearing in mind the commitments made by the Labour Party, I am not lightly ignoring them. That includes the fact that this is a major piece of legislation. I am not an instant rebel. The majority of members of the Cabinet have voted more often against three-line Whips than I have. Therefore, I do not do this lightly.
This is a major piece of legislation. Yet the Bill is a matter of almost complete indifference to my constituents and to the vast majority of English people. The Labour Government have kept their promise to bring in the Bill. The Bill have been brought so far by a cross-party alliance across the Floor of the House. If the Bill receives a Third Reading, it will be because of a temporary all-party alliance across the Floor of the House. If it is denied a Third Reading, it will be because of a different, but equally temporary, alliance across the Floor of the House.
I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) say that if the Bill was denied a Third Reading tonight he would not be bobbing up like Zebedee and claiming that there should be a General Election. A General Election will have to be fought on many matters in many parts of the United Kingdom; not just on devolution for Scotland.
My conclusion is that the Bill was born of reaction, not anticipation; of expediency and despair, not hope; and of panic, in an attempt to halt the nationalist tide. America had such problems many years ago. I am not suggesting the American solution. Yet Abraham Lincoln 1545 never attempted and, I hope, never considered bringing in a Southern States devolution Bill to solve his problems. There are other ways. I ask hon. Members not to use that argument against me. I believe that we should face the nationalist tide and see what we can do, because there is also an English nationalist tide which must be faced. That is the other side of the coin. Trying to ride with the tide will not bring any lasting benefits.
My hon. Friends know that I usually stand in the centre Left of my party. I do not go round calling for instant Socialism today. But, even by my modest standards, can any Labour Member claim that this is a good piece of Socialist legislation? The Bill will do little good, and may do much harm. I hope that it is disposed of in the "No" Lobby tonight.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
When we began the debate on the Scotland and Wales Bill I felt fairly certain that we would not produce a successful Bill unless we incorporataed some general reform of the procedures of the House of Commons. Nothing has happened during the year and months that we have been debating the previous Bill and this Bill to make me change my mind on that matter.
I thought that it would be wrong to deny the Scotland Bill a Second Reading and thereby to deny discussion of the Bill in Committee. Therefore, I did not vote against it. I cannot say that I voted for it. Indeed, I did not vote in favour of the 40 per cent. clause in the referendum.
We have now reached the stage where we must make up our minds whether the Bill should receive the approval of the House. Having listened to the debates and tried to move several amendments to the Bill, I do not believe that we have achieved any basic improvements which warrant the Bill receiving a Third Reading.
I think that the upsurge of protest voting which went to the Scottish National Party will go much in the same way as the protest voting which at one time went to the Liberal Party in England. That had nothing to do with the government of Scotland at all. It was a protest against bad administration at one time on the 1546 part of the Conservative Government and at other times on the part of the Labour Government. Both Administrations were equally guilty.
We shall devole to 150 Assembly Members part of the work which 71 Members are doing here. Therefore, we shall have 221 Members doing what is currently done by 71 Members.
The Bill is so drafted that the Assembly will have no financial control. Therefore, half the time Assembly Members will be wondering how, after the first four years, they will manage to be re-elected. They will say "We must promise the electors something more; otherwise we shall not get back." We shall, therefore, be setting up an unstable Assembly.
I hope that the result of refusing to give the Bill a Third Reading will be that both sides of the House will come together and do what my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) suggested—namely, address itself to seeing whether it can use the strength of the Civil Service in Scotland, to which the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) referred, to bring government closer to the people.
Our experience in local government affairs is that often a constituent will go to his member of Parliament and say "I have been to my district council and to the county council, but they cannot do anything for me. Can you help?" In some cases we may have a little more muscle and, therefore, perhaps be able to help.
I foresee the Assembly with 150 Members dependent entirely on the block vote from this House for what it can do. I repeat what I said the other day: it will be a prisoner of this House regarding how much money goes in the block vote to Scotland. I cannot believe that that will produce a stable Assembly.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he is in some danger when he calls the SNP vote a protest vote? In the October 1974 General Election the SNP got virtually 31 per cent. of the vote whereas the Conservative Party got only 25 per cent. It is difficult to know when a protest is not a protest. Is he not getting to the nub of the question when he grasps the nettle and refers to constituents feeling 1547 helpless? Are constituents not perhaps rallying against the feeling that two tiers of local government are confusing? Is he not realising that an Assembly without more financial powers will be at risk in not satisfying its Members?
§ Sir J. Gilmour
I do not think that the hon. Lady has made a useful contribution to the argument that I am developing. A constituent will often approach his Member of Parliament and say "I cannot get anything out of this authority. Can you do anything?" That is a hard fact of life that we have to acknowledge.
There is another reason why I feel unable to vote for Third Reading. The most important part of the Bill is Schedule 10. That contains 26 matters that should be devolved to the Assembly. We discussed only one out of the whole lot. We are asked to pass a Bill, the real guts of which have not been discussed by the House. Therefore, I hope that there will be a majority against Third Reading. I do not want to shovel the Bill under the carpet and do away with it. I want a concurrence of opinion in the House and a better Bill next time.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
I want to refer briefly to the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson)—and I am sorry that he is not here—and Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). I have the highest regard for my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone, to whose speeches I always listen with great interest because of the incisive, intelligent way in which he musters his argument and puts forward his point of view. But he makes the mistake of the elitist who believes that all arguments can be won and all problems solved merely by using an intellectual argument for or against them. This is not the case with some arguments, which are highly emotional in content. I do not say that is necessarily a bad thing when a problem is an emotional one, but much of my hon. Friend's speech depended upon what he considers to be the problem.
If my hon. Friend considers that this measure is wanted by the people of Scotland—and this argument applies equally to my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby—he must accept that it is up to this House, contrary to what he said, to for- 1548 multate and translate the desires of the people of Scotland into our view of what should be done. That is our job as Members of Parliament. It is wrong for us to neglect that duty. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby that, according to the opinion polls and according to the majority of Scottish Members in the House, that is how the people of Scotland feel.
I was much impressed by the sincerity of my hon. Friend's speech. I can give him another example of what he had in mind that he might care to use when he puts forward his arguments. It is a medical example and is the case of the patient who went to the doctor with a cold. The doctor told him "We cannot cure a cold, but it is snowing outside, so take off your clothes and go out and get pneumonia. We can cure that."
My hon. Friends the Members for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) and Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) dealt very well with the positive aspect of devolution. It is true that as a people the British have not dealt with the development of their political, economic and industrial institutions on the basis of a big design or a great plan. We have dealt with these matters in a piecemeal way.
The Bill has had a rough and perhaps stormy passage, and it is therefore to the credit of my right hon. and hon. Friends that it will leave this House having suffered no more than a severe buffeting. No important aspect of the Bill has been interfered with. All its major provisions remain. Every attack has been beaten off. All the matters that are to be devolved are still there as they were in the original Bill.
This is in no small part due to my hon. Friend the Minister of State who has assiduously done his duty and has deftly guided the Bill through its various stages. I take my hat off to him for the way he has done that. Even the insertion of the 40 per cent. requirement is not a tragedy, because it will rebound in the face of those who pushed it through. The Scottish people will respond with a much larger proportion of the vote than even those who support the amendment imagined possible.
I welcome the Bill positively as an extension of the democratic principle. A wise Indian statesman said to me once 1549 that democracy was an aspiration. How true that is. This aspiration, I may add, if it can be achieved at all, can be achieved only in stages. The Bill marks an important stage in that process.
The Scottish Office may or may have not been a good idea at the time it was established, but I suggest that it is totally inadequate now. The way it is constituted, encompassing, as it does, nine Government Departments, means that it gets the worst of all worlds. Although it is now a long way from the system of patronage which developed under what was known as the Scottish Manager in the early nineteenth century. It was only in 1926 that the office of Secretary of State for Scotland was established.
The nine United Kingdom Ministries are administered through the Scottish Office, which is a completely unsatisfactory way of pursuing the democratic goal of giving people more say in their own affairs. The Bill enables people to be nearer to the individuals who are trying to control so many aspects of their lives. As my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian said, people are concerned about education, health, employment and similar matters. Those are the matters which are nearest to people's hearts. Those are the matters about which they complain, not devolution. We have to make government much nearer to the people.
The Scottish Office system and the way in which Scottish Members of Parliament go about their various duties are unsatisfactory, even from the point of view of those Scottish Members of Parliament. They are positively encouraged to be parochial in outlook and discouraged from taking a broader United Kingdom view. That is part of the problem of the Scottish Office being an unacceptable halfway house. In spite of the protestations of opponents of the Bill, there is a clear demand, expressed in a number of ways, for greater participation by the people of Scotland, and hon. Members close their eyes to reality if they deny that. The Scottish people have for a long time had a degree of devolution; we are not dealing with something new. What the Scottish people are doing now, and what we should encourage them to do, is looking forward to a logical extension of 1550 that devolution process, and on that basis action must be taken.
If we feel that they should be encouraged, there are only two alternatives. The first is complete separation, and that course is supported by only a very small minority of Scottish people. The mass of the Scottish people are not interested in a separate Scotland, a separate army, navy and air force, border posts and the exchange of ambassadors throughout the world—our footballers already do that reasonably well.
Scotland does not want independence, but there is a strong voice for the second alternative, which is devolution. That is seen by the Scottish people not in the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone sees it. It is seen by the Scottish people as it has been envisaged by the Government, as the natural joining together of the present functions of the Scottish Office with the additional powers embodied in the Bill, all within the overall sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament. That is how the Scottish people see it, and it is on that that they should be given the chance of voting.
The measure may lead in the future to a federal system for the whole country. In this era of easy communications it might be a very good development. My hon. Friend the Member for West Derby was arguing more against the possibility of that not happening for his area. If that kind of development took place in other parts of the country I should not be filled with dismay, but it will take a while to come.
Although I sympathise with hon. Members who represent areas with economic problems as bad as or worse than those of Scotland, Scotland cannot wait while they drag their feet in recognising this striving which people have for more say in the matters that affect their daily lives. The Scottish people know what they want, and their rights cannot be denied. I agree that the Bill is not perfect—this House has hardly shown itself capable of constructing a perfect Bill either in the past or now—but it reflects reasonably well the views of the Scottish people. I wish that it had embodied the committee system of local authorities or the Select Committee system of this House. But that is not to be, and the 1551 Bill is reasonably good. I believe that it will receive the seal of approval of the Scottish people, so it deserves our seal of approval tonight. It should be strongly supported.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
After five hours of debate, those of us who are left have quite a task to maintain the intense excitement and high level of this debate.
I should like to comment on three speeches. First, I was saddened by the speech of the right hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), as I was by his speech two days ago. It seemed quite out of character and I wonder whether someone put him up to it. As an English Member who has attended most of these debates, I resented what he said about English Members, whether from the North, the Midlands or London.
I have nothing but admiration for Scotland and its people, who have enriched the United Kingdom. My objection to the Bill is based not on dislike of Scotland but on my fear that it will lead to Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and breaking up a long and happy association.
Second, I should like to praise the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). Although we are at different ends of the political spectrum, I have increasingly admired his speeches in recent weeks, particularly on this Bill. If I had been a member of his party, I would have felt uncomfortable as he made his powerful case against the Bill.
Like the rest of the House, I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who is fluent and possibly slightly intellectual in his approach. I do not believe that, if he stopped every other man or woman in Princes Street and asked whether they wanted the Bill because they were dissatisfied with the way the Secretary of State ran his Department, those people would know what he was talking about.
We must get down to what ordinary people think and hope and fear on this important constitutional issue. I have not received one letter for or against the Bill. After I had played some part in the debates, my pride was slightly hurt the 1552 other day when I said in the constituency that I had been fighting the Scotland Bill and someone said "What is that?". I am a whole-hearted supporter of the United Kingdom and that is why I look forward to voting against the Bill.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
If the people of Scotland do wish to leave, according to some evidence that the hon. Gentleman would recognise, by a democratic vote, what would be his attitude then?
§ Mr. Stokes
We should then have to say, "If you wish to go, you must go". But we have the right to examine the matter first and the views of 83 per cent. of the United Kingdom should be taken into account.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
This is the central issue. Is it not a fact that the democratic unit is the United Kingdom as a whole, which has the right to decide whether there should be secession by any part of it?
§ Mr. Stokes
I entirely agree that it has the right. If there were an overwhelming desire on the part of the people of Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, the question would be whether it would be particularly wise to ignore that demand. Personally, I would not ignore it. However, to finish dealing with what the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) was saying, I must say that I shall be simply astonished if during the next few months or the next few years there is found to be even a bare majority of the people of Scotland who wish to leave the United Kingdom.
As we discussed the Bill day after day, I felt that the flaws in it became more and more apparent. Certainly the threat to the unity of the United Kingdom became more and more obvious.
The Bill proposes, as its central part, to set up a parallel authority to this Parliament here. The so-called Scottish Ministers will themselves be rivals of the Ministers who sit here on the Treasury Bench. The new Scottish Assembly will, I fear, be constantly at loggerheads with this Parliament. Another fundamental difficulty that we have not had answered is how one can possibly have one part of a unitary State being federal with the remainder being non-federal.
1553 We have also heard many times this evening about a problem that is totally unresolved—the 71 Scottish Members who will remain in this Parliament. Apart from having most of their work shorn from them by the proposed Assembly, they will continue to have a voice and a vote on English affairs while, as we know, English Members of Parliament here will be denied a similar voice and vote on Scottish affairs. I cannot believe that such an absurd and unjust arrangement will be allowed to stand for very long.
What has emerged so clearly over the past weeks is that, in the historic phrase, there is no damned merit about the Bill. Virtually no one on the Labour Benches has put forward specific reasons why the House should pass the Bill and why the Bill will benefit the people of Scotland. Certainly no one in England seems interested in the Bill, and I find the same state of affairs when I go to Scotland.
Night after night here—apart from today, when there has been a medium to small attendance—I have noticed that the Bill has never been supported by Labour Back Benchers, who have been conspicuous by their absence during our debates. Until tonight, hardly a Labour Back Bencher has spoken in support of the Bill. Yet although the Bill has no intrinsic merit and another layer of government on an already over-governed country has few supporters, we were told most strongly that the reason for the Bill was the overwhelming desire of the people of Scotland for it. After the debates on the referendum and the requirement for 40 per cent. of those eligible to vote to cast their votes in support of the Bill, we now know that that overwhelming support is clearly not there. Therefore, the whole of this elaborate and lengthy exercise ends up as a fantasy.
The longer I am in this House, the more I get to feel the sense of it, as I am sure must the Leader of the House, who has in the past played such a distinguished part in the life of the House. The sense of the House of Commons has always been against this Bill. Those who vote for it tonight will be doing so reluctantly and possibly to try to save the Government's life for a few more weeks or months. Although I know that it has 1554 not been made a matter of confidence, that seems to me a very poor way to treat such an important and fundamental change of this kind.
The Bill gives the Scottish National Party the key to its claim for independence. It will clamour for this exclusively in the referendum, and if an Assembly is set up the SNP will use it for one purpose only—to gain independence for Scotland from the United Kingdom. Let us make no mistake about that. Let us all face that fact. It is time that people awakened to the great danger of the break-up of the United Kingdom. Many people in Scotland are now doing so. They are beginning to realise the dangers and now at last people in England also are beginning to be seriously alarmed.
We all know that many parts of the Bill were not discussed at all because of the guillotine. It is now up to the House of Lords, and this House will know how much I admire those who sit there. That House will do its constitutional duty, which I am sure it will do extremely well.
The Bill was never put forward by the Government as part of a sincere desire for constitutional reform but merely by a wish to save a few Labour seats in Scotland. The Bill, therefore, had a somewhat dishonest start and deserves a sticky end. Even at this late hour, there may be some opponents of the Bill on the Government side who will put loyalty to the United Kingdom above loyalty to their party and who will vote against a Thrid Reading. Nothing could more raise the prestige of this House than if Back Benchers would vote tonight as their consciences demand.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
In the course of the numerous debates we have had on different proposals for devolution, a number of myths have cropped up and it is essential that these should be repudiated as soon as possible. The first of thes is the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Scottish National Party, the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), that those who opposed devolution, either in principle or detail, were anti-Scottish and were doing so from an anti-Scottish viewpoint. At no time have I ever heard in any of the debates which I have taken 1555 place any of the propositions which he mentioned advanced in this House or outside it.
I am quite surprised by the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I have always regarded him as a very honest and sincere man. I can only imagine that he has a new speech writer. The dangerous thing is that this is the old tactic of the big lie. If someone says a thing often enough, perhaps talking of some event that has taken place, even without advancing any proof, eventually people believe that the event happened because the statement has been made in the House and has appeared in the Official Report. As soon as possible, this idea that people who are opposed to devolution are in some way anti-Scottish has to be demonstrated to be untrue.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that there must be something strangely anti-Scottish in this fact: although in many parts of what was the Empire and Commonwealth which obtained their independence it was done on the basis of first past the post of votes cast, when this House passes a Bill for self-determination for the people of Scotland it is to be done on a peculiar anti-Scottish basis?
§ Mr. Hughes
I shall come later to the 40 per cent. rule. There is no comparison between Scotland and the colonialist countries of past decades, or indeed the present regimes which operate by the gun, the bullet and with the aid of Press censorship. In Scotland the people are free to say which system they want to see in operation. The idea that anybody who argues against devolution is anti-Scottish is a dangerous proposition.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Lady has made almost a five-hour speech in interventions alone, and if I allow her to intervene yet again, she may not have the opportunity to catch the eye of the Chair.
To advance the proposition that anybody who is against devolution is anti-Scottish will deny freedom to speak one's mind. Surely it is wrong to say that anybody who is against devolution is anti-patriotic. I do not object to people complaining about my views or challeng- 1556 ing my views in open public debate. However, I object to any attempts that are made to silence me. I emphasise that it is curious that SNP Members believe that anybody who speaks against devolution is anti-Scottish.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Lady constantly goes on about the 40 per cent. I shall come to that matter later. The tragedy of the hon. Lady and her SNP colleagues is that they do not appreciate what a dangerous road they travel. They fail to learn the lessons of the past.
§ Mr. Buchan
Does my hon. Friend also agree that to accuse somebody of being anti-Scottish is to deny that person the right of self-determination?
§ Mr. Hughes
I agree with my hon. Friend. Therefore, we should dispose of the myth that those who are opposed to devolution are anti-Scottish.
The second proposition advanced by the SNP is that because of the 40 per cent. rule in the referendum, the whole principle of the Bill has been wrecked. Clauses 1 to 80 contain the core of the devolution proposals and have survived unchanged. Some clauses have been removed, but by and large the Government have sustained the general principle of devolution. They have neither conceded any major amendment to the Bill, nor have they been defeated on any major issue on specific powers as to the way in which the Assembly will operate. In other words, the Government have come through in the general debate unscathed.
I do not regard the removal of the original Clause 1 of the Bill as of any significance. That was a preamble clause and made no difference to the Bill in general terms. It did not affect the principle of devolution, nor did the provisions on incomes policy. That matter can be dealt with later.
The Bill is virtually in two parts—one relating to devolution and the other to the referendum. I appreciate that Clause 81 on the referendum has been significantly changed. However, instead of facing up to the challenge of the 40 per cent. rule, the SNP Members have displayed hysteria and blatantly misrepresented the position. It does not advance 1557 the cause of democracy to complain that because there is a 40 per cent. rule, it will mean ballot rigging and undemocratic procedures. There is nothing undemocratic about my view.
I remind the House that on the EEC Bill there was no such threshold clause. But that does not mean that no one thought about it because a new clause was tabled to give that effect. Now the threshold is written into the Bill. To those who say that it is not necessary to have this clause I say that it will ensure that people are aware of what is happening in the referendum. There can be no excuse for people saying that they did not think that it really mattered if they did not vote.
There will be many arguments about the referendum. We must address ourselves to the question why it is important to have a clear result before an Assembly is set up. There is no doubt that if the Assembly comes into being it will have a tremendous job to do. There are many problems in Scotland, such as unemployment, which are not tackled by the Bill. There are problems of housing, education and health and social services about which the Assembly will have many difficult choices to make. The Assembly will have to take time to sit down and assess the situation and decide how it will deal with the problems. There is no magic solution. The new body of men will not find a magic solution. It will have to take time.
We have experienced in the House changes of practice and in the way in which our people are governed. People have said that they are unhappy about the present system of government. Such views are expressed in the Wheatley Commission Report on local government. When that Commission was sitting the general view was that there was something wrong with local government in Scotland. We were not sure what was wrong but we were dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction eventually led to the reform of local government. I shall not take up the time of the House by quoting from the Commission's report but people wanted local government changed. However, not long after the change people said "God almighty! This is not what we wanted at all. Things are now much worse."
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
The hon. Member has ignored the point that I made earlier. It is not fair to make this generalised criticism of the reorganisation of local government, because it coincided with high inflation and local authorities had to cut services. That was nothing to do with the change.
§ Mr. Hughes
When local government reform first came into effect there was no financial stringency. Only shortly after the change people complained about it. I agree that financial cuts have made the situation more difficult. However, we have also experienced a reform of the Health Service.
§ Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Now that local government has been reformed, everyone thinks that it was perfect before. Now people see every fault and forget that the faults were there before and were sometimes much worse.
§ Mr. Hughes
That is true, but it does not change my point, that we were told that the reform of local government and the Health Service would make our lives bright and beautiful. In fact, it has not done so. I want to be perfectly certain that if and when an Assembly comes into being the people will not say "God Almighty! We were better off the way we were when we demanded a change."
The Scottish National Party would be delighted if that happened. SNP Members expressed that view this afternoon. When the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that when the people of Scotland discovered the flaws in the Assembly there would be deep disillusionment, the SNP Members all said "Hear, hear" and laughed and smiled and nodded their heads. They could only benefit. I see the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) nodding agreement now. Therefore, if we are to have this change it must be demonstrated beyond doubt that the people of Scotland are aware of the difficulties and dangers and that once it is in being they will have to accept patiently what the Assembly is like, with all its flaws.
This is where the 40 per cent. rule comes in. I think that there was a period of 40 years between reforms of local government. It was certainly a long time. If there were a common desire for it we could again reform local government or 1559 the Health Service, or both. But it is clear beyond a peradventure of doubt that once the Assembly begins its work in Edinburgh no power in the land can stop it going on.
I am not saying that the Assembly will not change at the margins, or substantially, but the fact is that no Government in this House will disband it. That can never happen. That is why, if the change must be made, it is so important that it be made by people who understand the problem and are prepared to live with the Assembly. We cannot suddenly change our minds.
My basic objection to the devolution proposals before us is that they attack the wrong problem. The problems of disillusionment with government do not refer to the machinery of government, although that certainly has a part to play. The real reason why people are dissatisfied with matters as they are is that industry has become so big, that changes are taking place so rapidly, that they have lost their place in society and industry. They see the whole machinery of their lives outwith their control.
We should be approaching the problem with a Socialist solution, looking for decentralisation of industry, for public control of industry, for ways and means by which we can change the country's economy and the whole democratic process. Tinkering with constitutional methods, with arrangements and procedures, solves none of the problems and can only cause greater dissatisfaction.
I come to the latter part of my speech. I express myself in that way deliberately, because when one uses the word "finally", everyone leaps to his feet like a greyhound out of its trap.
I come to the question how I shall vote tonight. Despite all that I have said, I shall vote in favour of Third Reading. I know that some of my hon. Friends who agree with my basic proposition about devolution disagree with my reasons for voting for Third Reading. But, despite what I have said, despite my objections to devolution, I believe that it is an honourable and principled position to support it tonight and campaign against it in the country when the referendum comes. The reason is that there are issues that the House cannot decide for itself, because there seems to be no 1560 agreement—or no disagreement in a sense. The area of difference between the parties is such that no one knows quite what to do.
Whatever quarrels I may have with my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench about devolution, I believe that they are totally committed to the principle of devolution. I cast no aspersions on the views or the moral fibre of those who have drafted the Bill and taken part in getting it through the House. They believe in it absolutely. I cannot believe that if they were defeated tonight we should not have another Scotland Bill or a variant of it at a later stage.
I turn to the leading Opposition party. All that we have learned from the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, in the many hours that we have debated the issue, is that the Tory Party is in favour of something called devolution. I do not yet know what it is. We may never know what it is.
The argument whether there should be devolution will not go away. I want it to go away in the sense that, even if the referendum result is "Yes", we shall at least then know where we are. For far too long we have concentrated our views on this divisive issue rather than on questions of economics and how to improve the lives of the people of Scotland That is why I believe that this is the only possible way of settling the issue for a reasonable period of time. I am not saying that the independence issue will go away or that there will never be any further discussion on devolution. But the only way to get back to the real arguments about Socialism and so on is to end the matter of devolution with a referendum and to campaign accordingly.
If those who supported the 40 per cent. hurdle believe that the referendum is irrelevant and that the only place to decide the devolution issue is in this House, I believe that they should not have taken part in the debates on the amendment of the referendum procedure. I do not know how anyone can retain any credibility, any honour, by voting to write into the Bill a 40 per cent. hurdle and then saying "I do not really mean that there should be a stiff test, because I do not believe that there should be a chance of having that test." That reflects very little credit on those concerned.
1561 I certainly could not campaign with any credibility in Scotland if I did not support the Bill on Third Reading so that the people of Scotland will at least have the chance to choose. I believe that they will choose wisely. I believe that they will choose well. I believe that they will choose to vote against devolution. But I think that they should be given the opportunity to exercise their choice. I am willing to join the argument. I hope it is a good and vigorous one, and I am satisfied that in the end sense will prevail.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)
I followed the argument of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) with some interest, particularly in the early part of his speceh. I am at a loss, however, to understand how those arguments can lead him to the conclusion that he has just reached. But I will let that pass.
As one of that hardy band of Members from both sides of the House who have sat through and listened to most of the discussions in Committee, I welcome the opportunity at this stage to draw some general conclusions, but I should like first to take up two points that were made by the Secretary of State in his speech in opening the debate.
The first point arises from his statement that he is quite unrepentant that the Bill has been discussed under the strictures of a guillotine. He advanced the proposition, which we have heard before, that if any constitutional measure discussed in Committee on the Floor of the House is to stand any chance of being enacted, it has to do so under a guillotine procedure. That is a proposition which I do not accept. But, even if I did, and even if it were true, it would then be incumbent on a Government to bring forward a simpler Bill than this and not to pack it full with the kind of detail that we have in this measure.
The Secretary of State is really saying, in effect, "We have put all this detail into a Bill which we know we shall have to guillotine. We know that there will be no time whatsoever to discuss it. We are putting matters into a Bill and bringing it before the House knowing full well that those details will never be discussed." 1562 That is the most open invitation there could be to another place to go in considerable detail into those matters which we have been denied the chance of discussing here. I am not referring even to the big principles, but to the list of matters set out in Schedule 10, most of which have passed through this House without adequate discussion.
My second point arising from the Secretary of State's remarks relates to what he said about the Bill's provision for Orkney and Shetland. I was one of a small number of Members, drawn from both sides of the House, who went to the Shetland Islands at the end of the Summer Recess, at the invitation of the council there to hear its case, to look into the position, to find out the facts, and to speak to almost every interested group in those islands whom we could find to talk to.
I had never been to the Shetlands before and the experience impressed on me what an open people the Shetlanders are. They may be hard-headed—that is understandable—but they were convinced that they would be worse off under a devolved Assembly than they are under the present arrangements in Westminster. They found it very hard to believe that if a majority of their electors voted against this Bill—voted "No" in their referendum—they could be denied the chance of working out some separate constitutional arrangement vis-à-vis the Edinburgh Assembly and vis-à-vis this House.
As the Secretary of State will know, the Nevis Institute has been commissioned to invstigate what alternative possibilities there are. It has made a great deal of progress on this. I would say in all honesty to the Secretary of State that if he is seeking to pull the wool over the eyes of the Shetland Islanders by offering something rather short of what they are offered in Clause 80(3), he will be in for a nasty shock. Furthermore, I hope that he will not deploy the argument that the services which these islanders enjoy—such as health and transport services—will be in great danger if there is a short interim period between the conclusion of a referendum and the working out of a different constitutional position for them.
He knows, they know, and we know that if the Government want to protect those services in that interim period it 1563 is quite open to them to do so. That is all that I wish to say about the Secretary of State's remarks.
The great virtue of a Committee stage on the Floor of this House, particularly one that has gone on for so long, is that it brings out the merits and demerits of an argument in a way that few other forms of discussion can do. Indeed, it enables hon. Members on both sides of the House to change their minds, and reassess their previous commitments, when they hear the full implications of what is being put before them. That is the great virtue of a long Committee stage such as the one that we have just been through.
I began by viewing the Committee stage of the Scotland and Wales Bill through rather narrow Englishman's eyes. I saw the problem purely as one of protecting England's interests under the arrangements proposed in the Bill. As that Committee stage progressed, the conclusion became more and more apparent that that was not the issue at all, and that we were really speaking about the fundamental points of how this kingdom is to be governed, how this House is to work and the relationships between the Members in it who are drawn from different parts of the United Kingdom.
That argument was brought out with great effect by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) time and time again. He quoted different examples in order to illustrate it.
After listening to the Committee stage discussion, the conclusion I draw is that we cannot have any legislative devolution for one part of the United Kingdom while trying to organise the rest of it as if it were still a unitary State. If we attempt to do that, we create dangerous anomalies and divisions within that are of explosive force.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) made a great deal of the commitment made by the former Leader of the Conservative Party more than 10 years ago. As I have said, the merit of a long discussion of the kind that we had in Committee is that it enables us to think again about past commitments. That applies to my side as well as to the Government's.
I believe that if my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) had 1564 stayed after he had delivered his Second Reading speech, sat through all of the Committee stage and heard the arguments deployed about the dangers in what the Bill creates, he, too, would have come to the conclusion that the rest of us have reached, and he would not wish to press the proposals that he put more than 10 years ago.
We are told that all these risks are worth taking because this is what the Scots overwhelmingly want. However, evidence from different Scots is wildly conflicting. We now have a 40 per cent. provision built into the Bill. I welcome the remarks of the Secretary of State, who said that he did not regard this as a wrecking provision. Those of us who put our names to it did not see it as such, either. We simply wanted a test to establish whether there is a truly overwhelming demand for the measure in Scotland.
When I am asked why we did not put this condition into the earlier referendum and why we have just picked on the Scottish referendum, I reply that this is a very valuable precedent. In future, when my Government or any other Government propose a fundamental constitutional change which they plan to test at a referendum, I shall expect the requirement of a 40 per cent. "Yes" verdict to give effect to the change to be included.
If the Bill gets a Third Reading tonight, passes through another place and becomes law, we shall then have a referendum. I believe that as the campaign and the arguments proceed, the Scottish people, too, will understand more and more clearly the arguments that have swayed so many hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am confident and hopeful that the Scottish people will vote down this Assembly plan.
If they do not, and there is a 40 per cent. "Yes" verdict, I for one shall bow before that argument. However, let there be no doubt that certain consequences would flow from such a verdict, and I hope that these consequences are fully understood during the referendum campaign. The moment a vital matter affecting England and Wales is carried by a Government majority made up entirely from the majority that the Government have in Scotland there will be a constitutional crisis of major proportions.
1565 When it comes to the referendum is it just a considered choice between "Yes" and "No"? Is it as simple as that? Probably not. Those who vote for the Government Bill will include those who would also vote for total separation. To that degree the "Yes" side of the balance is not entirely clear cut. Neither is the "No" campaign entirely clear cut. I do not think it would be a simple choice between an Assembly as the Government propose, on the one hand, or the status quo on the other. The "No" campaign must comprehend other possible options.
§ Mr. Gardiner
I am surprised at this notion of fiddling that we have heard from the Scotitsh National Party Members. The effect of the arguments that they have put forward throughout the debate is that there is an overwhelming demand for the Assembly in Scotland. Now that there is a 40 per cent. requirement, they are getting windy and engaging in smears.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
It does sound a bit bogus coming from the hon. Member who opposes any electoral reform changes to give us all this high-winded stuff about the constitution.
§ Mr. Gardiner
I do not know what so-called reform the hon. Gentleman is referring to. Some of the things that he would call reforms, I would not.
We must recognise that there is profound general dissatisfaction with the state of government in this country. This applies not only in Scotland, but to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is a great deal of truth in the assertion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) that this is a reflection of the fact that Parliament has not adapted itself sufficiently to the changed circumstances of government and the demands of our age.
I go along with the argument that there must be a better way of handling government in Scotland and the other parts of the United Kingdom. What alternatives are there if we wish to devolve, in even the most generalised way, from this House to elsewhere?
Two basic requirements must be met. They were brought out clearly in Com- 1566 mittee. Whatever we do, we must leave all hon. Members here on exactly the same footing compared with each other. We must not have two classes of Member, some able to speak on certain issues concerning their constituencies, and others being unable to do so.
The second requirement is that any proposed constitutional change must apply its principles equally to all parts of the United Kingdom. This is where we run into great difficulties.
The Liberals' federal argument has a good deal of intellectual validity. The difficulty is that few people in England appear to want to be carved up into regions performing these functions and, as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) pointed out last week, even if England were divided up in that way, we should still need an overall English Parliament and we would therefore be creating another tier of government. That is not a realistic option.
After all these discussions, I am forced to conclude that there is only one other way if we wish to devolve things away from this House, and that is to get a great number of the detailed matters on which we lay down the law transferred to the upper tier of local authorities.
We were asked why the Scots should not be free to decide for themselves their pattern of education. Fine. Why, then, should not the inhabitants of my county, or England generally, be free to decide their own patterns of education? Why must we have such centralised guidelines about what local authorities must do on housing? Could we not allow them far greater discretion? Health is another matter that is proposed for devolution. Could we not consider putting regional health authorities on a more democratic basis and devolving more powers of decision to them?
I should also like to see the top tier of local authorities in various part of the United Kingdom given far more freedom to decide their priorities in the spending of their block grants.
I hope that after the dust of the devolution battle has settled and the Scots have decided not to endorse the proposition put before them, we can turn our minds to more practical ways of achieving the 1567 desired result of concentrating decision-making less in this place and getting it back nearer the people. But this Bill is not the way to do it.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I shall devote my speech to the most awkward question with which hard-line anti-Assembly Members are being faced by their colleagues on decisions that are to be made in the Lobbies tonight. My colleagues say "You had an Early-Day Motion for a referendum, and you got it. You had a new clause to insert that the referendum and the General Election should not be held on the same day, and you got that. Then you had an amendment for 40 per cent., and you got that. Indeed, you held it. What more do you want? Why are you not content to allow Third Reading and to let the people speak their mind in a referendum?" That is the argument that is being put.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
It is a good one.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Yes, it is a good and substantial argument that has to be faced by those such as myself if we are to be counted in the debate. In that respect I agree with my hon. Friend.
I confess straightaway that when many months ago my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse)'phoned me to ask whether I would sign his Early-Day Motion for a referendum, I agreed to do so. That was partly because it was at least a straw to grab at, and possibly the only chance under the Scotland and Wales Bill of stopping an Assembly, which I believed to be potentially disastrous and still believe to be potentially disastrous for the people of West Lothian, who have trusted me for 15½ years.
It may be said "If you believed in the referendum then, why now try to stop it by voting against Third Reading?" My reply is that I do so partly because of something which has happened even under the guillotine, which I did not foresee—that the House of Commons in the past 18 days has performed one of its classic tasks, which is to scrutinise and expose the flaws in unworkable legislation.
It is not only that I and certain of my hon. Friends, including the hon. Members 1568 for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), know that we are giving a Third Reading to a bad Bill. It is my judgment—I cannot put it any higher—that by now perhaps the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party have gradually arrived at the same conclusion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] Had that not been the case, the original events of Burns Night would not have occurred, and certainly they would not have been endorsed last Wednesday evening. Moreover, had that been a measure close to the heart of the PLP, or close to the heart of a substantial part of the Labour Party throughout the country, on account of my activities over the past 18 months I would surely have been lynched metaphorically if not physically and sent to political Coventry.
Those who have become the least happy about the Scotland Bill are those who have had the curiosity to lead them to take the trouble to find out what is actually happening. Never was there such a case of ignorance being such bliss. I go further and say to my right hon. Friend the Lord President that it is not only my view but that of the Parliamentary Labour Party that it is a thousand pities that a substantial section of the Labour Cabinet has not been able to spend at least some time in the Chamber during our debates.
The truth is that under the British system of Cabinet government, individual members of the Cabinet become so immersed in their own Departments and in their own problems that, even if they have the inclination, they do not have the time to settle down and study a Bill as complex as the Scotland Bill, which they see as the responsibility of colleagues in other Departments. In this instance, the Bill has been hived off from the central Departments of State, such as the Home Office and the Treasury, to the Privy Council Office. I assert that if the senior members of the Cabinet had had time to listen to the debates and to the House doing its job on the Scotland and Wales Bill in January and February 1977, they would never have allowed the Scotland Bill to be reintroduced. That is because they would have come to share the qualms of so many of my hon. Friends who have been visitors, if occasional visitors, to our debates. Yet, in the 1569 referendum, the champions of the "Yes" vote will say "Our point of view has the imprimatur of Parliament and of the Cabinet."
I return to the outstanding speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone who in this matter has told us all precisely what will happen. In theory, the proponents of the "Yes" vote will be right. But in reality we know that in no meaningful sense do the proposals before us have any such endorsements or imprimatur.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)
I have not taken part in the debates on devolution and have not voted at any stage because the Bill is wrong, misguided and ill-conceived. It is a non-sense that we should reach a point where the House is faced with the in-built fact that 40 per cent. of the Scottish electorate must decide. Why do we not pass the Bill and see whether 40 per cent. of the Scottish electorate want this business? I do not believe that they do. If we do that, I think that we shall destroy the Bill. If we deny the Scottish people that right, I am afraid that my hon. Friend will find himself with the same problem in another 12 months. Let us pass the Bill now.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I listened to my hon. Friend with interest. In reply, I refer him to the points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone who indicated that those who vote in favour of the Bill should be under no illusion but that in the referendum campaign their votes will be used as a reason for endorsement by the Scottish people—an endorsement that has been given by the House of Commons—of the measure under discussion.
I fear that there is a difficult situation here. I am well aware that just as we were told after Second Reading of the Scotland and Wales Bill that the House of Commons voted for it, so we shall be told time and again by those appearing in the referendum campaign in the "Yes" cause that Parliament voted for it. Indeed, it will be difficult for Members who voted for it to say "We meant something rather different all the time".
Contrast this situation with the position on the Common Market. At that time, whatever has happened since, the majority 1570 of the Cabinet, backed by a decisive majority in the House of Commons, endorsed as a matter of settled conviction a referendum recommendation that Britain should vote "Yes" to stay in the Market. Justified or unjustified, that was a clear and specific proposition.
The position is fundamentally different on the Scotland Bill. Endorsed by a wafer-thing majority, if we pass Third Reading, many Members will be in the position of saying to the electorate "We do not believe in a measure which we ourselves passed and hope that you, who have not been able to spend hours in debate on it, will show greater wisdom than we have displayed by rejecting the measure that we had not the will to reject when we had the power to do so. What kind of a posture is that for Members of the House of Commons?
I say to certain of my hon. Friends with total friendliness, that they will be in something of a difficulty if they vote in favour of the Third Reading tonight and hope to campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum. I wish them the best of luck, but I hope that they will be under not misunderstanding that a vote for the Third Reading tonight will create difficulties for them if they want to be effective in that campaign.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I accept that there are difficulties whatever choice one makes on this, but does my hon. Friend not accept that those who vote against Third Reading, and therefore against the referendum provision, will be in a difficulty in saying that they wrote this specific hurdle into the Bill but that they did not mean it because they did not intend to provide that choice?
§ Mr. Dalyell
There are difficulties all round, and that is one of them. Nevertheless, it is a lesser difficulty than the one I have described. This is a matter of judgment. I do not brush my hon. Friend's point aside. I listened to his speech and there was a certain amount in it. We face here a balance of judgment. If anyone says that I do not have the right to make judgments about the true feelings of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I am entitled to ask where all the supporters of the Bill among them have been these days and nights. If I have been called to speak an indecent number of times, it has been because no 1571 one else was standing up to be called. Sometimes there was no one else here.
How different things were from the time when the EEC legislation was going through the House. Passionate speeches came from all sides of the argument from the Back Benches. It will not do to say that speeches in support of the Bill would simply have taken up much needed time, because under the guillotine procedure my hon. Friends who believed in the devolution proposals have had endless opportunities to speak, and they would have been occupying time which went to Tory anti-devolutionists. The truth is that the more my hon. Friends have discovered precisely what we are up to, the less they have cared for it.
In the Aye Lobby tonight there will be hon. Members who on their own repeated public admission believe in this measure no more than I do. That was the problem that was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone—
§ The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)
Before my hon. Friend finally leaves the question of voting against the Third Reading—and I follow his argument in voting against it—will he tell the House, since he was one of those who voted for the 40 per cent. requirement, whether, if the Scottish electorate gets over that hurdle, he will oppose the implementation of the Bill when it comes here?
§ Mr. Dalyell
That is a hypothetical question—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The answer almost certainly would be "Yes".
§ Mr. Dalyell
Almost certainly the answer would be "Yes".—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Almost certainly the answer would be "Yes".
It is one thing to have a referendum to endorse a proposition in which a substantial majority of the House of Commons believes. It is a totally different thing to have a referendum in which many hon. Members ask people in part of the kingdom to endorse a proposition in which the House of Commons clearly does not believe. Moreover, referendums are rarely fought on the questions which they purport to answer. Far from being 1572 time wasting, the House of Commons has done its job exposing legislative geological faults.
There is another reason for seeking to fight the referendum, and it is that the prospectus for this referendum is not what it says it is. The Prime Minister might cast a wary eye on those who have been lecturing him in the last few days on votes of confidence and on doing Heaven knows what to party Assembly dissidents.
Take, for example, the SNP in general and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain), in particular. Time and again those who have visited our debates have heard the SNP Members state openly that they wanted an Assembly as a vehicle for something different from the scheme that the Government Front Bench has in mind. Today the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) said that there was no stopping place before independence, yet he will be in the forefront of the "Yes" campaign. The SNP Members will vote "Yes" but they will be voting for something quite different from what the Government have put in the shop window. Their prospectus is not what it is said to be. It is a different prospectus.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
I do not think that there is much dispute between us. The hon. Gentleman is perhaps being a little unfair to my party in not presenting the whole case, which is that we are a democratic party and we wish only to keep putting our prospectus before the people of Scotland for their democratic decision. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that in our position, or does he accuse us of something other than that?
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am not accusing the SNP of anything in this regard. I accept that completely. All I am pointing out is that the SNP prospectus is different from the one which my hon. Friends want to endorse, and they cannot both be right. I think that is a fair and factual statement of the position and it is one of the difficulties we are in with the referendum.
We come to the Liberals. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) has played an honest and distinguished part in our debates, but he has not hidden the fact that he wants a federal Britain. Whatever its merits, a 1573 federal Britain is the policy neither of the Labour Party nor of the Labour Government. Again, his prospectus is not what the referendum in the "Yes" vote says the prospectus is.
Moreover, the House should be aware of the attitude of the Leader of the Liberal Party, as reported in The Scotsman of 18th February. He said:The Assembly, once created, is not a once-for-all constitutional settlement. I believe that given good will it can be the beginning of a parliamentary focus here in Scotland, and that we should look forward to that as an exciting opportunity for the return of a political power house to this city.He referred to the city of Edinburgh.
These are fine-sounding words, no doubt, but notice that the Liberals will ask for more, and more, and more, until such time as everything that distinguishes so-called devolution from the establishment of a separate State is removed, because there can be no political power houses without economic powers, and the transfer of economic powers is the policy neither of the Labour Government nor of the Labour Party. Once again, the prospectus, whatever its merits, that the Liberal Party gives is not what it says it is. People who are Liberal supporters and want to vote "Yes" will be asked to vote on a basically false prospectus. The prospectus is different from what it says.
Equally with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars). He tells us that the Prime Minister should make it a vote of confidence, but he does not accept any more than I do the Government's preferred solution. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson) said that the devolution option was killed for ever. In campaigning for a "Yes" vote, my hon. Friends the Members for South Ayrshire and Paisley again are putting forward a prospectus which is not what it says it is.
The Scottish Council of the Labour Party, in its evidence to the Prime Minister, said that unless the second question, associated with the name of my non. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) was accepted, the Assembly's position would be unstable. So my friends on the Scottish Council also have problems when it comes to a prospectus.
1574 Should we really go to the country—or, more accurately, to part, though only part, of the country—and hold a referendum on a topic on which the SNP, the Liberals, the SLP and others will be campaigning for a "Yes" vote while openly admitting that they want as soon as possible to change the very solution that they themselves are recommending?
§ Mr. Bruce Grocott (Lichfield and Tamworth)
My hon. Friend claims that there are all sorts of motives among those in favour of devolution but perhaps only one motive among those who are against it. Has he not heard of the old saying that there are numerous ways of moving forward but only one way of standing still?
§ Mr. Dalyell
I wish that my hon. Friend had taken part in more of our debates. I know of his interest in devolution. I remember his excellent contribution to the party meeting three years ago.
The people of Scotland must understand that there are these different motives. All the motives come together in the fact that the goods are not what they are made out to be, because a "Yes" vote will produce the kind of instability which is certainly not what the people think they will be getting. Is it really proper for the House to allow a referendum when we know that 35 days of debate have failed to find an answer to a legion of crucial questions? The fact that the West Lothian question has been repeated ad nauseam does not make it any the less real or pressing.
I would put a direct question to the Lord President. How long does he think 71 Scots can reasonably expect to continue to exercise a more than likely decisive influence in English affairs when the Assembly is in being? Do Ministers see such a scheme enduring for any length of time? Does my right hon. Friend see his preferred solution or anyhtng roughiy like it being in operation in 1988? I and some of my hon. Friends, whatever happens, cannot see anything like this scheme existing in 10 years. No one can tell what the position will be, but we can be fairly certain that it will be very different from this.
Secondly, how long can an Assembly operate without economic powers? How long can an Assemblyman say, "There are 196,000 on the unemployment register 1575 in Scotland, but that is not my responsibility."? How long could someone representing an area of high unemployment, if he became a Member of a Scottish Assembly, say that unemployment was nothing to do with him? If my right hon. Friend the Lord President were an Assemblyman, would he be content to wring his hands and say that he could do nothing about unemployment? It is inconceivable that my right hon. Friend could take such an attitude.
Thirdly, not until the Report stage and the amendment moved by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) did the House of Commons even begin to discuss the nitty gritty of how Assemblymen would actually go about their work, what precisely they would do, whether they would be full-time or part-time, their relations with local government, and a host of other matters. Here we are putting forward a proposition when very many crucial matters have not even be discussed by this House.
Again—I say this as the Bill goes to the House of Lords, if it does go—I think that there is an obligation on the most distinguished Law Lords of this country, people such as Lord Diplock, Lord Wilberforce, Lord Gardiner and Lord Simon, to give their minds to the issue of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Whatever my hon. Friend the Minister of State may say, there is the very real problem of the judges being brought into politics. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) talked about judges being dissociated from politics. I do not want in any way to misquote him, but there is a very serious problem here which has not been overcome. This is certainly a matter to which the Law Lords should give their minds. I hope that when the Bill goes to another place, if it does, they will do so.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the House of Lords should hold up the passage of the Bill?
§ Mr. Dalyell
No, nothing of the kind. I am against filibustering the whole way along. I have never been known to filibuster. Some may think that I have been boring, but that is another matter. I have never consciously filibustered. All I am 1576 saying is that the most distinguished Law Lords of this nation have an absolute duty to give their minds to this Bill, and if they are Members of the other place, in this matter, above all other matters, they have a moral obligation to this country to discuss the whole issue.
At best the prospectus involved in a "Yes" vote is muddled and unclear. But of course, in reality, the prospectus is misleading, since the resting place of an Assembly which the Government would like to believe would be the result of a "Yes" vote is in fact the motorway to a federal Britain or, more likely, a separate State. The referendum is a very unsatisfactory bolt-hole for us. I say that it is the duty of the House of Commons, ourselves, to bell the Scotland Bill cat and not to pass the dagger to a bemused Scottish electorate.
On the issue of loyalty, in every other sphere of public policy, other than devolution, I think that I can say that I have been loyal to the Prime Minister and to the party, but in this particular matter I have no inhibitions. That is partly because we are dealing with matters where the time scale is half centuries and not five years between elections. Things done at elections can be changed. What we are up to tonight is irrevocable. It is also partly because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in the position of the Biblical reaper who has to reap what he soweth.
I have only one sad reflection about any colleague, and that colleague, frankly, is the present Prime Minister, who, as long as 10 long years ago, as Home Secretary, along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)—off their own bat—set up the Crowther Commission on the constitution.
Perhaps I may be personal for one moment. I always thought that at least I might have been sent for by the Home Office for an interview, since I was the front-line candidate who had already contested three hard-fought elections against the SNP chairman in 1962, 1964 and 1966. Indeed, the late Dick Crossman, whose PPS I was, told me that he had suggested to the Home Secretary that he ought at least to see me, though Crossman took an opposite view on devolution.
1577 But more important than that, my right hon. Friend never consulted the Scottish Labour group. Many of us would have told him at that time that once a Royal Commission is set up, expectations are created, and it is the raising of expectations to the effect that one can have a subordinate Parliament in part, but only part, of a United Kingdom and the discovery that it is not logically possible that has led to changes of mind and perfidy.
Yet he need not be ashamed not to give the Bill a Third Reading. What is the House of Commons for other than to examine and scrutinise such a proposal? In my view even at this stage the Prime Minister need not be embarrassed or even get so much as a red face if he were to say to the country, as he could, "The House of Commons has done its job. Scrutiny by Parliament has found the Bill unworkable and therefore I accept the will of the House if it is defeated". In my view there is no shame in that, because what is Parliament for? What have all these days of discussion been for unless we were to learn something?
To my hon. Friends I would say that I have never pretended to be any kind of knight in shining armour. Many of us have changed our minds on many things in a lot of places, but at least we are doing the job of the House of Commons. Frankly, I am a great deal wiser in 1978 than I was in the autumn of 1974. There is no shame in changing one's mind. What on earth has Parliament been doing all this time? What is the job of Members of Parliament unless it is to educate ourselves on a matter like this, which is of major importance? People talk of a Speaker's Conference. What have we been having other than an enlarged and informed Speaker's Conference?
§ Mr. Lomas
I want to ask a question of my hon. Friend. If the House says tonight that this Bill should be passed and the Scottish people then say "No" that will be the end of it. If my hon. Friend is arguing for a "No" vote, now, he is simply inviting the possibility of this subject being introduced into the next Session of Parliament. Why not get rid of it now—vote "Yes" tonight and 1578 leave it to the Scottish people to decide for themselves?
§ Mr. Dalyell
That would be an attractive solution but I am not sure it is as easy as that. In finality, in relation to the Scotland Bill I have an even more pressing loyalty than to the Labour Government. It is to the people of West Lothian who for the last 15½ years have returned me, rightly or wrongly, rather than the chairman of the SNP. If one believes, as I do, that the creation of an Assembly in Edinburgh, whatever the intentions of the present Government Front Bench, would lead inevitably to a separate Scottish State—a view widely shared by many members of West Lothian constituency Labour Party, without whose hard work I would not be a Member of Parliament at all—I have a duty to vote against the Bill. In doing so I do not regard my action as voting in a Tory Lobby. On the contrary, at 11 o'clock tonight I shall be doing just what I have always done. I shall be doing my utmost in the struggle, our struggle, against militant nationalism which will bring no good to the people of Scotland—people about whose interests I care just as much as anyone else in this Chamber.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Every Member as he takes upon himself his duty of voting in the Lobby tonight will have two main questions before him. The first is: how great is the danger of independence? The second is: what is the risk of independence coming to Scotland?
Let us look first and shortly at the danger of independence. Independence, surely, is only the quest of a body of people that describes itself as a separate nation. Are we not therefore entitled to ask: are the Scots a separate nation, and, if they are, what is a nation? A nation, surely, is that organisation to which its citizens feel a loyalty and ultimately a belief that in the last resort they would fight and die for it. Against whom would they fight and die?
§ Mr. Budgen
Perhaps against invaders, as the hon. Lady said—and perhaps against their neighbours or against the English. It may be that there are those in Scotland who see themselves as not merely a separated race but a separate nation.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) must stop this running commentary when others are speaking.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Since the hon. Gentleman has given way, Mr. Speaker, I do not have to indulge in a running commentary. Does he agree that Scotland does not have any enemies, but at the same time it is nothing short of an insult to suggest, in the climate of this debate, that Scotland is not a nation, bearing in mind all the speeches which have been made by hon. Members in all parties?
§ Mr. Budgen
Of course Scotland at present may have no enemies as a nation, but if it becomes an independent nation, it is bound to have both friends and enemies. Therefore, in the last resort, the people of Scotland must ask themselves whether they are a separate nation.
It may be that at the time of the Union we were fortunate in persuading the people of Scotland to throw in their lot with the rest of the United Kingdom, but 270 years of history have passed since then. Our history and our peoples are intertwined. I believe that no more than a tiny proportion of people in Scotland regard themselves as a separate nation. Before this House votes tonight, it should be appreciated that there are many in the ranks of the SNP who see their country as a separate nation.
I wish to refer to some comments made by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), who said last Wednesday in the House: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."—[Official Report, 15th February 1978; Vol. 944, c. 555–6.]
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) has been consistent over the years, because he is quoted in the Glasgow Herald of 31st October 1955 as telling a public meeting:If there are any Englishmen here tonight I say that if they have any sense they will get out of Scotland now, while the going is good. It may not be so good in a few years' time. They should get out while they are still in one piece.
§ Mr. Budgen
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that quotation, which illustrates the fact that the SNP Members accept the logic of the test that I apply. What the people of Scotland and Members of this House must ask themselves is whether they accept that logic.
The second question we must ask ourselves is what is the risk of this danger emerging. The risk is that the unhappy compromise between Unionism and separatism is unstable, first because of the West Lothian question. I regret to say that I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). This issue has been before the nation for 10 years. It has certainly been before the political elite since the Perth Declaration of 10 years ago. It has been before this House in the last 18 months. I am not saying that this House contains within its ranks all the most intelligent people in the land. I am not saying that all our proceedings in this House receive all the publicity they merit. But if this House has been debating this issue for 18 months, surely if a solution is to be found it would by now have emerged. Could it be that there is no solution to the West Lothian question?
The second question which we have to consider in deciding whether this instability will lead to independence is that which was raised by the Minister of State. He said that the stability of the settlement depends upon the good will, moderation and common sense of those who have to work it. He conceded that there would be areas of friction between the Assembly and the United Kingdom Parliament.
Of course that is so, when people accept that the democratic unit is the whole of the United Kingdom. When there is a desire for independence and a belief that 1581 a part of the United Kingdom represents an independent nation there can be no good will, no moderation and no common sense. This has been proved today. There 1582 is no compromise. We must be either Unionists or people who believe in the independence of a separate Scottish nation. There can be no devolution, no compromise.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The small number of hon. Members who have attended the debates regularly will accept that there is an injustice in the Leader of the House replying to a full House. That is because the Minister of State has been carrying most of the can during the long debates that have been attended by few hon. Members. All the regular attenders would wish to pay tribute to the Minister of State for the courteous and conscientious way in which he dealt with the amendments, inquiries and objections to the proposals.
I wish first to say a few words about some of today's speeches. The debate was opened by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Even he will accept that he did not put forward a very convincing argument on the merits of the Bill. What disturbed many of us was his reference to the Shetland amendment. He said that most of the amendments would be accepted but that the Government would try to overturn or alter the Shetland amendment. The object of that amendment was to leave the option open to the people of Shetland so that they could take the course appropriate to the decision. Any amendment that would take away the freedom of choice of the people of Shetland would be resented by the House.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has the only perfect attendance badge. He has conducted himself with bravery in the face of regular abuse. He has put forward his views with distinction and fairness. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), like many of us, has been going through agonies during the debate. We have seen him becoming less and less convinced whether the Bill will do good for Scotland. He declared that he would seek redress on the second question in the House of Lords and then abolish it afterwards.
The most astonishing speech came from the leader of the SNP. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) quoted the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) many years ago. That is the kind of statement that some extreme nationalists make. We were taken aback by the remarks of the right hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) today because they consisted of a series of un- 1584 substantiated allegations about the remarks of some other hon. Members. When challenged, he made no response.
We were appalled to read in the papers that the SNP has been saying that it would not forget the blatant racialism that it has endured during the course of the Bill. No one would accept that blatant racialism has been expressed. This is an idication of the way in which the SNP nowadays is seeking to set Scots against English to build up the impression that Scots are ill done by, that the English are anti-Scottish and that therefore the Scots should be anti-English.
It does not help to try to make the constitution better or to find the right form of government for the United Kingdom if that kind of statement is made. Most of those in the House who value good relations between the constituent nations of the United Kingdom would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman—for whom, unlike some of his colleagues, we have always had a relatively high regard—to substantiate his remarks or withdraw them herewith.
Most hon. Members who have spoken agree that the Bill is probably the most important fundamental issue to be debated by the Commons since the decision to join the Common Market. It is not like other political, ideological issues such as pay policy, nationalisation or even immigration. We are not dealing with a decision that we can reverse every five years, or more regularly if we choose. We know that if the Bill goes through and is approved in the referendum, our constitutional arrangements, which have lasted since 1707, will never be the same again.
This is probably more significant than the Common Market decision, because then Parliament as a whole was agreeing to surrender part of its sovereignty without changing the basic structure of the House. We are now proposing a major alteration in how Parliament works and how our laws are made for the constituent nations of the United Kingdom.
In these circumstances Parliament has a duty to be as sure and confident as it can be that the proposals we put forward on devolution are workable and stable and are changes that will improve the government of this country. As the hon. Member for West Lothian said, no 1585 case has been advanced that the proposals are workable. Certainly no one has seriously argued that they are stable. There has been little evidence that they will in any way improve the government of Scotland.
Our case is that the proposals are neither workable nor stable, and that they will certainly not improve government. It is clear from the lengthy Committee stage that that is not only the view of a tiny minority. The Bill had its Second Reading with a substantial majority of about 40 but since then it has lost its friends one by one.
Hardly one voice was raised in Committee in support of the Bill. At times it seemed that it almost had a kind of plague, because no one was defending it or its provisions. Even the few classified as the Bill's strong supporters, such as the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), made speeches throughout the Committee stage not defending the Bill against attack but pointing out its defects, anomalies and inconsistencies.
I hope that before voting for Third Reading hon. Members will look at the kind of people who support the Bill. We accept that Ministers support it, as they must. It is also supported by those who want more devolution or federalism and those, such as the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson), who want independence. In addition, there are those who believe that in some way the Assembly proposal will be an answer to the disillusion of those who feel that nobody listens to them, that on matters such as education they do not have a proper say.
There is no doubt that nobody supports the Bill on its merits. Nobody is saying that it will make things better. If there were a free vote tonight, the Bill would certainly be thrown out by a massive majority.
There has been genuine anger and resentment about the way in which the Bill has been debated. Of course, we have guillotines from time to time on major constitutional issues, but the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) was right when he said that this time the guillotine had been a bit different.
1586 We see in the Leader of the House someone who seems a little trigger-happy with guillotines, although he may recall that when he was in Oposition he said:The guillotine is the last resort of a Government who know that they cannot get the full-hearted consent of Parliament but are determined to have their way in any case."—[Official Report, 2nd May 1972; Vol. 836, c. 235.]This has been a rather special guillotine. There has been no filibustering, though there was a very silly attempt at a sit-down strike in the Lobby by some Government Whips and two nationalist Members in order to try to prevent the Committee from voting on the rights of Shetlanders. Despite that, major parts of the Bill have simply not been discused at all. There were 68 Front-Bench amendments which were selected but not debated. Only a tiny part of Schedule 10, which sets out all the devolved powers, was discussed. There were 58 clauses and 14 schedules either not debated or only partly debated. I am sure that if the Leader of the House had been in Opposition in such a circumstance, there would have been riots in the House and marches from Trafalgar Square. There has been indeed, far from full-hearted consent on this issue.
We accept that it is certainly not easy to have a subordinate legislature for one part of a unitary State. I accept straight away that the Conservative Party has no reason to be self-righteous about this matter. The Conservatives have made two specific attempts in recent years to try to find the right kind of answer in between.
There were first the results of our constitutional committee under Lord Home, and then we had the proposals for the indirectly elected Assembly, at the time of the last election. There is no doubt that these proposals were more logical and less divisive than the Government's scheme, but there are few who on reflection would claim that they in themselves did not perhaps contain some details which would have involved difficulty or demarcation problems. Time has changed the situation, and in particular it has been changed by the emergence of a party committed to using any devolution scheme as a means of bringing about the disruption of Britain.
The Government set out in their White Paper the tests by which a devolution 1587 scheme should be judged. They said that before we arrive at what is a right kind of devolution scheme we should consider certain tests, and there were six rules by which the Government suggested that a scheme should be judged.
The first was whether it would be acceptable to the people of England that while the Westminster Parliament would in general not be able to legislate for Scotland in matters of health, education and local government, Scottish Members of Parliament would participate in legislation for England on these matters.
§ Mr. John Smith
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the Conservative Party's commitment, I understand that it is said in "The Right Approach" that the Conservative Party believed in a directly elected Assembly for Scotland. In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said tonight, is that still a commitment of the Conservative Party?
§ Mr. Taylor
If the hon. Gentleman will look at "The Right Approach" he will see that those are not the words used. The Minister of State, of all people, is certainly not the person to talk about a change of mind. There has, of course, been a change of direction on the part of the Conservative Party, but the hon. Gentleman, after all, was the Member who, as he will recall, stated quite clearly at a Labour Party conference that members of his party who were pressing for devolution without the loss of the office of Secretary of State and a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster were being dishonest. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to answer that.
§ Mr. John Smith
I dealt with that at length in the House. Will the hon. Gentleman tell me what is meant by the phrase in "The Right Approach":We have argued for … a directly elected … assembly"?What does it mean? Is it past tense or present tense?
§ Mr. Taylor
We have argued for this and put forward two specific schemes, but there has not only been a passage of time but, as I mentioned before, the emergency in strength of a party determined to use any scheme of devolution to disrupt the parliamentary system.
1588 The question is whether the present scheme is in any way in line with those tests. Certainly it has been pointed out that the Government scheme contains a great number of problems which have not been resolved, and also a great number of seeds of genuine trouble within our nation and our constitution.
The first quality that any scheme of devolution must have is clear demarcation lines. I think that the Minister of State will accept that throughout the long arguments it has been obvious that there are not clear demarcation lines. There is a schedule which says what has been devolved. There is another schedule giving those parts of these subjects which are not devolved. There is a third which gives the Acts of Parliament affected, and the parts which are and the parts which are not devolved. There is a provision whereby the Secretary of State can claw back any Bill passed by the Assembly. If he thinks that, even indirectly, it affects a reserved power, he can present it to the House of Commons and have it overturned. There are also many other indications of the difficulty of getting the demarcation lines right.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian for his statement thatI recall being visited not long ago by the people who run the Scottish colleges of agriculture. They said 'For certain purposes we are agricultural and undevolved. For other purposes we are educational and devolved'."—[Official Report, 11th January 1978; Vol. 941, c. 1699.]That is one of the many examples on which the demarcation lines are not clear. We had another just the other day from the chairman of the Scottish Consumer Council, Mrs. Joan Macintosh, who said:the Scotland Bill threatens to be more confusing than helpful. Responsibility for the bulk of consumer law remains with Westminster but much criminal law and contract law is devolved. Division of responsibility for promoting the interests of Scottish consumers could mean that there will be no single central point of decision.I am sure the Leader of the House is well aware that, unless we can give some rights to Assemblymen, we shall not have a clear division of responsibility and there will be a great deal of confusion.
It is also right to point out to the Leader of the House that with regard to pay policy we took out a silly clause which had no real effect. On the other 1589 hand, the Leader of the House will recall the correspondence that he had with me in which I asked what would happen if the Assembly ignored the pay policy. I asked what would happen if the Assembly said "You can have a pay policy, but we want nothing to do with it." The right hon. Gentleman replied in a very nice letter:As far as your second point is concerned, we anticipate that any difference of opinion between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Assembly will normally be settled by consultation but the Government will also be in a position to influence a setttlement through the negotiation of the block fund."—[Official Report, 14th November, 1977; Vol. 939, c. 187.]This is the real answer. If the Scottish Assembly does not follow the line of the Government, the Government can put on the pressure and the squeeze through the block grant of cash. Frankly, I can see the provisions of this Bill proving to be genuine flash points between Westminster and Edinburgh, partciularly if we have different parties in control in Westminster and Edinburgh.
There is also within the Bill the very real danger of over-government. We constantly hear Ministers lecturing firms and nationalised industries about how labour must be used more effectively and how we must cut out the wasteful misuse of manpower. There is a great danger of creating a situation whereby in the average Scottish constituency, instead of having a Member of Parliament, and a small number of councillors, there will be a European Member of Parliament, a Westminster of Parliament, a Scottish Assemblyman, regional councillors and district councillors. We shall effectively have five tiers of Government in place of two.
Some hon. Members may think that there is an easy way in which having Assembly will somehow do away with a tier of local government. It is not that easy. That is something which should be considered on its merits and not just because we are thinking of creating an Assembly.
We had a Royal Commission which looked at local government and which came to the conclusion that single-tier local government was an impossibility. What of Scottish local government? There 1590 are those who argue that the regions are already remote and that the answer is not to have six or seven regions being replaced by one gigantic Scottish region.
There is also the problem of expense. The Government are proposing a Bill that will cost an extra £30 million and involve 1,000 civil servants. What concerns most hon. Members is that the Bill is certainly not a logical stopping point. There is no doubt that one of the main problems facing industry at present is the fear of uncertainty about this Bill being a logical stopping point.
Another central defect in the Bill, which probably concerns us most of all, is the matter referred to by the hon. Member for West Lothian with regard to the appallingly difficult situation that will be created in the House of Commons when Scottish Members of Parliament can vote on English housing and English education while, on the other hand, English Members of Parliament will have no say in Scottish affairs. Of course, there have been situations in the past when different laws applied in England from those in Scotland. Does anyone in this House seriously believe that a situation could last for long whereby we have a Scottish Assemblyman deciding what shall be the educational policy for the people of Scotland while the 71 Scots Members who come down to this place will have no say in Scottish affairs but will have a say in English affairs?
One point to which most of us object is the suggestion that has been made during the course of the debate that those of us who oppose the Bill are in some way anti-Scottish and act against the interests of Scotland. We do not accept that. Even those who support the Bill admit that many people who vote against it will do so because they believe that it will do a great deal of damage to Scotland and its people.
Hon. Members should ask themselves what differences the Bill will make to the Scottish people. The first change is that there will be two Members of Parliament instead of one—one in London and one in Edinburgh. It will cost the average family in Scotland an extra £10 a year.
There is no guarantee of improved services. In fact, one fear that has been widely expressed is that the establishment of the Assembly will mean a reduction in 1591 services. In relation to the devolved services Scotland at present gets £500 million more than its entitlement on a population basis. We get it because of United Kingdom laws. Scotland has more problems, more deprivation and the difficulty of distances, so it gets 25 to 30 per cent. more than its share.
§ Mr. Taylor
No, I shall not give way to the hon. Member. He promised to answer a letter that I sent him two years ago, and he has not yet done so. I shall not give way to him until he does answer my letter. He has not been as courteous as hon. Members are expected to be.
Once the Assembly is set up, we cannot have a situation in which the House of Commons will readily identify an extra £500 million for Scotland. This money will be put into the block grant and will not be readily identifiable. Other hon. Members representing other areas with difficulties will complain about our getting an extra £500 million. At present we get away with it because it is based on need.
Apart from all these considerations, the average Scot will find that it is no easier for him to get to the decision-makers. In fact he will be confused by the number of decision-makers. He will be faced with the difficulty of wondering where he should go with his problems.
The setting up of the Assembly could affect employment because of the constitutional uncertainty—
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
In view of all the arguments that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is putting against the Assembly, why was he committed to an elected Assembly in the 1974 General Election?
§ Mr. Taylor
I made it clear why we supported the Assembly then. Since then we have had the advent of the Scottish National Party, which is committed to using the Assembly as a means of wrecking the United Kingdom.
After the Assembly is established, the Secretary of State will have less power. Most hon. Members accept this argument. We know that it will mean more government and that it sows the seeds of a possible break-up of the United Kingdom. Many hon. Members have said outside the House that they accept all these objections, but they have to vote for 1592 the Bill for a number of reasons—mainly because it is better to have any devolution scheme than none at all. I wonder whether we are doing our job properly if we vote for a scheme because it is the only one available. Surely as Members we have a duty to improve government, not make it worse.
We hear the argument that the Scottish people want the Bill urgently. I believe that there has been a danger of misleading the Scottish nation. The Leader of the House once told us that if we turned down the Scotland and Wales Bill, we should be provoking Ulster-type violence. When that Bill was re-rejected, the reaction was a damp squib. If this is why hon. Members are supporting this Bill, I would ask them to consider whether they believe that the Bill will satisfy the demand in Scotland. Maybe it will initially, but in the long term the proposals for spending the block grant will just be a let down.
Then we had the argument from the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) that, because there is to be a referendum with the 40 per cent. provision written into it, we can pass the argument over to the people of Scotland. But we are voting as a House for what we think is right. If hon. Members vote against their judgments, they will find that their votes will be used in the referendum campaign as a means of justifying the Bill to the Scottish people. It will be difficult for us to say that, although the Bill had a majority, some Members did not want it and some supported it only because provision had been made for a referendum. It will be a supreme parliamentary tragedy if the House votes for a Bill in which the majority of hon. Members do not believe and which they consider will undermine the stability and unity of the United Kingdom.
As guardians of a constitutional structure which has stood the test of time and has brought real benefits to the nations within the Union, we have a duty not to throw a spanner in the works to try to overcome a temporary political problem or a feeling of impatience.
The easy road will be to vote for an unworkable, unstable plan and to hand over to the Scottish people the responsibility for the disruption, disillusion and discord that will ensue if they vote 1593 "Yes". I have no doubt that the vast majority of hon. Members accept that the Bill will do no good to Scotland and will undermine the unity of the United Kingdom. If we are to follow our consciences and what we believe to be in the interests of our nation, we have a duty to put our stamp of disapproval on the Bill and to say that it is unworkable, will do damage and should be rejected.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
I start by agreeing with one proposition put by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). They both congratulated my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Privy Council Office, who has truly borne the major brunt of the Bill for the Government. I agree with all the gratitude that has been expressed to him from all parts of the House.
My hon. Friend has conducted the Bill with great intellectual distinction, patience and courtesy, and the whole House is in his debt on that account. I am sure that many hon. Members wish that he were speaking now rather than me. I thought that that remark would win the ready assent that hon. Members are now displaying. I hope that I shall continue to command similar assent for the rest of my remarks, because it is too late to change the arrangements for the debate. Such a change would set a strange precedent, and I know how meticulous the Opposition are in insisting that we must abide by the normal rules.
I hope that the hon. Member for Cathcart will not object if I turn aside from his remarks for a moment and concentrate on the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). Many of my hon. Friend's speeches have dominated our debates. He and the hon. Member for Cathcart have at least one thing in common. They both fought the last General Election on the proposition that we should set up a directly elected Assembly. Some of us have been eager to watch how their minds have developed along the same lines throughout the whole of the Bill.
I promised my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian to deal more fully 1594 with the central issue which has been called the West Lothian question. I agree that my hon. Friend is entitled to claim the credit for having presented the question to the House in the strongest manner continuously throughout the debates. I shall do my best to reply to the central matters that he has raised.
We are entitled to say to my hon. Friend that he must pay some respect to the views that are held by others, especially because it is a recent view that he is expressing and not a view on which he was elected to the House. As he said to us a few minutes ago, he is entitled to change his mind. He is entitled to do so, and the House of Commons in Committee changes its mind. I fully acknowledge what my hon. Friend and others have said about the significance of proceedings in Committee in that respect, However, he must pay some respect to those who have held their opinions for much longer.
The opinions that I have held on this subject have remained the same since somewhat earlier than the Kilbrandon Report. I have always believed that it was the central question with which the House of Commons had to deal. Some of us have fought General Elections on the subject. That applies not merely to the most recent General Election which took place in the October but to the preceding one in the February. Some of us presented the matter as a central feature of what we were saying at the time. Some of us argued that devolution was an essential democratic move that should be made for the country as a whole.
We have been told by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) that the case has not been argued on its merits. Nobody who listened to the whole of the debate, including the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) and Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland could say that we have not presented the case for devolution on the democratic grounds that lie at the centre-piece of our case. I repudiate any such suggestion.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian has changed his mind, and he is entitled to do so. I have sometimes been in the position of making speeches in the 1595 House against the general and overwhelming view of my party. I know how difficult it is, and I understand my hon. Friend's position in that respect. However, he must understand that some of us hold our views as sincerely as he holds his. I note that my hon. Friend nods in assent. As I listened to him, he reminded me of the old statement of an earlier Lord Halifax who said that the impudence of a bawd is as nothing to that of a convert. There was some impudence in my hon. Friend when he presented the case that some of us in the Cabinet and elsewhere do not hold our views on this important constitutional measure sincerely and fully.
I quote to the House a statement on the whole of the West Lothian question as it has been presented which I think puts the background to the matter although not the central part of the case. However, I ask the House to take full note of the statement, because I believe that it covers an extremely important aspect. I refer to a quotation from the book written by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) entitled "Inside Right", which was published a few months ago.
The right hon. Gentleman discusses devolution, and especially the West Lothian Question, although he did not know that it was to be entitled such when he wrote the book. He writes:that Scottish MPs would have a vote on, say, housing and education in England while English MPs (and also Scottish MPs) would have no control over those subjects in Scotland seems legalistic. Whatever happens in England will have great influence on what is done in Scotland, since great disparities between England and the rest would not be tolerated in the devolved areas. It is not therefore unreasonable that the Scots should be allowed some influence on decisions made for England. That surely would not be too high a price to pay for the maintenance of the Union.Many believe that once devolution for Scotland is embarked upon, there is no logical stopping place before independence. Even if that were true, British statesmen and constitution builders have not previously allowed logic unduly to influence or deter them. The logic of the great Reform Bill pointed to universal suffrage, but there was an interval of ninety-eight years between them. And an independent Scotland seems to me to be far more probable if England blocks devolution than if it promotes it.That is the view not only of many of my hon. Friends but of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham. I be- 1596 lieve that it provides the background to the West Lothian question.
But there are many other aspects of the matter. Of course, we considered them all carefully before this Bill and the previous one were presented to the House. We considered most carefully whether there should be the so-called in-and-out arrangement whereby we would seek to solve the dilemma by having Scottish MPs entitled to vote on some subjects but not on others. We considered and rejected that idea for very good reasons. We rejected it not only because that was the experience of all who examined the possibilities of devolution in the Irish context but because we believed that it would lead to a constitutional crisis that would become insoluble. Therefore, we did not believe that that was a possible solution.
We also considered most carefully, is did the Kilbrandon Commission, the federal solution. All these matters touch on the West Lothian question. The federal solution is still advocated strongly by the Liberals and occasionally by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I know that he does not like it when we suggest that he advocates it, but he uses it as an illustration for suggesting that it is the only way in which the matter can be solved. We certainly examined that question, as did the Kilbrandon Commission, but we rejected it for reasons which are well known to the House. We rejected it not only because of the unbalance that there would be between England and Scotland and Wales because of the different populations but because some of us believed that a federal solution would hand over to a judicial court political decisions which should be kept in the House of Commons. That is the fundamental reason why some of us object to the federal solution of the problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone quite rightly said that those who proposed the Bill to the House were certainly opposed to the federal solution. But I suggest to hon. Members, including the Liberals—I do not wish to lose their support at this moment—and to others who are seriously considering this matter that the idea that the federal solution provides a stable arrangement for generations ahead is not necessarily true. Indeed, many federal constitutions which 1597 have sought to solve the West Lothian question, if it can be described that way, by that method have proved extremely unstable. The United States of America was not so stable. I seem to recall that there was a civil war there. Therefore, hon. Members should not be so eager to say that the federal system will solve these problems.
There have been many more recent examples. There was a most bitter and terrible civil war in Nigeria. There have been a whole host of attempts to solve these problems—
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Since my right hon. Friend is making international comparisons, will he give us one example of a country in which there has been legislative devolution to a part of the country but not to other parts and where that has proved to be reasonably stable?
§ Mr. Foot
I shall come in a moment to the one example that we heard about earlier. But it is perfectly true that there have been very few cases, if any, of an attempt to solve the kind of problems we have to solve by the devolution method. It has been suggested in some quarters that the way to solve this problem is to seek a federal solution, but I am arguing that that system not only fails to solve the problem—and history proves that—but creates other problems of a serious character and fails to deal with the danger of instability on the questions we are concerned about.
Moreover, the proposals we are making have been misunderstood by hon. Members—or hon. Members have not wished to understand them—concerning how many powers would be left in the House of Commons and how many powers it would be necessary to be exercised by representatives from Scotland and Wales. We believe that those factors all point to the kind of solution that we have sought.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
Is this a fair summary of the position: that the federal solution has sometimes worked but the solution of legislative devolution within a unitary State has never worked?
§ Mr. Foot
It is not the case that it has never worked—[Hon. Members: 1598 "Where has it worked?"] I do not want to cause a great rift between the Conservative Front Bench and the representatives from Ulster, but it happens to be the case that there was for 50 years a subordinate legislature at Stormont. The Unionist representatives sit in this House today and still claim that they wish to have that solution restored. It is not therefore the case that there has never been an arrangement of that kind.
Moreover, I dare say that it was that kind of solution that was in the minds of those on the Opposition Front Bench when they proposed a system of legislative subordinate arrangements for Scotland. That was what they themselves were arguing for a few years ago. If they say that we cannot deal with it this way, they are saying that there should never be any system of devolution. They are saying that because the road to federalism does not provide the answer, because the in-and-out system does not work, we must therefore retain the absolute arrangements that we already have and we should never proceed to carry out all the pledges that all the parties, including the Conservative Party, have made to the people of Scotland over the years.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
The right hon. Gentleman has been less fair than is his custom in arguing that there are not cases of federalism which provide stability. For him to produce as his argument the American Civil War and the case of Nigeria is surely grossly misleading.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are we not debating the Third Reading of the Bill, and is the right hon. Gentleman entitled to discuss measures other than the Bill that is before us?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman's point of order should have been raised with me at the beginning of the debate, in which, for various reasons, I have allowed a wider discussion than is normally allowed on Third Reading. We are now into the last five minutes.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) may not have 1599 been here during the earlier part of the debate. I was seeking to reply to the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian and others. Their argument leads to the proposition that we are not entitled to seek any form of legislative devolution. If that is to be the case, we say that that would involve a grave breach of faith with the people of Scotland, not only on the part of the Labour Party and the Government but also on the part of all parties in the House of Commons; and that should be understood.
I hope that the Conservative Party will take account of what is said about its policies in this matter. The Conservative Party also has an obligation to tell the House what is its solution. I know that Conservative Members do not want anyone to know what obligations they have undertaken in this respect, but if they were to glance at last week's The Economist they would see what is said there about the policies that they have put forward. It is quite false to say that they have no policies. They were most adeptly stated in that issue of The Economist, and I propose to read it to the House.
I well understand how embarrassed hon. Gentlemen opposite may be, but the article is as follows:The Tories really have leaders in their tartan trews … Because Mr. Heath is a convert to devolution, it is Thatcherite to be against it, but Mrs Thatcher seems to have neither notions nor instincts on the subject. Mr. Teddy Taylor, the shadow Scottish spokesman, wants to keep the status quo but with the Scottish Grand Committee sitting in Edinburgh and on the television (hoping, perhaps, to drown Scotland's political ferment in boredom). Mr. Francis Pym, the shadow spokesman on devolution, says something like! 'I say, look here, hang on a moment, let's have a good talk, what?' That, so far as one can tell, is official Tory policy on devolution.I am gratified that in this debate at last we have had it quite clearly. I could read a much longer story from the campaign guide.
§ carrying out not only our promises but their promises as well. We can go right through from the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who is with us this evening to prove it, right from June 1967. It is way past the tenth anniversary of the Tory pledges to the people of Scotland, and we intend to carry out the pledges we made—the pledges we made at two General Elections, the pledges we made at several Scottish conferences, the pledges that have been upheld in all the bodies that sustain us in Scotland. We believe that it would be a very serious matter for the House of Commons as a whole if we were to go back on all those undertakings.
§ Our proposals have been brought to the House for the purpose of sustaining the unity of the United Kingdom. We believe that if the House of Commons were to go back on the pledges made to the people of Scotland by the Labour Party, the right hon. Member for Sidcup and others we would be endangering the unity of the United Kingdom. When the House votes today, it will be voting not only to ensure, under the referendum proposals, that the people of Scotland will have a chance of deciding these matters but to ensure that we indicate to the people of Scotland that we stand by our pledges.
§ When the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire went to Scotland, I think in January 1978 or it might have been a little earlier, he was asked what he thought about the pledge which he had given and which the right hon. Member for Sidcup had made for the establishment of a directly elected Assembly in Edinburgh. The right hon. Gentleman used the old Watergate phrase. He said "It is inoperative". His pledge was inoperative. Our pledges stand. We shall carry them out. We ask the House of Commons to support us in doing so.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided Ayes 297, Noes 257.1605
|Division No. 124]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Atkinson, Norman||Beith, A. J.|
|Anderson, Donald||Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bain, Mrs Margaret||Bidwell, Sydney|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Barnett, Guy (Greewich)||Bishop, Rt Hon Edward|
|Ashley, Jack||Barnett Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Boardman, H.|
|Ashton, Joe||Bates, Alf||Booth, Rt Hon Albert|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Bean, R. E.||Boothroyd, Miss Betty|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Hardy, Peter||Newens, Stanley|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Noble, Mike|
|Bradley, Tom||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Oakes, Gordon|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||O' Halloran, Michael|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Orbach, Maurice|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Buchan, Norman||Henderson, Douglas||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hooley, Frank||Padley, Walter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hooson, Emlyn||Palmer, Arthur|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Horam, John||Pardoe, John|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Park, George|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Howells, Geriant (Cardigan)||Parker, John|
|Campbell, Ian||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Parry, Robert|
|Canavan, Dennis||Huckfield, Les||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Penhaligon, David|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Perry, Ernest|
|Carter, Ray||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Prescott, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hunter, Adam||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Radice, Giles|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jackson, Miss, Margaret (Lincoln)||Reid, George|
|Coleman, Donald||Janner, Greville||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||John, Brynmor||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Corbett, Robin||Johnson, James (Hull west)||Roderick, Carewyn|
|Cowans, Harry||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Crawford, Douglas||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Judd, Frank||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Cronin, John||Kaufman, Gerald||Rowlands, Ted|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Kelley, Richard||Ryman, John|
|Cryer, Bob||Kerr, Russell||Sandelson, Neville|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Kilroy-silk, Robert||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kinnock, Neil||Selby, Harry|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Knox, David||Sever, John|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lambie, David||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Davies, Ifor, (Gower)||Lamborn, Harry||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Davies, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lamond, James||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Deakins, Eric||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Dean, Joseph, (Leeds West)||Lee, John||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Sillars, James|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Doig, Peter||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Litterick, Tom||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lomas, Kenneth||Snape, Peter|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Loyden, Eddie||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dunn, James A.||Luard, Evan||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Eadie, Alex||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||McCartney, Hugh||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|English, Michael||MacCormick, Iain||Stoddart, David|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Stott, Roger|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||McElhone, Frank||Strang, Gavin|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Swain, Thomas|
|Faulds, Andrew||Maclennan, Robert||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Madden, Max||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Flannery, Martin||Magee, Bryan||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Marks, Kenneth||Thompson, George|
|Ford, Ben||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Forrester, John||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Tinn, James|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Tomlinson, John|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Maynard, Miss Joan||Tomney, Frank|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Mecher, Michael||Torney, Tom|
|Freud, Clement||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Tuck, Raphael|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mikardo, Ian||Urwin, T. W.|
|George, Bruce||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mitchell, Austin||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Golding, John||Molloy, William||Walter, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Moonman, Eric||Ward, Michael|
|Graham, Ted||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Watkins, David|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Watkinson, John|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Watt, Hamish|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Moyle, Roland||Weetch, Ken|
|Grocott, Bruce||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Weitzman, David|
|Hamilton, W. W. (central Fife)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Wellbeloved, James|
|Welsh, Andrew||Williams, Alan Lee (Horch'ch)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|White, Frank R. (Bury)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)||Woof, Robert|
|White, James (Pollok)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Whitlock, William||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Willey, Rt Hon Frederick||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mather, Carol|
|Alison, Michael||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Maude, Angus|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mawby, Ray|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Glyn, Dr Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Awdry, Daniel||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Mayhew, Partick|
|Baker, Kenneth||Goodhart, Philip||Mendelson, John|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Goodhew, Victor||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Gorst, John||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Benyon, W.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grant, Antony (Harrow C)||Moate, Roger|
|Blaker, Peter||Gray, Hamish||Molyneaux, James|
|Body, Richard||Grieve, Percy||Monro, Hector|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Griffiths, Eldon||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bottomley, Peter||Grist, Ian||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Grylls, Michael||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morgan, Geraint|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hampson, Dr Keith||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Brittan, Leon||Hannam, John||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Brooke, Peter||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Mudd, David|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Haselhurst, Alan||Neave, Airey|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hastings, Stephen||Nelson, Anthony|
|Buck, Antony||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Budgen, Nick||Hawkins, Paul||Newton, Tony|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hayhoe, Barney||Nott, John|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Michael||Ogden, Eric|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Higgins, Terence L.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hodgson, Robin||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Carson, John||Holland, Philip||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hordern, Peter||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Channon, Paul||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Percival, Ian|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hurd, Douglas||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Clegg, Walter||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Cockroft, John||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||James, David||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Cope, John||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jessel, Toby||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Corrie, John||Johnson Smith, G. E (E Grinstead)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Costain, A. P.||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Raison, Timothy|
|Critchley, Julian||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rathbone, Tim|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Kershaw, Anthony||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kilfedder, James||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Kimball, Marcus||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Rhodes James, R.|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rhys, Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Knight, Mrs Jill||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dunlop, John||Lamont, Norman||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Durant, Tony||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Elllott, Sir William||Lawrence, Ivan||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Emery, Peter||Lawson, Nigel||Rost, Hugh (SE Derbyshire)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Leadbitter, Ted||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lloyd, Ian||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Farr, John||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fell, Anthony||Luce, Richard||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shelton, WiIIiam (Streatham)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||McCusker, H.||Shersby, Michael|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinbugh N)||Macfarlane, Neil||Silvester, Fred|
|Fookers, Miss Janet||MacGregor, John||Sims, Roger|
|Forman, Nigel||Mackay, Andrew (Stechford)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd')||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fox, Marcus||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon (Stafford & St)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Fry, Peter||Madel, David||Speed, Keith|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mates, Michael||Sproat, Iain|
|Stainton, Keith||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Wells, John|
|Stanley, John||Townsend, Cyril D.||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Trotter, Neville||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Van Straubenzee, W. R.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stockes, John||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Stradling, Thomas, J.||Viggers, Peter||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Action)|
|Tapsell, Peter||Wainwright, Richard (Colne v)||Younger, Hon George|
|Taylor, Rt (Croydon NW)||Wakeham, John|
|Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tebbit, Norman||Wall, Patrick||Mr. Spencer le Marchant and|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Walters, Dennis||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time and passed.