§ ' (1) For the purposes of this Act there may be appointed a Speaker's Conference, being a conference convened at the request of the Prime Minister and presided over by the Speaker of the House of Commons with the function of considering and making recommendations of the House of Commons relating to the appropriate number of Members of the House representing Scottish constituencies after the enactment of this Act.
§ (2) Those participating in the Conference shall be Members of the House of Commons invited to do so by the Speaker, who shall secure that the balance of parties in the House of Commons is reflected, so far as practicable, among the participants in the Conference.'.—[Mr. Pym.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The need for the new clause derives directly from the type of devolution proposed in the Bill. We have no wish to alter the number of hon. Members of this House representing Scottish constituencies and we have never recommended any scheme of devolution that would require a change in the number or would lead to that consequence. No Assembly that we have ever proposed would have had consequences for the House of Commons such as this Bill undoubtedly will have.
We have never proposed a second Executive, because we believe in the Executive that Scotland already has. We have never proposed completely separate legislative powers. We have proposed an involvement by an Assembly in Scotland in the legislative process, as part of the parliamentary legislative process, but never a completely independent legislative capability.
This Bill, however, provides both for a separate Executive and an independent legislative competence. It follows, therefore, that the number of hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies must be reconsidered and reviewed, because the House will not have the same responsibilities for Scotland as it has now. The Bill makes a deliberate transfer of power 280 and responsibility over a wide area. It removes responsibilities particularly from Scottish Members, but from all the rest of us in the House, too.
We have no wish to alter the number, but we have no wish either to alter the responsibilities. That is, however, what is happening under the Bill. Once those responsibilities are transferred to the Scottish Executive and Assembly, how can 71 Westminster Members for Scotland be justified? Some people argue that that number cannot be justified now. On the basis of population, Scotland is overrepresented already, and quite substantially so. It takes on average 66,000 electors in England to return a Member of Parliament. In Scotland the number is only 53,000, which is 20 per cent. fewer. That represents a big difference.
There is a very good case in favour of over-representation, and but for this Bill there would be no need to reconsider it. However, that over-representation has existed for a long time. There is a tradition of over-representation for the outer fringes of the United Kingdom, dating back a long time. There is the distance factor—the factor that the North of Scotland is the furthest point from the capital of the United Kingdom. That justifies extra representation.
There is the geography of Scotland itself, with a scattered population which, if combined in constituencies of average size, might make an impossible task for a Member of Parliament representing one of the Highland seats.
Then there is the special Scottish parliamentary procedure in the House. We have specific Scottish parliamentary business handled in a special way that justifies added representation. But if the Bill were enacted, only United Kingdom business would be left. This over-representation has been accepted without question as being fair and reasonable. I do not remember anybody inside the House or outside it challenging the representation of Scotland. The Minister is raising his eyebrows. It may be challenged in Scotland, but I am not aware of its having been challenged before the Bill came on to the Order Paper.
§ The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)
Is the right hon. 281 Gentleman saying that the Conservative Party has never officially suggested that there should be a reconsideration of the number of Scottish Members, without reference to devolution?
§ Mr. Pym
It may be that it has, but I am not aware of it. The number of Scottish Members has not become an issue or a source of anxiety or worry to people.
The over-representation has been accepted without question. It is part of the illogical but successful and proven pattern that makes up the United Kingdom and, indeed, is the United Kingdom. There is a heavy responsibility on this House to do nothing that will upset the pattern, or upset the balance, within the United Kingdom and all its constituent parts unless and until we have confidence that whatever change we intend will maintain a proper balance.
One reason why I think the House hates the Bill is that the balance will be upset. In the context of what is proposed it is inconceivable that the present level of representation in Scotland can continue without challenge or without change. It certainly cannot and will not go on without challenge.
In my view the new clause provides the proper method for considering the matter. I should make the point that it is permissive. The reason for that is to make sure that we do not run the risk of becoming out of order and that, for one reason or another, Mr. Murton, you will not select it
We believe that a Speaker's Conference is the right way in which to approach the subject. But there is a precedent for doing it in another way. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 established 13 seats for Northern Ireland as part of the Bill. Therefore, it would clearly be possible to do the job in this Bill. But we think that the Speaker's Conference is a better way, because all the factors can be considered round the table under Mr. Speaker's chairmanship. There is already a Conference in session under Mr. Speaker's chairmanship on the question of representation for Northern Ireland. It seems to us that it would be wholly appropriate, unless, miraculously, the Bill were defeated, to do exactly the same thing for Scotland.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Has the right hon. Gentleman formed any views on the position that the Conservative Party should adopt in such a Speaker's Conference? Would it not be helpful for him to tell us tonight rather than to leave it until later? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Speaker's Conference that is already sitting on the question of Northern Ireland representation, but he seemed to imply that any significant change in the constitutional arrangements, such as devolution, raised the question of representation. Is he, therefore, supposing that the present under-representation in Northern Ireland ought to be retained if there is any prospect of further devolution being granted?
§ Sir David Renton
I ought to make one correction. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is suggesting that a Speaker's Conference should act on a party basis. I happen to be a member of the present Speaker's Conference. As the Committee may learn in due course, the views are cutting right across party. I was a member of the longest Speaker's Conference ever to be held. It started under Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster and finished under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker Maybray-King. There again, except on the important issue of proportional representation, there was a clear division cutting across party. The tradition of Speaker's Conferences has been not to follow party lines.
§ Mr. Pym
The case that I am making is to propose the procedure by which, in my opinion, the House will arrive at the most satisfactory answer to the question about the representation of Scotland after the Bill is passed. There would be no point in anyone now putting forward a particular number. The matter should be properly considered and then the House can decide, on the evidence, what will be the right kind of representation. That is a proper parliamentary practice and procedure.
§ Mr. John Smith
The right hon. Gentleman asked the perhaps rhetorical question "How can 71 MPs he justified?" The clear implication of that question was that the right hon. Gentleman individually, or representing his party, would propose to any Speaker's Conference that the number of Scottish MPs should be reduced as a consequence of devolution. 283 Is that what he is saying? We ought to know.
§ Mr. Pym
Perhaps I may be allowed to get on with my speech. I was about to ask what was the case for a possible reduction of representation, or, at any rate for a reconsideration of the level of representation that requires the deliberation that the clause asks for.
That case rests principally upon three arguments. The first is the changed role. There is no escape from the changed role affecting the House under the Bill, because wide areas of legislation and administration are being transferred. Over the whole range of devolved areas Members representing Scottish constituencies will be unable to vote on matters affecting Scotland but will be able to vote, as things now are, on matters affecting England. That applies to every Member.
The difference is the difference of responsibility of the House as between the one country and the other. Hon. Members representing English constituencies will not be able to vote on matters affecting Scotland, but, unless there is a change, Scottish Members will be able to vote on those same issues so far as they affect England. That is the problem. The day that the votes of Scottish Members cause this House to decide a matter for England in a way with which the English Members do not agree will be the day when this theory is blown right out of the water. That will be the day when the British people will experience and understand, perhaps in real terms for the first time the horror of what is proposed in the Bill.
I do not believe that Members of any party representing Scottish constituencies want to impose decisions in that manner on England. But the role is relevant to the number. Northern Ireland is the precedent, where devolution in the form of Stormont carried the logical consequence of reduced representation. Now, in the changed circumstances of Northern Ireland, the numbers are being adjusted.
§ Mr. Pym
It might not have been logical, but it was accepted and thought to be reasonable and fair at the time. It lasted basically without question for about 50 years. It was perhaps challenged from time to time, but it never became 284 a major issue. There was, in a sense, a certain logic about it.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the objectionable matter to which he referred is not simply that Scottish and Welsh votes may decide domestic English issues but that they will decide them for the first time when English votes can no longer decide purely Scottish matters? That is the change.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Committee may recall that when a question arose of steel. my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), the late Mr. Desmond Donnelly and Mr. Woodrow Wyatt had a few things to say about Northern Ireland representation.
§ Mr. Pym
That is another story. I referred to it on earlier occasions in the debate.
As I was saying, the Northern Ireland case is a precedent. But in the circumstances of the Bill the Government do not want even to consider the possibility of changing the role or the effect of the changed responsibility. Of course they do not, because part of the object of the Bill is to have Labour Members voting on English matters. Will they succeed in maintaining that position? We shall see. Perhaps they will be able to in the short run, in the Lobbies during the passage of the Bill, but if the Bill comes into force in the United Kingdom, I predict that in the long run it will not endure.
But if the role remains unchanged, what about the numbers? We know the Government's views. We had it from the Leader of the House on 1st February last year, when he said:we do not believe that representation in this House should be altered by the Bill.A little later he said:I wish to make it absolutely clear that we are not prepared to propose any alteration in representation."—[Official Report, 1st February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 386–390.]Even without those words, we knew it. The object of the Bill is to get those Members here so that their votes can be used to continue the process of imposing Socialism upon the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Pym
I believe that the House will not accept both an unchanged role and unchanged numbers for very long, because it is illogical and unworkable, unreasonable and unfair. The harder the Government stick to their plot to carry out what amounts to rigging their position here, gerrymandering their strength here, the more likely is the Bill to be defeated. The choice is either to retain Scottish representation as it is today, in full numbers and with full responsibilities, or, if the Bill is proceeded with, to have a consideration of the consequences for the representation of Scotland both as to numbers and to role.
It is entirely possible that as a result of the process recommended in the new clause the House will decide to accept the anomaly and leave everything exactly as it is. But that must surely be properly discussed and positively decided. The Government have a duty to Parliament to recognise the existence of the problem and to ensure thorough consideration and a conclusion at the end of it.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
A few moments ago the right hon. Gentleman said that he would expect to see not only the number of Scottish representatives but their role in the House reconsidered. Is his proposal that the Speaker's Conference would be entitled to address itself not only to the question of number but to the question of the functions of the Scottish representatives?
§ Mr. Pym
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is not in my new clause, but it seems to me only logical that such a Conference should consider both. I have problems with new clauses, which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) found in trying to put down a new clause that would be in order. But I think that the logic is that, as the one affects the other, both should be considered. I am absolutely at one with the hon. Gentleman.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
Would the right hon. Gentleman look with favour on the possibility of a Speaker's Conference also considering the overloading of the Scottish Grand Com- 286 mittee, dealing with purely Scottish matters, with English Members?
§ Mr. Pym
By all means, if the hon. Gentleman wishes.
I have deployed the first case for the reconsideration of the representation. I come now to the second. The number of representatives that Scotland will have after the Bill comes into force is 221. There is productivity—221 doing a job now done by 71. I do not think that the Government have properly assessed the number appropriate to the Assembly. They have simply decided on two Assemblymen per parliamentary constituency. I think that the Minister has maintained that in the Government's view 150 are necessary to provide an Executive from the majority party, but that produces an Assembly larger than Stormont, larger than the provincial Parliaments of Australia and Canada and, incidentally, larger than the Australian Federal Parliament.
The Royal Commission thought that 100 was adequate, but even with that number there must surely be a review of Scotland's representation in this House. The House may decide to make no change, but at least the matter must be examined and tested.
The third argument concerns the English or Anglo-Welsh dimension. A growing sense of unfairness is being aroused amongst English Members. It has not yet risen to the point of anger, but there is a feeling of soreness about the representation in Scotland. I remind the Committee what the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnson) said in the course of the Second Reading debate:The question of representation in this House is a matter of genuine concern among English Members. In the event of devolution, English Members will be wholly entitled to object fiercely to Scottish Members … helping to carry through the House matters dealing with English education, housing, health, and so on ".—[Official Report, 14th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 112.]5.15 p.m.
The Royal Commission showed that on an equivalent basis Scotland would have 14 Members fewer, Wales five Members fewer, Northern Ireland five Members more and England nine Members more. It recommended that if legislative devolution were introduced, as it will be under the Bill, parity should follow. Is not that 287 recommendation, of itself, enough to suggest that the House should pass the new clause?
I do not think that the parity argument will go away. Indeed, I believe that it will be positively encouraged and will fester unless all the circumstances surrounding the argument are fully and frankly debated and discussed.
All this is quite apart from the exceptionally small constituencies in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow. I think that at least 10 of the 14 Glasgow seats are below the average size. But this matter would be reviewed in the normal way, and is no part of the consideration that I am now bringing to bear. I am sure that a Speaker's Conference would give due weight to the sparsely populated areas of the Highlands and to the special geographical factors.
In no way do I or my right hon. and hon. Friends want Scotland to be other than fully and adequately represented. We are firmly of the view that the special needs of Scotland, especially distant Scotland—Orkney and Shetland, Aberdeen and similar places—will receive a sympathetic hearing and a more generous response in the House than they are ever likely to receive from an Assembly dominated by the central belt.
I have seen Press suggestions that the clause is a delaying tactic. I assure the Committee that it is no tactic at all; it deals with a real issue. Let me remind the Committee what the Leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), said about the allocation of time motion:I would accept the Kilbrandon proposal of reducing the number of Scottish Members of Parliament to the correct number proportionately."—[Official Report, 16th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 620.]I believe that the matter should be handled in the way proposed in our clause. To turn down the clause or any amendment with the same intent would be to highlight what many fear are the true motives of the Bill.
§ Mr. Smith
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, especially as he is coming to his conclusion and has been brief. Before he sits down, will he say whether he accepts that what he calls for gives a reduction, so that we may know whether the Conservative Party is arguing that there should be a reduction in the number of Members post-devolution? May we know the Conservatives' view on the matter before we decide on a Speaker's Conference?
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman wants me to say in advance exactly the line that we would take and to make it a controversial party political issue. That is exactly what I do not wish to do. f he parliamentary way to inquire into these matters is to have a Speaker's Conference. No hon. Member started challenging anybody about how many Members he thought were appropriate to represent Northern Ireland before the Speaker's Conference on that matter was set up.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that all the main political parties have made submissions to the Speaker's Conference which is dealing with the representation of Northern Ireland. I think that I am right in saying that it is the normal practice for such a Conference to call for an opinion of the parties and to take them into account. So it is not unreasonable, perhaps, for the right hon. Gentleman, since he is calling for a Conference, to give some indication of the kind of evidence that his party would submit to that Conference.
§ Mr. Pym
I think not. Of course we submitted evidence to that Speaker's Conference, and if this one is set up we shall submit evidence to it. But at no stage was the evidence that my party was to submit to the Speaker's Conference about Northern Ireland either asked for or mentioned, and I do not think that anyone asked for the evidence of any other party to be brought out into the open. I do not think, therefore, that my stance is in any way unsual or exceptional
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen. North)
The right hon. Gentleman has made many equivocal speeches in this House. One wonders about his position on his wedding day, when the minister asked 289 "Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?" One can imagine him saying "Maybe". Will he not, for the second time in his life, give a straight answer to a straight question?
§ Mr. Pym
If we proposed a change, or if the Government felt a change to be appropriate, and we were to take the precedent of Northern Ireland, we would debate it across the Floor right now, but that is not the way in which we are recommending it. The new clause does not call for that. The Minister seemed to think that it was extraordinary that I was suggesting a procedure without saying precisely what the conclusions of the Conference ought to be. What would be the point of having it if we were to put down beforehand the exact conclusion to which it was to come?
The Government would like to pretend, and would like everyone to think, that the problems that we are discussing in the new clause—Scottish representation, the role of Scottish Members in the House, and the question whether they should have power to vote on English matters—do not exist. The Government would like to think that that is not an issue. It is an issue, and it has to be thrashed out, either in the Bill or in a Speaker's Conference. There is one sitting at the present time, and exactly the same process ought to be gone through for Scotland.
If the new clause is accepted, my party will, of course, send in evidence to the Conference, and so will every other party. That will be the position from which the Conference begins. That is the right and proper and appropriate way to do it.
I hope that the Government will accept the new clause.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I have no sympathy for the wrangling that has been going on over the last 10 minutes on the question when submissions should be made and whether a Member is entitled to make a proposal for a particular matter to be referred to the Speaker's Conference.
I believe that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) is entitled to make his proposals if he and his colleagues think that this is the best way 290 to deal with a measure of this kind. None the less, I oppose the amendment, and call on the Committee to vote against it on altogether different grounds. I believe that this is an important matter of principle and not of tactics. It should be treated as a matter of principle.
As is well known, many hon. Members are opposed to the Bill. I remain unalterably opposed to it. I hope that it will not succeed and have not given up hope that that may yet be the case. Whatever tactical interpretations may be given, I do not believe that the people in Scotland will do other than make the accusation—in my view, a justified one—that the House of Commons, in its major Committee dealing with the Bill, is in an awful hurry to start talking of curtailing the number of Scottish Members in the British Parliament.
It would be deplorable if that accusation were to be made. Although I do not charge any right hon. or hon. Member with that intention, that is the way in which it will appear in Scotland. Certainly some hon. Members would make it their business to present it in that light, even if no one else did. That is the first danger that the amendment creates.
The second, in my submission, is equally important. Part of the case of those who are opposed to the legislation is the positive point that the contribution of the Scottish Members of this House has traditionally been and is at the present time of very great importance to the quality and work of the House of Commons. It would be a matter of great regret if that contribution were to be lost or curtailed. But how can we maintain a consistent course if we are already beginning to cause resentment by arguing that in the future people will talk about the need to reduce Scottish representation?
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I respect the hon. Gentleman's views on the whole question, but in this respect I do not think that he is being fair to England and the other parts of the United Kingdom. He has omitted to say that the main point of the Bill is to give Scotland an Assembly, which no other country in the United Kingdom has. Under the present proposals, if the Bill remains unamended, Scotland will have its 291 cake and eat it. It will have full representation here and it will also have an Assembly. No other part of the United Kingdom will be in that position.
§ Mr. Mendelson
If I omitted to mention the main purpose of the Bill, no discourtesy was intended. I omitted it only because I assumed that it was the common knowledge of all hon. Members, without my needing to repeat it on this occasion. I believe that my third reason for opposing the amendment is perhaps even more important. This matter may be seen in future as a watershed of our constitutional debates. I think that it is very important that in the future, when the present political battles have passed away, no one in Scotland should misunderstand the attitude of those who were opposed to this legislation. Although it is well known, I repeat that our serious and fully justified fear is that we are taking the first serious step that will inevitably lead to the dissolution of the United Kingdom. That is the basis of our opposition. That is why no tactical argument and no party advantage can in any way alter or shake our position.
That being the case, we must be very careful that we do not appear as wishing to respond to certain dangerous tendencies that will inevitably develop if the Bill is passed. The people responsible for these dangerous tendencies will be the promoters of the Bill, not its opponents. I do not want its opponents to be put into a false light on this matter. The Government and the supporters of the legislation must assume responsibility for these dangerous developments.
What are these dangerous consequences? Obviously, no matter what I say or what is said by any other right hon. or hon. Member, and no matter how we vote on the amendment today, once the Bill is passed and its implementation begins, many of our constituents are bound to begin to raise the question of Scottish over-representation.
§ Mr. Mendelson
As the years go by—and as my hon. Friend and many other hon. Members have pointed out—there will be people in the country, in the shires, in the towns and in the boroughs who will begin to ask whether they are being 292 under-represented in terms of quality, political power and numbers. On that point a very powerful case would then develop throughout the Kingdom. It is precisely because I do not want these complaints ever to arise that I do not want the Bill to be passed. Many other Members have the same reason for opposing it.
There are those who do not believe in the Bill any more than I do, but who still support it, but they are beginning to threaten my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with all sorts of dire consequences if he does not make the Bill a matter of conscience. That is the new demand now being made in the Scottish Press. That is the new threat now being made. Judging by the latest polls of Scottish opinion, they are not doing it very successfully. I believe that my own more optimistic view on the matter, which I have urged unsuccessfully on the Government—that the opposition to the Bill does no harm to the Scottish Labour Party—will be fully justified in the event. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has nothing to be afraid of, but the threats are being made just the same.
Why are these threats being made by people who have no belief in the Bill? They are being made because members of the Scottish National Party, like me, take only one view of this Bill. They see it as a stepping stone towards the dissolution of the United Kingdom. That is why they are supporting it. In reality, they have no time for it. They do not want to create a basis for the good government of Scotland and the Scottish nation; they want to use the Bill for continuing their fight of defamation and aggression against other members of the United Kingdom. That is their task. Let us leave them to it and isolate them.
Any amendment moved and accepted by the Committee which even begins to talk of giving a lead to our constituents rather than receiving their regrettable complaints when they arise can only give aid and comfort to members of the SNP. On principle, and as a matter of political intelligence, the new clause is completely misguided and I hope that the Committee will reject it.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Powell
As the Committee has been reminded several times, a Speaker's 293 Conference is sitting at present on the question of the representation of Northern Ireland in this House. That conference is sitting as a result of a decision announced by the Government on 23rd March last year. They announced that their view was that the under-representation of Northern Ireland in comparison with other parts of the Kingdom, was unjust, unjustifiable and ought to be remedied.
There was something further and essential that the Government added. They said that they believed that the proposition stood, irrespective of whatever measures of devolved government might in future be devised or applied to Northern Ireland. It was that proposition that made it possible for the Northern Ireland people to see the rectification of what they had long—and more intensely in recent years—regarded as an intolerable unfairness, and through the mouths of my hon. Friends and myself, had petitioned this House should be remedied.
Therefore, clearly it is impossible for my hon. Friends and myself to support a new clause to the Bill which repudiates that proposition which is, for us, the Magna Carta of what we regard as our fair and just representation in this House to be expected as a result of the Speaker's Conference.
It cannot be unfair, however, to regard the placing of the new clause before the Committee as more in the nature of a logical exercise than a serious legislative suggestion. We are, by a pleasing irony, bringing to a conclusion our unduly curtailed proceedings in Committee with the very same topic with which our examination of this question began, way back in the days of Green Papers and White Papers, and which has followed us hand in hand throughout our examination. It is the question confronting all proposals for the introduction of Home Rule in part of a parliamentary State. It is the huge conundrum which bars our path. It is the conundrum which we have been willing by common consent to designate as the "West Lothian conundrum", as a tribute to the assiduity of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), in exploring every possible aspect of it.
It is common experience, and part of our nature as practising politicians, that 294 when we find a conundrum, an actual logical impossibility, barring our way like the angel in the path of Balaam's ass, we tend to pass that difficulty swiftly on to someone else. When the attempt to define a prices and incomes policy which will conquer rising inflation by prescribing every permissible increase in every wage and price comes up against unanswerable questions, one Government after another say that they cannot be expected to be concerned with such problems, that this is not a matter into which politics should be brought, and that therefore they are going to set up a board or a commission—call it what you will—and give it the task of deciding how to deal with the matter.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) is well aware that this is another specimen of that genre. There is a certain elegance about the proceeding. The reason why we are inviting a Speaker's Conference to square the circle and resolve the unresolvable is that we know we cannot do it ourselves and would rather that someone else had to say "This is a nonsense and there is no way around it." We are asking others how two and two are to make five, so that they may tell us that they cannot do it and that nobody can. So, in the guise of referring this question to a hypothetical Speaker's Conference, we are once again examining the built-in impossibility of maintaining a unitary parliamentary State while establishing Home Rule in part of that State.
We have been here before. In fact, we were here a long time ago. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire referred to the precedent of Stormont. That is a recent, fragmentary precedent; the year 1920 was a late stage in the story. It all started with the attempt to institute Home Rule for the island of Ireland in 1886. Once it was proposed, once the Grand Old Man let it be known from Harwarden around Christmas 1885 that he was contemplating this, the question was immediately asked: how would the island of Ireland thereafter be represented in the House of Commons?
There are four different ways of answering that question. First, it would not be represented at all. Secondly, it would be represented as at present, as though nothing had happened. Thirdly, it would be represented only at a fraction of the present representation. Fourthly, it would 295 be represented by "in and out" Members, who popped in and out according to the subject before the House.
I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that alternatives three and four are not true alternatives, nor are New Clause 1 and the unmentionable New Clause 14 alternatives to one another. The arguments for New Clause 14 would be almost as appropriate if there were a reduction in Scottish representation as they would be with the full representation of 71 seats. However, for purposes of easy exposition I posit four possibilities for tackling the conundrum.
First, then, if there were no representation, this would be the end of the Union; for a population cannot be bound by decisions made by an assembly in which it is not represented. Yet that was the first of the solutions suggested in Gladstone's Home Rule proposals. When the question was raised by Joseph Chamberlain, that was the answer that he was given, and that answer was responsible for Chamberlain and another member of Gladstone's Cabinet resigning, with consequences that were felt in British politics for generations after.
One then reacts to the opposite extreme, the one which is represented in the Bill, the extreme which we are accepting. I understand the argument of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) for not poking that dog at this time; but the difficulties are acute and have been felt throughout these proceedings—the manifest absurdity of crucial decisions upon what may be the crucial legislation of a Parliament being decided in this House of Commons by hon. Members from a part of the kingdom to which that legislation will not apply. It is a contradiction quite different from the fact that we do legislate as a whole for parts of the kingdom; for that is a mere consequence of the unity of the realm and of the parliamentary union.
The more the possibility has been envisaged that 71 Scottish Members or a majority of them might determine for the rest of the realm—I do not know why Ulster was omitted from Clause 14—questions so important that the Scots, we are told, demand to decide them for themselves, the more there has been in the House and outside increasing disaffection 296 towards the whole nature of this approach to devolution and to the discontents of various parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland.
Both extremes then being intolerable, it is natural to look for a mean somewhere. Perhaps the device or compromise which it is convenient to examine first is the "in and out" proposition. It is suggested that as hon. Members from Scotland come from a part of the realm in which decisions on certain subjects are made in a separate elected Assembly, they should have no voice or vote on those matters in the House.
The more this is examined the more impossible it appears. Most potent, though least easily expressed, there is, in the human sense, the intolerability of a situation in which 71 or 50 Members from Scotland would be jealously watched as to whether they were peeping in on our proceedings on matters that did not concern them. The nature of this House is that it is a body corporate. What concerns any part of it concerns us all. We are, in the best sense of the word, peers in every respect and sit on a basis of equality of responsibility and rights.
§ Mr. Henderson
In his inimitable way, the right hon. Gentleman is painting an incredible picture of what might happen, but my hon. Friends and I have adopted in the House the posture that he is outlining and we have found it a most agreeable experience.
§ Mr. Powell
That proves the point. I understand why the SNP, which is a separatist party, wants to behave in the House of Commons in a manner that expresses its intention of being separate. That strengthens the implicit, destructive logic in the conundrum that we are considering.
Apart from the fact that the "in and out" system is inconsistent with the nature of the House of Commons and would be intolerable to the House as a whole, it is unreal to suppose that we could separate out one category of our business and say that it affects England, Wales and Northern Ireland but does not affect Scotland.
The very notion is absurd. So preponderant a part of the United Kingdom is England—let alone England, Wales and 297 Northern Ireland—that, on a whole range of subjects that are to be devolved under the Bill, what is done and decided for the rest of the United Kingdom is bound to influence, limit and, in some senses, determine or predetermine what can be done in Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Can the right hon. Gentleman imagine the sort of pressure that a Chief Whip such as the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) might bring to bear on his Scottish colleagues if the Government were in a corner and short of numbers and what malicious arguments there would be over what such Members could and could not vote on?
§ Mr. Powell
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right. We should be placing an absurd and intolerable duty on the Chair. Almost from moment to moment—or even from Question to Question at Question Time—the Chair would have to decide what was or was not a matter exclusively concerning England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Then look at finance. Devolved services in Scotland will be financed from the general revenue and the general national income of the United Kingdom as a whole. Is anyone suggesting that decisions taken on legislation and administration and, therefore, on expenditure, in regard to England, Wales and Northern Ireland will not influence the potential scale of provision for Scotland? Of course not. It is the financial nexus which gives unity to all the topics we decide in the House of Commons. Without that financial nexus, we would not share the practical responsibility of knowing that our pleas for expenditure in one direction were pleas for the limitation or reduction of expenditure in another direction.
If I may now take up the point interjected by the hon. Member for West Lothian, the maintenance of a Government based upon a majority in this House cannot be divided into two, with a majority for English, Welsh and Northern Ireland matters and a separate majority for United Kingdom matters. They are the United Kingdom Government and they have the right to claim the support of those upon whom their exis- 298 tence as a Government depends in whatever legislation comes before the House—[Interruption.] They have at least the right to ask for that; they should not be debarred from calling upon their colleagues who have stood in Scotland on basically the same platform, whether Socialist or capitalist, to support the consequential measures for any part of the kingdom.
That solution, therefore, is as incompatible with the nature of this House and with the unity of the United Kingdom as it was found to be when it was exhaustively examined in 1893 and dissolved in gales of ridicule and laughter.
The fourth possibility is put forward by those who suggest that we should try to deal with the problem by reducing its scope. Perhaps, they say, no one will then notice the anomaly. Perhaps, if we can make it small enough, the difficulty will go away or will not matter. That is the only argument for a proportionate reduction. There is no sense in saying that, because three-quarters of the subjects that we debate are to be devolved to the Assembly, there should therefore be only one-quarter or even two-thirds as many Scottish Members as at present. There was never any logic behind the figure in the Asquithian Home Rule Act of 1914, which provided 42 Members instead of 100 for the island of Ireland. There was never any logic in that; it was merely a broad suggestion, a sort of sop to anaesthetise our sense of the gnawing impossibility of reconciling the presence in the House of Commons of a large block of hon. Members who were there upon a different basis, representing a part of the kingdom that had extensive Home Rule.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire referred to the precedent of Stormont. The precedent to be remembered is that this fourth course—namely, reduced representation—was never tested in practice. There never sat a Parliament in which a Home Rule Ireland was represented in the House by about 40 Members of Parliament. That never happened. What happened was that Ireland was divided: part, in effect, became wholly self-governing—more self-governing even than Canada and eventually recognised as an independent State and republic—and a small fragment of 299 the Liberal Home Rule Bill was fastened upon, or left remaining in—I choose the most neutral term that I can—the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.
The acceptance by the House during that period of the fractional 13-Members for Northern Ireland—there were only 12 after the abolition of the university seat—in spite of the sometimes irritating anomaly, was the price that the House and the country as a whole paid for forgetting about Northern Ireland for the best part of 50 years. However, that is no precedent for us to pretend that we can deal with the conundrum which lies in the path of the Bill by any conceivable reduction in the number of seats by which Scotland returns Members to the House of Commons.
The utility of the new clause, against which my hon. Friends and I will be. voting, lies in our reminding ourselves once again at this fairly late stage that there is an inherent incompatibility between Home Rule, devolved—no, transferred—legislative power, power transferred to a directly elected Assembly in a part of this Kingdom, and the maintenance of the parliamentary union of the United Kingdom.
We have tried to approach this issue from all directions. Almost every question that has arisen has brought us back to the same conclusion. It is no complaint against the new clause that its most useful function is to have done that again.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I shall be the first into the Government Lobby to vote against the new clause, and partly for the reason given by the right hon. Member for Down. South (Mr. Powell)—that no alteration in the number of MPs will make any difference to the principle of voting when they literally have no responsibility for the matters on which they vote.
During the weekend I had an extremely tough, rough and argumentative two-hour meeting at the British Leyland Club at Blackburn, West Lothian. I was confronted by 80 angry men. Some of them shouted at me "We object to the way that you voted." One man, who was bedecked in SNP trinketry and regalia, tried to interrupt me time and again with all sorts of abuse at the way in which I had acted.
300 I must tell the Committee and my right hon. Friend the Lord President that when I was shouted at for voting in a certain way on a Bill it was not my activities of last week on the Scotland Bill that were in question. The cause of their fury was that out of loyalty I had supported my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in bringing in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (No. 2) Bill.
The future angling rights on the Tweed, the Whittader, the Teviot and their tributaries were of more weekend concern to more people in West Lothian than the intransigence of their MP over 150 Assemblymen in Edinburgh. That little tale serves to illuminate the flaw in the new clause. It is designed to contain Scottish nationalists—heaven knows what the Committee is about unless it is about containing them—but it will do nothing.
In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), I can see no other reason for what is now the thirty-fourth day of our activity. It is perhaps significant that the right hon. Member for Down, South had to make his speech after 34 days. After all, the 34 days have been something of a Speaker's Conference in themselves. However, since the diagnosis of my right hon. Friend the Lord President is wrong, Scottish nationalism will gain far more out of our alleged denial of fishing rights on the Tweed than the denial of 150 Assemblymen in Edinburgh. There can be umpteen Speaker's Conferences, but they will not dish the SNP as the forces behind it are not mainly about improving the constitution.
Peter McNee, the secretary of the West Lothian Labour Party, says that his neighbours in Bridgend, who are most active SNP supporters, tell him that they in no way want separation from England or a separate Scottish State. They are appalled at such a notion, and that goes for many SNP supporters. If my colleagues doubt what I am saying, they should listen to Mr. Keith Bovey, who in the Guardian of 30th January is reported by Peter Hetherington as saying:Despite Wednesday's events"—that is a reference to Burns night last week—Mr. Keith Bovey, the Nationalist candidate, still insists that devolution is not the main issue 301 in Garscadden. With Scottish unemployment at 9.2 per cent., now the highest since the 1930s, and the Garscadden level approaching 20 per cent. in some areas, Mr. Bovey, a Glasgow lawyer, says that constitutional complexities are of little concern to many of the 55,000 voters who are now experiencing unemployment.A Speaker's Conference would solve few of the problems that fuel nationalism. I say in parenthesis that it is inconceivable that, given such unemployment, there would not be the most vigorous demands at the Speaker's Conference and in the submissions to it for the Assembly to be given an employment role, a responsibility for employment. That would bring into the Speaker's Conference something more than the question of numbers. I admit that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) may have had to take that approach so as to keep the new clause in order, but any Speaker's Conference that did not concern itself with things other than numbers would be no Speaker's Conference.
Who would make up the Speaker's Conference? It would contain the SNP, my hon. but absent Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), and my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). It would certainly have to contain the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and all the orthodoxies of the political parties; and, God help Mr. Speaker, he would in honour bound have to have me on his Conference be cause I, in common with the others, would cackle from the rooftops and cry "Foul" if I was not on it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Indeed, as I do at the moment.
If we are to have a Speaker's Conference, we have to try some kind of consensus but a consensus here is a Will-o'-the-wisp—there is not a census to be had. Had there been an acceptable corn promise, or a formula in which the nationalists and anti-Assembly Members of Parliament could have acquiesced, it would have been found long ago [...]y the hard-working and able Ministers are now on the Front Bench before me and their hard-working and able civil servants who are now in the Box. A Speaker's 302 Conference might as usefully spend the time of busy people searching a crock of gold under the rainbow. But it will not dig up any solution since there is no possible solution to be had.
To pursue the Speaker's Conference theme a little further, item two on the agenda—and, if I were a member of that Conference, the agenda would not nave been dealt with at the first meeting—would presumably be the number of Members of the House representing Scottish constituencies after enactment of this legislation. But it would come face to face with the fact with which I bored the Committee in January at indecent length and which has come to be known in shorthand as the West Lothian question. But there is a rider to this question. It makes no difference in principle whether there are 71, 57, 36 or any other number of Members of Parliament. However many we are, we would still be voting on matters in England for which we had no responsibility in Scotland.
That situation could not possibly last. It is not an Act of Settlement, and it is the rock on which the previous Bill foundered. Nothing has been done to remove that rock. There is no Speaker's Conference on those terms of reference that could put an effective detonator under the rock. Furthermore, could a Speaker's Conference sensibly consider the number of Members without discussing the role and responsibilities of those Members? For example, were the Assembly to win taxing powers, the desirability of fewer rather than more Scottish Members would be evident. I could add to what was said by the right hon. Member for Down, South by saying that when there was a change in the powers of the Assembly, as certainly there would be, there would have to be further discussions on the role of that body and there would have to be further discussions on the number of members.
Let us suppose that the Assembly were to be given economic powers. Would not that be a material consideration in deciding the number of Members? If there is an Assembly, it is inconceivable that it should not be given economic powers. Can we imagine that Assemblyman Sillars or Assemblyman Mackintosh, having been told that there are 203,000 unemployed in Scotland, would take the view "Oh, well, that has nothing to do 303 with us"? Of course, they would not take that attitude—and they would not be allowed to get away with it if they tried to do so.
There will come into operation what I shall refer to as Gilchrist's law. Sir Andrew Gilchrist is a great contributor to the Scottish Press. That law is that the only way in which devolution can be made to work is by the prior elimination of all features which distinguish it from independence. Therefore, once again we come back to the issue that it is impossible to have a subordinate Parliament in only a part of a unitary State.
Suppose that it were decided, on the other hand, that devolution to an Assembly of responsibility for framing the criminal law created too many problems. Let us suppose that there were different cases involving extradition between Scotland and England. Let us also suppose—I see my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) present, and she will be interested in this matter—that the undesirability of having one abortion law in England and another abortion law north of Berwick became apparent, and it was decided that the framing of the criminal law should return to Westminster. Would the number of Scottish Members of Parliament be increased to match the responsibilities which they had regained? I would point out to the right hon. Member for Down, South that this matter could work both ways. If responsibility for the criminal law were to return to Westminster, there would have to be more Scottish MPs.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)
On the subject of the different law, is not the hon. Gentleman aware that this was one of the matters that was observed from the time of the Treaty of Union and that in relation to the border there is an extradition treaty? In respect of the criminal family law, we have had separate laws for centuries and we have become accustomed to that situation for centuries. Therefore, if there is any complaint, it is that the House of Commons has always used as an excuse for any failure to keep Scottish laws up to date the fact that it has not the time to undertake that task.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the hon. Lady tell the Committee when was the last case of 304 extradition on the frontier between Scotland and England?
§ Mrs. Ewing
The reason is not that the law does not exist but that, with the excellent co-operation which has existed between two entirely separate systems, it has not been necessary. There has been co-operation, but that does not mean that there is not an international border between Scotland and England.
§ Mr. John Smith
Perhaps I could point out that the question of jurisdiction between different legal systems in the United Kingdom is on a basis of domicile, not nationality. Therefore, any question of extradition does not arise.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As long as this House of Commons is responsible for framing both systems of law, that is the case, but that situation, which has worked very well hitherto, becomes a different matter when one has two Parliaments each framing and formulating a system of law.
§ Mr. Henderson
I suggest that it might be helpful if the hon. Gentleman were to select English domicile so that we would not be able to extradite him to Scotland.
§ The First Deputy Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) may not have noticed that I have now assumed the Chair. Perhaps he can tell the Chair what extradition has to do with the new clause.
§ Mr. Dalyell
No hon. Member could fail to notice when you take the Chair, Sir Myer. I want to know why the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor)—I am returning to the new clause, Sir Myer—could put his name to such a clause. I suppose the hon. Gentleman imagines in a woolly way that it will help the Tories to get the best of all possible, if illusory, worlds and to give some kind of olive branch to his hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns and—dare I say it?—to the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). I think that must be the only reason why the hon. Member for Cathcart could possibly have supported the new clause.
I hope that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and others will have second thoughts before they are recorded as voting for the new clause. How can we possibly expect a Speaker's 305 Conference to resolve problems which we ourselves as a House of Commons have found to be irreducible after 34 days of debate?
In one sense, as I have already said, we have had a Speaker's Conference. What else has 34 days of debate on the Floor of the House been? Nor do I concede that, had there been academic and jurist members of the Conference, the results would have been much more practical. I do not think that hon. Members who have taken part in the argument are in any way inferior to the academics who might have been added to the Speaker's Conference.
I would favour a Speaker's Conference in two sets of circumstances. The first is if the Liberal Party won a majority of seats in Scotland, in which case the terms of reference of the Speaker's Conference would be very precise—to determine the action necessary for setting up a federal State in the British Isles and report accordingly.That would be on the assumption that the Liberal Party had 37 or more Members of Parliament in Scotland.
It would then be quite legitimate to have a Speaker's Conference with those terms of reference.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
That is quite the most attractive assumption that I have heard the hon. Gentleman make recently.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I must do my bit for the Lib-Lab pact.
The second set of circumstances would be if the SNP won a majority of the seats in Scotland, in which case the terms of reference of the Speaker's Conference would beto determine the action necessary for the ending of the United Kingdom Government and arrangements to be made for 1,001 actions ranging from the establishment of customs and excise arrangements to the break up of Government Departments as between Scotland and England.It would be quite legitimate to have a Speaker's Conference with the terms of reference of the break-up of the British State. But to have a Speaker's Conference on any of the ends of either my hon. Friends or myself—irrespective of the view we take on devolution, or, indeed, 306 that the Conservative Party purports to take—is complete nonsense.
The question is this. If we reject the new clause, what should we do? I think that the Government had better get used to the fact that the 40 per cent. figure in a referendum is very likely here to stay. Not only are my hon. Friends and myself who voted for one thing in mid-January not going to be seen to change our minds by mid-February, but many Members who took a different view on the original question just do not think that a decision of the House of Commons should be lightly overturned.
I say to my hon. Friends—I am glad that the Lord President is here—that really there is no cause for embarrassment in the suggestion that the Bill should now be dropped. We have had 15½ days on the Scotland and Wales Bill and 13½ days on the Scotland Bill, not to mention a Supply Day, mainly on devolution, in 1977, four days on Lord Kilbrandon's report in 1976, and Consolidated Fund debates in 1975. We have had at least 34 Commons days on this topic. We now know more about it than we did in 1974. We have come to realise that we cannot have a workable subordinate Parliament in part, though only part, of a United Kingdom and expect it to work, at least when that part is as big as Scotland.
I think that there is only one thing that keeps the Bill alive now. It is the misplaced embarrassment of a number of people, both colleagues and friends of mine in the Labour Party in Scotland, and even other parties, and, indeed, of some Ministers, who have many public speeches behind them and who would be embarrassed by dropping it. All I say is that the embarrassment of Ministers is not a reason for continuing with a Bill whose deficiencies are inbuilt—
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. We are not considering the question of a Bill. We are considering a new clause to be added to a Bill which is in existence. I ask the hon. Member to restrict himself to the terms of the new clause, which are fairly wide. It concerns the setting up of a Speaker's Conference relating to the appropriate number of Members of the House of Commons representing Scottish constituencies after the enactment of the Bill. It has nothing 307 whatever to do with the question of a Bill that the hon. Member is now trying to abolish.
§ Mr. Benyon
On a point of order, Sir Myer. This has raised a rather important point, because your predecessor in the Chair gave us to understand that we could range much wider than the terms of the new clause and that we could cover New Clause 14 as well.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Obviously, I did not know that. My predecessor in the Chair did not leave me a note about it, but I doubt whether he would have wanted the debate to be as wide as the hon. Member is trying to indicate. I now see that there is a note before me. I shall read it. It says:A passing reference can be made to New Clause 14, although it was ruled out of order.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am thankful to hear, Sir Myer, that I am not on New Clause 14. However, I think that in this Committee those of us who reject the new clause have some obligation to say what we think ought to be done. It is for that reason that I come to the position of the Prime Minister. Frankly, I do not think that he has any right to be irked. I shall relate what I have to say to the new clause.
There is the story of the biblical sower who had to reap what was sowed. Ten years ago, the then Prime Minister and the then Home Secretary, but particularly the Home Secretary, off their own bats, without consulting the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group, and possibly, if the history is right, not even consulting my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), set up the Crowther Committee. If the then Home Secretary had bothered at that time to consult his Labour colleagues, he would, I suspect, have found a very strong feeling not to set up a Royal Commission on the constitution.
If the Prime Minister is angry with me and others of my colleagues, he might just, a decade ago, have consulted those of us who had had to contest nationalism in the field for over five years by that time. Once a Royal Commission was set up, it raised expectations, however unreal, and created a ratchet effect. Be 308 that as it may, I do not expect the Opposition to agree but I think that the Prime Minister's achievement in other fields are now so considerable and that his reputation is such that he can surely afford to admit, with all the grace and charm that he has, that his endorsement of devolution was a mistake.
Now, Mr. Murton—I beg your pardon, Sir Myer; I was thinking of more lenient times. The reason why I refer to this is that I think that many of the difficulties that we are now in have stemmed directly from the decision to set up the Kilbrandon Commission. The occupants of the Conservative Front Bench, in putting forward this new clause, are getting themselves into exactly the same trap as my right hon. Friends got into in the late 1960s. The then Prime Minister and Home Secretary fell into the trap 10 years ago. By setting up Crowther and Kilbrandon, something was expected from them—as something would be expected from a Speaker's Conference.
One cannot set up a Speaker's Conference as a diversionary tactic. If hon. Members on the Conservative Front Bench do not agree with that, let them learn from what my right hon. Friends did 10 years ago, because so much of this stems from Crowther and Kilbrandon.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
There seems to be a great deal of concentration in the hon. Member's mind on what are the motives behind the new clause. Surely, the difference between what may have happened 10 years ago and now is that the new clause seeks to deal with the consequences that would flow from the enactment of a Bill with which we do not agree. Will the hon. Member accept from me that we believe that he realises, surely, that we are not saying that this will solve the West Lothian question or will deal with a problem which, we agree with him, cannot be solved by this method? It is precisely because of that that we have consistently opposed the Bill.
However, does not the hon. Member also agree that in the new clause we are saying to the Committee that if this essentially wrong-headed approach to the irresolvable problem is persisted with, then, and then only, the House of Commons and the country will have to face up to the consequences of that, and one 309 of the consequences will be the problem of the number of Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies? It is in an attempt to compel the House of Commons to recognise that reality that the new clause has been put forward. Will the hon. Member also recognise that it is a perfectly open secret that we would have wished the question of the role as well as the number to be included, but that was out of order?
§ Mr. Dalyell
That has clarified the matter somewhat, but I think that the new clause has been put forward for rather different reasons. I think that it has been put forward in a vain and rather silly way to give the Conservative Party in Scotland the best of all possible worlds. [Interruption.]. It may have been a second reason. One suspects that the second reason for its being put forward was that, somehow or other, the vague notion of a Speaker's Conference would help to paper over the cracks between the Front Bench, the hon. Member for Cathcart, and the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns, and, indeed, because they might get into this field with the right hon. Member for Sidcup.
I do not understand why otherwise a concept as simple as a Speaker's Conference in these circumstances should have been suggested by the Opposition Front Bench. That is why I shall be the first to oppose the new clause. It may not have been conceived in malice, but it looks very much as if it is a device aimed at settling internal differences within the Conservative Party in Scotland and, secondly, a way of solving the paramount question of bringing back into the fold the right hon. Member for Sidcup. I suspect that the right hon. Member for Down, South, in view of the way he has swung—I may have interpreted this wrongly—assents to the proposition which I put forward that the new clause is the sort of ill-thought-out, fudging device—possibly, I cannot say, dreamed up to get the right hon. Member for Sid-cup into the fold—that lured us into this devolutionary mire in the first place and ranks exactly with Crowther-Kilbrandon and kindles expectations which most right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side know cannot be delivered.
I think that the Committee should pass on to more pressing matters. I comment 310 to my right hon. Friend the Lord President that the many other measures which were announced in the Queen's Speech, and which the Prime Minister told us would be dealt with if there were time, should be proceeded with. If my right hon. Friend is really stuck, I will produce a Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (No. 3) Bill, which will please more people in Scotland than will this poppycock.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
It is disconcerting to have to oppose the new clause on the same side as the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). The hon. Gentleman has touched on some of the reasons why the new clause was tabled. I agree that it is in part due to the 57 or 16 varieties of Tory viewpoint in Scotland on devolution, but suggest that it is also a method of throwing a spanner in the works.
I think that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) was in some danger in moving the new clause. He went out of his way to explain why the numbers of Scottish seats was justified on a geographical population basis and so on, but he queried at one stage whether the 71 seats were justified. Apart from the outcome of the Bill, one way or another, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be raising the question of Scottish representation in any event. If the Conservative Party has any feelings about over-representation, there is another aspect on representation that should be considered. I refer to Northern Ireland, which is under-represented. I suggest that the Opposition should deal with that matter before concerning themselves with anything else.
It is amazing that the best the Opposition can bring forward at almost the end of the Committee is this miserable new clause. The declaration of Perth, the Douglas-Home committee, the shuffling, attacking, retreating, trying their toes in the water and so on, have gone by the board. They think that the new clause will work the oracle at the end of the day. The attempts to settle their differences have produced only this mouse, and it is a very "tim'rous beastie". Unlike Burns's mouse, this one has no reason to remain alive.
The Tory Opposition's concern with the numbers of Scottish Members is bogus, because numbers are largely irrelevant 311 if Scottish representatives can institute change only with the approval and acquiescence of English Members. That has happened on many occasions. Six Home Rule Bills were presented in the House just before the turn of the century. Except for the first occasion, five were carried by a majority of Scottish Members. All came to nothing. Between 1907 and 1927 there were 11 Home Rule Bills. In each Division 80 per cent. of Scottish Members supported the principle, but all came to nothing. There were other numerous occasions when majorities of Scottish Members of Parliament thought that a certain course was right for Scotland, vet they were all shot down by the preponderence of English Members.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire referred to the horror of English Members seeing their legislation defeated by the actions of Scottish Members. It will be a new experience for them. However, it is a matter that has hung over our heads since the union of the Parliaments.
§ Mr. Stewart
Not at the moment.
A Scottish lawyer, David M. Walker, in his book "The Scottish Legal System" said:Scots law is made and unmade, and commonly mangled and ruined, in a legislative assembly in which the Scottish Members are outnumbered by eight to one in a body the great majority of whose Members have no Interest in or need to know or to care about the law or government of Scotland. The people of Scotland are not masters of their own fate in law or government. Their strong desire may be ignored or outvoted in a House of Commons two-thirds empty, and they cannot lawfully resist the most outrageous destruction of their institutions.There was no mention of reducing the number of Scottish Members at Westminster in previous Tory Party manifestos. In February and October 1974 the Tories repeated their pledge to establish a Scottish Assembly with powers over the major stages of Scottish legislation. There was no mention of reducing the numbers of Scottish MPs at Westminster. In their British manifesto—the one they had on United Kingdom terms if that word is offensive—they promised the Scottish people that a recurring theme in their programme would be to recognise 312 more freedom and control over their own lives and that they would set up a Scottish Assembly. Again, there was no mention of reducing the number of Scottish Members at Westminster.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), one of the signatories to the new clause, in his October 1974 address, stated:We will establish a Scottish Assembly to ensure that decision making is removed from London.There is no mention of removing Scottish Members of Parliament from this Assembly. One satisfactory result of that election was that a number of Scottish Tory Members of Parliament were removed from Westminster.
New Clause 14 would pinpoint the self-denying ordinance that we have had. It has been misconstrued in various ways, regarding purely English legislation. When a real Scottish Government are in operation with genuine and substantial powers, a Speaker's Conference can usefully discuss the object of the clause.
Till then, it is clear that the new clause has simply evolved from imperialist divide and rule tactics, from confusion in the Tory ranks, from Tory bad faith and broken promises. The clause is devoid of common sense, of relevance and of justice. It should be decisively rejected by the Committee.
§ Mr. David Price
I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not range as widely as previous speakers. I think that they failed to address themselves to the fact that the Bill will in all probability go on the statute book. I share the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in his general condemnation of the arrangements for the Bill, but I approach this matter on the basis that the Bill will become an Act of Parliament. I comment on the new clause in that context. We shall be confronted with a position, therefore, in which the representation of Scotland in this House will be an issue among the English electorate.
I remind the Committee that on a purely statistical basis in the United Kingdom, at pres[...] England is 14 seats short, Scotland has 12 too many, Wales has four too many and Northern Ireland is four short. I say at once that no one 313 expects a rigid adherence to statistics, especially taking into account the more far-flung parts of the kingdom. No one can reasonably expect one hon. Member to represent more than the whole of Orkney and Shetland, and so on. However, it is not that which will stick in the gullets of English electors; it is the fact that in the fairly densely populated parts of Scotland there are, on average, fewer electors than there are in most parts of England and Northern Ireland. We hope that the anomaly in Northern Ireland will he dealt with as a result of the Speaker's Conference, but the others cannot be burked. Until now, no one raised this issue, but at the moment the Scots are over-represented.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)
Given the statistics, will the hon. Gentleman make an issue of this in his General Election address? Will it form part of the Conservative manifesto?
§ Mr. Price
I am not making an issue. I am pointing out the facts. If the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Welsh) likes to make an issue of it, he can. I am merely pointing out that the English electors are under-represented in this House and that we could probably live with that if it were not for the consequences of the Bill. The effects of the Bill have not yet been seen However, one has only to go through the items listed in Schedule 10 to see the big difference that this legislation will make
I need not develop any further the consistent argument of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) about the anomalous position which hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies will occupy in this House and, conversely, those hon. Members representing the other three portions of the Kingdom. This is recognised by the Scottish National Party, and it has its own solution to it in New Clause 14. However, my own view follows very much the arguments of the right hon. Member for Down, South. This in-and-out type of Scottish Member will not be satisfactory, although there may appear to be a superficial attraction. All Members in this House must be equal, and we must fulfil equal duties. It is quite unsatisfactory to try to divide up the responsibilities and to say "This is a problem which only English Members can deal with" or 314 "This is one for the whole Imperial Parliament to deal with".
The right hon. Member for Down, South put forward the four possibilities open to us. I want first to adumbrate his argument about Mr. Gladstone's proposal. As he pointed out, in 1886, on the first Irish Home Rule Bill, Mr. Gladstone proposed that there should be no representation in the Imperial Parliament. In proposing the First Reading of that Bill he said:… if Ireland is to have a domestic Legislature, Irish Peers and Irish Representatives cannot come here to control English and Scotch affairs … There cannot be a domestic Legislature in Ireland, dealing with Irish affairs, and Irish Peers and Irish Representatives sitting in Parliament at Westminster to take part in English and Scotch affairs.That is quite clear. But let it be noted that Mr. Gladstone's proposals in his first Irish Home Rule Bill went very much further than is proposed in the present Bill, and that takes us back to the dilemma that the right hon. Member for Down, South put before the Committee so forcefully.
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Gentleman is drawing a useful analogy. However, he will recall that Mr. Gladstone's Bill of 1886 gave greater powers to Ireland and that it was on that ground that Parnell agreed.
§ Mr. Price
I said that. I recognise that there is an important difference, and I made that very point.
We are now in an even more difficult dilemma. As the right hon. Member for Down, South pointed out, even though greater powers were to be given to the Irish people and the Irish Legislature under the 1886 Bill, than are proposed for Scotland in the present Bill, under general discussion, and certainly under discussion in Parliament, it was rejected.
We are left with the dilemma, and there is really only one way of dealing with it, which is the federal solution. There is no other way. But we are not having the federal solution. We are then left with the problem of Scotland's being over-represented.
What should be the representation? I agree with the fourth possibility advanced by the right hon. Member for Down, South, which was to reduce representation from Scotland in this House. The right hon. Gentleman also pointed out that in 315 Asquith's 1912 Bill there was a proposal to reduce considerably the Irish representation in this House. I believe that we have to apply the same formula to Scotland today.
It may be argued that, if that is so, why do not we come forward with precise proposals as an amendment to the Bill. I do not do that for the very good reason that this is a matter which should be discussed in a Speaker's Conference, accepting the principle of reduced representation. If this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, I believe that there must be reduced Scottish representations in this House. That is my personal view as an English Member.
The correct way of determining what that number should be is through a Speaker's Conference. The reason why a Speaker's Conference is a better way of proceeding than writing it into the Bill, which has been suggested as a possible means, is that there would be the feeling, if it came from Ministers, that they were loading it in their favour and, if it came from the Opposition, that the Opposition were loading it in theirs. I think that a Speaker's Conference is the fairest way of handling it.
If at present Scotland had a representation statistically equivalent to that of England, it might be reasonable to say "Leave it as it is", but the fact that Scotland is currently statistically overrepresented, taken in conjunction with all the matters under Schedule 10 that will be devolved upon the Scottish legislature, makes that over-representation indefensible.
It may be that the Committee will decide not to pass New Clause 1, but the problem will not go away. In company with the hon. Member for West Lothian and the right hon. Member for Down, South, I hope that this Bill will not go on the statute book. However, having reached this stage, we must act on the assumption that it will. It is in those terms that I shall support New Clause 1. recognising all its imperfections and illogicalities. As the right hon. Member for Down, South pointed out, it is not possible to box a circle. But at least we can live with whatever is that curious amalgam of a box and a circle—I forget the geometric term for it. It is inelegant 316 but it is not illogical, taking into account the existing over-representation of Scotland. Those of us who come from parts of the kingdom such as Hampshire, which are under-represented, feel that it will take a lot of explaining to our constituents if Scotland goes on being over-represented and has this extensive amount of legislative devolution as well.
§ Mr. Heffer
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that over-representation from Scotland in the House had never been challenged and that in fact it had been accepted without question. It may be that there were minor arguments, but I think that within reason the right hon. Gentleman was right.
The explanation is obvious. As there has not been a separate Assembly in Scotland no one has objected to hon. Members representing Scottish seats. I say that in preference to the phrase "Scottish Members". Many hon. Members representing Scottish seats are not necessarily Scots. Some of them happen to be English, just as there are many Scots who represent English seats and many Welsh who also represent English seats. Because there was no Assembly there was not the challenge.
I contrast that with the situation that existed in the House when Stormont was in existence. I recall many hon. Members on the Back Benches, certainly on this side, trying time and again to raise issues relating to Northern Ireland and being told quite bluntly "That has nothing to do with you. That is a question for Northern Ireland. It has its own Parliament and its own Prime Minister, and therefore you cannot discuss the matter". I remember the many attempts made by hon. Members to get on to the Order Paper matters relating to Northern Ireland, but being unable to do so.
There were, however, occasions on which right hon. and hon. Members from Ulster voted, sometimes in opposition to hon. Members on this side, on issues relating to England. Steel was a good example. Immediately that happened the cry was "What right have they to vote on issues affecting us when we cannot vote on matters affecting their part of the United Kingdom?" I always regarded the situation as strange and anomalous.
Let me go back even further. Prior to the union between Ireland and this 317 country, there was for a short time Grattan's Parliament. It did not last for long, but it was obvious that it was not possible for that Parliament—or some equivalent of it—to be in existence and have union as well.
Once there was the division in 1920, about which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) spoke, Southern Ireland either had to develop into a totally independent State or, rather like Stormont, come into constant conflict with this place, go out of existence, or merge with our House here. That is the logic of the situation, and SNP Members understand it. They are aware of the situation, and they are happy that it should be so. That is why they are more than happy that we should debate the Bill.
I warn the House of what happened in the past and what is bound to happen in the future if the Assembly comes into being. What will the 71 Members do?
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Privy Council Office, will forgive me for quoting a speech that he made in August 1974. It was reported in The Scotsman and arose out of a speech he made at a special conference of the Labour Party in Scotland when the national executive, in my opinion wrongly, insisted that devolution should be part of the Labour Party manifesto.
I hope that if my hon. Friend was incorrectly reported he will tell me. He is reported as having claimed thatmembers of the party who were pressing for devolution through a Scottish Government without the loss of the office of Secretary of State and a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster were being dishonest. A priority for the party was to retain the Secretary of State and the 71 MPs, but he expressed doubts about how this could be achieved if there were a Scottish Government.My hon. Friend is not the first Member to change his mind. I have changed my mind on a number of occasions, but I have always attempted—perhaps not always successfully—to explain the reasons for my change of view. I think that if someone changes his political position on an issue he has a duty and a responsibility to explain his reasons and say why he has arrived at a conclusion different from that to which he came earlier.
318 6.45 p.m.
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for quoting that statement, but this is a complicated matter, and this is precisely the rock upon which the whole Bill can founder. Even if it gets through the House of Commons in the form that it probably will in the end there will be difficulties. If there are 71 Members or whatever number is decided upon, and it does not matter whether they are SNP, Labour, Liberal, Conservative or anything else—once the Assembly is established and those Members are here voting on matters that will affect England and Wales and not Scotland there is bound to be immediate resentment, just as there was in the past over Northern Ireland. But things will be much worse and much more difficult on this occasion. because we have always been afraid of Ireland. Everybody has tried to forget about Ireland and regard it as a nuisance and a difficulty, but that will not be the position with Scotland. The antagonism and the hostility will be considerable.
The only reason why I shall not support the new clause is that I do not want to give even the impression of undermining the concept of the unity of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) is right in talking about a dilemma. We can make no criticism of him on that score. He is right, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has done, constantly, to remind the Committee and the country of this dilemma. If we accede to the new clause we shall be saying, in effect, that we accept, or are beginning to accept, the principle that there is bound to be a break up of the United Kingdom, and I do not accept that. I do not believe it, and I do not want to believe it.
I think that we shall get into a hell of a mess once the Assembly is set up and Members are elected to it, but I still hope that the people of Scotland will be sufficiently aware of the facts not to accept the idea of an Assembly. They will have an opportunity to express that view when they vote on this question. Incidentally, I think that it would be a good idea to have two questions, if not three, to put before the Scottish people. As I argued in The Times, the questions 319 should be whether there should be independence, whether people want devolution, or whether they want the status quo. They should have the right to vote for any one of those choices.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. The hon. Member has so far kept within the subject matter of the new clause, but he is now getting on to the questions that should be asked in the referendum. That has nothing to do with New Clauses 1 and 14.
§ Mr. Heffer
I apologise for going slightly wide, but I felt that I should make a passing reference to the matter.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)
On a point of order, Sir Meyer. Is it not relevant to mention the matter in passing, bearing in mind the problem that we have been discussing, the problem that will face the House in terms of what Scottish Members will do, and the crisis that may unfold if there is not a general will that the union should be preserved? The referendum, which will allow that will to be expressed, seems to me to have at least some relevance to this debate.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) correctly stated the position in his earlier remarks, but what should be asked in the referendum has nothing to do with this debate, and I cannot see how it can be in order. We are now dealing with what steps should be taken in the event of an Assembly being established.
§ Mr. Heffer
I cannot support the amendment, because I feel that one would be conceding part of the principle. What the hon. Member for Eastleigh said was only germane because he claimed that the Government wanted the 71 Members to impose Socialism on this country. I only wish the 71 Members could impose Socialism by the democratic vote.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
I shall refer directly to the new clause. The Liberal view throughout has been that there should be a common United Kingdom general electoral quota. I accept the figures used by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and that the disparity between 53,000 for Scotland, 66,000 for England and 86,000 for Northern Ireland cannot be defended. 320 It has nothing to do with the urban versus rural problem. My constituency in Scotland is the largest in the United Kingdom. It has twice the electorate of some Glasgow constituencies. The problem has nothing to do with devolution. That has already been touched upon by many hon. Members. It is a matter which deserves rectification in its own right.
The new clause suggests that the question of the number of Members representing Scotland is directly relevant to devolution. The new clause states that a Speaker's Conference should considerthe appropriate number of Members of the House representing Scottish constituencies after the enactment of this Act".The suggestion is that it is the enactment of the Act which makes Scottish representation unjust. That is not a correct basis on which to approach the matter. I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) when he says that the same argument applies to Scotland as applied to Northern Ireland.
What, then, of the concept of a Speaker's Conference? The Liberal Party adheres to the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) when he was intervening in a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). He asked:Can my hon. Friend think of one proposal made by any Speaker's Conference which has not been to the interest of whichever has been majority party of the day?My hon. Friend's response was:My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter. Speaker's Conferences reflect, as they must do, the balance of opinion of the House at the time. One of the things the Conference will reflect is the present representation and the fact that the number of Scottish Members who may consider themselves entitled to be on it may be larger than those we may ultimately see in the House. If there is no majority in the House for fair representation in the various parts of the United Kingdom, then we shall not get it. The British public ought to be able to see the way these things work in practice."—[Official Report, 1st February 1977 Vol. 925, c. 430.]The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) was talking twaddle when he suggested that when Members joined a Speaker's Conference they threw off their party clothes and became totally objective citizens seeking the ultimate truths of democracy. 321 I do not accept that a Speaker's Conference would accelerate a solution to this problem.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was right to castigate the Conservative Party for its attitude. The Conservatives have refused to say whether they believe in a reduction in Scottish representation. In spite of what the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire says. I wonder whether he has asked his Scottish colleagues whether they favour a reduction in Scottish representation at Westminster.
§ Mr. Johnston
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) speaks for himself, as always. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), speaking on the direct elections Bill, said that he wanted representation for Scotland to be increased. One would believe that he would be unlikely to accept this proposition. As the hon. Member for West Lothian and the right hon. Member for Down, South have said, it would make no difference to the "in and out"' conundrum, which we now call the West Lothian question. To put it to a Speaker's Conference is an inappropriate means of trying to solve the problem.
Devolution per se does not produce a case for a reduction in representation. At various times, the Minister of State has said that the Scottish Members who remain in the House of Commons will have responsibilities for finance, taxation, the economy, energy and so on. These are important and fundamental issues. I must say that, speaking as a Scottish Member—or, to pacify the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), as a Member representing a Scottish seat—I would not favour a reduction in Scottish representation while these matters were still being determined within the House of Commons. I accept the argument that representation should be reduced on a straightforward population basis.
Nevertheless, we cannot dodge the fact that the Bill creates a considerable problem in regard to the conduct of exclusively English matters by the House. New Clause 14 is directed to that problem whereas new Clause 1 is not.
322 I accept that the problem of what will happen to purely English legislation after the Bill is passed is serious and difficult. I do not retract from anything that I said on Second Reading, one phrase of which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire quoted. The Liberals see the solution in federal United Kingdom terms, but this is not a federal Bill. I shall be frank. I cannot answer the West Lothian question.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
Will the hon. Member extend his frankness to telling the Committee why he is supporting a Bill which he and the leader of his party have said repeatedly is not a federal Bill? He and his party have a strong commitment to federalism, and yet they still support the Bill.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am sure that with your concern for order, Sir Myer, you would not permit me to go again over ground over which I have strode many times before.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
I am quite prepared to allow the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) to shelter behind the Chair.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am not sheltering behind the Chair. I was saying that I could not answer the West Lothian question.
On Second Reading I made some suggestions in terms of New Clause 14, the fourth option of the right hon. Member for Down, South the "in-and-out" question. I know all the objections which are advanced against this, and some of them are considerable. I suspect that in some respects we have not yet gone into this question to the extent that we shall, and it may be that some sort of solution will emerge. But I do not deny that there are serious and difficult problems. I hope that the anomalous situation which will undoubtedly exist will develop a realisation that a federal solution is the only one which will allow for the balanced decentralisation of power in the United Kingdom—
§ Mr. Johnston
—and which would not create differentiation of the quality of representation in the House of Commons.
323 The reason why I and my right hon. and hon. Friends intend to vote for the Bill, and why we have said all along that we intend to do that even though the Bill does not provide everything we want, is that we believe it will eventually develop into a more rational structure for the United Kingdom. We believe that the political pressure in Scotland deserves recognition by the House of Commons.
We have faced this political fact, and, therefore, an anomalous situation will arise. All I can say about it, and it is no use hon. Members chiding me and saying that this is not a good reason—no one else has produced one that is better—is that it will tax very heavily the political ingenuity and skill of—dare I say it?—the British, and I think that we shall find a way out of it.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
Speaking as a mere Sassenach and as one who has not participated at every stage in this Bill, I am prompted now to do so having considered New Clause 1. Unlike some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), I want to see this Bill passed into law. I believe that it should be passed for a number of reasons, not the least of them being that in 1974 I gave a commitment, as I believe the whole of the Labour Party gave a commitment, to introduce a Bill of this sort. It could be argued that the details were not spelled out at that time, but it was clear then, and it is clear now, that the purpose of that Bill was to devolve power to the Scottish people.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Will the hon. Member explain his philosophy about a manifesto commitment? If a commitment turns out to be wholly impracticable, does he think that he is absolved from it?
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. We are not here to discuss what was in manifestos or why anyone is supporting the Bill. We are discussing New Clause 1.
§ Mr. Thorne
Of course I shall be guided by you, Sir Myer, but let me say that I believe that as far as possible parties that make political commitments should carry them out.
324 Devolution of power to the Scottish people will possibly be debated at great length in Scotland long after this Bill has passed into law. Clearly, there are various interpretations of just how far the Bill provides that devolution of power to the Scottish people that many of its advocates have in mind.
The question that arises on New Clause 1 is, if I understand it, one of representation in the House of Commons of the Scottish people. Having listened on various occasions to the statements by the SNP, I realise that they are for separatism—for taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom. In those circumstances it seems logical that they can have no interest in representation in this House. Clearly, that sort of representation would not arise if Scotland was a separate State.
I believe, however, that the majority of the Scottish people do not favour the sort of separatism that is envisaged by the SNP. I hope that will be decided in the referendum. However, that in no way detracts from the fact that they are for a devolution of power from Whitehall, and from this House on certain matters to enable them to get more significantly involved in the decision making that affects their daily lives.
The point of the new clause seems to me to be based upon the recognition of the fact that whereas at present 71 Scottish Members represent about 5 million of the population, when the Assembly is set up we shall need to consider the appropriate number of seats for Scotland in this House in the light of a shift or change in the functions of the Scottish Assembly.
There has been a case, in a considerable number of areas, for a complete reappraisal of representation in this House throughout the whole of the United Kingdom on the basis of the shift in the population and other changes that have taken place in recent years. From time to time the Boundary Commissions have produced reports which only tinker with the existing arrangements. Both the major parties, and possibly the Liberals, too, have looked at the problem and consciously walked away from it, feeling that any major reappraisal or restructuring of the system could have radical effects on their respective memberships of this House.
325 When we get involved in even a small Boundary Commission report we soon see how strong is feeling among the major parties on the question of change. They ask themselves whether it will give them a better or worse prospect in a future election. That seems to be the governing factor.
It is in the light of that that the House has failed to take a conscious decision to make that reappraisal. Against that background there are bodies which advocate New Clause 1 and who see justification for treating Scotland as a separate entity for consideration of the question of representation.
The argument put by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) provided us with no justification for treating Scotland as a separate issue unless we accept the argument of the SNP that Scotland should become a separate State.
The new clause does nothing to assist us with the problem of how to define areas of decision-making in the House after the Scottish Assembly has been established when English and Scottish Members are debating important economic and other matters. I take the view that at this stage there is no solution of that problem.
New Clause 14, which has at least one Labour Member as a signatory, does not offer us a solution. In my view, the only approach to the question is to have a major reshuffle. As that is not being entertained, and for the reasons that I have given, I shall not support New Clause 1 in the Lobby.
§ Mr. Stokes
The debate again underlines the fundamental flaw in the Bill. Once again the dangers in it of the break up of the United Kingdom are self-evident. Scotland is over-represented in the Chamber, but should we, because of the new Assembly, change the balance of the composition of the House of Commons?
The Government do not wish to discuss the matter at all. They have a closed mind on it. Clearly, they do not wish to have any diminution of the number of Scottish Members here. Whether that attitude will commend itself to the rest of the United Kingdom remains to be seen.
Ever since the Bill was first considered in Committee nearly 14 Sittings ago there has been the problem of the 71 Scottish 326 Members in the House of Commons. Like Banquo's ghost, the problem does not go away. The Government pretend that there is no problem, but I must say, in justice and equity to the English constituencies and, indeed, to all the non-Scottish constituencies, that there is a very serious problem here.
Gradually, as the debates take place and are more reported now than they were a few weeks ago, the public at large are realising that a great injustice will be done if the 71 Scottish Members are allowed to remain here to speak and vote on English, Welsh and Northern Irish affairs, whereas Members from those countries will not be allowed to speak and vote on matters that affect Scotland.
The Scottish National Party is clearly uncomfortable about this dilemma. Hence its proposed clause limiting the right of Scottish Members to speak and vote on non-Scottish subjects.
Once again we see what a constitutional mess the Bill is leading the Committee into, and the inherent problems and contradictions to which it will lead, and to which there is no satisfactory answer. We know now that the demand for the Bill is minimal in the country and smaller each time the Committee meets. The clause highlights some of the injustices of the Bill.
The fact remains that the failure to reduce the number of Scottish Members here is bound to cause intense resentment in other parts of the United Kingdom. I do not think that England, which is by far the largest nation in the United Kingdom, will sit down to he governed by the rump of Scottish Members here.
No one so far today has asked himself what the unfortunate 71 Scottish Members will find to do in the House of Commons. shorn of their contacts with the root problems of Scotland. Who, for instance, will go them for their constituencies in Scotland when there will be Members of the new Assembly only too eager and willing to take over as many of their responsibilities as they can?
Those of us who fear the introduction of the new elected Assembly in Europe consider that we shall have the same dangers here, that power with regard to Scotland will pass from this place to the new Assembly there.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. Gentleman asked the rhetorical question "Who will go to the Westminster MPs?" I shall answer him. Those who will go will be those who will go to tell them that they should be extracting more money from the English Treasury in order to allow the Assembly to do its job.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, as I so often do. I think that money will be the heart of this problem and the cause of confusion, difficulty and antagonism from the first day onwards.
However, I believe that the remaining 71 Scottish Members here, whether they remain at that number or even if their number is reduced, will inevitably, as time goes on, lose some standing in the House in the eyes of their other colleagues who do not come from Scotland, whilst their standing in Scotland will be gradually usurped by the new Assembly Members. What a difficult role those Scottish Members will have in this place! I believe that they have a thoroughly miserable future under the Bill.
Lastly, I come to the most difficult problem of all. I understand why the new clause was tabled. It was to enable this most important debate—in many ways one of the most important debates yet to be held on the Bill—to take place. The grave difficulties, which the Government are all the time trying to ignore or brush under the carpet must be brought into the air and reported in every corner of the United Kingdom. The rest of the United Kingdom will not sit down under the Government's blanket of silence.
I hope that, after his defeats of last Wednesday, the Minister will be more conciliatory today than he has been so far, but the real remedy will not be to pass the clause, though I have no particular objection to it. I believe that our only real remedy is to denounce the Bill and throw it out on Third Reading.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) that we should regard the clause as simply a peg for discussing the issue. I would not vote for it, because I would not give a Speaker's Conference any function at all, because it is not a Committee of the 328 House. It is a private Committee, and has nothing to do with these important matters. It is high time the House took control of Speakers' Conferences, so that their composition was determined by the House, as with a Select Committee, and not left to the shenanigans which go on otherwise.
But the occasion here is for a discussion of the issue, which is very important. Over the years that the issue has been discussed there has been a resolute refusal by many people to face it. One admires the Englishman's capacity for staring facts straight in the face and not seeing them, but this one is so central to the issue that it must be faced.
On this subject there is no criticism to be directed at the SNP. Its position is entirely logical. It wants to have no representation in the House of Commons, and there is, therefore, no dilemma for it.
One of the sad things about these debates is that constantly we hear people speaking as Scots representatives or English representatives. We hear references to the conflict of interest, which we never heard before, even though the provision of funds north of the border from the entirety of the United Kingdom is greater than it is south of the border, and even though the representation of Scotland has, since the Union, been excessive in relation to the population. As has been said, there have been no complaints, or few significant complaints, about that.
But one terrible result of this sad saga of devolution is to bring out this little nationalism among Members in the House, with Members speaking not as British people but as Englishmen or Scotsmen.
§ Mr. Buchan
I would like to emphasise my hon. Friend's point by saying that he might like to look at Saturday's Daily Record in which an editorial described his amendment as having been brought in by a Cockney.
§ Mr. Cunningham
In my constituency, in which there are a few Cockneys left, I am not sure whether that will gain me votes or lose them.
Another characteristic of the British people is to feel that there is always a solution to every problem, if only there can be good will. That has been said about this problem time and again in the 329 House. People are not prepared to face the possibility of problems to which there is no solution, however much good will and however much time is spent on them.
I like to put it this way: however much effort one puts into it, one cannot find the square root of a minus number. I am told by mathematicians that there is a method whereby one pretends that there is a square root of a minus number, and that one can achieve results in that way, but the fact is that there is no square root of a minus number, and there is no solution to this problem of the position of the 71 Members.
When one puts that to people who are a little reluctant to accept it, their usual response is to say that the House, with its infinite capacity for adaptation, can of course find a solution by adopting a convention of one sort or another. What is suggested is that, whether by rule or by a convention, the 71 Members should not vote on matters that are certified by the Chair, or whatever, to be matters of entirely non-Scottish concern or exclusively English concern.
That simply is not a solution, for this reason: what happens after a General Election in which the party affiliation of the English majority is different from the party affiliation of the British majority? if we are to have a convention whereby Scottish Members do not vote on English matters, we could—taking the most likely situation—have Conservative legislation for England on education but, with the Conservative majority for England made into a Labour majority by an excessive number of Labour Members from Scotland and Wales, that legislation being administered by a Labour Government.
Therefore, by this convention, which comes as a side wind of this process, we should have found ourselves with a constitution in which we had an Executive and a Legislature of different political persuasions. That is the situation in many countries, notably in the United States, but it is not something that one can introduce into the United Kingdom as a side wind from these proposals. We have not begun to face this problem.
Two days ago I happened to be speaking about this matter to a senior and highly respected Member who holds firm views in favour of devolution. When 330 I put the question to him, it was clear from his response that, while he acknowledged the West Lothian problem and felt that a convention would be necessary to deal with it, he had not faced up to what happened in the post-election situation that I have just described.
The fact that many Members of the House have not fully faced up to that difficulty is accompanied by the fact that, as far as I can discover, hardly anyone north of the border has faced up to it. One of the terrifying political facts that we must face is that north of the border—I have personally encountered this very much in the past few days—there is the feeling that it is up to Scotland to have devolution, if the Scots people want it. They resent the fact that there might be English representatives saying "No. You cannot have it, because there are consequences for England." The fact that there are consequences for England of a totally unbearable character is not appreciated north of the border.
It may be said that the knowledge of this whole subject, the desire for devolution, and so on, and the campaign for devolution, was much further advanced in Scotland before the English woke up to it. I think that we can be charged with that. But the constitutional consequences were not appreciated in Scotland when the campaign was raging. Just as the House has educated itself by the process of debate into recognising the enormity and insolubility of the problem, I am afraid that the people of Scotland will have to realise that there is no solution to it, and that therefore what they are asking for is not a self-contained thing relating only to the area north of the border but something that affects the entirety of the United Kingdom and the viability of their place within it.
I have said before that the people of Scotland are entitled to independence when they want it, and that we south of the border are not entitled to say "No" to them. But that does not apply to devolution, for exactly the reasons I have given.
I would ask Conservative Members, particularly those who favour devolution, what their attitude will be after the first General Election when there is a Tory majority of the English Members and a Labour majority of the United Kingdom 331 Members. If they say "We shall have to stand it, because it is the price for the continuation of the Union", I say that other Conservatives will come forward who will say "We are not prepared to stand it". Those are the dynamics of politics. If they do not say so, the National Front will certainly say so.
The dynamics of politics are such that 45 million Englishmen will not put up with that. They cannot be expected to put up with it. That is why, inevitably, the Assembly's existence will induce not only a campaign from north of the border but a campaign from south of the border to go on to independence.
§ Mr. John Smith
As I understand my hon. Friend's argument, it is that even if there were an overwhelming opinion in Scotland in favour of devolution it should not be carried through, because of the constitutional difficulties that he mentioned. Do I take it, therefore, that whatever the result of the referendum—even if 60 per cent. of those entitled to vote voted "Yes"—when the matter came before the House my hon. Friend would not vote for the measure to be implemented?
§ Mr. Cunningham
I have absolutely no doubt that if that kind of result came out of the referendum Scotland would have its devolution, because the official parties have decided that and it will happen. My hon. Friend asked me what would be my attitude to devolution. I do not know why he needs to ask. It has been no secret throughout our debates. I voted against the Second Reading on both occasions and against the guillotine on both occasions. I have voted against every aspect, but that does not invalidate the proposal put last week, which is the matter that my hon. Friend is trying to get at—the question whether the measure should go ahead on particular percentages.
§ Mr. John Smith
The question I put to my hon. Friend, which I hope is not unfair, as he has greatly interested himself in the result of the referendum and how the referendum should be conducted, is whether my hon. Friend is saying that if on any test he chooses, the people of Scotland voted "Yes" to devolution, he would disregard that vote when the mat- 332 ter came back to the House, because of the principles involved, and vote that devolution be not implemented, irrespective of the people's will.
§ Mr. Cunningham
It is an unreal question, because if Scotland wants devolution, it will happen. That is what remains to be decided.
§ Mr. Cunningham
It is high time the Scottish people were not misled into thinking that devolution would not lead to independence.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I want to persuade the people of Scotland that devolution leads straight to independence. I have said that it they want independence, that is their entitlement. What I do not want them to do is to be led up the garden path to independence when the door is marked "Devolution." That is what the Government and the SNP are doing. My views on devolution are clear.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
My hon. Friend has spoken of the Scottish people being led up the garden path in a referendum. One of the major difficulties in a referendum is germane to the subject tonight, namely, that the Scottish people are being invited to vote "Yes" to the proposition that they can have devolution without weakening representation in the House, whereas it is plain to anybody who has followed our debates that that is leading them up the garden path, because the corollary of devolution will be a change in representation in the House.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I quite understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State wishes to address himself to the aspect of the subject which he thinks will most help his argument. On the matter on which we are at the moment, the Front Bench has said that there is no problem. It has in effect, said to themselves "If there is a problem, we do not want to see it for the time being." The Englishman's capacity for self-deception—and the Scots have caught it a little—is absolutely limitless. We are pushing this one aside until afterwards.
333 It is high time that the Scottish people recognised that devolution—particularly because of the problem of the 71 Scottish Members and what is to happen after a General Election—cannot possibly do anything other than lead on to independence. If that is recognised, the Scottish people will not wish to embark upon that course until they are genuinely prepared to accept independence for its own sake.
§ Mr. Buchan
Will my hon. Friend reconsider his position? Once he and I and the House have accepted the idea of a referendum, albeit a consultative one, we are saying that we expect it to have some kind of consequence upon ourselves and that we must pay regard to it. He is not, surely, seriously saying that in that situation—especially in the light of the figures devised by himself—he will oppose devolution when the matter is next dealt with by this House? I believe that the acceptance of a referendum has certain consequences for us, one of which is that we must either totally accept or be strongly affected by the result of it. I hope that he will reconsider his position.
§ Mr. Cunningham
It is very flattering to feel that I have the future of devolution in my hands. That has not been my impression. The Scottish people have the decision on devolution in their hands. The question is, with respect, entirely irrelevant to the new clause. I can understand my hon. Friend the Minister of State niggling me about it. I understand his sensitivity, given the events of last week. The Scottish people know that if there is a conclusive result to the referendum they will get devolution. The important question to discuss is what that will mean.
The vast majority of Scotsmen, whether pro-devolution or anti-devolution, think that they can have devolution without its leading on to independence and raising all these other issues. The more we discuss this matter, the more they will realise that it is either independence or it is an improvement on the status quo and that the middle ground is a mirage, which will, after the event, be seen not to exist.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
I have been, together with some of my colleagues, rather 334 interested in the exchange that has been taking place between the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and his hon. Friend the Minister of State. Frankly, with respect to the Minister, I do not think that the question he put was necessarily a relevant one in the particular circumstance.
The referendum, in the form in which it is built into the Bill, is of a consultative nature, and I do not regard it as binding. The fact is that we shall then return to the matter in the House of Commons. Surely at that stage, if an hon. Member has consistently opposed the setting up of an Assembly, he could be expected still to be of the same view. Indeed, I should be surprised if any consistent opponent of the Bill were at that stage to change his view.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) referred to whether those voting in the referendum would be clear as to the question on which they were voting. It is in this respect that I welcome the debate on the new clause, as put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). I believe that it is important that, when people come to vote on the referendum, they should know what they are voting on and be aware of the consequences which may flow as a result of an Assembly being set up in Scotland. In that context the new clause is relevant.
I admired much of the logic of the approach of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. The one flaw in his speech was that he did not put forward any alternative method to deal with what is a very real political situation in Scotland at the present time. He mentioned that a debate such as this gives rise to a clash between Scotland and England in the House of Commons, but that is nothing new. It has certainly provided a focus, but it is nothing new. There was a clash of interests in the early 1950s, when the House debated the report of the Balfour Commission and discussed the allocation of resources per head of population north and south of the border. In that sense, we are debating nothing new tonight.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If it is a real political situation, why was it that last weekend I was roasted on matters concerning the Tweed fishing rights and not about my 335 activities on devolution last week in the House?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
If the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) does not think that the whole question of devolution is a live issue in Scotland, his head is even more in the sand than I thought it was. I totally respect his point of view in opposing the Bill and in seeking to prevent any change in the constitutional position concerning Scotland. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) will agree that it is an important issue in Scotland.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I shall give way to my hon. Friend presently.
There are, of course, other issues in Scotland of a day-to-day nature, but it is flying in the face of what is happening in Scotland to suggest that people are not concerned or worked up about devolution.
§ Mr. Sproat
I agree with my hon. Friend that it is an issue, but I do not think that it is a major issue among most people in Scotland. If, for example, the Daily Record and the Scotsman, and possibly the BBC, were to shut up for 12 months, the whole issue would fade away.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am not so sure that that would happen.
I turn specifically now to the new clause, with which I had intended to deal, but I was interested in the interchanges which took place a little earlier. I want to deal with the new clause entirely on its merits, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) did. I think that is the right way in which to do it. If we are to have an Assembly, as the Bill provides, what consequences should flow from it?
I am still trying to work out what sort of Machiavellian device the hon. Member for West Lothian thinks that his Front Bench has in order to bring about unity in relation to devolution. But I am really concerned with the basic question, which is begged by the amendment—in other words, the question of representation in the United Kingdom House of Commons.
336 I certainly accept the logic of the argument of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that an "in and out" solution is not possible. After a General Election one could not possibly support a Government on that basis, because they would never be sure where their support was. Therefore it is probably right to deal with and discuss, as the new clause does, the question of over-representation in the House of Commons, once the Scottish Assembly is established.
We must be very careful in making comparisons of this nature, because if one takes the question in relation to representation in urban areas it may well be that in Scotland we are over-represented. However, it is important to compare like with like. The fact that there is a greater preponderance of scattered and remote communities in Scotland must be taken into account. There is no point in having merely a simple mathematical exercise.
I have thought a great deal about the central point of the new clause. As a supporter of devolution, I am prepared to concede that the question of representation must be looked at. I have two reservations in addition to the one I have already mentioned about comparing like with like.
If representation is being considered, it must be acknowledged that the United Kingdom Parliament will still retain many functions relating to Scotland, even after the Assembly is established. In that respect, Scotland is entitled to the same representation as the rest of the United Kingdom. It may be an anomaly thrown up by the Bill, but I accept that. I would like to see the whole question of devolution approached differently, but if we are to have this Bill a reduction in representation cannot be taken to the point of giving Scotland less representation than the rest of the United Kingdom. This cannot be done because of the functions that are being maintained by the United Kingdom Parliament.
The second reservation is even more fundamental. It relates to the question of finance and money. The new Assembly will be operating on a block grant without any revenue-raising powers of its own. In these circumstances, and in so far as the Assembly is strictly controlled by the United Kingdom Parliament on the fundamental central matter of finance, it is 337 most important that representation of Scotland in the House of Commons is not less than that of other areas of the United Kingdom.
In principle, I do not believe that it is wrong to reduce the present relatively favoured position of Scotland on representation. This should be debated when the referendum comes, because a reduction in representation could be consequent upon the passage of the Bill. If there has to be a reduction, I hope that it will be carried out fairly and in line with the reservations I have mentioned.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchan
I think that the fundamental flaw in the arguments of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) is implicit in the new clause itself. The new clause refers quite precisely to numbers. What is called West Lothian question goes a great deal deeper than saying that the problem may be reflected by reducing the numbers. The new clause does not meet the problem we are facing in any way. Unless we reduce the numbers to half a dozen or so so that they can be borne, we will not arrive at any solution and the crucial questions affecting Scotland's representation in the House of Commons will still remain.
Taking that position, the numbers argument grows. There can be no numbers argument that will deal with our basic dilemma.
§ Mr. Pym
I fully appreciate the point that the hon. Member makes, but he must appreciate that the technical difficulties were considerable in deciding what new clause we could put down. It is very likely that this will be the first and only time that we will have an opportunity to discuss the central question of numbers and the relationship with the realm. The hon. Member should bear in mind that without the new clause we might never have debated this important issue at all.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am glad the right hon. Member has underlined that point. I take it that he will not push the new clause and will withdraw it. What he is really saying is that this is an inadequate clause and was put down in this way only because of the rules of order.
338 That apart, the new clause does not deal with the West Lothian question. Its central flaw is the central flaw of the whole Bill, and it is one which we have to discuss in toto. It is also one on which we need a totally principled argument from the Front Bench as opposed to a technical argument.
Like one or two hon. Members who have spoken, I do not see a solution to the West Lothian question. The reduction in numbers solution cannot operate unless the numbers are reduced to six or so. The "in and out" Members solution is no alternative, and it would alter the whole character of the House. There is no answer to the problem there. It is not that people would jump in and jump out at the bidding of the Whips. It is the problem of which Executive, which Government.
There is only one answer. The political will, which will prevent the series of political crises which will arise from time to time from spilling over into a constitutional crisis, will have to be brought to bear to make the situation work. That is not really an answer to the problem; it is simply an acknowledgment that unless we establish that sort of framework we shall not find an answer.
§ Mr. Raison
I know that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) is keen on a referendum, but I cannot see how a referendum among the Scottish electorate will solve this problem, which affects the English as well.
§ Mr. Buchan
The problem we are facing is deeper than the difficulties we have here. The reaction to the difficulties, unless the will is there to make it work, will lead to the kind of situation which will—not may—crack the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Is it not true that my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) told us last February—just a year ago—of the "appalling consequences" that would follow if the guillotine motion was not carried then? He was absolutely confident about that. But the appalling consequences did not follow, and my hon. Friend very generously was the first to admit that he had been wrong. Is it not possible that he could be wrong again?
§ Mr. Buchan
Of course I could be wrong. I am simply telling the Committee what I believe, and it is quite possible that it could prove to be wrong. The Daily Record devoted three pages to the collapse last time. Certainly, I and many others were wrong about the guillotine. The difference now is that we shall be writing in and establishing a permanent situation in which polarisation and conflict will be taking place. That is why I find it difficult to see how it can work without tolerance on both sides of the border to let it work in the short term until we find a modus vivendi that will enable it to work in the longer term.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook
I have long suspected that my hon. Friend's main problem was that he is too honest for the profession to which he has been called. I do not necessarily wish him to answer me now, but will he reflect on what he said about the steps that we are taking leading to the break-up of the United Kingdom unless there is a "No" vote in the referendum? Does this not indicate the consequences of his actions if the Bill goes through?
§ Mr. Buchan
If there is a "No" vote, at least one part of the argument will be settled for the time being. I believe that because of the failure to understand the nature of the problem, as shown in the discussions in which I took part yesterday and the fact that we have not expanded the referendum in the way that is necessary, the likelihood of a crack-up is increased.
I have argued that without the general will being established this may happen. Now the possibility is increased. I am not predicting doom. I am saying only that the balance of danger is increased. We have come slap into the middle of this matter, and I had not wanted to do that. I wanted to stress the failure of the new clause to deal with the problem that we are facing.
The arguments put forward for a reduction in numbers have recognised that we accept over-representation in Scotland at the present time because of the acute geographical problems—the Highland areas, remoteness and so on. By the same token, if there is a reduction in numbers it will come from the industrialised central belt of Scotland, which, by a strange coincidence, is the area from 340 which most Labour Members are returned.
We have to reject the new clause because it does not deal with the problem. We have to discuss the problem throughout the referendum campaign, if not before. The Government must come up with the sort of solutions that can be put before the Scottish people in the referendum. I urge them to do that tonight. Let the Minister deal not only with the new clause but with the whole central dilemma of the West Lothian question, which has not yet been answered.
The real danger is that the normal political crises which blow up from time to time can, when there is polarisation, crack into constitutional crises, and if these increase because there are flaws in the constitution it makes a break-up more likely. This is the problem that must be answered tonight. We must have the details of how the Government see this working.
§ Mr. Dalyell
My hon. Friend is making a deeply serious and reflective speech. Would be care to say something about the lack of understanding that he found yesterday in relation to the quite proper questions that he has asked? This is a matter that bothers some of us.
§ Mr. Buchan
Perhaps I am saying that we all tend to say that those who disagree with us have not understood the problem. We disagreed yesterday, and that fact was reported in the Press. In 1968 the students in Paris had a slogan—"Imagination au pouvoir". It seems to me that there has been a failure of imagination to project our minds into the situation that will exist when the Bill is in operation. Perhaps it is that, above all, which I am seeking.
Let us pick up the other flaws in the argument. Is there any reason for us to assume that the Scots will act as a block? They will not. They will act as political groupings. That does not make the situation better, but it makes our perception of it more accurate. It could reflect the United Kingdom majority and the English majority in different ways.
Can we try to understand the consequences of some of our debates in Scotland? The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) has said that, if the 341 Daily Record and the Scotsman would only shut up for a year, the people of Scotland would not believe that we had a problem about devolution. But we have retained a national identity and consciousness for 270 years. The problem is that Scots people are now being continually taught that the equation of consciousness of nationhood must be the concept of statehood.
On Saturday, the Daily Record carried an editorial with the headline "A vote against Scotland" as though my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), who is as Scottish and as British as I am, could be accused of trying to attack Scotland when he was genuinely trying to reflect the interests of Scotland as well as those of the United Kingdom. That was seen as an attack on Scotland, and the nationalist Bench enhances that view in every way. The racialism that has come from that Bench frightens me, and racialism is unconsciously inherent in that editorial.
§ The First Deputy Chairman
Order. I have been tolerant with the hon. Gentleman. I thought that he was about to finish some minutes ago. He should get back to the matter under discussion.
§ Mr. Buchan
It was a point brought out in relation to the argument of the role of Scottish Members in the House of Commons. When my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, with his Scottish accent, is described as a Cockney to prove, in effect, a racialist point, while the editor and the managing editor of the Daily Record are both English, we are moving on curious ground.
I hope that the Government will give an answer to the central dilemma and that the new clause will be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Benyon
After your rulings, which I respect and understand, Sir Myer, I must tread delicately, but I regret that it is not open to us to consider the "in and out" syndrome.
It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) to knock down the four coconuts with such clear logic, but that is not the point. I am as opposed to devolution and to the Bill as anyone, but we have to con- 342 sider what will happen if the Bill becomes law.
What am I to say to my constituents about the role of hon. Members who are left here? I begin to wonder whether hon. Members have grasped the situation that we are facing. It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad, and perhaps we now have the opportunity to realise how mad we are and what we shall be laying out for the people of this country in future.
There could be no greater recipe for anger and resentment than a majority of one party in England and an overall majority of another party in the United Kingdom under these arrangements. They would clash on every devolved issue.
Without any desire to be party political, I must point out that according to my figures, which were checked this afternoon, if we remove the Scottish Members of all parties from the calculations the Labour Party has a majority of two over the Conservative Party in England and Wales. Of course, if we remove the Welsh Members the position is reversed considerably. It is not too much to expect that the pending by-elections will quite quickly alter that balance. What will happen in the General Election is anybody's speculation. However, to allow a situation to develop in which, for instance, there is a Conservative majority in England and an overall Socialist majority in the United Kingdom is an absolute passport to anger and resentment.
For example, let us take two subjects in the schedule of devolved matters that are of considerable political controversy—namely, the education system and housing finance. It is to be believed that, if the United Kingdom Government were producing legislation which was against the desire and the interest of the English majority, we would not find that tolerant, lazy and happy breed of English person making life extremely difficult for his Member of Parliament? Of course that would happen. That is a recipe for failure.
I have made a number of speeches on this subject recently in what might be described as darkest Buckinghamshire. I have emphasised only two of the points that we have been discussing. First, I have 343 emphasised that administrative and legislative power is being devolved and that there is no money to go with it. Secondly, I have emphasised that Scottish Members at Westminster will continue to exercise their present powers. It is clear that the English have not woken up to what is happening. They do not know what is going on. They are surprised when mention is made of it. They ask "What can we do about this? How have we been led up the garden path for so long?"
If the Bill is to become law, we must consider the terms of New Clause 14. I understand why the role of Scottish Members of Parliament has not been put in New Clause 1. It is not the numbers that worry me, however, and that is why I cannot vote for the clause. I am concerned about what Scottish Members will do if the Bill is enacted.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) have been unfair to the principle of New Clause 14. Under it, the only legislation that will be proposed, with the exception of Private Members' Bills, will come from the United Kingdom Government. They will not propose legislation on a devolved subject that will not stand any chance of being passed by the English Members here. I think that the argument advanced by my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman is unfair to that process.
I cannot but recognise all the problems that have been so ably put before the Committee, but surely the only possible solution as the Bill is drafted, and as it is likely to go into law, is to ensure that there is the possibility of voting on devolved subjects only by those Members who sit for English constituencies.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I am delighted that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench have tabled the clause, as it has given the Committee the opportunity to debate the fundamental issue that is before it.
I say at the beginning that any proposal that would lead to a reduction of Scottish representation in the House of Commons as a direct consequence of the devolution proposals would be one of the 344 profoundest mistakes that the House of Commons could make. I am well aware that as a Scottish Member I could be accused of making my own contribution to the job creation programme in putting forward that view. However, there are powerful arguments that a reduction of Scottish representation, although it might appear superficially to be a reasonable proposal, would be damaging to the unity of the United Kingdom. It is an argument that would be welcomed by the nationalist Members of the Committee.
There are basically three reasons that have been put forward for the Scottish representation that have been put forward for the Scottish representation in the House of Commons being reduced if the devolution proposals are implemented. First, it is argued that it is intolerable—as it clearly is—that Scottish Members and Welsh Members should continue to vote on purely domestic English issues when the rights of the English Members to vote on Scottish matters have been removed. Many hon. Members have conceded that the simple resolution of that difficulty—namely, reducing the numbers—would not solve the problem but might make some contribution towards doing, so.
That is a serious mistake. It suggests to the public that the number of Scottish Members of the House of Commons is a factor that may be used to deal with what is a fundamental defect. Clearly there is a situation in which, on purely domestic issues, it does not matter whether there are 71, 56 or 10 Scottish Members if they are able to vote on matters that do not concern their constituents when English Members have lost the corresponding right. That is an improper and undesirable suggestion in terms of purely Scottish domestic issues, but the corollary applies that on matters that affect the whole of the United Kingdom determination will continue to be by the House of Commons alone. If there is a case, without devolution, for 71 Scottish Members being involved in such issues as energy, defence, foreign affairs, industry and social security, that claim can be made with equal force notwithstanding the devolution proposals.
If there is a case for 71 Scottish Members at present, I do not believe that the 345 removal of certain powers from the House of Commons to an Assembly would remove the claim in respect of the remaining matters that would be dealt with in this Chamber.
It is argued that if this measure is implemented there will be little for Scottish Members to do apart from interfering in English issues or taking part in debates on foreign affairs and defence. I do not believe that those who make that claim have gone in any detail into the issues and matters that would remain the sole responsibility of the Chamber.
I have tried to calculate what the consequences would be if the Bill became an Act. if we consider the legislation that has been passed by the House of Commons from the beginning of 1974, we find that the results are revealing. Since the beginning of 1974 267 Acts have been passed, of which 200 have applied either to Scotland alone or to Scotland as part of the United Kingdom as a whole. If, since the beginning of 1974, an Assembly in Edinburgh had existed with exactly the powers proposed by the Government, of the 200 Acts that have applied to Scotland alone, or as part of the United Kingdom, only 47 would have been dealt with by the Assembly and would not have been the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament. In other words, a total of 153 Acts have in some way, and perfectly reasonably been the responsibility of Scottish Members as well as other hon. Members and would have been retained as the sole responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament.
When we consider devolution, let us not argue that somehow the vast proportion of matters that now concern Scottish Members will be dealt with in Edinburgh. Whatever we think of devolution, the Bill that is now passing through the House of Commons is not especially radical in terms of transferring the vast majority of issues of Scottish political interest to a directly elected Assembly in Edinburgh. There will be no danger of Scottish Members having too much time on their hands if the Bill is implemented, and being tempted to interfere with English issues or spend their time discussing them.
It is not only in respect of legislation that Scottish Members will have more than a full-time occupation if the 346 Bill is implemented. In Select Committees lies one of the major functions of Back Benchers on both sides of the House of Commons. I have gone through the list of the Select Committees now sitting, and as far as I am aware there is not one whose remit does not include Scotland, or will cease to include Scotland once the Bill is implemented, if it is implemented.
Certain of the matters with which Select Committees deal may be restricted. For example, the Public Accounts Committee, the Select Committee on Expenditure and Select Committees that deal with financial matters will not be able to probe into the details of the way in which the Scottish Office spends the money that is allocated to it, but there is not one Select Committee on which it is improper or undesirable that Scottish Members should sit even if the Bill were to be implemented.
Equally, if we examine other matters that come before the House it is often implied, but never specifically said, that Scottish Members are concerned only with the the activities of the Secretary of State for Scotland in this House, and perhaps the activities of the Foreign Secretary or the Secretary of State for Defence. They somehow imply that if the Bill were to be implemented and the remit of the Scottish Office were to be drastically reduced, it would reduce the matters in which Scottish Members could legitimately take an interest. If that argument is examined it cannot he justified.
For example if we look at Schedule 10 and all the matters which are devolved, we still find that Scottish Members of Parliament, even after devolution, will have as much interest as their English colleagues in the work, not simply of the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Overseas Development, but of the Treasury, which is the most important Department in the United Kingdom Government. The Treasury is bound to remain the sole Department concerned with fiscal matters, because this House will remain the sole taxing legislature in the United Kingdom. Obviously Scottish Members will continue to take as much interest as their English colleagues in the work of the Treasury.
347 But this argument applies not only to the Treasury. Let us consider the activities of the Department of Industry. There are minor responsibilities in the Scottish Development Agency following devolution to a Scottish Assembly. The vast proportion of the work undertaken by the Department of Industry, however, will remain a United Kingdom responsibility. Among the matters that would be left to a Scottish Secretary of State are certain industrial responsibilities. In respect of industry virtually no devolved matters will go to Scotland, and Scottish Members and their English colleagues in this House will still have an equal interest in the work of that Department.
Let me deal with the Department of Employment, to which the same considerations apply. None of that Department's responsibilities will cease to be the responsibility of this House. In other words, whether we are concerned with employment or industrial relations matters, they will remain the sole responsibility of this House and will be of common interest to hon. Members from all over the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If the hon. Gentleman were a member of the Assembly, would he be content that Treasury and industrial functions should continue to be the responsibility of this House? How long does he believe that such matters, including the subject of unemployment, would remain at Westminster?
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Gentleman has a delightful habit of producing red herrings. I am arguing that if this Bill is implemented, Scottish Members will still be part of this legislature.
The hon. Gentleman suggests that this point would be valid if in 10 years' time the scope of the Bill were extended, and suggests also that there might be a different argument to consider. But I am concerned with the question whether the direct consequences of this legislation will lead to a reduction in Scottish representation. That is not the case with the Department of Industry and the Department of Employment.
If we consider the social security and pensions aspect—a major matter of interest to the ordinary citizen—we see that the Assembly will have no responsibility or interest in those matters. 348 Equally, it will have little involvement in the present work of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection. Furthermore, it will have no involvement in or responsibility for the Department of Transport. Yet again, the present responsibilities in Scotland in regard to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries could well remain the sole responsibility of the United Kingdom Government. Therefore, that argument is not a sufficient or convincing reason to reduce Scottish representation.
Another argument that is put forward is that whatever might be the case against a drastic reduction in Scottish representation, it is unthinkable and undesirable that the present overloading of Scotland with 71 Members—considerably more than its population alone justifies—should continue to be in existence once a Scottish Assembly is implemented. Let me make it clear that I do not believe there is anything sacrosanct about the figure of 71. There may be grounds for a Boundary Commission recommendation that certain parts of Scotland are over-represented. There is a good case in my own city of Edinburgh for saying that we could make do with six rather than seven Members of Parliament. The argument on these lines in respect of Glasgow is even more overwhelming because of the grossly deflated size of the electorate in many Glasgow constituencies. However, these cases must be examined on their merits and the Boundary Commission will examine each city, rural area or constituency and see whether there are grounds for change. Therefore, to suggest in that context that there is an overall case for reducing Scottish representation is misguided.
We know that the figure of 71 Members was not arbitrarily reached. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said, the unsettled nature of the population in many parts of Scotland and the vast area that comprises many constituencies make it impracticable to consider linking two or three existing constituencies. Who would want to link the Western Isles to form a new constituency if the Scottish representation were reduced? Should the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Girmond) take on Caithness and Sutherland as well, in a Scottish consti- 349 tuency that will be reduced as a result of this legislation?
We do not need to examine this matter for any length of time to realise the practical difficulties with which the Boundary Commission will be faced if it were required, as a result of this legislation or any other change, to reduce Scottish representation by any significant number. It is clear that in such a case these problems would be very great indeed.
I do not believe there is anything basically unsound or unconstitutional in Scotland's having significantly more representation than its population alone would justify. For many years in the United Kingdom we have argued that the rural areas should have a slight weighting in their favour, because it is recognised that rural areas have problems which are not found in urban areas. In that respect the strictly democratic approach has been modified to meet the problem.
We must also bear in mind the fact that when we speak of the United Kingdom we are talking not simply of 56 million individuals but of four countries which make up the United Kingdom. There are many example in other parts of the world in which several countries have linked to form a union of component parts, the population of some of which constitute only a small part of the total. They have been given extra representation to give them greater weight in the counsels of the legislatures concerned. We all know that in the United States there are minute states such as Rhode Island and Nevada, but they have equal representation in the United States, along with California and New York.
Nobody is suggesting that in this House Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should have representation equal to England's, but I do not believe there is any fundamental English interest that is impeded, thwarted or seriously affected by the fact that out of the total legislature of 635 Members, only 519 Members represent English constituencies. The fact that there are a dozen more Scottish Members than Scotland's population would justify is not a conclusive argument.
For this reason I believe that Scottish representation at its present level can be 350 justified and that it should continue irrespective of the implementation of the Bill.
The argument whether the figures are reduced does not deal with the basic problem on which a number of hon. Members have commented. I refer to the inequity and unfairness flowing from the fact that Scottish Members will be able to deal with and vote upon English domestic issues. The greatest condemnation of the Government in this respect is that not only have they not provided for this problem; but they have refused persistently to recognise it as a problem at all. That is a great failing, and I hope that the Minister of State will be able to rectify it in his reply.
I believe that if the conundrum posed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is to be resolved, it can be done in a number of ways. There is the option to drop the devolution proposal altogether, but I, in common with the Minister, would be sorry if that were to happen. There is a powerful argument for constitutional reform, but I accept the equally powerful argument put forward by some that the present proposals are unworkable and cannot last.
If, therefore, the "in and out" solution is not the answer, there are only two other alternatives that exist short of dropping devolution. The first alternative—I would not be too upset if it were to happen—is to move to a federal system, with devolution throughout the United Kingdom, retaining for this legislature the sole responsibility on matters that affect the whole of the United Kingdom. The second is that the Government should reconsider those proposals in which I personally have never ceased to believe, namely, the proposals put forward in the committee chaired by Lord Home of the Hirsel.
Those proposals implied giving a legislature in Edinburgh partial responsibility for Scottish legislation, but nevertheless they left to the House of Commons the ultimate power—the Third Reading, as it were—on all legislation, therefore justifying the continuing responsibility of all Members of the United Kingdom legislature speaking and voting on United Kingdom issues, whether in Scotland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
351 I realise that that solution does not commend itself to many hon. Members. I certainly do not expect it to be given much weight by those who are opposed to devolution or those on the nationalist Benches. However, if Ministers are now prepared to recognise that this is a problem—the conundrum, the West Lothian question—and is a fundamental issue, and if nevertheless they are determined to continue with some form of significant constitutional reform, they must accept that the logical consequence is either the Lord Home proposals or a move to a federal system. It is either less than they are proposing or more than they are proposing. What they cannot do and are not entitled to do is simply to ignore the issue and hope that it will go away over a period of years.
I want to make two final points. I was pleased that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire did not say what the proposals of the Conservative Party would be in regard to any Speaker's Conference that might be established, because it would be unfortunate if at this moment the only positive proposals coming from the Opposition Benches concerning constitutional change were for a reduction in Scottish representation. If that were proposed as part of a package, it would be a different matter. However, to have that put forward as an isolated set of proposals would be a pity.
Finally, I believe that if there were to be a significant reduction in Scottish representation, the only hon. Members who would actually be pleased, whatever they might say in public, would be SNP Members, because it is in their interests that this Chamber should cease, so far as possible, to be a United Kingdom Parliament.
It is, of course, the case that if Scottish representation were reduced in the way in which Northern Ireland representation was reduced after the establishment of Stormont, it would be very easy to argue, north of the border, that the Assembly in Edinburgh was the only significant legislature for the Scottish people and that the legislature at Westminster was a rump Parliament so far as Scotland was concerned, where Scottish representation was so minuscule, irrelevant and insignificant that the only 352 sensible course of action would be gradually to extend the powers of the Edinburgh Assembly.
Those who believe in the Union, if they also believe in devolution, must accept that unless they are contemplating Lord Home-type proposals for a federated United Kingdom, the present arrangement will, quite rightly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) said, lead to enormous and legitimate resentment on the part of the 46 million people who live in England. This is a problem that may be put off for the next few weeks or the next few months, but it is one that will have to be resolved in the next few years. It would be a pity if the Government—of whichever party—ultimately had to act under duress, when at present they could still act on the basis of sound and reasonable constitutional proposals.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) moved the new clause, he said that he had no wish to alter the number of Members of Parliament in Scotland. However, a good many of my hon. Friends have supported the new clause very much on the basis that they see the proposal as a means of reducing the number of Members of Parliament from Scotland.
I have always been in favour of reducing the membership of the House of Commons. It seems to me quite extraordinary that, Britain having taken a much bigger step in devolution by joining the EEC and signing away many of the things that were formerly the prerogative of the House of Commons, which is shown by what is happening and by the argument about whether we can devalue our green pound, no one has said that we should reduce the membership of the House of Commons because we have joined the EEC.
I am sure that there is a reason for reducing the membership of this place on a pro rata basis, but I think that my hon. Friends who feel that Scotland is already over-represented are entirely wrong. I agree very much with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh. Pentlands (Mr Rifkind). I can find almost no constituency in Scotland which could possibly he amalgamated, other than that of Banff. That 353 is almost the only one that I can find that could possibly be amalgamated with a neighbouring constituency.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
I have a good many more constituents than the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), who represents a constituency that is almost in the heart of the City of London. He is able to see his constituents every day. I have looked up how many voters there are in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and I find that I have more constituents in East Fife than she has in Finchley. There is no basic argument for the reduction of the number of Members of Parliament in Scotland.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
It is perfectly true that there may be a need to reduce the number of Members of Parliament who sit for the city of Glasgow—that has already been done—until such time as that city's inner heart has been rebuilt and it demands more Members. We have already reduced Glasgow from 15 to 13 Members by creating other seats outside that city. I speak only from memory, but I think that outside Edinburgh, which my hon. Friend the Member for Pent-lands mentioned, there is the constituency of Midlothian, which is probably considerably larger than any of the constituencies in the city. There may be grounds for redistributing seats inside Scotland, but there is absolutely no valid argument for saying that Scotland is overrepresented. I regret the fact that some of my hon. Friends try to advance that argument.
As a practical application to the Bill, what do we do? Would we do any good to the cause of keeping a United Kingdom if we started off by putting forward the idea that we should reduce the number of Scottish Members of Parliament so that the voting, to be done in this Chamber in order to put money into an Assembly in Scotland would be decided by a higher number of English Members than it is at present? That is a recipe for absolute madness.
I cannot support my right hon. and hon. Friends in the new clause. I hope 354 very much that ultimately the Bill will not become an Act and, therefore, that that will be the right solution. I deprecate the idea that Scotland is overrepresented, because that is not so. I do not think that we would be advancing the cause of the United Kingdom if we were to approve the new clause.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook
I naturally share the affection and attraction that has been demonstrated by the hon. Members for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) and Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) for preserving the present number who represent Scotland in this place. Indeed, I think that I could go further than the hon. Member for Pentlands and say that I could not contemplate with the equanimity that he does a reduction in the number of seats in Edinburgh from seven to six—because I am very conscious, as he is, of which of the seven would go if that happened.
However, I accept much of what the hon. Member for Pentlands said and that there will be a lot to be done by Scottish Members who come here. We shall not simply spend our afternoons upstairs answering our correspondence on local authority matters and come down to the Chamber to take part in Divisions on matters about which we are ignorant. There will be many matters with which we can busy ourselves and with which we can involve ourselves in this place.
However, if the case that is now being advanced is that we shall be in some kind of federal legislature and that, therefore, we should preserve the present representation, that will stand out in rather obvious contrast to all other federal legislatures where it is an accepted tenet that, if one is to have an upper House of a federal Parliament, that federal Parliament normally has larger constituencies than would obtain in a lower House.
If we restrict Scottish Members to issues which would normally be federal in character, we must consider the logic that applies in other federal systems—that they would have larger constituencies than otherwise. With Scottish Members having fewer interests and functions than English Members, the question would arise: should they get away with smaller electorates as well? I find that a difficult proposition to maintain.
355 The hon. Member for Pentlands recognised that the real nub of the matter was not how we filled in our day here from the time we come in after breakfast until we leave after the 10 o'clock vote, but what would happen not with the 153 Bills in which we must have an interest but with the 67 Bills in which we have no constituents affected and no geographic interest yet we retain, under the present proposals, the right to vote.
I suggest that 67 Bills in slightly less than four years is an impressive figure, even when it is taken out of a total of 267. We are talking of 20 Bills per annum. Some of the Bills included in that figure—for example, the Education Act 1976 or the Act which abolished tied agricultural cottages—affected only England and Wales, but they were carried through the House of Commons by Scottish votes. Would that position be tolerated after devolution? I do not believe for a moment that it would.
I do not propose to weary the Committee unduly with my views on this matter, because I have referred to it at length in the past, particularly on Second Reading. But there is no need to speculate in future on issues and legislation that might be proposed and might prove difficult to get through on that basis. We have had concrete examples in the last three or four years of what would happen after devolution if the devolution proposals were to be carried through.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Pentlands that it would be illogical to try to solve the problem by reducing the number of Members coming from Scotland or, indeed, from Wales. The only reason why we think of that automatically as a possible solution is that it is what we did in Ulster. However, the solution was tolerated in Ulster only because Northern Ireland ended up with a dozen seats in this place. However much we reduce Scottish representation, we shall never reduce it to such a minimal proportion. No one in this Chamber would suggest that we could possibly reduce Scottish representation from 71 Members to 12. The lowest figure that I have yet heard is 36, a halving of the present representation, but even at 36 it would not be abnormal for those Members still to hold the balance in the House 356 of Commons. However much we reduce Scottish representation, we should still have to face the possibility that those 36 Members, if the figure were to be 36 would hold the balance of power.
§ Mr. John Smith
I ask my hon. Friend to reflect further on that matter. The important point is not that Scottish Members would hold the balance. People do not come to the House of Commons as Scottish or English Members so much as members of the parties they represent.
§ Mr. Cook
I am sorry if I do not carry my hon. Friend with me in this argument. I was referring to the situation to which he referred—namely, that the political balance among the 36 Members from Scotland could overturn the political balance which comes to the House of Commons from England and Wales. That has occurred in the past and it could recur.
§ Mr. John Smith
I am not seeking to argue with my hon. Friend, but I ask him to consider this matter. The 12 Ulster Members were predominantly of one party and supported one play in the House of Commons. There would have to be as big a disparity as that between Conservative and Labour representation from Scotland to have the same effect as Ulster Members.
§ Mr. Cook
At the moment, two out of the 12 Ulster Members do not normally sit on the Opposition Benches. One of them does not normally sit anywhere in particular in this Chamber, but certainly two do not sit on the Opposition Benches. Two out of 12 Members leaves 10, making a balance of eight. It does not require much imagination to envisage 36 Members from Scotland, assuming the figure were as low as that, achieving a balance of eight in one direction or the other.
We cannot rely on the example of Ulster representation as an indication of the stability, tradition and tolerance with which the House of Commons has treated that matter. If my hon. Friend considers occasions when that balance of 10 was material, he will find that it was resented by Members who occupied his position at the Dispatch Box. In the period between 1964 and 1966, there is no shortage of examples of supokesmen at the Dispatch Box complaining about Ulster 357 Unionists voting on United Kingdom mainland affairs which had no effect on their constituents. The moment the same situation arose in the case of Scotland—and it is more likely to arise in Scotland—we should have some reflections from whichever hon. Member at the Dispatch Box was disadvantaged by the effect of it.
I have explained that I am not necessarily convinced that reducing the numbers would be the appropriate way to treat this anomaly. If it is wrong for 71 hon. Members to vote on English education, it would be wrong for one hon. Member for Scotland to vote on it. But it is clear from our debates over the past three or four years that the only solution which has won any support in the House at all is precisely that of cutting the numbers, and it is plain to me that, if the devolution proposals go through, eventually the numbers from Scotland will be cut.
I return to the point which I made in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). The referendum question is being put to the Scottish people on a false prospectus. It is being put on the basis that Scottish representation at Westminster will not be affected. However, it is plain that eventually Scottish representation at Westminster will be affected.
I take up the argument of the hon. Member for Pentlands. He said that he would not necessarily object to a cut in representation as part of a total package but that he objected to it in isolation. He was right to say that. However, the reverse of that coin also obtains. If we put forward a package of devolution, we have also to put forward the other side of the coin, which will be reduced influence for Scotland in the House of Commons.
§ Sir John Gilmour
The hon. Gentleman said that it would be wrong for Scottish hon. Members to vote on English education. However, since we are working on a single Treasury and since there is only a limited amount of money, if an English-only Assembly voted a lot more money for English education, there would undoubtedly be less money for Scotland. To my mind, the Scots have just as much right to vote on education in England as 358 English Members have to vote money to the Assembly for Scottish education.
§ Mr. Cook
I think that it would be very unwise after devolution for Scottish hon. Members to press hard about the money being spent on English education or on English housing. They would only focus greater obloquy on the sums of money spent on Scottish education and housing which this same House of Commons would have to vote every year. Whatever hon. Members do in the House after devolution, I wager that they will not draw attention to the sums of money going to Scottish education. They would be wise to keep quiet about that.
Following through the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument, it would be equally logical for an English hon. Member to say that he wished to influence the amount going to Scottish education. By the hon. Gentleman's own principle, that will in turn reduce the amount available for spending on English education or on any form of English service.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said that one of the tragedies of the debate on this issue was that here we were again discussing the matter in a dichotomy between Scotland and England. Never before would we have discussed the relative sums being divided between Scottish education and English education. We might have debated whether there was enough going to education, whether some could have come out of defence or whether more could be raised from taxation. But to perceive a conflict of interest between the amount spent on English education and the amount spent on Scottish education is a new dimension in our debates and one which, in common with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, I find deeply disturbing.
I return to the main burden of my speech. We have heard discussion in this debate of the alternative solutions which would involve not cutting numbers but trying to conduct some in and out formula. Every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate has recognised the illogicality that that would create. The real problem is not that of defining which function would be in and which function would be out, on which Bills the Scots could vote and on which they could not. The real problem is that, because their 359 participation in one vote or the other could change the political balance, there must be a separate administration for those functions in respect of which the Scottish Members are "out" Members.
In other words, the real problem is not how to define the functions but, once again, the anomaly of creating a unique and distinct tier of government in Scotland which does not obtain in England. From that flows the difficulty, as does the question of taxation and the problem of what reserve powers one has. As long as we seek to set up a unique and distinct tier of government within a unitary State for only part of that unitary State, we shall be left with that anomaly and find it difficult to solve.
I am impressed by the fact that in the hour and a half that I have sat listening to this debate no speaker has sought to defend the present proposals. Some hon. Members have sought to defend the present level of representations for Scotland, but each of them has recognised that there will be a problem at Westminster that still has to be solved.
§ Mr. Cook
I suspected as much, but I did not wish to hazard the guess. Nobody since 4 o'clock has defended the present proposals.
I was particularly impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). I think that those who heard it will agree that it marked an advance or certainly a shift, from the previous position that he has put forward. I hold my hon. Friend in great affection. I think I can say that I am one of the closest to him in the House of Commons, but it will not do to say "I cannot see any solution to the West Lothian question".
We cannot say that there is no solution to this problem and at the same time say that, nevertheless, we shall go ahead with these proposals and seek to get them endorsed in a referendum. If we have reached the position where we can see these proposals creating problems and we are then obliged to say that there is no solution to them, it is time that we reconsidered the proposals.
§ The Chairman (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. I think that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) has concluded his speech.
§ Mr. Henderson
It is almost five hours since I had the pleasure of saying how much we admired the patience and calm with which you, Mr. Murton, tackled the difficult job of selecting amendments.
There is, however, one member of the Committee who has had a greater burden to carry than you have, and that is the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), because he has had to persist with 13 days of debate on devolution without defining his party's policy on the issue, and that is an extreme burden which no right hon. or hon. Member should be expected to carry.
The right hon. Gentleman's solution to this issue is similar to his solution to the whole question of devolution, and that is to refer it to some unnamed, unspecified conference, which, somehow or other, will gather together information from far and wide, pick up every academic treatise on the subject, and present us with a nice package answer which, curiously enough, all of us have overlooked for so long, and that will satisfy the situation.
I do not think that it is good enough for the Conservative Party to come forward with this kind of new clause without putting its money on the table. Are Conservative Members saying that Scottish representation should be reduced? If so, by how much? We have heard cries of pain from Scottish Conservative Members, and that is natural enough. I think it is a fair expression of view on their behalf that this should not happen, but we have heard hints and suggestions from the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire and others in this Committee that Scottish representation ought to be reduced.
The Conservative Party has been less than honest in this matter. If it had genuinely held that view it should have responded to the challenge issued by the Minister of State and said "In the circumstances, for these reasons, we think it fair, right and just that Scottish membership should be reduced from, let us 361 say, 71 to 57, 63, 36 or whatever the figure might be".
The Tory Party is not entitled to bring forward this type of new clause without giving us a clear indication where it stands on the issue. Having heard the debate I take it that the Conservatives will withdraw the new clause and not vote upon it. Very few serious arguments have been made in favour of a Speaker's Conference to examine Scottish representation.
If the level of Scottish representation in the House of Commons is wrong, it is wrong irrespective of whether we have the Bill. It is wrong, whether or not there is an Assembly. Hon. Members should take that into consideration.
As other hon. Members have said, a Scottish representation will be required in the House of Commons after the Assembly comes into being because major matters will still remain the responsibility of the House of Commons. These will include matters concerning the Treasury, the Department of Trade, the Department of Industry, the Department of Energy, and so on. All this affects Scotland. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) went into that aspect skilfully and with great effect.
The implication in the new clause is that because the Scots are to have an Assembly they should be taught a lesson by cutting down their representation in the House of Commons. That attitude has been revealed in several speeches. Some hon. Members say that because the Scots have an Assembly there will be ill feeling in England and that the English will want to know why the number of Scottish Members has not been reduced. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) took that attitude.
Certain Members of the House of Commons are trying to have their cake and eat it, because, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and others have so eloquently said, they will agree to devolution so long as the House of Commons remains exactly the same and there is no change in procedures or practices.
362 The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) expressed some opposition to that view, but that is the nub of the matter. The House of Commons cannot remain the same. The solution to the West Lothian question is by way of the East Aberdeenshire answer in New Clause 14—by the establishment of an English Assembly. Under this provision Mr. Speaker would certify which matters were exclusively of English concern and in which Scots Members could not participate.
What of the Executive in the Assembly? The Executive is already there to deal with those matters in which English Ministers have no competence. Many of the functions of the Department of the Environment, such as English local government, rates, housing and drainage, do not affect Scotland at present. There is already an embryo Executive. The Department of Education and Science exercises few functions in relation to Scotland, for instance. We have seen the transference of the major function of responsibility for Scottish universities, but the major responsibility for education in Scotland is exercised by the Minister in the Scottish Office who is responsible for education in Scotland. We are seeking to add to it an English Assembly.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
If the majority of the English Members are Conservative and the majority of the British Members are Labour, will there be a Conservative Education Minister and a Labour Foreign Secretary? Will they be in the same Cabinet, or will there be completely separate Executives for Britain and England? That would be, to say the least, a considerable change in our constitutional arrangements, which has not been faced up to in any part of the kingdom, north or south of the border.
§ Mr. Henderson
We are getting to the crux of the matter. The purpose of giving powers to a Scottish or Welsh Assembly is so that the people of those countries shall determine for themselves what decisions should be taken in those defined and particular fields. Had the Government approached this in a proper constitutional manner they would have provided for an English Assembly at the same time, so that the people of England 363 would have the right to decide these matters for themselves within their own context.
We are faced with a hybrid situation in which, if the House of Commons is shorn of its Scottish Members to become an English Assembly on occasions, the question arises, who forms the Executive? The Executive will be formed from the House of Commons as a whole, as at present, but if, for example, there were a Labour Government for the whole of the United Kingdom and a Conservative majority in England, it would mean that the Labour Government, coming to what effectively would be an English Assembly would not be able to put through the policies they wished because they would not have the confidence of the majority of the people for those policies. There is the problem. Hon. Members laugh, but that is what devolution is about. It is that each nation in this Kingdom should have the right to decide certain affairs for itself.
§ Mr. Brittan
I can quite see that a United Kingdom Government would not be able to decide on the policy that it wished to recommend in England, but who would decide on the policy for England in that case? Who would take on the administration? Nothing that the hon. Member has said, in any part of his "East Aberdeenshire answer", gives us any idea what would be the English Executive in that situation.
§ Mr. Henderson
In that case the Government for the United Kingdom would be unable to command a majority in England and they would find it impossible to get their legislation through in respect of England unless they could persuade members of other parties to support them.
§ Mr. Raison
I am fascinated by this argument. The hon. Member is saying that it would be possible to have an Executive that was responsible to two different Assemblies—the English Assembly and the United Kingdom Parliament. Will he apply the same possibility to Scotland? There has been some argument about this. One might come up with the idea that one could have a single Executive in Scotland answerable to a Scottish Assembly and to the United 364 Kingdom Parliament. That was one of the ideas put forward by some in the Conservative Party. I was unaware that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) was sympathetic to it.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am relieved to hear that the Conservative Party is putting forward some idea. I am sure that the hon. Member is seeking to be constructive. This is one of the consequences that the Government must face. If they are not prepared to legislate for an English Assembly which is directly elected they have to make do with whatever makeshift arrangements can be cobbled up within this House.
If the Government are not prepared to look at the matter in the round and say that since Scotland and Wales have Assemblies England should logically have one, and that there should be certain arrangements for United Kingdom matters in addition to that, they must face these makeshift arrangements, which would be only proper and right, for the benefit of the people of England.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Right from the beginning of this business of devolution English representatives have been told that it had nothing to do with them and that they should stay out of it. They have been told that Scotland is entitled to the arrangements and the consequences that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) is now describing on their say-so. Will the hon. Gentleman give considerable publicity to what he has said in the last five minutes, because it proves that, though independence may be only about Scotland, the devolution arrangements are definitely about England, and leave England with the possibility as he has just said, of cobbling up some makeshift arrangements? Will he make sure that the people of Scotland understand that and see why some of us think that it is not a desirable arrangement?
§ Mr. Henderson
I wonder where the hon. Member has been all this time. I thought that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I had made it quite clear from the beginning that we regarded the Bill as a very inadequate measure to deal with the problems. We have made no secret of it. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), with the air of a 365 Sherlock Holmes, said today "These people are really after independence. Watch them. They want independence." I congratulate the hon. Member on his discovery. Had he asked the SNP we should have told him long before.
§ Mr. Buchan
Will the hon. Gentleman therefore repudiate the statement by the SNP candidate for Glasgow, Garscadden, that he would be fighting the by-election on every issue except independence, because independence is only an abstraction?
§ Mr. Henderson
I think that that statement must have appeared in one of the newspapers about which the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) takes such offence. I have no doubt that the campaign for Glasgow, Garscadden, will be fought on the same basis as those in Aberdeenshire, East, Western Isles and all the other seats that we have won—the basis that the only way to solve Scotland's problems is by getting control by independence.
Because the Government have not seen fit to introduce proper arrangements for the transaction of English business, an alternative must be considered. It is no good picking holes in the various solutions and saying "You cannot have devolution because it does not work" or "You cannot have that because that does not work." The people of Scotland will say "Look, it is up to you people in England to sort out for yourselves what you want. Why are you trying to stop us having our own Government and Parliament, simply because you have not sorted it out yourselves?" We have been arguing about it since the Treaty of Union.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. He has been generous in giving way during his speech, which has been largely made by other people. He is advocating a proper federal system, which I approve of, but one cannot graft New Clause 14 on to the Bill. The various functions of the different parts of the federal system would need to be defined in the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman is to advocate New Clause 14 he will have to redraft the whole Bill.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am always grateful for any support from the right hon. Gentleman. I would say that the new clause would mean not a proper federal system but a quite improper federal system, because of the way in which the Bill is drafted. Rather than saying "The following powers are reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament and everything else goes to the Assembly", the Government have said, in a Bill so large and complex that it creaks at the seams. "These are the powers you are getting, and not a stroke of the pen more." The Bill has its weaknesses on these grounds.
I take the comments made by hon. Members for English constituencies about the sense of unfairness that may be felt by their constituents as a result of this proposal. It was for that reason, to be helpful, that I drafted New Clause 14 and placed it before the Committee. It has the support of four parties in the House. I believe that although the clause may not be called and voted on tonight, the issue that it raises and its implications will be with us for a very long time. The Committee must realise that the position cannot remain the same when devolution has come and the pressure for change is there.
The hon. Member for Pentlands read out a list of Bills which would still be appropriate here and those appropriate for the Assembly, but we are in a dynamic situation. What happens on Day 1 of the Bill's coming into effect will be very different from what happens even on Day 30, because the pressure for a greater transfer of power to the people of Scotland will soon become irresistible.
§ Mr. Henderson
Hon. Members clearly thought that I had finished. I have never been to a greyhound track, but I can now guess what it looks like.
I hope that the Conservatives will ask leave to withdraw their rather foolish clause. It has enabled us to have an extremely good debate, but if it is withdrawn we can move on to more important matters.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
On our thirteenth Committee day we still have as many unanswered questions as there were before we started our consideration of 367 the Bill. It is high time that the Minister of State tried to clear up some of the problems posed, particularly over Scottish membership of the House of Commons.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) was only drawing red herrings over the proceedings, because he knows perfectly well that New Clause 14 is not a starter on any greyhound track. Anyone reading it would think "Here is the basis for a federal solution", which is not before us.
I share the views of my hon. Friends the Members for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) and Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) that the number of 71 Members is not sacrosanct. It can be altered by the Boundary Commission, and as matters stand it probably should be altered in the central parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
I have grave doubts, however, that we should accept a clause which sets up a Speaker's Conference purely to look at membership of the House. I entirely supported my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) last year when he suggested a Speaker's Conference to look at the whole issue of devolution, in an endeavour to achieve central acceptance by all parties in the House and move forward constructively. But that did not come to pass, and I believe that now to propose a Speaker's Conference purely on membership gives by implication a strong indication that would be to reduce the number rather than to maintain it or—even less likely—to increase it.
Therefore, on the first count, as a Scottish Member, I cannot support the clause, because I do not wish to see the representation here reduced. The matter was admirably explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands, who showed in great detail the significant amount of work still remaining for Scottish Members at Westminster.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East brought out an important point about the size of constituencies. We appreciate that the new Assemblymen and women will have a part to play in a constituency in the work that we are presently doing. Scotland is similar to Northern Ireland in that it has very large constituencies in both numbers and area, although 368 the numbers are not as great as in Northern Ireland. There will be matters of grave concern to those who represent the rural areas of Scotland in the House.
The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) rightly said that he had the largest constituency and that if there were a formula that could relate size to population he would still have the largest, because he also has a very large electorate. My constituency would not be far behind, because it comprises 1,075 sq. miles and has a population of 90,000. It would come very high in the league of large constituencies and constituencies with large populations. It would be asking a very great deal of the dozen or so constituencies with huge areas to propose linking them with other constituencies. It would certainly be asking a great deal of the hon. Members concerned. From the practical point of view, I do not think it is possible to reduce many Scottish constituencies in size by linking them together and seeking to make them more concentrated.
The most important issue is that of the practicalities which would follow a Speaker's Conference which was set up to endeavour to reduce the number of Scottish constituencies. In general, it would tend to link together the large constituencies, most of which have a comparatively small population.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
With respect, I do not think there is a suggestion that any kind of redrawing would affect constituencies such as the hon. Gentleman's constituency or mine, or that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Three or four seats in Glasgow have electorates of under 40,000, and at least one Edinburgh constituency is of that sort of size. There is room for change in the urban areas. No one is suggesting that Scotland is vastly over-represented, but it is overrepresented to a degree. Hon. Members will recall that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) gave the constituency figures as 53,000 for Scotland and 66,000 for England.
§ Mr. Monro
No one has more experience than the hon. Gentleman of the subject we are discussing. The Royal Commission looked at it in some detail. But I think that most of the figures that are bandied about tend to put the possible 369 Scottish representation at under 60. That would mean that we should lose certainly 10 to 15 seats, and that would be far too many.
§ Mr. Monro
The hon. Gentleman says seven, but I tend to think of the figures as being in the 50s rather than the 60s. I feel that there would be a risk, bearing in mind the political implications and the reluctance to give up seats. Some of the rural seats would be in danger if there were to be a reduction in Scottish representation. In some of these constituencies important issues of fishing and agriculture arise, on which the advice of hon. Members is often of great importance.
I shall need a lot of persuasion before wishing to see the new clause passsed, bearing in mind the likelihood of the detrimental effects to which I have drawn attention. The real issue has been dodged night in and night out for a very long time, and on this matter I shall wait to see which of the two Front Benches is able to persuade me the most.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)
From the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), it is apparent that there is considerable reluctance on either side of the Committee to make any major reduction in Scottish representation. When the chips are down, it probably would not be in the practical interests of any party in the House of Commons to make a major move in that direction.
I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) to consider whether that political fact of life does not also represent a perfectly reasonable constitutional logic, not just at present but in relation to the processes which will be working in British politics in the next 10 or 20 years. He said that no hon. Member in the debate had so far supported the position of the Government as put forward in the Bill. As he very well knows, there is a simple parliamentary reason for that in that Back Benchers who support Government policy very often leave it to Ministers to make the case adequately for them. Since my hon. Friend has made the point, I am only too happy to support the case that the Government are arguing here.
370 The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) does his constituency a grave injustice by describing it as "darkest Buckinghamshire". It is possible that there will be whipped up in the shires of England a certain antagonism about the possibility that a Tory Government, emerging from purely English Members, might turn into a Labour Government because of the balance of Members in Scotland and Wales. But that situation has always existed, and it is not affected by any marginal or even by any substantial reduction of Scottish Members in the House. I do not think that this argument of the shires carries much weight.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind), in a well-argued speech, pointed out that the great majority of matters before the House concerned Scottish Members every bit as much as English Members. Economic, industrial, energy, labour, social security, trade and defence matters are of concern to all hon. Members. It would not be a bad idea if some of us who represent Scottish seats took perhaps a greater interest in wider United Kingdom matters rather than in purely parochial issues. I exempt from that charge my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central, who has an exceptional interest in defence, and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).
The argument about what is called the West Lothian question is in the last resort a matter for the English and the Welsh. I accept that they would choose to argue out that constitutional issue in this Parliament. I disagree with the kind of development as seen by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson), who suggests that there should be an English Assembly and, perhaps, a federal constitution as a step towards the general break-up of the United Kingdom. I do not think it would work like that.
Far and away the greatest constitutional pressure brought to bear on this place by the Scottish Assembly will be not by the balance of Members but by the way it conducts its own business. It will be a modern Parliament, and it will not be hung about with antiquated procedures and frustrating rules which beset Back Benchers in the House of Commons
371 In the procedures that we have given to the Scottish Assembly, and the procedures that the Assembly will adopt for itself, there is an opportunity to operate a modern Parliament. As experience has shown in the European Parliament, when this opportunity exists a happier balance can be produced than that which we have here. We have to proceed by piecemeal reform. We can never manage what we want. It is a frustrating business, and it takes a long time, but with the experience of the Scottish Assembly and the European Parliament we will be assisted, not frustrated, in the business of developing our own procedures.
On the question of the balance between urban and rural constituencies, the reason why we had a smaller number of voters in rural constituencies in the past was not only the communications problem. This has changed greatly by almost universal car ownership. Communications problems in large counties are nothing like as great as they were in the past.
There was also the lag in response of constituency boundaries to the movement of population. In the past we had counties with certain populations. As the population moved out into the towns and declined in the counties, broadly similar boundaries were retained. Now the population is moving out of the inner cities into the suburbs and the countryside, and we are left with smaller urban constituencies like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central.
There is a powerful argument of social justice here. Inner urban areas with smaller electorates deserve a greater weight in the House. If one balances the attention given to the rural areas with that given to the inner cities, I have not a shadow of doubt that one would find that the urban areas have been neglected in this place and that they deserve sustained representation.
I would not be confident that if there were a revision of boundaries in Scotland it would necessarily result in a net reduction of the number of urban seats. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) says that my claim is ridiculous, but his constituency has benefited almost more than any other from the movement of population. Its problems are different from those of 372 Islington, and I would guess that Islington's problems are greater.
§ Mr. Raison
Surely the real point is whether it should be within the power of the Boundary Commission to make important political decisions of that sort. I should be surprised if the Commission said suddenly that it was weighting its decisions in favour of inner city areas.
§ Dr. Bray
I agree. It would not be for the Commission to do that, but it could be for the House of Commons to give such an instruction to the Commission in the light of the balance of representation needed in this place to cope with the problems of the nation.
The matter with which we are dealing is not the representation of Scotland in the United Kingdom. It is the question of devolution to the Scottish Assembly and Executive in Scotland. Representation in this place has been introduced as a balancing quid pro quo to the shift in political forces. But that leaves out the fact that the setting up of the Assembly is itself a response to political forces and to the wish of people, certainly in Scotland and, I suggest, more generally, to have a greater say in the decision-making on matters that affect them alone.
If we confuse the political pressures at work and say that we shall have to throw into the current political package a change in the representation at Westminster, we shall be going against the constitutional logic of the situation. It is better to limit the number of constitutional changes made in any one package. Certainly we have to make it big enough to be acceptable to the House, but we must also take into account the wider considerations of the changing character of the social and political problems with which the House will have to deal.
§ Mr. Sproat
The Committee has two reasons to be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) for tabling the new clause.
The first is that it has brought home the peculiar fact that in the referendum campaign three parties will be supporting the Bill—the Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the SNP. We have heard from the SNP that it will support the Bill only because it will lead to independence. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) has told us that the Liberal Party 373 does not believe in the Bill, but will support it because it will lead to federalism. Labour Members who campaign for the Bill will find peculiar bedfellows in Scotland.
The flaws and fissures in the case being presented for a "Yes" vote in the referendum will be brought out by the extraordinary disparity between the desire of the SNP for total separation to be brought about by the Bill and the Government's attempts to persuade us that they are bringing the Bill forward for precisely opposite reasons. This has been brought out in a clear and relatively succinct way during the debate.
The second reason for the Committee to be grateful to my right hon. Friend is that once again, perhaps in its sharpest form, we have been brought up against the insoluble problem that lies at the heart of the Bill. Either we keep the same number of Members of Parliament for Scotland in the House of Commons after devolution, which would be unfair to England, because there might be a British majority based merely on the Scottish Members of Parliament, who would be deciding the effect of legislation in England whereas English Members would have no right to decide such matters in Scotland, or we keep the same number of MPs, which is still unfair to England. On the other hand, if we reduce the number of MPs for Scotland and reduce the Scottish voice on such matters as taxation, North Sea oil, defence and foreign affairs, that is unfair to Scotland.
The single most important Department is probably the Treasury. If we reduce the Scottish ability to influence the Treasury, that will be unfair to Scotland. There is no way in which the issue can be reconciled. If we keep the same number of MPs, it is unfair to England. If we reduce the number of Scottish MPs, it is unfair to Scotland.
I hope that for the first time in the 34 days that we have been debating this subject the Minister of State will address himself to that issue and try to give us an answer. Let him not pretend that because he cannot give an answer there is no question. The question of what, in justice, should be the number of MPs from Scotland in the House of Commons, will be 374 one of the key issues in the referendum debate.
I emphasise that once again we face not only this insoluble problem but another inevitable consequence of the Bill, namely, resentment between Scotland and England. We have argued many times how resentment in Scotland will be whipped up by SNP Members. Indeed, raison d'etre in political life is to whip up that resentment. We have resentment in Scotland directed against England, but if the number of Scottish MPs in this place remains the same we shall have resentment in England directed against Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) said that fairly and rightly, although I did not agree with the tentative conclusions that he drew. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) has made it clear that there will be a two-way resentment between Scotland and England. In that way a wedge will be driven between the two. That is something that springs at us from every new clause or amendment that we consider.
A number of hon. Members have proposed the "in and out" solution. It is not necessary to try to demolish that solution at any length. Surely it is a totally ludicrous proposition that in this place we should have a British Government depending, for example, on Scottish Labour Members for their majority, they being responsible, for example, for taxation, North Sea oil and immigration, and an English Conservative majority being responsible not for taxation but for spending about 80 per cent. of that taxation in England, being responsible for 80 per cent. of the education of the United Kingdom and 80 per cent. of law and order.
There is no way in which we can have a sort of political musical chairs, with, say, a Labour Government Front Bench presiding on United Kingdom matters, and then the House suddenly discussing matters affecting England—80 per cent. of the United Kingdom—and having Tories sitting on the Government Front Bench. The whole thing is preposterous, yet that is the solution advanced by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson). That is the "in and 375 out" solution. I hope that we shall hear no more of that grotesque proposal in this House of Commons.
The fact that it is grotesque is an example that wherever we turn in the Bill we find only grotesque answers and suggestions. In that respect the Bill is flawed. On the Government Front Bench is the Lord President, the man who is always telling us—in most cases rightly—that the House of Commons can always find answers to any problem. As he is present, will he tell us the answer to the West Lothian question? I give the right hon. Gentleman a full opportunity to answer that point. Obviously, he does not wish to do so.
I see that the Minister of State has now returned to the Committee. I thought that he had left our proceedings, and I was addressing my remarks to the Lord President of the Council. No doubt the Minister of State will try to answer my question when he replies to the debate.
In a country such as the United Kingdom, which is one country, we need one Parliament. We cannot have a subsidiary Parliament in a unitary system.
§ Mr. Sproat
The right hon. Gentleman refers to the United Kingdom being four countries, and if he had his way no doubt that would be the case. But at this moment we are one British country with one British Parliament. One can have independence if one is stupid enough. I suppose it is an intellectual or logically tenable argument, but what is not logical or tenable is to have a subdivision of a unitary system with a devolved Parliament in Scotland and a Parliament at Westminster catering for many matters.
It has been said that Scotland is overrepresented. I do not agree with that argument. I would argue strongly against any reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament. I do so not simply because I am a Scottish Member but because logic dictates the present situation.
There are a number of reasons why we have a certain number of Members of Parliament representing certain areas. The first requirement relates to population, the second to geographical size, and the third to the character of the area. It is often pointed out that if one takes the 376 population of Scotland and its total number of Members of Parliament and compares that exercise with the situation in England and the total number of its Members of Parliament, Scotland comes out on top. But that argument fails to recognise the fact that we are talking not just about the relationship between population and electorate but about the relationship between population and the character and size of the constituency. All those factors must be considered.
The formula of population, geographical size and character does not apply only to Scotland. Comparable English constituencies are treated in much the same way. I have obtained some figures from the Library relating to half a dozen constituencies. They may be said to be unrepresentative, but I do not believe they are, because they happen to be the first comparable constituencies that came into my mind.
Let me compare the county of Cornwall with Tayside, which is an interesting comparison up to a point. The population of Cornwall is 407,000; the population of Tayside is 400,000. Cornwall is represented by five hon. Members, Tayside by four. In other words, the ratio of Members to population in Cornwall is 1:82,000 and in Tayside it is 1:101,000. Tayside, in addition to be slightly worse off in representation, also has an extra 1 million acres. Therefore, Tayside compares slightly unfavourably with Cornwall, although the population of the two areas are roughly the same.
Let us take as another example the area of Cumbria compared with the Grampian area in Scotland. Cumbria has a population of 475,000 and is represented by seven Members of Parliament, whereas the Grampian Region has a population of 453,000 but is represented by only five Members. In that exercise Cumbria, for purposes of representation, is slightly better off with a ratio of 1:68,000 whereas the figure for the Grampian Region is 1:75,000. I also have the figures for the areas of Norfolk and The Border. The figure for Norfolk comes out at approximately at 1:95,000, whereas the figure for The Border is 1: 99,000.
I suggest that Scotland is not treated differently because of any essential "Scottishness". It is not being said "Because of the identity of Scotland, you 377 will be given more Members of Parliament". The formula applies to the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore, it is illusory to say that Scotland has more seats in relation to population than does England.
There are places—Glasgow, for instance—where there is an under-population. I seem to remember that the Newcastle constituency of the now noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, was tiny. I am not complaining about that. These matters can be sorted out at the next Boundary Commission review. All that I am doing is making the point that the same principle applies to Scotland as applies to England. Therefore, to reduce the number of Scottish Members of Parliament because, somehow, my hon. Friends who represent English seats feel that Scotland is getting an unfair advantage, is not an argument based on the facts.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Sproat
That is true, but a number of my hon. Friends have said that it applies before devolution as well. I have also argued that after devolution the voice of the Scottish Office on matters such as taxation, foreign affairs, oil and so on should not be reduced. However, there is a real dilemma here. As I have explained, it is unfair to Scotland or to England once one starts devolving, but that dilemma can be very easily solved. The solution is to retain one Parliament for one country, so that there is no problem about resolving the dilemma.
§ Mr. Raison
On a purely factual point, and not particularly a debating point, is it not a matter of history that the number of Scottish Members of Parliament is laid down by Act of Parliament and that the Scottish seats are not allocated on exactly the same basis as those for Members of Parliament in England?
§ Mr. Sproat
Yes, that is in the Act of Union. That matter has been touched upon. I cannot quote the exact words. However, if one applies commonsense principles to what should dictate the area represented by a Member of Parliament, one finds that England and Scotland are treated very much the same in comparable areas.
378 I thought that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was slightly uncharitable about the new clause. I shall not seek to refute what he said in detail, except to say that for someone who is as much opposed to devolution as he is, I find no difficulty whatever in supporting the new clause.
The hon. Member mentioned the Crowther-Hunt Commission, the Kilbrandon Commission, and so on. I agree that they excited expectations which we are now being asked to fulfil. That was a mistake. But the proposals in the new clause are not for a Speaker's Conference parallel to a Royal Commission which could excite expectations that it would not fulfil. Those expectations would have already been written into the law of the land by the passing of the Bill as an Act. Therefore, having a Speaker's Conference after these proposals have become an Act is quite different from a Royal Commission set up to help to brush aside the SNP or to solve difficulties in Scotland.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Like it or not, something will come out of a Speaker's Conference, otherwise it would be simply a device to be used. People would hope that something would come out of it.
§ Mr. Sproat
I do not agree.
My final point is that I detest the Bill. If passed, it will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. That is my present belief. However, when we are legislating in this place we cannot say "I disagree with this and will have nothing more to do with it." One seeks to put into a Bill what safeguards one can. Therefore, tiny safeguard as it is, having a Speaker's Conference to consider the number of Scottish Members of Parliament here after devolution would be a fall-back. I hope that I have made that clear to hon. Members who think that Scottish representation is unfair. At present, Scottish representation is roughly fair. Therefore, as some kind of small but definite fall-back for those who detest and will fight against the Bill all the way, I shall support the new clause.
§ Mr. Gerry Fowler
I should like to begin on something that is not central to my argument. Over the many years, on and off—and in and out—that I have 379 been a Member of the House of Commons, I have never heard from the Opposition Benches the argument that it is unfair that in this Chamber there should be Ulster Members who should be deciding on English, Scottish and Welsh business. I heard it some years ago from my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), but I have not heard it from the Opposition Benches. The most extreme argument that has occasionally surfaced today—that we cannot have a Scottish Assembly and at the same time Scottish representation on all matters in the House of Commons—is illogical if we accept that it has been proper for more than half a century to have representation from Northern Ireland.
When Mr. Murton was in the Chair at the beginning of today's proceedings, Sir Myer, we began, not surprisingly, with a series of points of order. That has become standard form. If I wish for one thing for the Scottish Assembly, it is that it may avoid our errors. At least today I may claim that I lost my virtue, or even my virginity, because, in all the years that I have been a Member, I have not raised a point of order, though I have sometimes been driven to reply to one. However, I did raise a point of order today. I think now that I got it wrong. I suggested that, if we were to debate New Clause 1, perhaps Mr. Murton's ruling that we could not debate New Clause 14 was wrong. Having heard the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), I am convinced that my argument should have been that if we could not debate New Clause 14, New Clause 1 was out of order too.
I say that for the simple reason that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire concerned himself almost entirely not with the government of Scotland, with which the Long Title of the Bill is concerned, but with the government of England and Wales and of the United Kingdom as a whole. Indeed, he was concerned not even with the good government of England and Wales but with a more conservative government of England and Wales.
The whole burden of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was: how can we reduce representation from Scotland in 380 the House of Commons to make it more likely that we have a Conservative majority in this place? That is a summation of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but those of us who listened to him were in no doubt as to his meaning.
I became a little depressed that we should consider high constitutional matters on the basis of such a low level of argument. Indeed, when the right hon. Gentleman said "It is imperative that we refer this question to a Speaker's Conference, but I cannot reveal to the Committee what argument or evidence I would put to that Speaker's Conference" and simultaneously implied that the only purpose was to secure a reduction in Scottish representation, I was well nigh at the point of despair.
Fortunately, the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire was followed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who analysed the problem with that clarity of which only he is capable—provided that he stays off certain dangerous topics. Today he was at his best. I cannot but agree with him.
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman referred to remarks that I made earlier. Does he agree that, for example, evidence submitted by various parties and others to the Speaker's Conference presently sitting regarding Northern Ireland representation is not public? It is not within the knowledge of the Committee. Therefore, why should it be within the knowledge of the Committee for Scotland?
§ Mr. Fowler
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I was asking him not to publish his evidence but to expound the argument behind his evidence. If he does not know that yet believes that the matter should be submitted to a Speaker's Conference, he is in a most remarkable position. If he does not know the central theme of his evidence, he should not be troubling the Committee for a whole day with a new clause on this theme. The right hon. Member for Down, South made clear—I make no bones about repeating part of his argument—what was wrong with some of the arguments adduced by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire.
381 If we take a theme which has recurred throughout this debate—namely, that Scotland is in any event over-represented, all we can say—and I quote here part of the argument of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire—is that we accept the standard argument that for rural constituencies with sparse populations, constituencies where movement is for geographical reasons difficult and constituencies which are very remote from the House, where access to the House is difficult, we have to have a higher representation for a smaller electorate. That phenomenon is much more common in Scotland as a proportion of the total of Scotland than it is in England, although I know about the overrepresentation of certain Central Glasgow seats and one Central Edinburgh seat.
To that I say only, picking up the argument of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), that once upon a time when I was responsible for devolution I worked with the then right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central, now Lord Glenamara. One day, he said to me "Why are you always so busy with your constituency correspondence? I deal with mine in no time at all". I replied "It so happens that my constituency has an electorate which is four and a half times that of yours". We get these disparities in England too.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will my hon. Friend tell another story about Lord Glenamara? How is it that he was so adamant that he was right about devolution during the six months when he had responsibility for it in the House of Commons, yet when he became Chairman of the North of England Development Council he said "We must watch devolution like a hawk"?
§ Mr. Fowler
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) must answer his own question. It is not my task to regale the Committee with stories about Lord Glenamara, though I know that he is held in great affection in all parts of the Chamber.
I ask right hon. and hon. Members to consider my own county of Salop. The electorate in my constituency is at least one-third greater than that in any other 382 constituency in the county. In one constituency which returns an hon. Member to the Opposition Benches, the electorate is scarcely more than half that in my own constituency. However, I do not complain, because my constituency happens to be geographically the smallest constituency in Salop. We have to balance these factors. If we balance them between Scotland and England, give or take one or two, the representation of Scotland is about right.
We then proceed to the other major argument which has been advanced today—that, if Scotland has devolution, it is imperative that the representation of Scotland in the House should be cut.
This is where the right hon. Member for Down, South analysed the problem very clearly. There are a variety of solutions to the problem. However, in my mind the one which is least acceptable is the notion that we simply cut representation. It rests upon no principle. There is no possible means of determining what is the fraction of otherwise proper representation which would be appropriate.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that in his view numbers should be related to roles. But it is clear that after devolution the role of a Scottish Member in the House of Commons will be exactly the same as that of an English Member as the new clause stands, at least taken in conjunction with the rest of the Bill. The Scottish Member is here to perform exactly the same role, with the right to speak on exactly the same matters and to vote on exactly the same matters. There is no lesser work load for that hon. Member. Therefore, it would be quite unfair, as the amendment suggests, to ensure that he represented on average a much larger constituency. It can be said that his constituency duties—those matters of which we take little account formally in the House—will be so much the less by virtue of the Scottish Assembly. I have some doubt about that. There are many matters that are reserved and not devolved. Not least of these are social security matters, and we know how large a part they play in a Member's postbag and surgery. One of my hon. Friends suggests income tax as another subject with which we have to deal, and he is right.
383 9.45 p.m.
It might be said that housing will not be a Member's responsibility, and that is right. It is not at the moment either, but everyone in this Chamber knows how many housing cases are brought to us, whether or not this subject is our responsibility. I doubt whether the Member's constituency role in that sense will be very much reduced, and I am certain that his constituency role in the social, formal sense will not be reduced at all.
The Member might have a couple of standing reserves, as it were, in the shape of Scottish Assembly Members when he cannot open the women's institute bazaar, but I doubt whether it will be the case that he will not receive the same number of invitations. I do not see the case for saying that his role will be significantly different and that, therefore, the numbers should be reduced.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller
Does my hon. Friend agree that, on the basis of the service creating the demand, the fact that the service was there would make it possible for the Member of Parliament to have more work to do rather than less because there is a whole involvement of other people in the service that is being made?
§ Mr. Fowler
I regret that my hon. Friend might be right, because the experience of us all is that when we reform local government, for example, and seek to make it more efficient, far from reducing the work load on a Member of Parliament it increases it, partly because people do not understand it and partly because they insist on using the Member of Parliament as a quasi court of last appeal. There seems little that we can do about that.
§ Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)
Before my hon. Friend leaves this matter, will he clarify one issue? It has been argued in the Committee that Northern Ireland has consistently been under-represented and that the reason for that is that in the past it had certain devolved powers. Should it not follow, therefore, in principle, that if Scotland is to have certain devolved powers, automatically, in principle that must lead to the same conclusion?
§ Mr. Fowler
That would not follow, in my view at least, because I make no bones about saying that the 1921 settle- 384 ment for Northern Ireland was irrational. Here I follow the right hon. Member for Down, South, who spelt out the history of that proposal.
I see no rhyme or reason in the notion that, if there is a devolved Assembly, representation in the House should be reduced. I hope that the Northern Ireland anomaly will be rectified before too long, whatever the character of the representation that we then receive from Northern Ireland, because I do not want to follow the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire down a covert political road.
The right hon. Member for Down, South was also right in suggesting that the new clause made sense, but only in the context of the new clause that we cannot debate because it has been ruled out of order. Were it the case that, in accordance with the unmentionable New Clause 14, we were to reduce the role of Scottish Members in the House by saying that we should have an "in and out" system, that there would be certain matters upon which they could speak and vote and certain matters upon which they could not speak or vote, it would make sense to say that because their work load had been reduced there should be less representation per number of electors in Scotland than in England. But only in that context would it make sense.
That is precisely the parallel provision that we cannot sensibly advance, for reasons which have been spelt out, not least by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South. It makes no sense to say that we shall have "in and out" Members. That proposal was explicitly rejected by the Kilbrandon Commission. It was rightly rejected by the Kilbrandon Commission. That was partly because of the difficulty of ruling upon what should be purely English and Welsh matters upon which Scottish Members could not vote.
There is a great difficulty. Inevitably, English and Welsh matters will have some spin-off effect on Scottish matters—most conspicuously when concerned with finance. Further, one cannot have sitting in the same House an English and Welsh Government with a majority and a separate and different United Kingdom Government, also with a majority. That makes no sense. If the Government are to be a United Kingdom Government, 385 one cannot tolerate a situation in which they might be subject to regular defeat on English and Welsh matters.
Since the war, there have been only two Parliaments in which there was a United Kingdom Labour Government which was also the majority Government for England and Wales. On one of those occasions it was a tight squeeze. In 1966 there was in England a majority of one, or something of that order. That sort of situation would create repeatedly an unstable Government of the United Kingdom which would be subject to regular defeat in the House of Commons on English and Welsh matters. That is inconceivable.
We must reject the "in and out" system. We must reject the new clause because it makes no sense except upon the basis of an "in and out" system.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am interested in what the hon. Member has to say. He said that there would be instability in the United Kingdom Parliament, but we are at present in a position of instability because the Government cannot command obedient support from their own supporters.
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) should hold his weesht. The corollary would be that if the Government had no majority from their own supporters—from English Members—they would have to seek support from other parties to get their legislation through.
§ Mr. Fowler
I wonder what those other English parties would be. We are excluding the minority parties in the Chamber, with the sole exception of the Liberal Party. We are familiar with having to seek some measure of support from the Liberal Party—but not an extreme measure of support, as we saw recently on the agriculture issue. Surely the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) is not suggesting that where the combined votes of Labour and Liberal Parties from English seats are lower than those of the Conservative Party and yet there is a majority of Labour Members alone in Great Britain, 386 there would be any way of running this Parliament effectively, because there would not. We cannot commit ourselves to a solution which has so much constitutional instability built into it.
What else can we do? The logical answer might be to say that there should be no representation for Scotland in the House of Commons. That would be monstrous because of the reserved functions and the right of Scottish Members to discuss finance, not least the allocation of finance to Scotland. Alternatively, we could decide that we should keep representation as it is. I do not mean that there should be parity with the English because, as I argued earlier, there is no reason for changing to parity.
Let us assume that on an analysis of debates over the past five years one finds that only one-third were relevant to reserved matters. The other two-thirds would be on those matters which are to be devolved to the Assembly. I could see every reason for saying that we should have one-third of Members from Scotland if I were the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire. That would have an element of logic in it. I know perfectly well that he is not going to say that, because he is terrified of the political consequences of saying that in Scotland. The timidity he showed today when he was debating this issue, in coming clean on the true meaning of his proposals, demonstrated just how fearful the Conservative Party is of its future prospects in Scotland. So I know that the right hon. Gentleman will not say that. But what other logical principle will he adduce? Parity is not a logical justification, and he adduced no proportion that is satisfactory. So we come back to maintaining the present representation.
It is well known in the House of Commons that I do not regard the Bill as a satisfactory permanent solution. I regard neither this Bill or the Wales Bill, nor even this Bill, the Wales Bill and some future solution to the problems of Northern Ireland all taken together, as a satisfactory final solution. I believe—I think, together with the right hon. Member for Down, South—that either there is no devolution or it is necessary to look at the problem in the long run on a United Kingdom scale. I do not believe that one has to legislate for the whole of the United Kingdom simultaneously. 387 Knowing the procedure of the House, I would say that to legislate for the whole of the United Kingdom simultaneously would be quite impossible. We cannot get one constitutional measure through in a Session without acute difficulty, let alone a plethora of such measures.
I hope that my right hon. Friends will begin to consider, not least on the basis of this and many other debates on the Bill, what are the long-term consequences. I hope that they will also begin to look at the possibility of devising a system of devolution for the English regions which will make possible a long-term, stable constitutional settlement.
I share the view of some hon. Members on the Opposition side that this settlement by itself will not be stable in the long term. Equally, I believe that it would be singularly unwise to change the representation of Scotland in advance of devolution until we have begun to work out what the long-term settlement might be.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
If the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) wants to know what to do to be logical and sensible about this Bill, I advise him to vote against it on Third Reading. That is about the only thing that it is fit for.
I had not intended to intervene in the debate, and I do so only because I find that I am unable to support New Clause 1, for much the same reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) intends to support it. I do not think that that shows an inherent contradiction between our respective points of view, or even that this is a particularly silly new clause; it merely shows that the clause is an attempt to do the impossible for this Bill—that is, to make more sense of it.
New Clause 14, which was to have been an alternative solution—the "in and out" solution—is unhappily out of order, but we are able to refer to it. The two new clauses propose the two classic solutions to the problem, the "in and out" solution and the solution by way of alteration of representation. Both are unsatisfactory, and both make nonsense of Parliament as we know it.
It is especially true that both new clauses are unsatisfactory if the referendum, should it be required, is confined to 388 Scotland alone. It seems a long time since I first raised as a point of order or a point of debate the fact that the Scotland and Wales Bill and, later, the Scotland Bill, were both wrongly entitled. They are not concerned with the government of Scotland alone. They affect the Government of the entire United Kingdom.
The dilemma in which the Committee finds itself—the fact that New Clause 14 is not in order, the fact that New Clause 1 is not satisfactory—arises because both clauses would be relevant only to a Bill that was called something like "The United Kingdom Constitutional Changes Bill". They are not suitable to a Bill that purports to be concerned entirely with the government of Scotland.
I have no desire to see fewer Scottish MPs in the House. I do not think that it would make much difference one way or the other to the problems and difficulties that devolution and a separate Scottish elected Assembly would bring. Nor do I think that a Speaker's Conference, which would be dealing entirely with the membership of the House of Commons, would have any more agreement in it than we would find if we sought to insert into the Bill provisions altering the membership of this House because of the Scottish Assembly.
As has been made clear in the debate, it is possible intellectually to go for a federal system for the government of the United Kingdom. If the separate parts of a federation are the nations that now go to make up the United Kingdom, the system is likely to be so unbalanced in size as to be unworkable. It is theoretically possible to go for a regional system of federal government in which England is broken up into regions for the purposes of parliamentary democracy. That is what the Liberal Party wants. That is why it will be campaigning in due course in favour of the Bill.
It is perfectly reasonable for Scotland to wish to be a separate country. It is crazy, in my view, for Scotland as well as for the rest of the United Kingdom, but it is at least logical and reasonable to say that the only respectable reason for confining a referendum to Scotland would be if the question were "Do you want to be a separate country or not?" Any 389 other question that may be put in a referendum is one that affects England and Wales as much as it affects Scotland. For that referendum the electorate should be the whole of the United Kingdom. But, as I have said, it is a respectable if unreasonable objective to wish to separate Scotland into a different nation with a different Government, a frontier, and all the rest of it. That is what the Scottish nationalists want. That is why they are campaigning for the Bill. If there is a referendum, that will be the basis on which they will seek support in Scotland.
The Government are in a different position. They do not want a federal system. They do not want separation. Yet they will be campaigning, with the odd bedfellows that they have chosen, in favour of the elected Assembly. I am sorry to say that I do not think that the new clause, admirable attempt thought it may be to improve the ghastly muddle that has been inflicted on the United Kingdom by the Government's desire to appease the Scottish nationalist vote, will be much helped by the new clause. Therefore, I feel that I cannot support it.
But the clause has provided one further occasion for the Committee to demonstrate what is likely to happen should the Bill receive its Third Reading and be agreed by the people of Scotland—that we take a large step down the road to separation. I hope that the Committee and the House will prevent that, for I do not believe that we shall be forgiven by Scotland or any other nation within the United Kingdom if we allow it to go ahead.
§ Mr. Raison
I have a good deal of sympathy with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) has just said, although on balance I come to a different conclusion on the clause.
When the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) was speaking, it suddenly struck me that this was a uniquely long debate, because the Government had mustered no fewer than two supporters. I do not believe that we have ever known that during the course of these devolution debates. When the hon. Gentleman came to his peroration, he, too, revealed that he did not think the Bill was any good. He thought it the best way 390 of passing the time of day until we moved on to something else.
That left the Government with the support of the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray). Alas, he is not here, but I wish to say of his speech that it rather terrified me that he should put forward the doctrine that we should take as a positive principle for the allocation of seats the notion that many special factors should be taken into consideration.
The hon. Gentleman said specifically that we should have over-representation—if I may so describe it—of the inner cities. I entirely accept that the inner cities have great problems that need political and parliamentary action, but if we established that doctrine we should be opening the way to an appalling amount of gerrymandering, and that would not be tolerable.
When the White Paper "Our Changing Democracy" came out, the hon. Member for The Wrekin was the Minister concerned with devolution. That he altogether agreed with that White Paper I rather doubt, in the light of what we heard today. I remind him that it said:Irrespective of any later plans for England or Northern Ireland, devolution must never be seen as conferring unfair advantages on Scotland and Wales.That is, in summary, what this debate has been about.
§ Mr. Gerry Fowler
I should make it clear that I was 101 per cent. in favour of that White Paper. The implication of my closing remarks was simply that I am rather less approbatory of the very wet White Paper on devolution to England which appeared subsequently and for which, I am happy to say, I was in no way responsible.
§ Mr. Raison
The one thing on which I would offer wholehearted congratulations to the Lord President—almost the only good thing he has done—is his recognition that there is no desire in England for regional devolution and his shelving of the whole matter.
The Bill is unquestionably seen as conferring unfair advantages on Scotland and Wales. I know that there is much argument whether its financial provisions confer advantages on England and Wales or on Scotland. We do not know how the block grant system will work. There 391 is a plausible case for saying that the financial provisions will confer disadvantages on Scotland and that it may tend to have a smaller per capita amount of United Kingdom revenue than under the present arrangements.
We cannot be sure about that, but we know beyond any shadow of doubt that in terms of representation in the House this scheme undoubtedly produces unfair advantages for Scotland. At this stage there is no need for me to labour the point. It is evident that the West Lothian argument is of overwhelming force. Whatever anybody says, it cannot be wished away. Even if one advances theoretical arguments for saying that it does not confer unfair advantages—which I do not think one can—there is no doubt that many people will regard it as conferring unfair advantages on Scotland. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) who illustrated this in the course of a speech which, unfortunately, I missed.
Let us consider the point, which has come up time and time again, of what would happen if we had a Labour Government in Westminster which was there because of the support of Scottish Labour Members but with Conservative Members holding the majority of English seats. That is tolerable at present, and we accept it, but it would never be accepted if it were to happen after the Scotland Bill passed into law.
What sort of reaction would there be if we had a Government which abolished independent education, which abolished parental choice in schools, which ended private medicine, which banned the sale of council houses, which municipalised rented housing, which abolished two-tier local government, which further tipped the rate support grant towards the cities, which nationalised agricultural land, and so on. What would be the reaction if all those things were done in England by a Government who were in power only because of the large number of Scottish Labour Members? It would, of course, be regarded as completely and utterly intolerable. I do not think that anyone who has listened to these debates over the last weeks and months could doubt that for one moment.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said in 392 opening the debate, we have no desire on the Conservative side to abolish the present Scottish numerical so-called overrepresentation. I certainly have absolutely no desire to change the present position. I believe that there are perfectly good reasons why there should be more Scottish Members per head of population than there are English Members per head of population. As long as the present dispensation prevails, I accept that. But, if the Scotland Bill goes through, I think that the question is bound to be looked at again, and that is the essential point of the debate that we are having today.
There are, as we know, a number of different problems embedded in this. One answer is to look at the powers of Scottish Members of Parliament under the new dispensation. But, as my right hon. Friend explained very carefully at the beginning of the debate, this does not seem to be possible within the scope of the present Bill. He has therefore come to the conclusion—this is the point at which I part company with my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham—that it is right to say that the question of the size of representation should be referred to a Speaker's Conference.
It does not, of course, fully meet the West Lothian point, and no one has tried during the course of the debate to pretend that it does, because we know that the West Lothian argument is about powers rather than about numbers. But I think we can say that by referring this matter to a Speaker's Conference, with the implication, obviously, that there should be a reduction in the number of Scottish Members if the Scotland Bill were to go through, there might be some kind of amelioration—I put it no higher than that—in the present scheme.
§ Mr. Henderson
I hope that I am not misrepresenting the hon. Gentleman, but is he not aware that the construction which could be placed on his remarks in Scotland is "If you have devolution, we shall punish you by cutting the number of Members in Westminster"?
§ Mr. Raison
I am quite aware that the hon. Gentleman would place that construction upon my remarks, but it is not what I am saying, and he knows it perfectly well.
§ Mr. Raison
Another word might be mitigation There is a problem, as I and others have tried to show. If a Labour Government were to be formed because of the number of Scottish Labour Members, this would have an aggravating effect in any event. If the number of Scottish Labour Members available to help establish a new Labour Government were smaller, there would be some reduction in the problem. I put it no higher than that.
The fundamental problem is about Members of Parliament, and the fundamental truth that has come through in the debate, as in every debate that we have had, is that, although from time to 394 time the Government manage to cobble together a majority for the Bill, the number of hon. Members on either side who in their hearts believe in the Bill is very small indeed.
We have had today from the Scottish National Party, quite honestly and openly, the fact that it thinks that this is a lousy Bill but that it is a stepping stone towards what it wants.
We have heard people like the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who, by and large is a passionate devolutionist, say that he does not think that the Bill is any good. We have heard the hon. Member for The Wrekin say that he does not believe in the Bill. The only person who really believes in it is the marvellous boy on the burning deck—the Minister of State. I congratulate him on his tenacity, but I would point out that he has not got the House of Commons behind him.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Budgen
New Clause 1 has few friends. It has been attacked by many hon. Members as being too vague. Many have said that the Tory Party Front Bench once again is being too vague. But for once I support the concept of vagueness. I believe that an attitude of vagueness is a necessary part of not knowing what opinion in England will be in the event of the devolution Bill being passed.
I suspect that few of us who considered the question of devolution two or three years ago had clearly thought out what has been called the West Lothian question. There may be other hon. Members who have not yet closely considered this question. How are we to anticipate the reaction of the English people to the West Lothian question when they finally come to grasp and consider it? After all, it has taken some 34 days of discussion for many of us to understand the complexities, the difficulties and the irreconcilable paradoxes inherent in any devolution proposal.
Some people argue that the English and Scottish people have been prepared to put up with the West Lothian problem since 1920 in connection with the Irish settlement. I see the Minister of State nodding. I wish to distinguish between the English and Scottish attitude to Northern Ireland representation and that which may occur as the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland begin to appreciate what has happened in Scotland.
First, it must be made clear that the devolution settlement, if that is what it was called, imposed upon Ireland was one which the Unionists in Northern Ireland accepted with the greatest reluctance. It was not a case of grabbing by the Scottish National Party from a craven and frightened Labour Administration. It was a case of a settlement being almost forced upon the people of Northern Ireland.
Also, the number of Members of Parliament in respect of whom the anomaly operated was much smaller in the case of Northern Ireland. There is a world of difference between an anomalous position relating to 12 right hon. and hon. Mem- 396 bers and an anomalous position relating to 71 right hon. and hon. Members.
There is a world of difference also between the conduct of right hon. and hon. Members from Northern Ireland, having Stormont in Northern Ireland and coming to Westminster, and the conduct of the SNP Members when they come to the House of Commons. On the one hand, Northern Ireland Members wish above all to emphasise their equality with other Members of the House. They wish to emphasise the sameness and the unity between Northern Ireland and the remainder of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the whole objective of SNP representatives is to emphasise their differences and their separation. It would be hardly surprising if some English people did not wish to accept them on their own valuation.
The attitude of SNP Members combines an arrogant self-confidence, built upon their belief that the new-found wealth of Scottish oil will give them the power that they crave if they become independent, with a slightly more humble attitude to public expenditure. They are not satisfied with saying that they are wealthy. They want more of the United Kingdom wealth as well. They are not satisfied with having 25 per cent. more public expenditure per head of population. They will want even more.
There is an essential difference in the constitutional settlement which is proposed here and in the character of the political parties which causes us properly to try to reach a distinction between the attitude that English people may adopt towards the 71 hon. Members from Scotland.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
No doubt the hon. Gentleman is aware that there have been only two Scottish budgets, one as a result of 2 million people signing the covenant and one following the Hamilton by-election in 1969. which proved that the people of Scotland paid for what they got.
If the hon. Gentleman is satisfied to reflect that we always get more than our share of one-tenth of unemployment benefits and one-tenth of housing subsidies, he might also reflect on the sort of government that has emanated from this House in recent decades.
§ Mr. Budgen
I reflect that none of my constituents has ever spoken to me about the fact that public expenditure is devoted at a higher level to Scotland than to, for example, Wolverhampton or the Midlands, but they will begin to talk to me about that if the Bill is passed.
It is precisely because we live in the United Kingdom that no responsible politician wishes to try to persuade constituents that there are differences between the amounts of public expenditure in one part of the realm and another.
However, the arrogant and nasty behaviour of the SNP, which is so much to be distinguished from the attitude of the representatives of Northern Ireland, will, I am unhappy to say, give rise to a different attitude throughout England.
The Opposition Front Bench is right to be vague, because this issue has not been properly canvassed among the people of England. We do not know what their attitude will be after the devolution settlement. We wish to deal with the matter on the basis of being generous to our colleagues in Scotland.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
The people of England have no say in this matter. It is up to the people of Scotland and not to the House of Commons or the people in England.
§ Mr. Budgen
The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the people of England may have no say if Scotland goes independent, but as long as we have this unstable devolution settlement, the people of England have a say, notwithstanding the fact that many have not yet woken up to what the devolution settlement proposes.
It is precisely because the people of England are yet asleep that the Opposition Front Bench is right to keep the matter vague. We hope that it will be possible to treat the people of Scotland with the generosity with which they have always been treated and that it will be possible to maintain the situation in which, notwithstanding the devolution settlement, they are over-represented, but we do not know what the position will be and the Tory Party is right to keep its options open.
§ Mr. Brittan
During the debate there has been a certain amount of questioning of the motivation of the new clause proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). There has also been a certain amount of misconstruction.
At the outset I reiterate what my right hon. Friend said—namely, that the clause is not proposed because there is the slightest wish on the part of the Conservative Party to reduce the number of Members of Parliament from Scotland. As we have made clear throughout the debate, we would much prefer to retain the status quo in which the number of Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies is proportionately higher than the number of Members of Parliament representing English constituencies. That is our preferred solution. That is our preferred answer to the issue of Scottish representation. However, it may not be a tenable answer if the Bill is enacted.
It was apparent from the moment that the shape of the Bill become clear that it had implications for the number and role of Scottish Members of Parliament after devolution. We thought it right and essential that those implications should be brought out and debated on the Floor of the House of Commons. It is for that reason that we have proposed the clause.
The only possible way of debating the implications of the number and role of Members of Parliament from Scotland if the Bill is passed was by means of the clause. We should have preferred to make an explicit reference to the role of Members of Parliament from Scotland after devolution legislation had been passed, but for reasons of order that was not possible. The Chair has been kind enough to allow the debate to take place through the back door, as it were, as if we were debating the role of Members of Parliament from Scotland as well as their numbers after a devolution settlement.
I believe that proposing the clause for the purpose of debating those issues is sufficient justification in itself. We are not merely debating them at large. This is not merely a peg on which to hang a debate on the numbers of Members of Parliament from Scotland and the role that they should play after devolution. We 399 go further than that, and I make no apology for our doing so.
We are saying that the Bill in its present form raises not only the questions to which reference has been made but that if it is enacted, which we fervently oppose, certain consequences must flow. For example, there are problems related to the number of Members of Parliament for Scotland and their role. These problems have to be faced. They are not faced in the Bill, and there must be an alternative forum so that they may be faced.
We have put forward a Speaker's Conference as the forum in which these matters may be considered, but there is nothing magical about a Speaker's Conference. It has certain advantages in that it is the most flexible approach. It does not commit the House of Commons to a certain solution to the problems. Whatever the conference recommended, there would be need for legislation afterwards. However, it provides a means of seeking solutions to questions for which we do not have answers.
If those on the Liberal Benches are to criticise us for not having answers to those question, there is a simple response to be made. Why should we have answers to question that are not of our making. If the policy that we favoured were maintained—that is, not going ahead with devolution on this basis—there would be no need for answers to the questions.
However, in face of all the arguments, the Government have insisted on persisting with an unstable and unviable solution by means of legislative devolution within a unitary State. In that way they have posed the problems, but they have not provided the answers. Because they have posed the problems and not provided the answers, the best we can do is to expose the problems and at least provide some forum, mechanism, or means by which the present Government or future Governments will have to face up to finding a solution. I do not believe that a solution will be readily found, and I do not think the Government are entitled to support for this legislation merely by taking the view "We have no answer to these problems at all".
Whatever is the precise effect of this legislation, it is clear that the position of 400 Scottish Members of Parliament will be different if this Bill becomes law. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind) has pointed out that many matters will be left to them to debate and to be involved in, and that is right. But one cannot say that there will be no change in their position at all. We believe that there should be a Speaker's Conference, not because we want to reduce the number of Members from Scotland, but because we believe that if this hybrid, illogical and unstable solution is persisted in the House will be driven to a Speaker's Conference and might as well recognise it now. If the effect of that recognition is to persuade right hon. and hon. Members to throw out the whole Bill, this debate will have served a salutary purpose.
Apart from other considerations, there is the question of the role of Members of Parliament to be considered. The West Lothian question has not been answered. What is the Minister's answer to that question? If there is no answer, let him withdraw the Bill. This is not a peripheral question; it is central to the nature and form of devolution proposed by the Government.
The analogy of Northern Ireland is not the right one, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said. There is a possibility, indeed a probability, that if this solution goes through as the Government would have it, Scottish Members will be determining English education and English housing matters. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire said in opening the debate, the first time that that happens this House will find it to be an unacceptable solution and an equally unacceptable position. The moment that that happens the unsuitability of this proposal will be exposed. No answer has been given to that question.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) sought to give an answer to the question by suggesting an "in and out" solution. That argument was exposed in a most interesting interchange. What was envisaged was that there would be a United Kingdom Government who did not have a majority for English legislation. But the hon. Gentlemen thought that that did not matter and felt that that Government 401 would not have to get through its legislation and would have to make compromises. But the problem is related not only to legislation. There must be a policy on education and housing and a clear Executive recommendation to the House of Commons and an ability by the Executive to get its recommendation through.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am sure that the hon. Gentlemen would not wish to misrepresent my position. I was arguing that the position would be analogous to the situation in the House at present in which the Government do not have a majority in their own party to pass certain legislation and must rely on persuading members of other parties to vote for it if they wish to get it through Parliament.
§ Mr. Brittan
That is not an analogous situation. There might be a situation in which there was no question of the Government having a majority but where they had a majority against them so that there was no basis for a coherent policy at all. That is the difference.
§ Mr. Brittan
The truth of the matter is that so far no answer has been presented to the West Lothian question.
§ Mr. Brittan
If on the thirteenth day of the Committee stage the Minister of State is able to give answers to questions that he has not answered for 13 days, we shall withdraw the new clause, but if he is not able to answer those questions we shall ask our right hon. and hon. Friends to press the new clause to a Division.
§ Mr. John Smith
I do not know why the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) was so anxious not to answer a question from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), who tried throughout the hon. Member's speech to catch his eye. If the hon. and 402 learned Gentleman wishes to ask the question of me, I shall be very glad to answer it.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I shall wait until the Minister has made a complete fool of himself and then take up his invitation.
§ Mr. Smith
I cannot promise to oblige the hon. and learned Gentleman, or even to try to do so, but he has tried to intervene so persistently that I offer my condolences. I give an absolute assurance that if he seeks to intervene during my speech, I shall be glad to give way.
The new clause was moved by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). He told us first—and his speech was amplified in this regard by the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby—that he did not think that there was a case for reducing the number of Scottish Members of Parliament in the present pre-devolution situation. Throughout the debate some of his hon. Friends have disagreed with that. But we seem now to have it crystal clear that the Conservative Party does not see any case for a reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament on the present basis—that is, before devolution is carried through.
I must confess that I was not always entirely clear about that, but I am clear about it now because it has been put forward so clearly—even though the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) differed from that view, perhaps.
§ Mr. Smith
I am glad to hear that the hon. Member does not put that forward. This concept has made great progress during the debate.
The second point—this is where we come to the nub of the new clause—is what would be the situation regarding Scottish representation after devolution? Some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), in a very interesting speech, said that they thought that there was not a case for any reduction. Other hon. Members—more from English constituencies than from Scottish constituencies represented by the Conservative Party—tended to argue that there was a case for reducing the number of Members of the 403 United Kingdom Parliament coming from Scottish constituencies.
Members of the Conservative Front Bench say that they do not know whether there is a case for reducing the number after devolution and that they do not know what the policy should be, so we need, in the words of the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby, an alternative forum. That alternative forum is the Speaker's Conference, into which the Conservatives will go without any idea of what they want to suggest and from which they wish to emerge with an agreed policy for all concerned. It is rather like the constitutional conference idea of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire which he puts forward whenever he is asked for his policy on devolution, because we have two varieties offered at present.
One is non-legislative, non-Executive devolution, on the Douglas-Home lines, as put forward by the hon. Member for Pentlands. I do not think that it amounts to very much by way of devolution, but I can understand the argument for that. The other is that there ought to be a constitutional conference in which all other parties get together to provide a policy for the Conservative Party. I do not know whether that is the most constructive way to go about it.
Before developing the argument fully, and because I may forget to do so, I want to refer to a question put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in regard to a quotation in a speech of mine at a conference on the Labour Party in Scotland when we as a party were discussing the various alternatives to devolution. Frankly, I have changed my mind from the proposition that I advanced then. I shall give the reasons. Perhaps my hon. Friend will understand them more clearly than Opposition Members.
First, on the question of 71 Members of Parliament, it is essential that they be retained post-devolution, for two reasons above all. First, this Parliament will remain the only sovereign Parliament. It will have the override powers as well as the inherent power to legislate. It can change the devolution Act itself. Second, the devolution scheme does not contain tax-raising powers, and the conferring of money on the Scottish Assembly remains 404 a matter for Westminster. I have come to the view that it is right that it should remain a matter for Westminster. But when these two matters—sovereignty and taxation—are reserved at Westminster, I believe that it is right that there should be 71 Members of Parliament.
The role of the Secretary of State post-devolution will be different from his present role. As is known, he is an omnibus Minister with responsibility for a wide range of functions. We propose to retain the Secretary of State, but he will have a more limited role than he has now. He will be concerned with economic matters, agriculture and other matters, such as the police, but not with education, housing, health and some of his present major concerns.
I have come to the conclusion that it is desirable to have a Secretary of State responsible for the decentralised, not devolved, functions that remain. That view was strengthened by the Government's decision to transfer some responsibility for regional development policy from the Department of Industry to the Secretary of State.
From time to time we all change our minds over different aspects. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and I know that to be true. My hon. Friend was right to ask for an explanation. I hope that he finds my explanation, with which he may not agree, at least logical in its development.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I trust that this is a suitable moment at which to take up the generous offer that the Minister made to me to intervene. The fact is that Scotland will have to face a number of brutal realities. Devolution is not just an extra present. People must understand that if they want devolution they will have to forgo the powers that come from here, the number of Members who will go from this place and the tax and other benefits that go to individuals in the United Kingdom. It is utterly dishonest to pretend that the Minister has changed his mind. He must explain to the people of Scotland, if devolution is the roundabout that they choose, the disadvantages that they must accept to obtain the pretended advantages that those on the Scottish National Party Bench and those on the Government Benches imagine they will gain by devolution.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. and learned Gentleman raised a number of issues in that intervention. One was that there had to be some reduction in Westminster representation as the price of devolution. I think that he is the one Scottish Conservative Member today who has made that suggestion. I think that his hon. Friends are not only wiser in argument but more prudent in being reticent in the way that they have put forward the matter. However, he is stating clearly that there should be a reduction in Scottish representation at Westminster.
The only way that we can properly deal with the value of inserting New Clause 1 in the Bill is not to take it on the basis on which it was put forward by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, who suggested that he did not have a view on the numbers or the role of Scottish Members, but, as one Conservative Member said, to take it as implicit in setting up a Speaker's Conference that there would be a suggestion for a reduction in numbers. It is unlikely that a Speaker's Conference would recommend an increase. I suppose that conceivably it might recommend the status quo.
The status quo—71 Members—does not arise from the Boundary Commission's recommendation. It arose because Parliament guaranteed 71 Members for Scotland and the Boundary Commission had to work out the division of constituencies in Scotland on that basis. In order to make sense of the argument, we must approach it on the basis that there is an implication of a reduction. Albeit those on the Conservative Front Bench cannot bring themselves to say that, I think that is at the back of their minds, and certainly it is at the back of other hon. Members' minds. I am glad that the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price), with whom I often disagree, agrees with me on that proposition.
What is the case for a reduction? The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire dipped his sights slightly when he implied that the number of Labour Members from Scotland was a way of imposing Socialism. We should try to argue out this matter and look at it apart from questions of party political considerations. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman meant it seriously. But the important 406 matter to bear in mind is that the Parliament of the United Kingdom remains the sovereign Parliament, and the people of Scotland are as entitled to be represented fully in that Parliament as people in other parts of the United Kingdom.
If there is to be a reduction in the number of Scottish Members in the United Kingdom, it should be done on the basis that Scotland is over-represented, whether or not we have devolution. But if it is done as a consequence of devolution it implies that, because this Parliament does not have day-to-day legislative responsibility for housing, education health and the other matters which are to be devolved, there is less of a case for representation in matters of trade, the economy, the taxation system, industrial relations, employment and the like. I cannot see that it is right to say that, because the range of responsibilities for which the United Kingdom Parliament remains responsible in Scotland is reduced, there should be a reduction in the number of people being represented there when such fundamental and weighty matters at the heart of a political system remain with the United Kingdom Parliament.
I must stress the importance of parliamentary sovereignty. Post-devolution we shall have devolved not sovereignty but powers which will be subject to the continuing sovereignty of Parliament. This Parliament can override decisions of the Scottish Assembly using the constitutional devices which are in the Bill. In those circumstances it seems right that full representation should come to the United Kingdom Parliament from every part of the Kingdom.
The so-called West Lothian question has been asked. It implies that there should be a logical symmetry post-devolution and that every Member of the House of Commons should be responsible for the same things. It is objected that, post-devolution, English Members, because they are Members of the House of Commons, will not be able to vote on Scottish education, housing, health, and so on. It is worth noting that the net result of devolution is that what is lost is that English Members will not be able to vote on Scottish education, housing, health and the like. I do not know how many of them will wish to have a great 407 influence over them, but that is the net effect.
I do not think that logical symmetry, which is what this argument is about, is necessary. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and other hon. Members—though I doubt whether the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby is one of them—argue that, because we cannot have a Parliament in which every hon. Member has the same responsibilities, we can make no change at all. They say, therefore, that devolution is impossible and that we can never have in any circumstances and with any range of powers any legislative devolution because each Member of the House of Commons should have equal responsibilities.
I do not share that view. It seems to be a despairing conclusion that we can never make a constitutional change which involves legislative devolution and giving law-making powers to a body other than the House of Commons simply because of our adherence to what I describe as logical symmetry.
What I find interesting about the views of the right hon. Member for Down, South is that he is saying by implication that there can never be a devolved scheme for Northern Ireland which involves legislative devolution. I do not know whether his colleagues agree with him. I should be slightly surprised if that was the unanimous view of the United Ulster Unionist Members in this Parliament. This House devolved powers to the Stormont Parliament of Northern Ireland for 50 years. It is sometimes argued, and it is argued by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), that the de minimis rule applies to this situation, but let me remind the Committee of the position.
There were 12 Northern Ireland Members—sometimes 13—and they were consistently from one party. They voted consistently that way in the House. Scottish Members do not arrive in this House as particularly Scottish Members. They arrive as Labour, Liberal and SNP Members. What the hon. Member for Aylesbury was driving at was the situation where the party balance in the United Kingdom might be affected by Scottish Members.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
The Minister seemed to be saying that there 408 was nothing wrong in having in the House of Commons Members whose responsibilities were slightly different one from the other. The other day the Lord President of the Council said that it would be wrong if some Members who were on Select Committees had certain information which made them slightly different from other Members. Is not there a contrast between what the Minister is saying and what the Lord President of the Council said?
§ Mr. Smith
I did not hear what the Lord President said, so I am not in a position to compare the two statements. I do not think that there is very much connection between a Select Committee and the serious matter that we are debating—not that Select Committees are not serious. Nor do I think that it helps the discussion to draw false parallels or analogies that will not bear close examination.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
If this proposal goes ahead, the Scottish electorate will be able to get a Scottish education policy, a Scottish housing policy, and so on, by electing a majority of its persuasion to the Scottish Assembly. Does my hon. Friend accept that that is something that will not be open to the English electorate, and that the average excess from Scotland and Wales, minus the Northern Ireland reverse direction trend, in the last four elections has been between 27 and 45 Members? Does he think that that will be borne by the English electorate in perpetuity?
§ Mr. Smith
It is very difficult for me to answer questions on the future political situation in perpetuity; I should not be bold enough to answer on that basis. I find it difficult to predict what will happen in the foreseeable future. However, if, for the purpose of this argument the hon. Gentleman accepts that there is a genuine demand in Scotland for devolution—he disputes that, but I think there is—and if that demand is such that it is consistent with the unity of the United Kingdom and the sovereignty of Parliament, he says that the demand must not be met. He says that there must never be legislative devolution to Scotland because of the need to adhere to the logical symmetry of the present structure of the House of Commons. I think that it is such a conservative, hopeless attitude 409 to say that we can never make constitutional changes that it does not bear close examination.
It is a good debating point to say that everything will not be the same after devolution. I hope not. Devolution will make considerable differences to the constitution of this country. One of the changes is that responsibility for certain Scottish affairs will be transferred to the Assembly, although some important matters that affect Scotland will be retained in the United Kingdom Parliament.
We have made a careful division, as best we can, of the responsibilities between the Assembly and this Parliament, and we have come to the conclusion that the wisest and fairest course is to keep the full Scottish representation at the House of Commons. That is also the wisest course from the point of view of maintaining the unity of the United Kingdom, which ought to be as much the concern of Conservative Members as it genuinely is mine.
§ Mr. Rifkind
In answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) the Minister said that it would be wrong for the Government not to respond to the genuine wish of the majority of the Scottish people for devolution. How will he respond to what might be the genuine wishes of the majority of English people who will resent the idea of Scottish and possibly Welsh Members voting on purely English domestic legislation?
§ Mr. Smith
I do not know whether English people will resent that. Apart from anything else, it is a mistake to talk of Scottish Members voting on things. There are not Scottish and English Members of the House. We are all Members of it, and the whole House votes on certain matters.
I am told that there might be resentment. The background to the argument is that the Tory Party might continue to do badly in Scottish elections. I shall be fair and take into account the Conservatives' prediction. In 1955 is Scotland there were 35 Labour Members, 35 Tory Members and one Liberal Member. The Tory Party believes that it will be the first party in Scotland to get a majority of votes, but the catastropic decline of the Tories to 16 Members is the biggest de- 410 cline for any party in the United Kingdom.
Why did that happen and why might it continue? The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is optimistic. He frequently tells us that the Tory Party is doing particularly well in Scotland. He says that it is on the up. Indeed, he says that it may well win the majority of seats at the next General Election. He has forecast some startling gains. In that situation there is likely to be parity between the parties and therefore no English resentment. The Tory Party must choose between the optimistic view and the pessimistic view. We must try to make the United Kingdom and its constitution work.
I reject the "in and out" system because it is not practical politics in terms of parliamentary responsibility and administration.
I do not accept what my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian and others say. They say that we can never have devolution—not that we cannot have this Bill, but that in no circumstances can we have devolution. They argue that it would be different if there were a federal solution because that would mean that all parts of the United Kingdom would have to express a wish for a federal system. But one part of the United Kingdom does demand devolution. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) says that Parliament will listen when the demand for Assemblies comes from the regions of England. Our judgment is that this will not happen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) argues that because the regions of England do not want to move to a devolved system, as does Scotland, Scotland should not have a change. He says that this must be done at one time. If one part of the United Kingdom wants a change, it is foolish to say that it cannot have it until everywhere else falls into line. My hon. Friend is constitutionally conservative. For a man who is so radical about the procedures of the House of Commons, he has an in-built conservatism in his attitude.
Very few people have spoken in favour of the new clause. Very few have 411 found merit in it. I do not know why the Conservative Party was foolish enough to pick this topic.
§ Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her hon. Majesty's Household)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the clause be read a Second time.
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division—
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (seated and covered)
On a point of order Mr. Murton. I definitely sought to raise a point of order before the Deputy Chief Whip rose to his feet to move the closure, and I am afraid to say—
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (seated and covered)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I rose on a point of order before the Deputy Chief Whip stood up.
§ Why was not my point of order, which was as loud as the one I am now making, and was therefore perfectly audible to the Chair, ignored in favour of the machinations of the Government Front Bench?
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East) (seated and covered)
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Is it not correct that, although the Chair can accept a closure at any time, if a point of order is made prior to a motion of that kind the Chair must give precedence to the point of order?
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (seated and covered)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Murton. I did not hear your reply to my point of order. Is it not the case that when hon. Members make points of order the Chair has the courtesy at least to hear them and to give a reply?
§ The Chairman
The closure takes precedence over anything else that might be happening in the Committee.
§ The Committee having divided: Ayes. 220, Noes 272.413
|Division No. 89]||AYES||[11.00 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph|
|Alison, Michael||Clark, William (Croydon S)||Goodhart, Philip|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Arnold, Tom||Clegg, Walter||Gorst, John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Cockroft, John||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Cope, John||Grieve, Percy|
|Baker, Kenneth||Costain, A. P.||Griffiths, Eldon|
|Banks, Robert||Critchley, Julian||Grylls, Michael|
|Bell, Ronald||Crouch, David||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hannam, John|
|Biffen, John||Drayson, Burnaby||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Durant, Tony||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Blaker, Peter||Dykes, Hugh||Hastings, Stephen|
|Body, Richard||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Elliott, Sir William||Hawkins, Paul|
|Bottomley, Peter||Eyre, Reginald||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fairgrieve, Russell||Hicks, Robert|
|Brittan, Leon||Farr, John||Higgins, Terence L|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Holland, Philip|
|Brooke, Peter||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Hordern, Peter|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fookes, Miss Janet||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Forman, Nigel||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Buck, Antony||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Budgen, Nick||Fox, Marcus||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fry, Peter||Hurd, Douglas|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)|
|Channon, Paul||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Jopling, Michael|
|Churchill W. S.||Glyn, Dr Alan||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Neave, Airey||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Kimball, Marcus||Nelson, Anthony||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Neubert, Michael||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Newton, Tony||Spence, John|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Normanton, Tom||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Nott, John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Knox, David||Onslow, Cranley||Sproat, Iain|
|Lamont, Norman||Page, John (Harrow West)||Stainton, Keith|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Latham, Michael (Melton)||Page, Richard (Workington)||Stanley, John|
|Lawson, Nigel||Pattie, Geoffrey||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Le Marchant, Spencer||Percival, Ian||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Pink, R. Bonner||Stokes, John|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Lloyd, Ian||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Loveridge, John||Prior, Rt Hon James||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Luce, Richard||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Raison, Timothy||Tebbit, Norman|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Rathbone, Tim||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Madel, David||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Trotter, Neville|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Marten, Neil||Rhodes, James R.||Viggers, Peter|
|Mates, Michael||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wakeham, John|
|Mather, Carol||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Maude, Angus||Rifkind, Malcolm||Wall, Patrick|
|Mawby, Ray||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Walters, Dennis|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Wells, John|
|Mills, Peter||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Sainsbury, Tim||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Moate, Roger||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Scott, Nicholas||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Younger, Hon George|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Shepherd, Colin||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Shersby, Michael||Mr. John MacGregor and|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Silvester, Fred||Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.|
|Mudd, David||Sims, Roger|
|Abse, Leo||Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Freud, Clement|
|Allaun, Frank||Concannon, Rt Hon John||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Anderson, Donald||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Corbett, Robin||George, Bruce|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cowans, Harry||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Ashton, Joe||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Ginsburg, David|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Golding, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Crawshaw, Richard||Gould, Bryan|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Cryer, Bob||Graham, Ted|
|Bean, R. E.||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Beith, A. J.||Dalyell, Tam||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Davidson, Arthur||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Davies, Bryan (Enfield W)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil||Hardy, Peter|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Harper, Joseph|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Deakins, Eric||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Boardman, H.||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dempsey, James||Hayman, Mrs Helene|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Doig, Peter||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Dormand, J. D.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bradley, Tom||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hooley, Frank|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dunnett, Jack||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Horam, John|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Eadie, Alex||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Buchan, Norman||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||English, Michael||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Huckfield, Les|
|Campbell, Ian||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Faulds, Andrew||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Carter, Ray||Flannery, Martin||Hunter, Adam|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)|
|Cartwright, John||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Ford, Ben||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Forrester, John||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Janner, Greville|
|Cohen, Stanley||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Coleman, Donald||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|John, Brynmor||Molloy, William||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Molyneaux, James||Snape, Peter|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Moonman, Eric||Spearing, Nigel|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Stallard, A. W.|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Moyle, Roland||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Judd, Frank||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Stoddart, David|
|Kerr, Russell||Newens, Stanley||Strang, Gavin|
|Kilfedder, James||Noble, Mike||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Oakes, Gordon||Surmmerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Lambie, David||Ogden, Eric||Swain, Thomas|
|Lamborn, Harry||O'Halloran, Michael||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Lamond, James||Orbach, Maurice||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Lee, John||Ovenden, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Padley, Walter||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Palmer, Arthur||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Pardoe, John||Tierney, Sydney|
|Lipton, Marcus||Park, George||Tinn, James|
|Litterick, Tom||Parker, John||Tomlinson, John|
|Loyden, Eddie||Parry, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Luard, Evan||Pavitt, Laurie||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Pendry, Tom||Varley. Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Penhaligon, David||Wainwright. Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Perry, Ernest||Walker. Harold (Doncaster)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|McCusker, H.||Price, William (Rugby)||Ward, Michael|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Radice, Giles||Watkins, David|
|McElhone, Frank||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Watkinson, John|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Richardson, Miss Jo||Weetch, Ken|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Weitzman, David|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Robinson, Geoffrey||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Maclennan, Robert||Roderick, Caerwyn||Whitlock, William|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|McNamara, Kevin||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Madden, Max||Rooker, J. W.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Magee, Bryar.||Roper, John||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Rose, Paul B.||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Wilson William (Coventry SE)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Meacher, Michael||Sedgemore, Brian||Woodall, Alec|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Sever, John||Wool, Robert|
|Mendelson, John||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Mikardo, Ian||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C (Dulwich)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mitchell, Austin||Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Alf Bates and|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Mr. James Hamilton|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ It being after Eleven o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again, pursuant to Order [16th November].
§ Committee report Progress: to sit again tomorrow.