HC Deb 01 March 1983 vol 38 cc135-40 3.36 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the election of a Scottish Assembly; to provide for the transfer of legislative and executive powers to the Assembly; and for connected purposes. This Bill would simply re-enact the Scotland Act 1978, with the addition of a provision for limited independent revenue-raising and development powers and the exception of sections 85 and 86 which relate to the referendum.

The sections that dealt with the referendum are redundant, as the referendum has already taken place. It was held exactly four years ago today, and the people of Scotland voted by a majority of 77,435 to implement the Act and set up the assembly.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)


Mr. Home Robertson

The Scottish majority is still waiting for its wishes to be carried out.

A man such as you, Mr. Speaker, who keeps a keen eye on democracy and, above all, on order, might wonder why on earth that referendum victory came to be seen as a defeat. However, Mr. Speaker, you will recall that it was no ordinary referendum. It was held under rules that made it virtually impossible to win, thanks to the 40 per cent. condition that was imposed and contrived by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham).

There has been much excitement recently about the spectacular and, some would say, freakish, by-election in Bermondsey. Indeed, the new hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), whom I congratulate, was said to have won a landslide victory. I have news for him. He had the support of 33 per cent. of the electorate in Bermondsey—exactly the same percentage of Scottish people who voted yes at the referendum. Therefore, according to the criteria that were set out for the referendum by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, the hon. Member for Bermondsey should pack his bags and go home.

The 40 per cent. rule was not the only special feature of that referendum of 1 March 1979. I should like to quote from a statement that was issued by a distinguished former Prime Minister and a resident of my constituency—Lord Home of the Hirsel—who was then said to favour Scottish devolution and the establishment of an assembly in Scotland. He said: I recommend a no vote because I believe that is the only way to ensure that this important matter goes back to Parliament". He continued: The only way we can make sure of that is to have a Speaker's conference, to which the Conservative Party is pledged". You, Mr. Speaker, can confirm that the pledge of a Speaker's conference to be initiated by the Government has not been kept. The amazing fact is that people who were supposedly committed to devolution were urging their supporters to vote no in the referendum.

In the circumstances, it was surprising that the Labour Government won that referendum. Credit should go to several people on the Government side of the House. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) resigned his post as an Opposition Whip to vote for the Scotland Bill 1978. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I received a letter from the hon. Gentleman saying that he would oppose precisely the same provisions in a ten-minute Bill five years later.

What became of all those Tory pledges on devolution? In the event, the Government moved with indecent haste to repeal the 1978 Act. despite the referendum result. Since then, there has been a series of limited and fundamentally cosmetic experiments with the Scottish Grand Committee.

The House has heard much about the West Lothian question. Will the House reflect on the East Lothian question? East Lothian and West Lothian have Labour district councils, a Labour Member of Parliament and a majority of Labour regional councils. Despite the democratically expressed wishes of the people of East Lothian and of Scotland, where 49 out of the 71 constituencies returned Members opposed to the Government, Scotland has a Tory Secretary of State who administers the devolved powers of the Scottish Office as though he were a colonial governor. He can do what he wishes in East Lothian as long as the Government: Whips can deliver the hon. Members for East Grinstead (Sir G. Johnson Smith) and Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) and all points south into the division Lobbies.

I do not wish to make exaggerated claims about what the Scottish assembly could have done against the background of the present demented Government in Whitehall. I shall leave exaggeration to the Scottish National party. A Scottish assembly would have adopted different policies in housing, education, transport, and development that might have protected standards in some of those sectors. The Labour party would not squander educational resources on the assisted places scheme. An Assembly would probably have done away with two-tier local government in Scotland, which should be applauded by almost everybody. Those are some of the valuable benefits and safeguards that Scotland would have had, had it not been cheated out of its assembly.

Apart from such short-term political considerations, we could have begun to come to grips with some of the underlying constitutional problems that are inherent in the present position, where administrative and executive devolution are in the hands of the Scottish Office but no democratic devolution goes with it. How many people realise that Scottish Members of Parliament have 10 times less opportunity to put oral questions to the Ministers responsible for Scottish affairs than other hon. Members have to question their Ministers? Scottish Members of Parliament face the farce of competing in the wee sma' hours for time to deal with Scottish legislation in the House.

Sooner or later, Scotland will achieve the home rule that it needs and deserves within the United Kingdom. That is Labour party policy and it will be a priority for the next Labour Government. The Labour party in Scotland and the STUC agreed last year on a document that committed the entire movement to campaign for devolution as a major priority irrespective of which party is in office. There has been some interesting speculation in the press about what that might mean. There has been some fanciful stuff about boycotting the House. The Labour party in Scotland will not play into the hands of its opponents or neglect its duty to the people that it represents by boycotting anything.

I can visualise circumstances in which hon. Members would have to make more use of the procedures of the House than might otherwise be necessary to persuade a Government of the importance and high merit of some home rule for Scotland. The people of Scotland have had their say and the case for democratic devolution is overwhelming. One way or another, Scotland will get its assembly. The House could save itself some time and aggravation in future years if it passed without further ado the Bill that I seek leave to introduce.

3.46 pm
Mr. John Corrie (Bute and North Ayrshire)

I oppose the Bill. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) chided me for being a supporter of devolution, but I oppose the Bill. I remind the hon. Gentleman that on Second Reading of the original Scotland Bill, I voted for the principle of devolution. On Third Reading I voted against the Bill. I have no conscience—[Interruption.]—about opposing this Bill. I should have thought that he would have learnt that, by not delivering last time, he could not deliver on this occasion. The message that should go from the House today is that the Labour party wishes to increase government and taxation in Scotland by having an assembly with tax-raising powers. That is a recipe, as it was before, for confusion and confrontation. A Labour-dominated assembly—that would probably be the case—would dole out money to the regions and districts and then come cap in hand to Westminster to a Conservative Government asking for more. That is bound to be a recipe for disaster not only for Scotland but for the rest of the United Kingdom.

Only last week, some Labour Members suggested that there would be non-co-operation in the House if the Government, as they will, win the next election. I am glad to know that whoever said that agrees that the Conservative party will win the next election. However, if there was a directly elected assembly in Edinburgh with a Labour majority there would be more confrontation if its members decided not to co-operate with the Westminster Government. It would guarantee a great drive in Scotland for independence, because the people would be frustrated about what was happening.

Why did the hon. Gentleman introduce the Bill today? He is not naive enough to imagine that the House would allow a ten-minute Bill to go through on a major constitutional issue without a Division. To suggest that a ten-minute Bill can get anywhere in the House at this time in the Session is to deceive the Scottish people. Tomorrow's headlines would have read "Westminster gives unopposed Second Reading to home rule Bill with tax-raising powers". I am determined that that will not be the case.

If the Labour party ever wins another election, it cannot pass that legislation because there is insufficient agreement within any party in the House or among the parties to fulfil such a promise. What has happened to the great plan brought forward by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) to examine English regions and to try to decentralise power? Has that been dropped in favour of the home rule Bill?

What will the SDP and the Liberal Members do when the Division comes? Will they sit on their hands?

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

Tell us about your plans.

Mr. Corrie

The hon. Gentleman said, "Tell us about your plans". I am glad that he agrees that the Conservative party will win the next election. I hope that when the time comes we do not have a plan. Does the declaration still stand for the SDP, or, as the Liberal party has said, is the SDP in danger of deceiving the electorate about its commitment to an assembly in Scotland? Have we learnt nothing from this fiasco for devolution for Scotland? How will Liberal Members vote today?

There is now only one choice for the Scottish people, and that is to stay part of the United Kingdom, with its Members in this House, or to have complete separation. The people of Scotland do not want separation. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on introducing this Bill because it gives the House the opportunity to do what it did with the previous Bill—to consign it to the dustbin where it belongs. I ask hon. Members from all parties to join me in the Lobby in voting against this Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 185.

Division No. 81] [3.50 pm
Alton, David Freud, Clement
Anderson, Donald Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Ginsburg, David
Ashton, Joe Gourlay, Harry
Atkinson, H.(H'gey,) Graham, Ted
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Beith, A. J. Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hardy, Peter
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bidwell, Sydney Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Haynes, Frank
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bradley, Tom Home Robertson, John
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Homewood, William
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S) Hooley, Frank
Buchan, Norman Howells, Geraint
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Hoyle, Douglas
Campbell-Savours, Dale Huckfield, Les
Canavan, Dennis Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Simon (Bermondsey)
Cartwright, John Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Clarke,Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Coleman, Donald Kerr, Russell
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Lambie, David
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Leighton, Ronald
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Cryer, Bob Litherland, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) McCartney, Hugh
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Dewar, Donald McElhone, Mrs Helen
Dobson, Frank McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Dormand, Jack McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Douglas, Dick McKelvey, William
Dubs, Alfred MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Duffy, A. E. P. Maclennan, Robert
Eadie, Alex McNally, Thomas
Eastham, Ken McNamara, Kevin
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) McQuade, John
English, Michael McTaggart, Robert
Faulds, Andrew Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)
Fitt, Gerard Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Flannery, Martin Maynard, Miss Joan
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Meacher, Michael
Foster, Derek Mikardo, Ian
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Miller, DrM S (E Kilbride) Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Silverman, Julius
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe) Skinner, Dennis
Morns, Rt Hon C (O'shaw) Smith, Rt Hon J (N Lanark)
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Spellar, John Francis (B'ham)
Morton, George Spriggs, Leslie
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Steel, Rt Hon David
O'Halloran, Michael Strang, Gavin
O'Neill, Martin Straw, Jack
Park, George Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Parry, Robert Thomas, Dr R (Carmarthen)
Pavitt, Laurie Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Penhaligon, David Torney, Tom
Pitt, William Henry Varley, Rt Hon Eric G
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Wainwright, E (Dearne V)
Race, Reg Wainwright, R (Colne V)
Radice, Giles Welsh, Michael
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Whitehead, Phillip
Richardson Jo Whitlock, William
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, Rt Hon Mrs(Crosby)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Winnick, David
Robertson, George Woolmer, Kenneth
Roper, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Sandelson, Neville Tellers for the Ayes
Sheerman, Barry Mr George Foulkes and
Sheldon, Rt Hon R Mr John Maxton
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Adley, Robert Clegg, Sir Walter
Alexander, Richard Cockeram, Eric
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cope, John
Ancram, Michael Costain, Sir Albert
Arnold, Tom Cranborne, Viscount
Atkins, Rt Hon H (S'thorne) Critchley, Julian
Atkins, Roben(Preston N) Crouch, David
Atkinson, David (B'm th,E) Dickens, Geoffrey
Baker, Kenneth(St M'bone) Dorrell, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Dover, Denshore
Benyon, W (Buckingham) Durant, Tony
Berry Hon Anthony Eggar, Tim
Biffen, Rt Hon John Elliott, Sir William
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Emery, Sir Peter
Blackburn, John Eyre, Reginald
Blaker, Peter Fairgneve, Sir Russell
Body, Richard Faith, Mrs Sheila
Boscawen, Hon Robert Farr, John
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Finsberg, Geoffrey
Braine, Sir Bernard Fisher, Sir Nigel
Bnttan, Rt Hon Leon Fletcher, A (Ed'nb'gh N)
Brooke, Hon Peter Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n) Fookes, Miss Janet
Bruce-Gardyne, John Forman, Nigel
Buck, Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Budgen, Nick Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Butcher, John Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Chapman, Sydney Glyn, Dr Alan
Clark, Hon A (Plym'th, S'n) Goodhew, Sir Victor
Clark, Sir W (Croydon S) Goodlad, Alastair
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Gow, Ian
Grant, Sir Anthony Murphy, Christopher
Gray, Rt Hon Hamish Myles, David
Greenway, Harry Neale, Gerrard
Grieve, Percy Nelson, Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Neubert, Michael
Hamilton, Hon A. Newton, Tony
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Onslow, Cranley
Hannam, John Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hawkins, Sir Paul Pawsey, James
Hayhoe, Barney Percival, Sir Ian
Heddle, John Pollock, Alexander
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Rathbone, Tim
Hill, James Renton, Tim
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Rhodes James, Robert
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Rossi, Hugh
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Rost, Peter
Hunt, David (Wirral) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Jessel, Toby Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Short, Mrs Renée
Kaberry, Sir Donald Sims, Roger
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
King, Rt Hon Tom Speller, Tony
Knight, Mrs Jill Spence, John
Lang, Ian Sproat, Iain
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Squire, Robin
Lee, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Le Marchant, Spencer Stanley, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Stevens, Martin
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)
Luce, Richard Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
McCrindle, Robert Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Macfarlane, Neil Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
MacGregor, John Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
MacKay, John (Argyll) Thompson, Donald
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Thornton, Malcolm
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Townend, John (Bridlington)
McQuarrie, Albert van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Major, John Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Marland, Paul Wakeham, John
Marlow, Antony Walker, B. (Perth)
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Waller, Gary
Mather, Carol Warren, Kenneth
Mawby, Ray Watson, John
Mayhew, Patrick Wells, Bowen
Mellor, David Wells, John (Maidstone)
Meyer, Sir Anthony White, Frank R.
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Whitney, Raymond
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Wiggin, Jerry
Moate, Roger Young, Sir George (Acton)
Monro, Sir Hector
Moore, John Tellers for the Noes:
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Mr. John Corrie and
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Mr. Barry Henderson.
Mudd, David

Question accordingly negatived.