HC Deb 05 March 1985 vol 74 cc788-92

4.8 pm

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish a democratically elected Scottish Assembly with legislative and administrative powers to deal with all matters at present administered by the Secretary of State for Scotland and those powers of the Secretary of State for Education and Science in so far as they apply to Scotland; such Assembly to have tax raising powers; and for connected purposes. We live in a centralised state—a state in which all legislative power is concentrated here and practically all genuine administrative power is concentrated in the Government of the day. The process of centralisation has been accelerated and the situation made worse by the present Government through their policies on local government.

It has always been my view and the view of the Labour party in Scotland that the establishment of a Scottish assembly would be the first step towards a more decentralised state in which decisions were taken by people locally. If other areas of the country seek assemblies similar to that which I seek to establish in Scotland, with exactly the same powers, including tax raising powers, I believe that they should be granted such assemblies. I and my colleagues would support such a move.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) moved a similar Bill last week because this is the sixth anniversary of the referendum on an assembly in Scotland. He observed that 52 per cent. of those who voted in the referendum voted in favour of establishing an assembly. The assembly was lost only because of the iniquitous 40 per cent. rule. The Scottish National party voted with the Conservatives to bring the Labour Government down, the Conservatives were returned and they quickly forgot the promises that they made in their election manifestos of 1970, 1974 and during the referendum campaign. Lord Home of the Hirsel said that he would urge the introduction of a Bill to give more power to a Scottish assembly.

It is right for us to raise the issue of devolution at this time of year to show that it is not dead. Anyone who watched Scottish television, read the Scottish press or listened to Scottish radio last week would have been convinced that the issue is far from dead. Indeed, interest in devolution is growing. If the House continues to ignore the legitimate demands of the Scottish people, it will do so at its long-term peril.

We are celebrating the anniversary of the referendum and the centenary of the establishment of the Secretary of State for Scotland, or rather the Secretary for Scotland as the office was known when it was established in 1885. The Secretary for Scotland and about 10 others ran what was known as the Scotch Office. During the past 100 years, the Secretary of State has gradually acquired powers. In 1892, he became a member of the Cabinet, and it was 1927 before he became a Secretary of State, although even then he was paid less than other Secretaries of State. Since then Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State and Ministers of State have been added. In 1939, the headquarters of the Scottish Office was moved to Edinburgh — by a Conservative Government. The Scottish Office has gradually acquired powers from other Departments and now has 10,000 civil servants. All of those powers have been given grudgingly. It would be fitting to add the democratic element this year. That would give the Scottish people the right to control their own affairs.

The present Secretary of State is not elected by the Scottish people. His party has only 21 seats out of a possible 72 in Scotland. He runs an enormous administration without a mandate from the people of Scotland. I am not suggesting that the Government have no mandate. The people of Scotland have been denied their democratic rights for too long.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)


Mr. Maxton

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be more prepared to listen to a quotation: I would never adopt the view that Scotland should be forced into the serfdom of socialism as a result of a vote in the House of Commons". That was said by Mr. Winston Churchill in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh during the 1950 general election campaign. It is a complete denial of the argument that Parliament is sovereign over the affairs of Scotland. If it was right for Mr. Churchill to say that in 1950, it must be even more right for the Scottish people to say that the tyranny of Thatcherism should not be imposed on Scotland by votes in this House.

You know the procedures of the House, Mr. Speaker. Practically only Scottish Members speak on Scottish Bills, comprise the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, the Scottish Grand Committee and Standing Committees on Scottish matters. Yet legislation peculiar to Scotland is carried by a majority, which includes hon. Members who come from elsewhere in the United Kingdom. There must be a Conservative majority in Standing Committees on Scottish legislation, so it is impossible for the Government to get through more than one Scottish Bill at a time as they have insufficient Scottish Back Benchers to man more than one Committee. That process is undemocratic.

There is already much devolution to Scotland. We should continue that process by establishing an elected assembly to consider matters peculiar to Scotland. The logical conclusion of the argument of Conservative Members who are shaking their heads is not to continue with the status quo but to abolish the Scottish Office and disperse its powers to other Departments. My Bill is the best way forward for democratic control of Scottish affairs.

4.18 pm
Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Durham)


Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to oppose the Bill?

Mr. Hughes

Am I allowed to register a case for abstention?

Mr. Speaker

Unless the hon. Gentleman is opposing the Bill, I cannot call him.

Mr. Hughes

In that case, I should like formally to oppose the Bill—with deep regret, because I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has said regarding Scotland. However, if such provision is not made available to the north-east of England, the north-west of England and Wales, enabling them to have an adequate status in the realm, I cannot support the Bill.

I have every sympathy with the desires of Scotland to have an elected assembly with tax-raising powers.

We in the northern region have an equal preponderance of Labour Members over Tory Members to that in Scotland, and we should like to look after our own affairs. All the regions need devolution from Whitehall. If we support this Bill, we run the risk that we remain disadvantaged for a decade or more. That is why I and many of my hon. Friends from the north-east were reluctant to support devolution under the Labour Government. Therefore, with deep regret, while I shall not divide the House on the Bill, if it is forced to a Division I shall abstain.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business): —

The House divided: Ayes 95, Noes 169.

Division No. 138] [4.20 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Howells, Geraint
Alton, David Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter John, Brynmor
Ashdown, Paddy Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Kennedy, Charles
Ashton, Joe King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Beith, A. J. Lambie, David
Benn, Tony Lamond, James
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bermingham, Gerald Loyden, Edward
Bidwell, Sydney McCartney, Hugh
Boyes, Roland McGuire, Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) McKelvey, William
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Bruce, Malcolm Maclennan, Robert
Buchan, Norman McTaggart, Robert
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Madden, Max
Campbell-Savours, Dale Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Maxton, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Meadowcroft, Michael
Cartwright, John Michie, William
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Clarke, Thomas Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) O'Neill, Martin
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Parry, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Patchett, Terry
Deakins, Eric Penhaligon, David
Dewar, Donald Richardson, Ms Jo
Eadie, Alex Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Robertson, George
Fatchett, Derek Sedgemore, Brian
Faulds, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
Fisher, Mark Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Skinner, Dennis
Foulkes, George Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Strang, Gavin
Freud, Clement Straw, Jack
George, Bruce Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Godman, Dr Norman Torney, Tom
Golding, John Wainwright, R.
Gould, Bryan Wallace, James
Gourlay, Harry Weetch, Ken
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Wigley, Dafydd
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Hardy, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Harman, Ms Harriet Mr. Dennis Canavan and
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Mr. Dick Douglas.
Home Robertson, John
Alexander, Richard Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Ancram, Michael Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Best, Keith
Biffen, Rt Hon John Freeman, Roger
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Blackburn, John Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Body, Richard Garel-Jones, Tristan
Boscawen, Hon Robert Glyn, Dr Alan
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Greenway, Harry
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gregory, Conal
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Ground, Patrick
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Grylls, Michael
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Budgen, Nick Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burt, Alistair Hargreaves, Kenneth
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Harris, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Haselhurst, Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hayes, J.
Chapman, Sydney Hayhoe, Barney
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hayward, Robert
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Henderson, Barry
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Cockeram, Eric Hirst, Michael
Coombs, Simon Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cope, John Holt, Richard
Corrie, John Hordern, Peter
Couchman, James Howard, Michael
Cowans, Harry Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cranborne, Viscount Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Crouch, David Jessel, Toby
Dixon, Donald Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dunn, Robert Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Durant, Tony Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lamont, Norman
Fallon, Michael Lang, Ian
Farr, Sir John Lawler, Geoffrey
Favell, Anthony Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lee, John (Pendle)
Fookes, Miss Janet Lester, Jim
Forrester, John Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Forth, Eric Lightbown, David
Fox, Marcus Lilley, Peter
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Ryder, Richard
Lord, Michael Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
McCrindle, Robert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Maclean, David John Spencer, Derek
Major, John Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Malone, Gerald Squire, Robin
Marland, Paul Stanbrook, Ivor
Marlow, Antony Stern, Michael
Mates, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mather, Carol Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Maude, Hon Francis Stradling Thomas, J.
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Merchant, Piers Terlezki, Stefan
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Monro, Sir Hector Thurnham, Peter
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Tinn, James
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Moynihan, Hon C. Tracey, Richard
Murphy, Christopher Twinn, Dr Ian
Neubert, Michael Viggers, Peter
Onslow, Cranley Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn) Walden, George
Pawsey, James Warren, Kenneth
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Whitfield, John
Pike, Peter Whitney, Raymond
Pollock, Alexander Wiggin, Jerry
Portillo, Michael Wood, Timothy
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Yeo, Tim
Powley, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Price, Sir David Younger, Rt Hon George
Proctor, K. Harvey
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Tellers for the Noes:
Renton, Tim Mr. Bill Walker and
Rhodes James, Robert Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.

Question accordingly negatived.