HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc404-5
3. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will arrange to meet representatives of the Scottish Constitutional Convention to discuss their proposals for a Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Lang

A meeting with the Scottish Constitutional Convention would serve no useful purpose since its proposals, which I have considered carefully, are irrelevant to the basic concerns of the Scottish people and unlikely to be of benefit to Scotland.

Mr. Canavan

Why is it that the Secretary of State for Wales is prepared to discuss the possibility of a Welsh Assembly and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is prepared to discuss the possibility of a Northern Ireland Parliament, yet the Secretary of State for Scotland refuses even to discuss with the convention its proposals for a Scottish Parliament? Does he not realise that unless he responds positively to the overwhelming wishes of the people of Scotland before the next general election, he may, after that election, join the likes of Mr. Graeme Souness looking for another job in England?

Mr. Lang

I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales would not contemplate a tax-raising Welsh assembly any more than I would contemplate a tax-raising Scottish assembly. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Scottish division of the Institute of Directors whose views have been characterised as: If such an assembly were set up with these powers, we would move company headquarters out of Scotland.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having nothing to do with the Scottish Constitutional Convention? It is organised by church men and freaks who, if they had paid some attention to their calling, might not have empty churches. If Scotland were treated to the sort of things that they want, they would empty our nation of its people as they have emptied their churches of congregations.

Mr. Lang

My hon. and learned Friend makes his point in his inimitable way. The Scottish Constitutional Convention is certainly a self-appointed and self-designated body and has been described as the Labour party at prayer. Certainly, the Liberal party went along for the ride and ended up being taken for a ride. The Scottish Constitutional Convention does not speak for Scotland and has produced nothing of any relevance to Scotland's future.

Mr. Salmond

If the constitutional convention were prepared to return to its founding document, "A claim of right" and put the matter of constitutional change directly to the Scottish people in a referendum, would the Secretary of State have the guts to put his proposals to the people in the referendum? What is the argument against having a referendum putting the choice of independence, devolution and the status quo, and letting the Scottish people decide?

Mr. Lang

At least I have in common with the hon. Gentleman that neither he nor I have been interested in taking part in the Scottish Constitutional Convention—I, because I believe that it goes too far in nationalism, and he, presumably, because he believes that it does not go far enough. It is not a representative body, it has produced no realistic proposals and it has addressed none of the fundamental issues affecting the constitutional future of Scotland.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Scottish Constitutional Convention spent months talking, yet failed to address the Goschen Barnett formula, the West Lothian question and the number of Scottish Members of this Parliament? Because of that, any proposals from that source would have no hope whatever of getting through Parliament to be implemented and, therefore, they are fraudulent and flawed.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All the proposals emerging from the Opposition for tax-raising Scottish assemblies would be immensely damaging to the future of Scotland. They would drive away inward investment, destroy investment at home, damage the future prospects of economic growth and destroy jobs.