HC Deb 19 June 1991 vol 193 cc277-9
3. Mr. Bill Walker

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had about the governance of Scotland and about local government reorganisation; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

A range of representations has been received about the governance of Scotland and local government reorganisation.

Mr. Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that the representations that he has received from the constitutional convention are flawed and fraudulent? They fail to deal with the Goschen-Barnett formula, the number of Scottish Members of Parliament and the West Lothian question. Is not that a guarantee for disharmony, disunity and conflict throughout the United Kingdom as stated by the Leader of the Opposition? Is not it about time that we received some information from the Leader of the Opposition about the governance of Scotland and the United Kingdom?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend, as always, speaks with great common sense and wisdom on the subject. However, I believe that the Scottish Constitutional Convention has folded its tents and slipped quietly away into the night. On my hon. Friend's specific question on representations, I can tell the House, and I will be confirming it in a written answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) today, that in the past six months we have received one petition and a large number of letters and postcards. The petition was in favour of devolution as were 14 of the letters and postcards, 10 were in favour of separation and 222 were against devolution.

Mr. Galloway

Can the deputy governor explain why the Government are prepared to turn the world upside down in order to put talks together in Northern Ireland about devolution of power to the people there? Why is devolution good enough for the people of Ulster, but not good enough, or too good, for the people of Scotland? The House deserves an explanation.

Mr. Stewart

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should advertise too much his views on the Irish question, but Northern Ireland involves a very different set of circumstances from Scotland. The hon. Gentleman is perhaps the second most major and influential figure in the Labour party in the west of Scotland. It is a close-run thing between him and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). I was therefore interested to see the comments of the hon. Member for Hillhead in The Sun on 7 June on the sacking of Mr. Jimmy Allison when he said—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the Minister, but is it relevant to the question?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, it is relevant because it shows the kind of Scotland that the hon. Member for Hillhead's party is aiming towards. He said: It was Clydeside versus Kelvinside. Pints of beer against glasses of dry white wine. That is the new Labour party, is it—glasses of dry white wine in Kelvinside?

Mr. Ian Bruce

Has my hon. Friend had any representations about the size of Scottish constituencies? I know that all right hon. and hon. Members want to ensure that we get value for money and, as hon. Members from Scotland represent a far lower number of constituents than those from elsewhere in the United Kingdom, is not it time that we had some boundary reviews and reduced the number of Scottish Members of Parliament in the House?

Mr. Stewart

I have had no such representations and such matters are for the boundary commission. But my hon. Friend is right to raise that question in relation to devolution. I refer him to an academic study, the Strathclyde papers on government and politics, No. 78, which pointed out that the Scottish Constitutional Convention had completely failed to face up to the West Lothian question to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) referred, and had completely failed to face up to the implications of devolution for the House of Commons.

Mr. Sillars

Do not the Scottish people deserve a better discussion about their future than the comic-cuts exchange here this afternoon? Will the Minister consider whether it is sensible for the Scottish people to opt for the best form of government within the EC—that is, to be represented by themselves as are the people of Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg, which is presently the President of the EC with a population smaller than that of Edinburgh?

Mr. Stewart

I completely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. However, I congratulate him on the excellent speech that he made in the House on a Friday recently when he completely tore apart the proposals by the Scottish Constitutional Convention. The Government believe in the Union and in the United Kingdom and believe that that is the best constitutional arrangement for the people of Scotland as it is for the people of the other countries that make up the United Kingdom.

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