HC Deb 07 February 1994 vol 237 cc29-72

4.5 pm

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

I beg to move, That this House notes the undemocratic influence and power of transnational and multinational companies in the economic life of Scotland and the deliberate erosion of the rights of Scottish workers by the imposition of legal shackles on trade unions and on their ability to defend workers' living standards by industrial action and collective strength; further notes the weakening of democratic life in Scotland by the centralisation of power and decision-making in unelected quangos, such as the Scottish Enterprise network of companies, Scottish Homes and NHS trusts; condemns the dismantling of local government democracy proposed in the Local Government Etc. (Scotland) Bill currently before the House; censures the Government for the continuing denial of a directly-elected Scottish Parliament, for which huge majorities of Scottish electors have voted in successive elections; recognises that the future of Scottish democracy depends upon giving effect to the sovereign right of the Scottish people to decide for themselves how and by whom they are governed; and therefore calls for the holding of a multi-option referendum in which people living in Scotland can decide democratically the form of government best suited to their needs. I welcome at least four of Scotland's five Tory Back-Bench Members to the debate and I am delighted that they are taking such an interest in the future of Scottish democracy. If the debate serves no other purpose than to instruct the Scottish Tories on the Conservative Benches, it will have been very useful.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

I find the hon. Gentleman's words puzzling. Scottish Tory Members have a very good record of attending Scottish Grand Committees and the like. I do not understand the point that he is trying to make. Perhaps he could clarify the matter.

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Member would have done better to wait to hear what I was going to say before making that intervention. If he is more patient and allows me to develop even one line of my argument, he might get on better in this debate.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McAllion

We seem to have evidence that Conservative Members are organising a filibuster before I can even start the debate.

Mr. Bill Walker

I am responding to the hon. Gentleman's comments about the number of Scottish Conservative Members present. Perhaps he would care to look behind him and along the Opposition Benches and note the number of hon. Members supporting him.

Mr. McAllion

If the hon. Member had listened, he would have heard me welcoming the large presence of Scottish Tory Back-Benchers. I am delighted to see them here and I hope that they will listen attentively as they may learn something, which may not merely be in their interests, but will be of benefit to their constituents for whom I am much more concerned.

For the third time, may I begin by saying that the debate focuses on two related questions. The first is what has become known in Scotland as the national question—the right of Scotland to self-determination and self-government. The second question is that of democracy and the idea that in a nation—no one in the House can deny that Scotland is a nation—the people must not merely have their say, but have their way. Those two questions are completely inseparable. In the words of the song, You can't have one without the other. The reality to date is that Scotland does not have self-government and cannot be described as a democracy. I do not say that merely through personal convictions because such convictions are not always in touch with reality, as membership of the House should prove to any hon. Member. I say so because the Scottish people voted overwhelmingly—by three to one—in a democratic election to assert their sovereignty and to set up their own parliament in Scotland. The fact that they are still being denied that parliament nearly two years on by a Government for whom they did not vote makes a mockery of the Government's claim to be democratic. As the Government are sustained in office by this House, it also makes a mockery of its claim to be democratic. Indeed, it makes a mockery of its claim to be the mother of western democracies.

I therefore make no apology for raising the question of Scottish democracy in this debate, although I know that many people, including many Scots, will be deeply suspicious of the nationalist side of the debate. After a weekend when we witnessed the worst excesses of nationalism—when taken to its ethnic extremes—in Sarajevo, I can understand why people might think that way. They are right to feel a general and deep unease about those who beat the nationalist drum and who, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), think with their blood.

We are learning to our great cost in Europe today just how evil extreme nationalism can be, not only in the nationalist wars in Yugoslavia, but the resurgent nationalism in Germany, which is reviving racism and even nazism there, as well as the election in this country of an extreme British nationalist, against a background of rising racist attacks on Asian minorities in our cities, often by people who wrap themselves in the Union Jack and claim to be British nationalists. In Scotland, there is the disturbing emergence of Scotland Watch and Settler Watch. It does not matter whether they do it consciously or otherwise; they are stoking the fires of anti-English sentiment and resentment in our country.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that there can be no toleration of the kind of nationalism that defines us by emphasising the difference between us and them. There should be no tolerance in the House for those who attempt to define us in Scotland by emphasising the difference between us and English Members who represent other constituencies. If I refer to Scotland, the Scottish nation or Scottish people, I am simply referring to those who have chosen to settle and live in Scotland, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or national background.

As a direct descendant of immigrants to Scotland from Ireland in the previous century, I recognise more than most that Scottish culture is not threatened in any sense by immigration from outside. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. It is greatly enriched and strengthened by immigrants from other countries. The Scottish author, William McIlvanney, never said a truer word when he said that the Scots are a mongrel people and all the better for it.

Long may we continue to be a mongrel people, because our mongrel nature is one of our great national strengths. Having said that, we are none the less a nation. The right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) described Scotland as one of the oldest historic nations in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman is not only one of the most experienced, but one of the wisest Members of the House. His words should be listened to.

We should never lose sight, especially in the Opposition, of the positive side of our nationalism and that of other countries. For example, few socialists would quarrel with the aspiration of the Palestinian people to national self-determination. Even fewer did not or would not support the nationalist struggles in Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua and elsewhere in the third world against the domination by American imperialism. Few hon. Members, on both sides of the House, would not accept the legitimacy of the nationalist goal of a united Ireland, so long as it is pursued by democratic means and is brought about by the democratic consent of the people north and south in Ireland.

The point that I am trying to make is that nationalism can be, and often is, a progressive and liberating force in the modern world. I believe that Scottish nationalism is and can be such a force if it is properly channelled. Indeed, for most of this century, the cause of Scottish nationalism has been the cause of the Scottish Labour movement. Keir Hardie, who founded the Labour party, was a lifelong advocate of Scottish home rule. John McLean, who, perhaps, was Scotland's foremost revolutionary socialist, campaigned all his life for what he called the Scottish socialist workers' republic. Red Clydeside's Jimmy Maxton fought for what he described as the Scottish socialist commonwealth.

In the general election of 1918, the Labour party in Scotland drew up its election manifesto, which had only three distinctively Scottish commitments. The first was the prohibition of alcohol. The second was proportional representation. The third was a Scottish parliament. It is interesting to note that, more than 75 years on, some of us are still campaigning for at least two of those three commitments.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

Which two?

Mr. McAllion

It certainly is not the prohibition of alcohol. I speak as the secretary of the all-party Scotch whisky group when I say that.

Although Labour subsequently dropped its commitment to Scottish home rule in the 1950s and 1960s, it eventually returned to it, placing it at the very heart of its "Agenda for Scotland" through our support for a claim of right for Scotland and for the Scottish Convention scheme for a Scottish parliament. Opposition Members do not hesitate to proclaim Scotland's right to self-determination and to home rule and its own parliament. These are basic democratic demands, supported by a minimum of three out of four Scottish voters. I believe that the potential exists for a common agenda for three of Scotland's four major constitutional parties; I hope that, by the end of the debate, Conservative Members will have been convinced as well.

There is plenty to form the basis of a democratic critique of Scottish government: God knows enough is wrong with it nowadays. The current housing crisis, for instance, is related to the lack of democracy in Scotland. Homelessness is now at record levels, having increased by a staggering 145 per cent. in the 1980s. According to reports in this morning's Scottish press, in just four areas some 8,500 women are not only homeless but hidden out of sight, not recognised as homeless. God knows what the national figure is.

The first national housing condition survey, completed in 1992, revealed that no fewer than 423,000 Scottish dwellings were affected by damp, severe condensation, mould or, in some cases, a combination of all three. We all know areas in our constituencies which are euphemistically described as "areas of low demand". Housing in such areas consists of damp-ridden boxes and unemployment is at 40, 50 or even 60 per cent; crime and vandalism are rife; the streets are not safe for mothers to walk or children to play in; and drug abuse is common, with hedges and stairwells littered with discarded syringes. Those areas are little better than hellholes, but people cannot escape from them: they have no alternative accommodation because of the housing crisis.

That is a national disgrace, but we have not the democratic means to do anything about it. Not so long ago, locally elected councils were responsible for Scotland's housing. Those councils were accountable to their electorate; if local people were not satisfied with their performance, they could vote them out at regular elections. Now, every local housing scene is dominated by the quango Scottish Homes, whose financial muscle cannot be matched by individual councils. In 1993–94, Scottish Homes has a massive £372 million to invest in housing; with resources on such a scale, it will call the shots. Without an agreement with Scottish Homes to bring part of that £372 million into its area, no council can really be in the housing business.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some 42 strategic agreements have been made with local authorities and that two more are about to be made? In the vast majority of cases—if not all—local authorities have nomination rights in relation to Scottish Homes housing.

Mr. McAllion

The Minister should have been patient and waited until I had finished. I was pointing out that councils were not in the housing business unless they had secured such agreements.

Locally elected councils had to negotiate their agreements with Scottish Homes and in those negotiations all the muscle, power and influence were on one side. Councils are now being forced to submit to a housing agenda that is increasingly being set by the unelected Scottish Homes agency—an agenda whose priority is more home ownership, tenure change and encouragement of the private sector at the expense of the public sector. That agenda largely ignores those who are trapped in the worst housing, who have the fewest private resources and who are least able to look after themselves. That has arisen because housing in Scotland is dominated by non-elected quangos such as Scottish Homes at the expense of the input of elected local authorities, which used to be the main players on the housing scene before Scottish Homes.

That is true also of the Scottish Enterprise network, which has brought into being a whole new family of quangos in the form of local enterprise companies throughout Scotland. Their influence on economic development, training, business support and development grants completely dwarfs local council planning and economic development departments. In my own area, Scottish Enterprise Tayside has an annual budget of about £25 million to spend on local economic development, compared with a combined budget for Tayside regional council's planning and economic development departments of less than £4 million.

To whom are Scottish Enterprise and other agencies accountable? Certainly not to the people of Tayside, local councils or Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies. They are accountable only to the Secretary of State for Scotland—and that must and does lead to abuses. In the past few weeks in my local enterprise company, two senior members were forced to resign because of a conflict of interest between their role as private business men and as heads of what is essentially a public agency. That situation cannot be tolerated and it should be snuffed out as soon as possible.

The same argument can be made in respect of national health service trusts, the new water boards and the host of new quangos that have come into existence under the present leadership of the Conservative party in Scotland. They are a law unto themselves and to their master—the Secretary of State for Scotland. Little wonder that he is prepared to defend quangos—as he did earlier today. They are in effect his own flesh and blood. He forms quangos, packs their membership with Conservative party supporters and sets their agendas—and the quangos do his bidding. The Secretary of State and the quangos are running Scotland without the democratic consent of the Scottish people. Although the people of Scotland fund those quangos, they have no say in them and are treated with contempt.

Many other aspects of Scottish life are equally intolerable.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

To emphasise the rottenness of quango appointments I should point out the appointment to the chairmanship of Inverclyde Royal hospital trust of a local employer who pays among the lowest wages in the whole Inverclyde area. Surely that augurs badly for the people who give their best service to patients of the Inverclyde Royal hospital group.

Mr. McAllion

My hon. Friend makes a fair point and that is not an isolated example. The Secretary of State for Scotland recently visited Dundee, but not in his ministerial capacity. In fact, he did not even advise my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) that he was to visit the constituency. The right hon. Gentleman did so in his role as a member of the Conservative party, to raise funds for his party at a secret dinner held at the Invercastle hotel in Dundee—to which was invited the chairman of the Dundee NHS trust, as a Conservative party supporter, together with the chairman-designate of Scottish Enterprise Tayside.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)


Mr. McAllion

That is exactly right. We are concerned with the country being run democratically and it is not democratic for Scotland to be run by people appointed purely on the basis that they give money to the Conservative party—which was roundly defeated in the last local and general elections.

In the past month, we have seen how Westminster-style democracy deals with Scottish affairs. A Government who had been defeated in the polls in Scotland introduced a Bill on local government which relates exclusively to Scotland and the people who live there. Members of Parliament who were elected to represent Scottish interests voted overwhelmingly against that Bill. The House simply shrugged off what Scotland thinks about Scottish legislation and voted to give the Bill a Second Reading. Indeed, it ensured that in the Committee stage there would be a built-in Government majority, against the wishes of the Scottish people.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The hon. Gentleman may have been in the House on 18 November last year when the leader of the Labour party made a complaint about English Conservatives being put on to the Committee which considered that Bill. He was certainly in the House last Tuesday when the Scottish spokesperson of the Labour party defended the right of English Tories to sit on the Committee. Which leader does the hon. Gentleman follow in that argument?

Mr. McAllion

This is a serious debate. It is unfortunate that it has to be dragged down into the gutter by the interventions of the hon. Gentleman. I am making a serious speech about the future of democracy. If the hon. Gentleman cannot recognise the national interest when it stares him in the face, he would do better renaming his party. It certainly does not act in Scotland's national interest.

Mr. Bill Walker

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I, for one, do not doubt the integrity of his view. I do not agree with it, as he knows, but I do not doubt his integrity. Will he clarify an important point of principle and detail? If a future Labour Government did not have a majority of Members in England, would it be right and proper for that Government to pass legislation affecting England which was opposed by the majority?

Mr. McAllion

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Labour is committed to a radical rehaul of the constitutional set-up in the United Kingdom. The start of that will be the establishment of a Scottish parliament with direct responsibility for Scottish affairs. Inevitably, the establishment of that Scottish parliament must change the very nature of this House. It is only a matter of time until we have a Welsh parliament and either regional assemblies or an English parliament—as the English people might decide under a federal constitution for the United Kingdom. That is the future and the way forward for the House. The hon. Gentleman had better recognise that it is the way forward for everyone in this country.

In the handling of the local government Bill by the Westminster Parliament we saw how Westminster-style democracy turns a minority view in Scotland into Government diktat. We saw it discount and disable the views of the democratic majority in Scotland. Yet we are asked to accept that that deeply undemocratic process is in our best interests and represents, in the Government's words, "A Partnership for Good".

Conservative Members argue that theirs is the democratic way while, at the same time, arguing that the democratic views of the Scottish people ultimately do not count in Scottish legislation. They argue that the role of Scotland in the partnership must always be defined for us by a bigger partner. They argue that democracy in Scotland means being governed by those whom we did not elect.

When they make those arguments, they stand on the verge of George Orwell's nightmare world of doublethink. Conservative Members are asked to hold two contradictory views simultaneously. If Conservative Members are not worried about the internal contradictions of their claims to be democratic in a Scottish sense, they should be. Everyone else is beginning to recognise just how unsustainable is the Tory position on Scottish democracy.

I am often struck by the religious fervour with which defenders of the current Union argue their case. It is almost as if Tories believe that history and God are on their side. That came across clearly in the most recent Government White Paper "Scotland in the Union—A Partnership for Good". In the introduction to the White Paper, the Prime Minister speaks about his faith in a Union which has lasted almost 300 years. The Secretary of State for Scotland waxes eloquent about the joys of a single market which has transcended almost three centuries.

The White Paper is almost awestruck when it speaks about the approaching 400th anniversary of the Union of the crowns of England and Scotland. There is about the document an air of historical inevitability—almost of destiny. It is almost as if 1707 is as important to Scottish Unionists as 1690 is to Ulster Unionists. Yet nothing in life is inevitable. The only constant factor in history is change—states come and go and unions come and go. In 1984, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was one of two world super-powers that bestrode the globe; it no longer exists.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, which I hope to develop later if I am able to make my speech. Therefore, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Union has survived for 300 years due to its ability to change. It is a dynamic force; the Union of 1994 is not the same one as that of 1707. It has changed to meet changing circumstances and will continue to do so. That is why it lasts.

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Gentleman has already admitted the case for change in the Union that exists in Scotland. The significant aspect of the Conservative party's attitude to the Union over most of the past 300 years has been its refusal to countenance any substantial changes in the Union. The hon. Gentleman is not guilty of that—I am pleased that he has joined us in our calls for changes to the existing Union and no longer tries to defend the Unionist status quo, as his hon. Friends do.

It is important for Conservative Members to understand that unions come and go. Not long ago, Yugoslavia was a powerful unitary state. Now, it has descended into the nationalists' nightmare in Bosnia, about which we are all concerned. As old unions have gone, new ones have come into existence. The European Union was designed by the Maastricht treaty and came into existence this year. In the spring of this year, the new democratic and non-racist South African Union will come into force. The lesson to be learnt from such developments is that nothing is permanent or sacrosanct about unions, including the United Kingdom.

The fact that the United Kingdom has existed for nearly 300 years is no argument or reason for the Union to continue. Recent history suggests that, as we approach the end of the 20th century, those political unions that are unsustainable are multinational, but based on a unitary state that makes no allowance for that multinational dimension. Such unions are highly centralised and authoritarian, without local autonomy. Those unions are essentially undemocratic, where words such as "subsidiarity" and "decentralisation" are regarded as dirty. The United Kingdom has become like those unions under successive Tory Governments since 1979.

If the Union is in danger today, it is because of the activities, not of Opposition Members, but of Conservative Members. Those who would defend the Union argue that such arguments are merely constitutional points and that, ultimately, there is an economic case for defending the existing Union. They say that the Scottish economy is inextricably linked to the United Kingdom economy and it would be impossible to change that. Such arguments are essentially political. They try to underscore the importance of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, and part of a much larger and more powerful economy, but they merely state the obvious.

Those who advance such arguments might as well say that the Scottish economy is inextricably linked to the European or global economy. Economic interdependence, not independence, is the watchword at the end of the 20th century. What happens in the rest of this island, the rest of the continent and the rest of the world matters greatly and has a powerful effect on the people of Scotland.

Scotland cannot step outside history and live in splendid tartan isolation, although some hon. Members want to see that happen. It needs to belong to a range of multinational entities and to a radically reformed, federal, decentralised and democratic United Kingdom. Scotland should belong to a different sort of European Union, which is genuinely democratic and has at its heart the interests of the peoples of Europe, not multinational companies. Scotland should belong to a United Nations that is an effective force for peace, not merely an observer of wars, as it has become on too many occasions.

Scottish sovereignty is not something which Scotland can keep exclusively to itself. We need to pool our sovereignty with other nations where it is in our common interest to do so. However, the decision to pool that sovereignty must be a Scottish decision. We must decide how much of our sovereignty we are prepared to pool and decide with which other countries we wish to place that sovereignty and how much we shall keep to ourselves. The present Union is unacceptable because we are not allowed to make that decision. We are denied the opportunity to decide how much sovereignty we share with the other nations of the United Kingdom. That is why the Union is profoundly undemocratic and why it is ultimately doomed until it learns to transform itself into the decentralised, democratic and reformed Union to which I have referred and which the Labour party intends to implement after the next election. The debate is a matter of the utmost importance to the people who live in Scotland for those reasons and also because of the questions that it asks about the democratic credentials of the Westminster parliamentary system. It is not just a dry, constitutional matter.

An article appeared in the New Statesman 18 months to two years ago. It was about life on the battle front—the derelict housing schemes on the edge of Glasgow—and described the life of a man who was separated from his wife. It said: last night's meal was potatoes mashed with half an onion, and a tin of peas. In the fridge, there is a can of lager and some long-life milk … He can afford to heat only one room in the flat, so the bedroom remains unused. He sleeps on the sofa under a foam duvet, his coat serving as a pillow. In any case, he sleeps very little … The TV plays all night; at five in the morning, he falls asleep in front of women's golf or motorcycle racing in Florida sunshine. He is too demoralised even to get undressed. There is no hot water: a splash of cold tap water in a bathroom where the breath hangs in a mushroom of vapour. Far too many of our countrymen are forced to live in such conditions in this day and age. That is partly to do with global and economic issues which are beyond Scotland's control, but it is partly because Scotland does not have the democratic means of changing those conditions. We live in a country which is rich in resources and which has enough wealth to ensure that none of our citizens has to live in such conditions.

Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside)

Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain how that person managed to watch golf from Florida at 5 o'clock in the morning? Would not that mean that he had a satellite dish? He obviously had a television set. How many such things did one have in the average household of some years ago?

Mr. McAllion

That is not the point. The hon. Gentleman may have satellite television, but I have not and I can watch golf from Florida at 5 o'clock in the morning if I choose to do so. The general description of the person living in that derelict scheme should have caused the hon. Gentleman concern and he should have been worried that some of his fellow citizens are living in such conditions. Something should be done about it by the people who represent Scotland in the House.

Dr. Godman

Before my hon. Friend ends his fine speech, may I point out that in speaking as an honest apologist for the Union, the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kinoch) is part of a long tradition? At the time of the Union, when Daniel Defoe was acting as a secret agent for the English Government, he said that it was a marriage of convenience, not of the heart. Conservative Members are part of that tradition.

Mr. McAllion

That is a good point. The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside is certainly not a secret agent, but an open agent of the party which governs in Scotland. People do not have to live in the conditions that I have described in this modern age in a wealthy country such as ours. Part of the reason for those conditions is that we have lost the democratic means by which we can do something about them. Restoring the democratic means to the Scottish people is and should be the first priority of every Member who represents a Scottish constituency.

I refer hon. Members to the last few lines of the motion, which recognises that the future of Scottish democracy depends upon giving effect to the sovereign right of the Scottish people to decide for themselves how and by whom they are governed; and therefore calls for the holding of a multi-option referendum in which the people living in Scotland can decide democratically the form of government best suited to their needs. Everyone in Scotland should unite behind that theme. If we are genuine democrats, we have nothing to fear from the democratic decision of the Scottish people. Those who run away from that decision are those who fear the judgment of the Scottish people at the ballot box.

4.39 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and I are in complete agreement about one matter—we do not support the prohibition of alcohol. Having said that, I must now say where and why I disagree with him on other issues. I have always made it clear to him that I do not doubt the integrity with which he holds his views, but I believe sincerely that were his views to be examined critically and positively by the Scottish people they would be rejected. I hope to be able to tell him why.

First, the hon. Gentleman talked about the Scots and, to use his words, the people who live in Scotland, from wherever they came. As he must know, with his name and background, his family came from one of the other islands off the coast of Europe. I speak as one whose family, as far as one can trace, has always lived in Scotland. In fact, I think that I am the first member of my family to have married a non-Scot—my wife is English, but that does not mean that her view of the well-being of Scotland is any less honest than that of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that I am also married to an English woman and she, like me, is a citizen of Scotland and entitled to participate fully in Scottish democracy.

Mr. Walker

I can say that she participates with credit and distinction.

If I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he was saying that the Scots—the people who live in Scotland—are not properly or adequately represented in this unitary Parliament. He was referring to the Scots who live north of the border. Less than 9 per cent. of the United Kingdom's population live in Scotland—no one can deny that; it is a statement of fact. Eighty-three per cent. of the people who live in these islands live in England. How do the Scots in Scotland regard their representation in this place?

The Scots form less than 9 per cent. of the population, but constitute more than 12 per cent. of the total number of Members of Parliament. In all modern Cabinets—certainly those in the post-war years—the Scots have always enjoyed about 20 per cent. or more of Cabinet posts. In the present Cabinet, the Lord Chancellor, who is in charge of English legal matters and law, is a Scot. I wonder what would happen if we were to have an Englishman appointed as Lord Advocate—I can just see the reaction in Scotland. However, we have a distinguished Scot, the Lord Chancellor, in the Cabinet. The Secretary of State for Transport is a native Scot, as are the Secretary of State for Defence and, of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland who is here today. In other words, four of the 22 members of the Cabinet are Scots and, until recently, there were five Scots. As for Labour, if by some misfortune we were to have a Labour Government after the next election, there is no question but that the Scots would hold more than 20 per cent. of the posts.

By my reckoning, we have more hon. Members representing Scotland than we should have on a percentage basis of the population and, despite constituting only 9 per cent. of the population, the Scots have more than 9 per cent. of non-Cabinet positions of all levels.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

The hon. Gentleman clearly received a pocket calculator as a Christmas present and has only just discovered how to use it. In view of his percentage calculations, would he like to comment on the fact that, at the previous election, his party received about 25 per cent. of the vote and took 16 per cent. of the seats but 100 per cent. of the power? What lesson can we learn from that?

Mr. Walker

I am sorry to hear my hon. Friend say that—he is my friend because he is my pair, when the arrangements are working. Clearly, he has not heard me arguing my case before. I have always argued—consistently, I hope—that Scotland and Scottish interests are well looked after in this place because we have always enjoyed more than our percentage share of posts and influence. It is not only in this place—

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)


Mr. Salmond


Mr. Walker

I am answering my hon. Friend—at least, I hope that he will one day be my friend again so that we can get away from this place from time to time.

I have always argued—consistently, I hope—that in the spheres of science, arts and education, among others, the Scots have always enjoyed more than 9 per cent. of the key positions within the United Kingdom establishments.

Mr. Salmond

I have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument, which is not always the case. He is saying that the individual success of individual Scots will do some national good. Did the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence is a Scot help Rosyth last year?

Mr. Walker

In the short term, the answer is yes. I do not wish to digress and talk about Rosyth, but I am happy to debate the details with the hon. Member at any time. I think that I know more about the case than he does, but in the short term the answer is yes.

I was developing my argument—

Mr. Connarty

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for accepting an intervention. Instead of talking about personalities and the few people who make a difference, will he instead talk about the subject of today's debate which is about the lack of democracy in Scotland, the fact that the positions of power in Scotland are given to adherents of the Government's politics and the fact that they are, as it were, chosen by the Secretary of State, not by the people of Scotland?

Mr. Walker

If the hon. Gentleman will wait, I hope to develop my argument and deal with that point later. I shall not duck the issue, unlike the hon. Member for Dundee, East who failed to answer my question about what the next Labour Government would do. I try to answer questions, which sometimes upsets people. I occasionally upset my friends, but I try to answer so that the following week I do not have to try to remember what I said. It is best to answer honestly and objectively.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

It is very good of the hon. Gentleman to give way. I wish to follow the question put by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). He asked whether the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence is a Scot was of advantage to Rosyth. The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) said yes. Does that mean that had the Secretary of State for Defence been an Englishman it would have been of benefit to Tynemouth or that had he been a Welshman it would have been of benefit to some establishment in Wales?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman constantly talks about his being reasonable and moderate and other lovely adjectives. Let me put it this way: has he ever been a member of a body, at whatever level, in which common interest did not assist in decision making? It is true in golf clubs; it is true in Cabinets; it is true everywhere else. I got into terrible trouble before for suggesting what a good thing it was to have more than one Scot in the Cabinet. I believe that it is a massive advantage to Scotland to have Members representing Scottish constituencies in the Cabinet in addition to the Secretary of State. That is true in defence and in other sectors.

I wish to develop that argument with regard to Scotland's interests. The hon. Gentleman said that the Labour party's objective was to create a Scottish parliament, a Welsh parliament, and regional parliaments in England. Is that correct?

Mr. McAllion

What happens in England is a matter for the people of England. I would not dare to tell them how to run their domestic affairs and I do not think that they should tell us in Scotland how to run our domestic affairs.

Mr. Walker

I asked the hon. Gentleman about the policy and the likely practice of the next Labour Government. I will now discuss that, because I believe that it has some importance and significance for the basis of his argument. As I understand it, it is the policy of the next Labour Government to give the Scots their parliament, and to get that measure through the House on the basis that England will have regional assemblies. That is, as I understand it, the logic of the Labour party's case. Let me discuss that, because it is important to consider the situation.

We would have a number of regional assemblies in England—I do not know how many, but let us assume that there are five. That is not an unrealistic assumption. With 83 per cent. of the population, there could be as many as eight, but let us assume that there are five or six. Let us assume that there are six regional assemblies in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales, giving a total of eight. The views of Scotland would constitute one eighth of the views to be listened to at the centre, because the centre would be under the federal structure that the hon. Gentleman spoke about. There would still be a federal structure in the United Kingdom, in London, in whatever form, and therefore Scotland would have a one eighth contribution instead of the approximately one fifth contribution—at its worst—that it enjoys now.

Currently, there is a Scottish Secretary of State and at least one other Scottish member of the Cabinet, and they take decisions that affect the whole of the United Kingdom. That would change if the Labour party's proposals were implemented. We would adopt a system in which Members of Parliament for Scottish constituencies would represent the same numbers of constituents as Members of Parliament with constituencies elsewhere in the United Kingdom, so that Scotland would lose its parliamentary representation and its power. Scotland would have less influence under the new system, because it would not be an equal.

I shall put it to the hon. Gentleman in simple language. I have listened to him argue his case and it has always seemed to me that he recognises that Scotland has less than 9 per cent. of the population, but he reckons that it has 50 per cent. of the equity in the United Kingdom. That, I think, is generally his view—that Scotland should have an equal say and an equal voice.

Mr. Gallie

I think that a point that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) raised with my hon. Friend should not go unchallenged. The hon. Member suggested to my hon. Friend that he was not interested in English affairs. However, if I recall correctly, he voted during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, which dealt with many English matters. He voted, I understand, during the passage of the Cardiff Bay Barrage (Hybrid) Act 1993, which was about Welsh affairs. If the hon. Member for Dundee, East is suggesting that he is not interested in other parts of the Union, it is not represented, to my mind, in his voting record.

Mr. Walker

I thank my hon. Friend. Yes; it seems to me that Opposition Members are trying to have their cake and eat it. They are trying to claim that, because they will have that representation and their own parliament in Edinburgh, they will continue to have the same power and influence as they currently enjoy under the Westminster situation.

That case will be put to the Scottish people. I believe that, in whatever form it is put, they will reject the proposals. When we voted in Scotland on the question of the Scotland Act 1978, it was fairly clear that, when the matter came out into the public domain, the people of Scotland thought, "Hold on a minute; we do not want to pay for a talking shop simply because it will be there." One third of them rejected it; one third said, "Yes, we will support it"; but, critically, one third did not bother to vote. The people who did not vote "didnae care", and they "didnae care" because they had been told that if they absented themselves that would be the equivalent of a no vote. On the basis that that was how it was sold to the people during the referendum campaign, at least two thirds of the Scottish people either did not care or opposed the proposals. I reckon that one could add them together.

The hon. Gentleman speaks about the so-called "democratic deficit" and what it appears to have done, but he glibly proceeds to discuss "pooling sovereignty". It is wonderful the way in which we pull out of the sky lovely phrases to suit any circumstances. What is meant by "pooling sovereignty"? My views about the constitution are well known to everyone and I will not describe them today, but I took my stand because I have strong views about the so-called "pooling of sovereignty".

The hon. Gentleman glibly uses it as a throw-away line. It is not that simple, as the hon. Gentleman should know, because it impinges on all other activities; I agree with him about that. Wealth generation, job creation, the way in which we deal with dampness in housing and all such matters have much to do with our economic performance—and when I say, "our economic performance", I make no apologies for saying that I mean the United Kingdom's economic performance.

I believe, sincerely, that the Union has benefited the Scots and the English out of all proportion to the sum of the two parts coming together. It is much greater than that. That is why I think that when we speak about the "pooling of sovereignty", we must examine carefully what we are prepared to give or not to give.

The hon. Gentleman glibly skated around that. His hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), an Englishman—I do not hold that against him—spoke about a "marriage of convenience". He is obviously a student of history. If he is, he will know that many marriages of convenience have produced surprising results—very good results. If it was a marriage of convenience, using his description, he and others cannot deny that the ability to move anywhere in the United Kingdom seeking jobs, following one's career whether one is an artisan or a politician—in the hon. Gentleman's case, a politician—has been of enormous benefit to the people of the Clyde, because they have him as their hon. Member and, obviously, that has been a great benefit to him and to them. At least, being generous to him, I assume that it is. Therefore, he must accept that the Union, however it came about, has been of considerable benefit to him and to his constituents.

The economy is often critical to discussion of this subject. Has Scotland benefited from the Union? First, I will discuss Scotch whisky, about which I know that I will not get any argument from the hon. Member for Dundee, East. Has the Scotch whisky industry benefited from the Union? Yes, it has, because the Union created a substantial marketplace, a home market from which it was possible to expand into a world market that is the envy of many other industries. It is to the benefit of the Scotch whisky industry. The hon. Member for Dundee, East has argued that point many times.

We want a good home base so that the export markets can be maximised. The home base for which we have always asked is the United Kingdom home base. When we argue on behalf of the home base, we are not talking about the consumption of Scotch whisky in Scotland alone. The hon. Gentleman and I agree that the Union has been beneficial for the home base of the Scotch whisky industry.

How about the economy generally? Between 1979 and 1991, the Scottish economy grew on average by 1.7 per cent.

Mr. Watson

Did the hon. Gentleman get a calculator for Christmas?

Mr. Walker

I have a calculator, but I did not get it this Christmas.

By comparison—this is an important point—the economy grew on average by less than 1 per cent. between 1974 and 1979. I do not pick those years by accident; they are the years of a Labour Administration. It is possible that under the enlightened Labour Administration to which the hon. Member for Dundee, East looks forward, the Scottish economy could fare worse. It is a possibility, because that is what happened before; I do not put it any higher than that. What about living standards in Scotland? Gross domestic product per head increased by 30 per cent. between 1981 and 1991. That was brought about through the Union.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East and his hon. Friends talk about the "political deficit". What they are really talking about is the fact that the Labour party cannot get its hands on the levers of power. They are not talking about democracy. I do not doubt the integrity of the hon. Member for Dundee, East, as he knows. I was, therefore, astonished that his right hon. and hon. Friends had managed to buy him off. How have they done it? What quango post have they given him? What have they promised him? What job has he been given? How has he been bought? Immediately following the general election, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends—

Mr. McAllion

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was not bought off with the price of Kevin Kelly's resignation.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman has obviously been shut up somehow and told to line up with the rest of the troops, so he has stopped rocking the boat so violently. His approach to the problems of the Scottish democratic deficit is the Scotland United approach, which he does not deny. That is not the approach of Labour Front-Bench Members. We have at least managed to ascertain that their views are different from the hon. Gentleman's. When the hon. Gentleman says that he is speaking on behalf of the Opposition—excluding the narrow nationalists and the Liberal Democrat nationalists—he is actually speaking on behalf of his friends in Scotland United. Labour Front-Bench Members have a different view.

That fact does not surprise me. Labour Front-Bench Members think, "Gosh, we shall have a lot of Scots in the next Cabinet." They do not want to rock the boat because people in England may say, "Hold on! There are too many Scots in key positions." That is the backlash that one gets if one attempts to push too hard the business of "We poor Scots are downtrodden and we do not get things our way." Some 83 per cent. of the population of these islands live in England. A backlash would not, therefore, be in the best interests of the hon. Member for Dundee, East, of the House or of the Scottish people.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East talks about dire threats caused by the views taken by people such as myself. I am well aware of the risks and hazards of the road ahead; that is why I have spent so much of my life in politics and in Parliament trying to address that. I have put forward ideas which, as is the case with the hon. Gentleman, have not always been well received by Front-Bench colleagues. However, one has to look carefully at the risks of the route that one proposes. I have never accepted that the Union is cast in concrete or that it cannot be modified. That is why I have suggested changes.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East referred to appointments to non-elected bodies. I have been asked to address that point and I do not want somebody to say, "You have not addressed that point, Mr. Walker." We must be careful about excluding anyone from statutory bodies. My personal view is that there should be fewer statutory bodies, but I believe that as long as the bodies exist, we must be careful not to say, "You cannot be a member of a statutory body because you are a trade unionist" or, "You cannot be a member of a statutory body because you are a business man."

There have been two resignations from Scottish Enterprise Tayside. The chairman-designate properly took the view that there was a conflict of interests. It was not a conflict of interests that would have damaged the interests of the people of Tayside, but the chairman-designate honestly believed that, as chairman of a company, he could not be seen to be promoting the interests of other companies. He was probably right. However, if we are to get the best people for the jobs—that is all that we should look for—we should not exclude someone because his trade union interests will inevitably conflict with others.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raises the point at this stage. Everyone on Tayside was sickened to hear that James Miller had decided not to accept the chairmanship of Scottish Enterprise Tayside. He was eminently suited to taking on that task. Our objection was on the basis that he was appointed without any consultation. He was appointed by Scottish Enterprise Tayside, which is directly answerable to Scottish Enterprise, which is, in turn, directly answerable to the Secretary of State. That is a rather convoluted formula.

When the Secretary of State for Employment announced the formation of the training and enterprise councils and the local enterprise companies, I, as a member of the Select Committee on Employment, pointed out the problem to him, as the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) will recall. We raised the conundrum with the Secretary of State. There must be a conflict of interests when the head of one company takes decisions about promoting other companies, which will affect his company. That is bound to happen.

Mr. Walker

Any director of a company who accepts an appointment to a quango must understand that there is a real possibility that he will face a conflict of interests. I accept that, and I equally accept that a trade unionist would be put in the same position. That is not a reason for condemning such individuals and it is not a reason for excluding them.

Like the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), I was bitterly disappointed by the resignation of the chairman-designate because I thought that he was eminently suited to the position. He was the ideal chap to follow Bill Low, a constituent of mine who did a good job.

That shows that those of us who are involved in political life should be careful when we comment on who should be a member of a quango. Quangos should be open to the best people, whoever they are and wherever they come from. The system for appointments must ensure that interests are declared. We have largely achieved that—we have certainly done so in the House, where the Register of Members' Interests is available for public inspection.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dundee, East raised that subject in the debate. Although it is an important subject, this is neither the right context nor the right debate in which to raise such a matter.

Mr. Ernie Ross

The other resignation has more alarming consequences for democracy in Scotland and needs to be dealt with by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The person who resigned was, in effect, a civil servant with business interests. That conflict led to his resignation. The Secretary of State needs to take account of that. Could hon. Members imagine the chief executive of Tayside region or of Dundee district council being allowed to be a business person? A conflict of interest would arise immediately. That needs to be dealt with. Will the hon. Member comment on that?

Mr. Walker

I have already publicly commented on the matter and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not aware of that.

People who are paid substantial salaries to be involved in the distribution of public assets should not allow themselves to get into a position where a conflict of interest could arise and affect their judgment. Hon. Members, councillors or anyone else in public office face such a problem in their public lives. Chief executives of regions, district councils or enterprise companies should not allow themselves to be put into a position where they could be considered to have a conflict of interest, which would raise doubts about their integrity. The integrity of those in charge of such organisations should never be in doubt.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East spoke of people being appointed to quangos. A quango will operate effectively only if it has the right mix of talents, which, I have always believed, requires trade union input. Under our democratic process, one must be prepared to accept that there should always be an avenue of expression for another view, even if one does not agree with it.

That is why I believe that it is good that the hon. Member for Dundee, East speaks on such matters in the House; it gives him the opportunity to express his concerns and doubts. If nothing else, he will persuade the Unionists sitting behind and in front of him that he is wrong and that people such as myself are perhaps more right than he is.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. One hour and 48 minutes are available for debate and no fewer than 10 hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. I hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind.

5.13 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I shall be brief.

May I join those who, earlier in the debate, sought to establish their credentials? I seem to be the first Member to speak tonight who is married to a Scot. It will interest you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to learn that I am the only Yorkshire-born Scots Member in the House, and I hope to be here for a long time. My wife could regard me as a foreigner, of course, but she also sees me as a fellow Scot.

I am grateful for, and readily acknowledge, the honest statements of the hon. Members for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) that the Union is subject to change. They would not deny that it is legitimate to examine and criticise the governance of a country and to suggest, by way of prescriptions, a better way of governing it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) made an excellent speech, although I have one or two reservations about it. I understand why he is critical of multinational companies and of their role in the Scottish economy, but I am sure that he will agree that some of them are a damn sight better than indigenous employers. A local employer in my constituency is to become chairman of the Inverclyde Royal hospital trust, but the wages he pays his employees are among the lowest in the region.

I am pleased to say that IBM is in my constituency—my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) sometimes thinks that it is in his constituency. It is the biggest private employer, and gives good terms and conditions of employment.

BMW's takeover of Rover was announced last week. I wish that BMW were locating in my constituency, because I know from my knowledge of German industrial relations that it would have to introduce a Scottish mitbestimmung. Workers at BMW plants in Scotland would be given formal, effective trade union representation. Moreover, employment directives passed in Brussels would be implemented in Greenock or wherever a company such as BMW decided to locate. There are advantages to multinationals, and I should love more to locate in my constituency.

It is right to question the way in which Scotland is governed. I am a federalist, and I want to see a federalist European Union with its foreign and security policies. I want Scotland to be a federal nation in a federal system. It is wrong that Scotland is part of a multinational state that is overwhelmingly determined and shaped by London—by metropolitan thinking and decision-making.

Soon, members of the Scottish Prison Officers Association, who do a first-class job, often in difficult circumstances, will have their right to industrial action removed. Prisons will be privatised under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, which is now in Committee. There are only two Scottish Members on that Committee, despite the fact that 40 per cent. of its content relates partially or exclusively to Scotland.

Tomorrow morning, the Committee will debate a legal concept that is new to Scotland—trespassory assembly. With his legal training, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will know more about it than me. He may smile, but I have already received representations from anglers, hill walkers and even Monro baggers, not that I am one myself, about clauses 44 to 55 of that largely English Bill. They have made those representations because the clauses are aimed at sorting out hunt saboteurs, new age travellers and those who organise raves. I have already asked the Minister at what point a rave becomes a ceilidh.

By and large, we do not face such problems in Scotland. I was talking to an old friend of mine, Jimmy Harvie, an 84-year-old ex-Glasgow bricklayer. He and his late lovely wife, Pearl, walked Scotland's hills for more than 60 years. People like Jimmy Harvie and other walkers, ramblers and fishermen are to be excluded from their favourite haunts. That is utterly scandalous, and those clauses should riot refer to Scottish pastimes at all. The average hill walker in Scotland is extremely fastidious—one does not find much litter on Schiehallion, Lochnagar, Ben Ledi or Ben Vorlich. People are careful on the hills in terms of protecting the environment.

As for fishermen, there should be public access to all our rivers. The rich perhaps should be dumped in the rivers—where the rivers are shallow, of course. There should not be the shackling by the new lairds who come in and buy up estates. Those people seem to have a curious idea of the existing law of trespass.

Mr. Gallie

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are many small fishing clubs in Scotland with a membership who certainly are not rich? The members of those clubs stock the rivers and ensure that people can enjoy fishing. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that their rights on the river should not be acknowledged?

Dr. Godman

That is an important point. I am a member of two such clubs—the Port Glasgow club and the Newark angling club. Both clubs have many unemployed and retired members, and they are deeply concerned about the Government's plans for the management of Scotland's waterways. It is a complicated problem.

The Scottish element of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill should have formed an exclusive Scottish Bill, so that we could scrutinise and seek to amend it. It should not have been lumped in with an English Bill which is aimed at problems south of the border. That is an absurdity.

We have spent hours and hours talking about the abolition of the right to silence, but the right to silence is not affected in Scotland. That is an English matter. The right to silence remains in the police stations and the courts in Scotland, and that is how it should be. Scottish issues should not be lumped in with English issues on Standing Committees. It is disgraceful.

That is one reason why I will always argue for a Scottish Parliament. Those matters could be argued among Members who would be elected by a different electoral system. The one we have is a "rotten borough" kind of system.

Does the Minister agree that one element of a parliamentary democracy is the ease of access given to representatives of local communities for meetings with Ministers? If he does, when will he respond to invitations given to him by way of the editor of the Greenock Telegraph and representatives from the east end of Greenock to visit that area? Despite the valiant efforts of Inverclyde district council, the east end still suffers severe blight in terms of rotten, lousy, damp and cold houses which are lived in by people who simply do not have the financial means to escape that kind of housing imprisonment. Will the Minister come to the east end of Greenock to see that for himself?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I will accept the hon. Gentleman's invitation to visit Greenock, as I have done with all invitations from Opposition Members.

Dr. Godman

I am extremely grateful to the Minister. I was too modest to mention it, but I sent my own invitation a couple of weeks ago. I am delighted that the Minister has accepted with his characteristic generosity.

The critics of radical change on the Government Benches seem to accept some form of stilted evolutionary change to the Union. Judging by what constituents of all ages say to me when I do my walkabouts—that is a horrible word—they are deeply disenchanted and discontented with the present system for the governance of Scotland. The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland would welcome the setting up of a multi-option referendum. We could then determine whether it is those who share my view who are closer to the hearts and minds of the people in Scotland, or the honest apologists for the Union on the Government Benches.

I have mentioned Defoe, that English secret agent from all those years ago. He talked about the Union as a marriage of convenience which would best suit English interests and, by and large, that still holds today. However, it will change. We are extremely fortunate that the secessionist movement in Scotland is so honourably peaceable. The change will come, and the best way to help bring it about is to set up a multi-option referendum.

5.25 pm
Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside)

The motion before the House is wide, and I found it difficult to decide what aspect to address.

We have heard the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) talking about a multinational company within his constituency and the amount it contributes, presumably to the economy of his constituency. Yet the motion talks about the undemocratic influence and power of transnational and multinational companies in the economic life of Scotland". I have to tell the hon. Member for Dundee. East (Mr. McAllion) that I am happy that a significant amount is given by multinational and transnational oil companies to my area and to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson). Without them, the economy of our area would be that much poorer. I find it strange that the hon. Member for Dundee, East uses those terms, as I know that his area also contains a significant number of multinational companies.

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Gentleman may recall that the Timex multinational company had a long association with Dundee. However, it ripped off its Dundee workers and walked away to make its profits elsewhere in the world. I warn the hon. Gentleman that multinational companies could do that in his constituency.

Mr. Kynoch

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman introduced Timex into the debate, as I was just about to refer to that company. I had hoped that the kind of industrial relations which were prevalent at Timex were behind us. I am not saying that it was the fault of one side or the other, because the faults clearly lay with employers and employees.

I can remember what industrial relations were like before the Government came to power in 1979, and I clearly remember the coal strike of the late 1970s. Pickets were standing at our factory gates when we had no grievance with any of our suppliers, but they prevented coal from being delivered to our company, and therefore affected the output and the economy of the area.

Thankfully, the Conservative Government came to power with a clear remit to reform union relations and to ensure that greater flexibility and accountability were given to employees, so that they could work in peace and harmony with their employers.

I am sorry to say that that did not work at Timex. The so-called picket line, which I understood was legally meant to consist of no more than five or six people, was supplemented by a demonstration of several hundred people. That was taking full advantage of the law, and it made a mockery of the law. I hope that, as time goes on, that can be clarified and tightened. Multinational and transnational companies can contribute a significant amount to the economy of Scotland, and I will return to that subject.

I would like to talk about some of the quangos which have been referred to in the motion. There is a direct reference to NHS trusts, and to the Scottish Enterprise network of companies". I worked closely with the Scottish Development Agency when I was in the textile trade, and I continued to do so when it became Scottish Enterprise and set up local enterprise companies. I subsequently became one of the founder directors of Moray, Badennoch and Strathspey local enterprise company. We welcomed a trade union representative on the board of that company, as well as representatives from local government and businesses throughout the area.

That board reflected the geographical spread of local companies. That great strength had been lacking under the previous SDA set-up, because, in the north-east corner of Scotland, it was felt that the SDA was a Glasgow-based organisation. Although it had a regional office in Aberdeen, it was geared towards oil, and it was felt that the indigenous industries were a second thought to the SDA. By devolving the functions of the SDA and incorporating the training agency, the local enterprise companies democratised a system that did a lot of good for Scotland at the time.

I pay tribute to the significant benefits given to local people by Grampian Enterprise and the subcontractor in my area, the Kincardine and Deeside enterprise trust. The people who sit on the board of Grampian Enterprise give of their best and of their experience to ensure the balanced delivery of services in Grampian. It is insulting for those people that they are dismissed as Government placemen by the hon. Member for Dundee, East, because I know that they give of their time willingly, and without any recompense, to the benefit of the region.

I sat on the board of a local enterprise company, and I know what happened when a conflict of interest arose. The directors simply declared their interest, and either left the room or stayed to answer the relevant questions of other board members, without participating in the debate. That is the normal practice when any conflict of interest arises.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East has also described national health trusts as another Government quango. In the run-up to the award of trust status to the Aberdeen Royal hospitals NHS trust, I was politically unique in the north-east, because I supported the bid. I know that Opposition Members, of whichever party, were against it, and I suspect that certain of my colleagues had great reservations.

That trust, however, has provided greater flexibility and greater accountability in the delivery of health care in the area. It has meant that the delivery of health care has been brought closer and is more appropriate to the people. It offers more flexibility than was available in directly managed units.

According to the hon. Member for Dundee, East, that so-called quango is destroying democracy in Scotland, but it is worth considering what it has achieved in its first year of operation, 1992–93. According to the trust's annual report: A record number of patients were treated in 1992–93 over 2,500 more in-patients were treated over 8,900 more out-patients attendances over 1,900 more day cases over 800 more operations. The Trust has waiting time guarantees for in-patients of 12 months, and less for specific procedures. Those figures prove that trust status has been successful. It has been welcomed by local people.

Mr. Gallie

My hon. Friend will be interested to know that South Ayrshire Trust, which is adjacent to my constituency, can boast of similar rates of success. The chairman of that trust, who has done a remarkable job, was certainly not seen as a friend of the Conservative party in the past. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a perfect response to the challenge from Opposition Members who constantly carp about Conservative appointees?

Mr. Kynoch

I welcome that intervention from my hon. Friend. I am well aware that trust members are appointed because of the experience that they bring to their local areas. Those representatives may be trade unionists, employers, employees, male, female and members of whatever political party, as long as they can contribute to the well-being of the trust. I believe that is absolutely right.

It is important to remember that half of any NHS trust board is made up of medically qualified people. Non-executive members from outside the medical profession do not make up the majority on any trust board.

When the Aberdeen Royal Hospitals NHS Trust was established, it was argued that it would be opposed from within and that there would be appalling employee-employer relations. It was argued that it would lead to the downfall of the NHS in the north-east, but the exact opposite has occurred. In the first year of its operation, the trust has improved employee-employer relations through an effective staff board, which discusses staffing issues. I can quote a specific example of such an improvement from the trust's annual report, which says of junior doctors' hours of work: Staff at all levels—medical, nursing and para-medical—have helped in the substantial efforts made to reduce Junior Doctors' hours. That objective of the Conservative party has been brought about by the trust through partnership rather than conflict.

The trust should not be knocked by the Opposition as a quango, because it has already made significant developments in the delivery of clinical care. Bone marrow transplantations are now available in Aberdeen and that specialist form of medicine has been greatly welcomed. The trust has also taken delivery of a new magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which is better known as an MRI scanner. The trust also offers a local lithotripsy service, provided by a mobile unit, to get rid of kidney stones.

All those benefits have been brought about by a so-called quango, which has also increased the number of cardiac operations, which is pertinent to the Scottish population because of the incidence of heart disease. I do not believe that we should knock trust status; we should welcome it because of the benefits that it has brought to the health service.

I suspect that the hon. Member for Dundee, East also believes that that quango is more remote from the people than the old system of health care, but he should take note of what the trust's annual report has said about bringing health services closer to patients. It stated: Over the year we cared for 82,245 in-patients and 388,001 out-patients. All users of our services are encouraged to tell us what they think of our services—whether good or bad Those people were encouraged to comment on the delivery of services and the trust received just 440 formal complaints. That means that fewer than one in 1,000 patients made a complaint. Something must be going right with that quango. I believe that those benefits demonstrate the advantages of flexibility within the NHS and of involving local people in the running of the health service.

The motion tabled by the hon. Member for Dundee, East also refers to local government reform. We are currently considering the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill in Committee. I am amused when I hear Opposition Members claim that that reform will diminish the power of local democracy in Scotland. In recent weeks I have read a number of newspaper articles about the Labour-controlled council of Monklands. It is alleged that the council operates in a fashion that is far from democratic. Apparently, at the end of last week, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) at long last entered the debate and is now asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to investigate some of the allegations. I think that that is right and that we should try to achieve the democratic delivery of local services.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Is the hon. Gentleman also asking the Secretary of State to institute an inquiry, or is he simply leaving it to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith)? Does he associate the name of the Secretary of State for National Heritage, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler), with Westminster council in the same way as he so glibly associates my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East with Monklands council?

Mr. Kynoch

I shall not be drawn down that path because we are discussing the future of democracy in Scotland. Unless we intend to take over the future of Westminster, we must contain our comments to Scotland. The hon. Gentleman's intervention, however, makes my point clear.

In my part of Scotland, the population desperately wants single-tier authorities as soon as possible. Although there are queries about some of the proposed boundaries, such fine detail will soon be debated fully in Committee. People want to rationalise and reduce the overheads of local government and bring local democracy closer to the people.

As I said on Second Reading of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill, it is interesting to note that all the Opposition parties advocate single-tier authorities. But the big difference is that they also want a Scottish parliament, which would be an extra and more costly tier. According to 1994–95 figures, Government-supported spending per capita in Scotland is some 34 per cent. higher than in England. Perhaps I should say that quietly as the Secretary of State's Parliamentary Private Secretary has an English constituency and might be upset to learn that. Scotland gets 26 per cent. more than Wales. I must therefore assume that, if we had a Scottish parliament as the Opposition advocate, such spending would not be allowed to continue and Scotland would have to make up the shortfall.

I hope that the Scottish electorate is aware of the Opposition parties' proposals on local government reform and a Scottish parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) referred to the number of Opposition Members with aspirations for a Cabinet position, who would then have to decide whether to sit in a Scottish Cabinet or a Cabinet in London. That might cause some interesting problems for the Opposition.

The motion does not make its point. I feel proud and positive about many aspects of government, trusts, Scottish Enterprise and LECs, which have made a positive contribution towards Scotland's economy.

5.43 pm
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) on initiating the debate. Unfortunately, it is difficult to have a balanced debate if the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) takes advantage of the limited time available to us. He spoke for 34 minutes and then disappeared. That is unreasonable behaviour. I hope to speak for less than 10 minutes.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East began by saying that people "must have their say and their way". He pointed out that the Scottish people had voted three to one in favour of some form of Scottish self-government. He did not, however, feel it necessary to mention that it was wrong for Labour to have 68 per cent. of Scottish seats in exchange for 39 per cent. of the vote. We do not have a fair voting system so that people can have their say and their way.

Mr. McAllion

I am happy to associate myself with the hon. Gentleman's remarks. As vice-chairman of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, I am a long-term supporter of proportional representation both for a Scottish parliament and at the level of the United Kingdom.

Sir Russell Johnston

I welcome what the hon. Gentleman said, which has the added bonus of shortening my speech. I no longer need to make a long statement about the value of proportional representation, as he accepts it. That also affects patronage and other matters, which I need not go through.

Without federalism within the United Kingdom, subsidiarity in the European Community is a sham. The Government see it not as decentralisation or enabling more citizens directly to influence decisions that affect them, but as a way of defending Whitehall. The Government will oppose progressive social and environmental change agreed consensually in Brussels and Strasbourg, such as is contained in the motion that will be debated later today. But, on the basis of a quarter of the vote, they will impose on Scotland educational change, changes in the health service, changes in the ownership of public utilities, and changes in local government which the majority do not want. That makes no sense whatever.

I was astonished that the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) leapt to the defence of quangos, saying that they were marvellous, closer in touch with the people, enormously politically balanced, fair and great. He justified that by saying that the Aberdeen Royal hospital's NHS trust had done more cardiac operations. I have no doubt that people under communist regimes said that, and that Franco built a lot of hospitals. If that is the hon. Gentleman's criterion of whether democracy is desirable, he does not understand the issue.

Mr. Kynoch

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that I said that half the members of the trust board were medical staff? Under the previous system of directly managed units, the medical staff had no say in the running of their hospital. They can now have an input and allow local flexibility in the delivery of services to achieve the positive results to which I referred.

Sir Russell Johnston

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the new quangos are better than the old quangos, that is one argument. I simply do not like quangos, so my argument is different.

On local government reform, older Members may remember that, from 1966–69, I served on the Wheatley commission, appointed by the late—it would be fair to say great—Willie Ross, later Lord Ross of Marnock. It was a balanced commission, on which the late Betty Harvie Anderson, who was certainly no socialist, also sat.

Ultimately, it produced a consensual agreement on the way forward. The essense of what was said then was that we wanted stronger, more effective local government, which was less in thrall to central Government. If it could not stand up to central Government, it was no longer local. There is no justification for changes which no one has sought. They have been determined within a party which represents only a quarter of the Scottish electorate, and are clearly designed to strengthen central Government and weaken local government. That is the result of more authorities, in my view. My view is not entirely in line with my party's view, but as one gets older one is allowed more freedom in these matters.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

Hear, hear.

Sir Russell Johnston

I never used to get cheers from the hon. Gentleman—it is very encouraging.

I must tell the hon. Member for Dundee, East, much of whose speech I agreed with, that the hope of achieving Scottish home rule has persisted for a long time. It goes back to Gladstone and to the Bill that Asquith brought as far as Second Reading in 1914. The Bill fell. After the second world war, the idea was partly responsible for the growth of the Liberal party and of the Scottish National party in Scotland.

The Labour party was converted—or rather, reconverted, since Keir Hardie believed in it—to home rule in time. We can therefore assert in all fairness that there is an established and stable demand for self-government in Scotland. That more than justifies the call for a multi-option referendum to establish openly and officially the attitudes of the Scottish people. I hope that the Scottish political parties will then be able to base an agreed solution on the result.

5.50 pm
Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)

This has been an important debate, and it is a debate which will continue. It is also a timely debate. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) not only on winning the debate but on advancing, with his characteristic passion, the need for a Scottish parliament. He will have only a few years to wait until we have a Labour Government setting up a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh to tackle some of the real problems that the present Government have ignored because of their obsession with centralisation, contracting out and a market philosophy.

Quangos are at the top of the Scottish political agenda nowadays, and they clearly embarrass the Government. The issue disconcerts the business community because the public interest is now playing second fiddle to private and vested interests. Over the past few weeks and months, fraud, corruption and the woeful misuse of public funds seem to have been high on the agenda of a certain minority.

The Secretary of State for Scotland seems unconcerned, sitting idly by while these activities unfold. He seems either unwilling or unable to intervene. A new era is unfolding in Scotland in which the promotion of the culture of closet croneyism is well to the fore. Nearly 5,000 people behind closed doors spend almost £7 billion of public money, with only tenuous lines of accountability to the Scottish Office, Parliament, the press or the public.

It is important to use this opportunity to offer our response to a speech that the Secretary of State made in Scotland today, ostensibly to set the record straight on quangos. The speech offered him a chance to come clean and to accept the widespread criticism of quangos. Tragically, that did not happen. The Secretary of State deliberately attempted to distort the debate on quangos by asserting that the number of executive public bodies had declined from 84 in 1980 to less than half that number now.

The real issue, of course, is why there are 167 quangos in Scotland. Was the right hon. Gentleman being disingenuous? Was he trying to distort the debate? Those 167 organisations operate outwith the usual realms of public scrutiny. It is not only their numbers that cause concern, but the fact that their powers have been rapidly extended. They spend an extraordinary amount of the Scottish public expenditure budget. We should also remember that in 1992 the Scottish Office had more executive bodies than did any other Department in the United Kingdom.

As quoted in the Evening Times, the Secretary of State attacked his critics as follows: What nonsense! The number of public bodies has actually fallen over the past decade, as the Government made services work better and with more thought for the taxpayer's wallet. That clearly shows that the right hon. Gentleman does not understand what a quango is. Either that, or he has attempted to mislead the Scots in a major speech today. Meanwhile, I challenge the Minister to explain whether the Secretary of State is right and I am wrong about the increasing number of quangos.

In the same article the Secretary of State is quoted as saying: Many Health Boards and hospital trusts have meetings open to the public and I would like to see the rest follow their lead. What an extraordinary statement. We argue for open government, while the Secretary of State says that he would like more public meetings held by these bodies. Why does the Secretary of State not open up all these quangos to scrutiny by press and public?

It is clear that the Secretary of State is complacent about quangos. He has whitewashed the deplorable record of some of them in the past few months, and he is trying to shift the blame away from his appointments and to lay it on the Opposition parties in Scotland, which are demanding firm action to clean up the quangos before we hear more stories of sleaze and corruption in Scottish public life.

The Secretary of State has also been back-pedalling on reforms that he promised in this House—minimal reforms to improve the handling of Scottish business. If we can believe the article in The Scotsman of 5 February, that much becomes apparent. We agreed that the reforms should come before the House, so what is the right hon. Gentleman doing about that? It appears that he is running scared. After the fiasco of the Peterken affair in Glasgow, surely he does not want Lord Fraser to come and answer questions in the Committee. Why are the Government back-pedalling on such an important issue?

Last week, the right hon. Gentleman withdrew from the Scottish local government Committee. Is his commitment to this form of democracy in Scotland waning? Has he no stomach for a fight?

Mr. Gallie

The hon. Gentleman has been unfair, suggesting that the Secretary of State is backing away from a fight and is not meeting his obligations. My right hon. Friend promised Scotland single-tier local government and he is going to give it that. His absence from the Committee has to do with parliamentary procedures and a lack of co-operation on the part of Opposition Members.

Mr. McLeish

It is typical of the humbug of Conservative Members that they want the Secretary of State to proceed with the only thing that Scotland does not want—the reorganisation of local government. What about corruption in quangos? What about the right hon. Gentleman's back-pedalling on fundamental reforms to improve the government of Scotland at Westminster? If this is such a flagship policy, why does the Secretary of State run away from appearing in the Committee and dealing with his own business? It is pathetic. He seems to be getting bored with his brief and to want to give up his involvement in much of Scottish affairs.

Quite apart from trying to defend the indefensible—quangos—the right hon. Gentleman should apologise for introducing the most centralised state in the western world to Scotland. Other countries in Europe and in eastern Europe are trying to reform their democracies and to decentralise. Our Government are secretive and are massively centralising every power that belongs to local authorities.

Finally, the Secretary of State is also gerrymandering. This Secretary of State makes Westminster and Wandsworth look like a tea party. The biggest and most expensive vote-rigging exercise in Scottish history is being enacted in Committee. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities suggests that it could cost up to £700 million for a set of organisations that no one wants but which the Scots will have to pay for. If that is not expensive vote rigging, I do not know what is.

This evening, we have mentioned taking stock, the Government reneging on their commitment, quangos and the Secretary of State not having the guts to face up to some of the endemic corruption within those organisations. We have also mentioned the cost of vote rigging in the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill. The real tragedy, however, is that when—and if—the measure is passed nearly 100 extra statutory committees and quangos will be created.

The Secretary of State said in Scotland today that he is hunting down quangos to slay them. What nonsense. Who is he trying to deceive? Any Conservative Member who has read the Bill will realise that from the three super water quangos downwards it is not about single-tier but about multi-tier authorities and about centralisation, quangos and statutory committees before we get to gerrymandered authorities which cannot provide services.

Why is the Secretary of State so afraid of democracy and its institutions? Is it because the ballot box in Scotland has not delivered for the Tories? Is it because they are obsessed with the free market ideology, which requires the destruction of accountable institutions and public organisations? Or is the Secretary of State merely wedded to centralisation and elective dictatorship? Is it not simply that the Government have been in office far too long and are complacent and contemptuous of public opinion to the extent that any idea of listening or responding has been thrown out of the window?

We need to rebuild Scotland's democracy and to recreate the conditions in which our democratic institutions can fight back. We need to reassert our commitment to rein back the rapidly expanding frontiers of the unelected state and instead renew our commitment to elected government and all the institutions associated with that.

Scotland does not want falling standards in public life, or waste, or the sleaze that is undermining public confidence. It wants a Government who are committed to scrutinising effectively nearly £7 billion of public expenditure.

The Under-Secretary of State should set up a public inquiry to study the functions of quangos in Scotland. He should also set up an independent review of the corruption that daily unfolds in our newspapers and on television. He should stop the asset stripping of local democracy that will result from the nonsense that we are calling the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill. He should dedicate himself to renewing democratic principles and he should stop lambasting local councillors while his Secretary of State unashamedly praises people who are not worthy of that praise.

6.2 pm

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)

Until last week, I never realised that, in his armoury, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) possessed the ability to predict the future. When he chose the debate he could not have known how timely it would be. Last week we witnessed the constitutional capers of the Scottish National party—showing the usual maturity of a primary seven mock election—and later in the week the constitutional contradictions and contortions of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and the right hon. and learned member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith).

At the beginning of last week, the hon. Member for Hamilton attempted to polish up his Unionist credentials and then put them on display for all to see as he set about defending the rights of English Members of Parliament to serve on Scottish Standing Committees. He did so seemingly oblivious of the fact that that was in direct contradiction to his leader, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East who, during the debate on the Loyal Address, said: An overwhelming majority of the hon. Members who represent Scottish and Welsh constituencies are against the Bills that will only be carried by the votes of English Conservatives who do not represent the people in the countries concerned."—[Official Report, 18 November 1993; Vol. 233, c. 24.] Last Thursday, the hon. Member for Hamilton was in turn contradicted by his leader who said that it was "wrong" for constitutional parallels to be drawn between Scotland and Northern Ireland, ignoring the fact that his shadow Secretary of State had written to the Prime Minister only weeks before arguing exactly the opposite.

It is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) did not tell us whether it was the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East or the hon. Member for Hamilton—who had said completely contradictory things—who won that battle. I should gladly give way to the hon. Member for Fife, Central if he wished to tell us who won the battle, but I see that he does not want to intervene. The issues raise many questions but none more fundamental than who is deciding Labour's constitutional policy.

Today's debate is very welcome to Conservative Members. All the Opposition parties have refused to learn the lessons of the April 1992 general election. Let me remind them that at that election only the Scottish Conservatives were able to increase their votes and their representation in the House. The nationalists never received their mandate for independence and lost two seats.

While preparing for today's debate I happened to chance on the leaflet issued by the SNP at that election, which was called, "Six Steps to Independence". It is worth while mentioning the first steps, if only to inject some humour into our proceedings. According to the SNP: Step One: You vote for the only party honestly offering to bring real power back to Scotland. Step Two: We win the majority of Scottish seats at the election. That gives us the mandate to negotiate Independence. How the nationalists' slogan of "Scotland free by '93" must haunt them. I see that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) at least has the good grace to cringe when that is mentioned.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Robertson

The Labour party did not fare any better as its neo-separatist bandwagon was derailed and in classic marginal seats, such as mine, the electorate swung behind the Unionist cause and rejected Labour's plans to play fast and loose with the constitution.

The Liberals were also marginalised as a force—albeit a small one—in Scottish politics. They lost one seat and came close to losing four others. However, some Liberals have learnt their lesson. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was widely quoted last year when he mentioned the dangers to his party in Scotland that would be unleashed by a close association with the Labour party in the constitutional convention.

The Opposition parties have all failed in their own way to learn the lesson of April 1992.

Mrs. Ewing

What about the Conservatives?

Mr. Robertson

When we went into that election we Conservatives were not embarrassed by our Unionist credentials. We did not keep them quiet in case anyone noticed that we were fundamentally and unequivocally different from every other political party contesting the election in Scotland. The courageous decision by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland to put the question of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom at the centre of our appeal was crucial and proved decisive. Only we stood, and still stand, full square behind the Union. At that election, only the Conservatives offered Scotland the chance to continue to be a full and equal partner in the United Kingdom and the Scottish people duly responded to that message.

Two years later the Opposition parties cannot resist refighting battles that they have long since lost. Bluntly, they are nothing more than constitutional masochists, intent on settling old scores in pursuit of something that they desire for their political ends but that the Scottish people continually reject. I do not usually quote the hon. Member for Dunfermline East, (Mr. Brown), but he summed it up last year when he said in a lecture at Edinburgh university: I think we are making a mistake if we just assume there is a huge enthusiasm for home rule in Scotland. For once, the shadow Chancellor was right.

The Scottish people want the sort of devolution that the Government have been delivering. For 15 years, the Government have been giving the Scottish people power over the homes that they live in, the schools that they send their children to, the utilities that deliver the key services that they use and—most importantly—the power to play their full part in the United Kingdom.

The reform of local government empowers the Scottish people even further, because there will no longer be buck passing from district to region and vice versa. The electorate will no longer have to deal with two sets of councillors and be passed from pillar to post and back again. The reforms that we are debating in the Standing Committee on the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill will lead to greater accountability, enhanced sensitivity to local needs and to much more local local government for every voter and service user in Scotland.

We all know Labour's views on local government. Members of the Standing Committee will no doubt hear them again and again during the coming weeks and months. Labour Members want to strip local government of its responsibilities and invest them in an Edinburgh-based, Glasgow-run Scottish assembly. Or, as councillor Jean McFadden, Labour president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: There may well be a tendency for the Scottish Parliament to suck up power from below. Given the shower opposite, I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there most certainly would be such a tendency. That is the bottom line.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

At the end of the day, Scottish local government is run by people elected at the ballot box. They are overwhelmingly Labour. I accept that the people reject the nobodies in the SNP, and they certainly reject the Conservative party, but, overwhelmingly, they elect Labour Members. Surely they are qualified to speak on behalf of local government in a way that the hon. Gentleman is not.

Mr. Robertson

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman realises what Councillor McFadden said; a Scottish assembly would "suck up power" from local councils and strip local authorities throughout Scotland of powers. It is not me saying that but the hon. Gentleman's party.

Mr. Norman Hogg

I accept that the hon. Gentleman is probably correct. There is a very real possibility that the Scottish parliament would find it difficult to reorganise Scottish local government because of resistance within local government. That stems from a fear of all government, because of the way that local government has been treated over the years, most notably by the Conservative Government, who have sought to destroy democratic control.

Mr. Robertson

We have had a real confession here today. Believe me, the hon. Gentleman's words will come back to haunt him.

The bottom line of the Labour-Liberal assembly proposals is to concentrate all power in Edinburgh and have that power dominated by the central belt, to the detriment of every other part of Scotland. The Labour party doubts its ability to win power at Westminster; it keeps losing the match, so it wants to change the game. We hear much about gerrymandering from the Labour party, but that is the real gerrymandering that the people of Scotland face.

As the party of the Union, we have never been frightened to question how the Union is working. As I said earlier, we have never failed to look at its failings as well as its strengths. Unionism is not blind, dogmatic adherence to the present constitutional arrangements, to what Opposition parties all call the status quo. The Union that we have in 1994 is not the Union of 1707—indeed, how could it possibly be so? It has constantly adapted to changing circumstances, moved with the times and been flexible. That is where the Opposition parties get it helplessly and utterly wrong. In denying the dynamism of the Union, they deny history itself.

To listen to Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Dundee, East who moved the motion, the House would be forgiven for thinking that Scotland's history ended in 1707 and its nationhood ceased to exist with the signing of the Act of Union. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scotland has had its best days since 1707—in culture, commerce and influence. Let us never forget that it was as part of the Union that our literature became world famous: Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "Treasure Island"; Robert Burns, "Tam O'Shanter"; Sir Walter Scott, the Waverley novels; Conan Doyle, "Sherlock Holmes"; and Adam Smith, "Wealth of Nations".

As part of the Union, Edinburgh became known as the Athens of the north, where the Scottish enlightenment took place. It was as part of the Union that Scottish soldiers fought for the Crown against Napoleon in one century and in two world wars in the next. It was as part of the Union that Clyde-built ships became masters of the seas and trade routes. It is as part of the Union that, in the 20th century, one in 10 of all the world's personal computers is made in Scotland. It was as part of the Union that Scottish inventiveness gave the world the steam engine, penicillin, television, telephone and the pneumatic tyre. It was as part of the Union that Scottish education was the first to be free and compulsory.

In Robert Owen, we led the way in social reform at New Lanark. It was as part of the Union that Scottish Christian missionaries pioneered in the mission fields of Africa and the far east. It was as part of the Union—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) will like this—that my noble Friend Lord Mackay, a Scottish lawyer with no English legal training, became Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

That heritage is far too precious to throw away. Scottish culture today is just as distinct and proud as it has ever been. We have unique ways of doing things: in visible and tangible ways such as our legal system, our education system and our Church and in less obvious ways such as our acceptance of a shared inheritance and broadly similar attitudes and values. Those ways are just as pronounced and obvious, and are still cherished as much today, as they were all those centuries ago.

Far from destroying the character of the Scot and compromising his unique national characteristics, Unionism has enhanced them. They have been a powerful force in forging the destiny of the United Kingdom and, through the United Kingdom, the wider world. Far from creating a Britain of uniform Britons, the Union has benefited from encouraging the diversity of its people.

Nobody should forget that it was the Conservative party which continually updated Scotland's institutions and constitution and a Conservative Government who first established the Scottish Office and upgraded the office of Secretary for Scotland to a full Secretary of State within the Cabinet. It was in that proud tradition that "Partnership for Good" was written and presented to the House—the next milestone in the continuing evolution of the Union. That is why the Union is ready to face up to, and meet head on, the challenges of the 21st century and will celebrate its 300th anniversary in great shape.

Curiously, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East rightly said, the union of the old Soviet Union died after 70 years because it had none of that. The Soviet Union imposed uniformity and demanded conformity, suppressed culture and nationhood and survived by constantly rewriting history. In complete contrast, our Union positively encourages diversity and can accommodate nationalism. The events at Murrayfield on Saturday were testimony to that, although hon. Members will forgive me if I do not dwell on that encounter for too long.

In conclusion, Scotland's place is as a full and equal partner in the United Kingdom. The Scottish people have shown time and again that they do not want to see the old saltire ripped from the Union flag. The Union has endured and it will endure—its dynamism will see to that.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)


Mr. Robertson

I have no time.

In 2007, the peoples of Scotland and England will celebrate 300 years of pooled sovereignty and joint nationhood. In 2107, when you and I, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are long gone, our successors will, I believe, still be here, still debating the nature of that peculiar and unique relationship which binds our two nations together, still marvelling at what it has achieved; and, yes, there will still be some on the Opposition Benches questioning its chances of survival.

6.16 pm
Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

All I can say after that is that Rabbie Burns must have been burlin' in his grave when he heard himself being wheeled out in defence of the Union by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), who would surely qualify for inclusion in "a parcel o' rogues in a nation".

I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), who initiated the debate. It is the first opportunity that the House has had since the general election to debate the Scottish constitutional question and the lack of democracy in Scotland.

I remind Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, who tried to talk up the Tories' election result in Scotland at the general election, that they were hammered. They managed the magnificent feat of getting a quarter of Scottish voters to support them. If that is their measure of success, they surely have low horizons and expectations—or perhaps they are trying to rewrite history.

If we believe recent opinion polls, Tory support has dwindled to a mere 16 per cent. of the Scottish electorate. There is no doubt that Scotland is being governed by an unrepresentative minority clique. Not only were the Tories rejected by three quarters of the people of Scotland at the previous general election, but the people of Scotland gave the positive message that they voted for parties committed to the setting up of a Scottish parliament.

The denial of that parliament by the Government means a continuation of the democratic deficit in Scotland, which is the only country with its own legal system and laws, but no legislature to pass those laws.

Mr. Gallie

The hon. Gentleman has suggested that all the other parties in Scotland fought the election on the basis that they wanted a separate Scottish parliament. Does he not accept that one party—the Scottish National party—stood for election on one issue alone: the establishment of a self-ruling Scotland with no Westminster connection? Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood for,a parliament within the Union—a Scottish assembly.

Mr. Canavan

Three quarters of the Scottish people voted for parties committed in principle to the establishment of a Scottish parliament. There are always differences of opinion within those parties about the exact powers that such a parliament should have, and about its relationships with the rest of the United Kingdom—and, indeed, the rest of the world; but the best solution to that problem is contained in the motion, which refers to "a multi-option referendum". Let the people decide.

If the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) believes in the sovereignty of the Scottish people, he should support me on that. The truth is that there is more democracy in Hong Kong than in Scotland; soon, there will probably be more democracy in Northern Ireland. Surely no hon. Member can defend that.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

When asked by a South American business man why the Scots were so popular all over the world, I replied, "It is because we have the great good fortune to be the only nation that does not have the misfortune to have a Government."

Mr. Canavan

I am surprised that a distinguished Scottish lawyer does not support my argument. Surely it is a disgrace that Scotland, which has its own legal system and its own body of law, has no legislature to pass that law. At present, bits and pieces are incorporated in English Acts, preventing the proper scrutiny and quality of legislation that the Scottish people deserve.

Sadly, the only Government response on constitutional questions since the general election has been the "taking stock" exercise, which has turned out to be a bit of a farce. Even the pussyfooting proposals in the White Paper have been delayed. Surely it is not enough to respond to the wishes of the people of Scotland by saying, "Oh, well, we shall have more meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland"; that is almost as relevant as saying, "We shall shift the Committee to Timbuktu."

The Scottish Grand Committee is basically a talking shop. I am not saying that it is a completely useless talking shop, but it has no real executive or legislative powers. If the Government had wanted to give it such powers, they would have referred the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill to it, and let all the elected representatives of the people of Scotland decide the future of the legislation, rather than drafting English Members on to the Committee to preserve the Government's majority.

The Bill threatens to destroy what is left of local democracy in Scotland. It has been rightly described as the most blatant piece of gerrymandering in the history of Scottish local government—and very expensive at that: the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has estimated the cost at some £720 million. If passed, it will also have serious consequences for important services such as social work and education; it aims to remove the statutory responsibility to employ qualified directors of education, qualified social workers and committees dealing with those subjects.

I assume that the Under-Secretary of State who is responsible for education in Scotland will speak at some point. I hope that he will pay careful attention to what I am about to say. The Bill interferes with the traditional catchment areas of many schools, thus infringing what is supposed to be one of the basic tenets of democracy, in which the Government claim to believe—parents' right to send their children to the school of their choice.

Let me take a couple of examples from my area. St. Modan's and St. Mungo's high schools are the only two Catholic high schools in Central region; some of my constituents choose to send their children to both schools. Both have rolls of about 800 pupils: St. Modan's is in Stirling, St. Mungo's in Falkirk.

If the Government's proposals for local boundary changes proceed, both schools will be in different local education authority areas. At present, about 60 per cent. of St. Modan's pupils travel from outwith Stirling district, which would be conterminous with one of the proposed new LEA areas. It may lose more than half its pupils, unless the pupils cross the LEA boundary—which they are unlikely to do unless the Government guarantee parents free transport, and also guarantee that the new LEA will not be burdened with extra costs.

So far, the Minister has refused to give any such guarantees, despite representations from hon. Members—including me—from the Scottish Catholic Education Commission and from the Scottish hierarchy. I hope that he will reply tonight, and that he will answer all the parents in Scotland whose right to choice will be severely curtailed, if not obliterated, by the Bill. It seems that the Government either do not fully realise the consequences of their proposed legislation, or are hellbent on wrecking their children's educational opportunities, destroying parental choice and eroding what is left of Scottish local democracy.

The Bill would also take power from elected representatives by creating up to 100 more quangos. That would make matters worse rather than better. I understand that Scotland now has 5,000 quango members; after the proposed reorganisation, there will be only 1,200 elected local government members—less than a quarter of the number of quango members. The quangos will be responsible for more public expenditure than the elected council members.

I am worried about more than the denial of democracy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) said, the Government are creating a system that is wide open to abuse and corruption. Last week, a conference of the west of Scotland Conservatives took place in Renfrew. The Minister and his colleagues may not take everything that I say as gospel truth; let us hear what other members of his party said and decided.

The majority agreed with the statement: Quangos are a gravy train for Tory supporters", and an overwhelming majority agreed that there were too many quangos in Scotland". The same report said that leading Tories—including the chairman of the Scottish Tory party, Sir Michael Hirst—were surprised at the votes that took place. No wonder Sir Michael was surprised—he would not recognise democracy if it were speared in his eyeballs. He was rejected by the voters of Strathkelvin in 1987, to reappear with his knighthood and patronage appointment as chairman of the Scottish Tories.

Given the placemen in certain posts, that seems to be the career pattern for Scottish Tories. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Minister with responsibilities for health and home affairs in Scotland, was rejected by the voters of Angus in 1987. Lord Mackay was rejected by the voters of Argyll, then turned up as a Minister with responsibility for transport.

Last weekend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury claimed in front of a student audience that foreigners are in the business of buying academic qualifications and indulging in corrupt practices. If the right hon. Gentleman is looking for corruption opportunities, he need look no further than all the quangos that were created and the many more that are being formed.

From the membership of those quangos, it seems that, to be virtually assured a seat on at least one of them, one has to buy not an A-level or university degree but only a Tory party card. That is what it is—jobs for the boys. That abuse of party power is even worse than that practised by many of the Stalinist regimes that once existed in eastern Europe.

Mr. McAllion

Did my hon. Friend read in the Scottish press that, because of the dearth of talent among members of the Tory Front Bench, there is every likelihood that Lord Mackay will be appointed Secretary of State for Scotland—even though he was not elected with a single vote cast anywhere in Scotland?

Mr. Canavan

I did, and I was appalled. I wondered whether the day will come when the Secretary of State for Scotland, instead of answering questions at the Dispatch Box, will have to be summoned to the Bar of the House because he has not been elected by even one constituency in Scotland. How will that go in terms of accountability? Scotland is ruled—or rather, misruled—by a party which has only minority support, and which has no mandate from the people of Scotland.

I conclude with this warning. The Government cannot run away from the people of Scotland for ever. This year, they will receive two blunt messages. They will get a double whammy in the forthcoming local and European Parliament elections. The people of Scotland are fed up with, and can see through, the Government, and their verdict will be given on a Government who have an increasingly strong stench of corruption—which is symptomatic of terminal decline.

If the people of Scotland can accelerate that decline through the ballot box, so much the better. The sooner that we can be rid of this Government, the better for the people of Scotland.

6.35 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)


Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Chair has a responsibility, particularly in debates such as this, to protect minorities in the House that represent close to one quarter of the Scottish vote. What is the argument for independence that the House is unwilling or unable to debate? When such points of view are excluded from debate, does that not reinforce the strong view that is held in Scotland—far beyond the ranks of the Scottish National party—that the House, its processes and procedures are a conspiracy against Scottish public interest?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

The Chair is interested not in the personal views of any party, but in fairness in terms of the number of times that right hon. and hon. Members have contributed to debates.

Mrs. Ewing

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the interests of fairness, surely all constitutional parties represented in the House should have been given an opportunity to express their views in this debate. My hon. Friend, who has been present for the entire debate, was not afforded that opportunity. Meanwhile, a party that represents a minority viewpoint in Scotland was represented by several speakers.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Right hon. and hon. Members know full well that the number of times that they have contributed in the past determines to some extent how often they are called subsequently. The debate has not yet finished, so who knows who may yet contribute to it? I call the Minister.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and I entered Parliament on the same day. The only difference between us at that time was that he sat on this side of the House and I sat on the other. The hon. Gentleman has lost none of his characteristic vigour and vitality, and I shall seek to answer his points.

Mr. Canavan

The Minister should get on with it.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I will, and I shall deal now with the hon. Gentleman's points.

The Labour party's claim that the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill will create 100 new quangos is the purest fantasy. The Bill provides for a maximum of seven non-departmental public bodies, plus any necessary residuary bodies. They are the three new water companies, customers council, recorders administration, staff commission and property commission. I am astonished at the hon. Gentleman's nerve in talking about quangos. The last Labour Government presided over many more. In 1979, there were 84 executive quangos in Scotland, which this Government have almost halved to 47. I have only to look at Labour's election manifesto to see proposals to establish 17 new quangos. The hon. Member for Falkirk, West should make the sternest representation to members of his own Front Bench because they are not going along with his views.

Mr. McLeish

Surely to goodness the Minister does not believe the Secretary of State's speeches when he reads them. Does he agree that Scotland currently has 163 quangos and not the number claimed by the Secretary of State? What about expenditure levels of nearly £7 billion? I am giving the Secretary of State, who is in his place, an opportunity to give the Minister the benefit of his advice. It is appalling that the Minister should attempt to distort the argument by giving completely false figures.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman is hoist by his own petard. The number of advisory bodies has also reduced during this Parliament. It is a plain and unmistakable fact that there were 84 executive quangos under the last Labour Government in 1979, but there are only 47 today. I remind the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) of the new quangos that Labour proposes to establish. It wants a cultural education committee, human rights commission, national investment bank, judicial appointments and training commission, consumer protection commission, wages council and various other bodies. Labour's 1993 conference passed motions endorsing the establishment of various bodies such as a training agency, national investment bank and regional development agencies—the list goes on and on. Yet Labour Members have the nerve to criticise the Government when we have reduced the number of quangos.

I did not intend to begin with that point, but as the hon. Member for Falkirk, East told me to get on with it, it was only fair to answer his key point. He is wrong—the Government have reduced the number of quangos in Scotland, and the hon. Gentleman's representations should be directed at his own leader and members of his own Front Bench. I will say to the credit of the hon. Gentleman that he has no more hesitation in voting against his own side than against us.

Mr. Kynoch

Has my hon. Friend considered that the Opposition might have withdrawn all those conference pledges on increasing the number of quangos, just as they withdrew all their pledges on spending?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We shall examine Labour's future actions with the greatest care. We noted what was said this afternoon, and it was not consistent with the line taken at Labour's national conferences or with its proposals for a number of new quangos.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central asked a significant question about local government being extended to quangos. I confirm to him that the White Paper published last July by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has responsibility for public service and science, proposed a code of practice for access to Government information. It will be implemented in April not only for Government Departments but for quangos within the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. That is undoubtedly a step forward. The principles of the code will be adopted by other non-departmental public bodies. There will be a similar code of practice for access to information about the national health service.

Mr. McLeish

Will the Minister confirm this evening in the House that he will set up a register of directors' interests which will be tough and will have an open regulatory regime to ensure that the wilful neglect of public funds that is taking place at present is stamped out?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I can confirm that Scottish Enterprise is considering that matter. It is right that appropriate rules and procedures should be drawn up in that connection, as they are for the House of Commons.

Mrs. Ewing

I do not want to interfere in the dispute between what is probably the largest quango in Scotland, namely, the official Opposition and the Minister. Will the Minister confirm that, in a debate in the House in which the constitutional issue has been discussed, the Scottish National party, which is the driving force and the powerhouse on the constitutional issue, has been denied the opportunity to participate? As a member of the legal profession in Scotland, does he agree that there is a need to ensure that there is accountability between the various organisations in Scotland and that we have been denied the accountability of putting on record our viewpoint?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

A considerable amount of parliamentary time was taken up last week as a result of the parliamentary disruption engaged in by the Scottish National party. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot engage in disruption and take up a great deal of parliamentary time and then complain that they are not given enough time. The fact remains—

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister seems to suggest that there is some connection between the SNP not being called in the debate today and events last week. Through the prerogative of the Chair, can you confirm that?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is not true.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am grateful for that confirmation. There is no question but that the SNP is dealt with fairly in terms of parliamentary time.

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to make that connection? It is a simple point of order. It is a simple question, Sir.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I will answer it. No.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order to address the Chair with one's hands in one's pockets?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Sadly, it is.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We have to consider the motion against the back drop of history. The Act of Union represented a partnership of willing partners and we believe that it is the world's best example—

Mrs. Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the light of your clear ruling on the subject, will you ask the Minister to withdraw his clear allegation made on the Floor of the House that we were denied an opportunity to speak in today's debate because of events last week?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I should make it clear that Madam Speaker has total responsibility. We who share the responsibility with her are the ones who decide who may or may not be called in any debate. The previous behaviour of hon. Members has no relationship with whether they are called on a subsequent day. I hope that that is clear. If anyone else suggests anything to the contrary, he is wrong. I hope that that is clear.

With the greatest respect, I do not think that the Minister made any allegation. He may have felt that there had been some such response, but I have made the ruling clear. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) may yet catch my eye. He knows what time the debate ends. I do not know how long the Minister's speech will be.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

To return to the matter of quangos, far from believing that all quangos should be dismantled, we believe that they have a legitimate purpose in the diffusion of power. I give one example. The chairman and non-executive directors of such bodies are accountable in several ways not only to the law of the land but, through the citizens charter, to the people whom they serve. They are accountable to their sponsoring Secretary of State for their stewardship, and through him to Parliament. There is a parallel chain of accountability for the use of resources. It starts with the chief executive of the body and ends with the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons. That is consistent with the best traditions of democracy and parliamentary tradition.

If citizens know what they are entitled to expect from public services, as they will be under the citizens charter, and are given proper avenues of complaint if they do not receive it, they are well placed to call that body to account immediately. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) made the point well in that connection.

I confirm that we are determined that women in particular should be considered for more public appointments.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

So long as they have a Tory party card.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

They will be appointed on merit. Our approach is sensible and can be delivered. The proportion of women who hold appointments made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is already 40 per cent. That is one of the highest of any Government Department. However, we are not complacent and we want to improve on the figure. We are always keen to learn about women and men of ability and experience who would like to make a further contribution to life in Scotland.

The issue of local government reform was raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) was right to say that the purpose of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill was not to dismantle democracy. Its purpose is to avoid excessive duplication. For example, there are now two sets of councillors, two sets of headquarters and two sets of officials. It makes sense to co-ordinate housing, social work, education, sport and similar functions.

I shall bear in mind the point made by the hon, Member for Falkirk, West.

Mr. Canavan


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am answering the hon. Gentleman. The point that he raised is covered by clause 32 of the Bill. We shall reach it some time. We shall debate it thoroughly and I shall bear in mind the point that he made.

Mr. Canavan


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall not give way. There will be plenty of opportunity to debate the matter at length in Committee. I am sure that it will be discussed further when the Bill returns to the House if satisfaction is not obtained at that time.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central made proposals for a multi-referendum. I recall when I was a new Member asking Michael Foot, the then Leader of the House, to consider a referendum. He replied that a referendum was not the way to proceed. He subsequently changed his mind because a referendum appeared to be the only way to get the Scotland Bill on the statute book. A referendum with vague, general propositions tends to be of little value. It would be necessary to put before the electors a clear proposition for a particular policy, spelling out in detail what was involved. That is precisely what was done in 1979. When faced with a clear proposal, less than one third of the Scottish electorate voted in favour of change and the results were inconclusive.

Mr. McAllion

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Salmond

Will the Minister give way?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

No. I have many points to answer.

I want to answer the charges made about the White Paper "Taking Stock". In 1926, it was a Tory Government who created the office of Secretary of State for Scotland. In 1939, a Conservative Government brought the Scottish Office to St Andrew's House in Edinburgh. The White Paper "Taking Stock" focuses on several matters. Scotland already receives a considerable share of parliamentary time. Some 60 Scottish Bills have been enacted in the past 10 years. In addition, when Scots legislation is incorporated in United Kingdom Bills which apply to Britain or the United Kingdom, the greatest care is taken to ensure that, both in terms of policy and in the drafting of the legislation, an approach appropriate to Scotland is taken. There have been discussions through the usual channels about the matter. Agreement has been reached and my right hon. Friend will make a statement in due course.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

I hope that my hon. Friend has noticed that the verbose motion flows from a concept about the undemocratic power and influence of transnational and multinational companies in Scotland's economy. Two such companies have just come to Scotland and provided 2,000 jobs. We have obtained domination of the world by the same methods. What would have happened to Scotland if the narrow-minded idiocy being displayed had prevented us from investing in other countries, and prevented other countries from investing in ours?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I can answer conclusively—multinational companies have had a good record. Last year, 79,000 people were employed in overseas-owned manufacturing units in Scotland, representing almost 25 per cent. of manufacturing jobs. It has been reported that gross wages and salaries per employee were 20 per cent. higher.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

Does the Minister agree that the real damage done to Scotland involves the loss of control of Scottish companies? Is he aware that the last steelworks in Scotland, the Craigneuk works at Motherwell, is closing today, with immediate redundances? Will the Government do anything to try to find a buyer for it as a going concern?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

It does not belong to the Scottish Office to sell, but strenuous efforts are being made by the local enterprise company. It is important that its efforts are successful. Mossend steel works, which is not far from the hon. Gentleman's constituency, is due to open shortly, creating many hundreds of jobs.

Mr. Gallie

Does not my hon. Friend think it shameful that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) did not distance himself from the insulting motion on inward investment? Does he not agree that it is a condemnation of the Labour party's commitment to jobs in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Member for Fife, Central has been thoroughly unrealistic—inward investment has played a key role in creating and sustaining employment in Scotland.

Mr. McLeish


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall not give way as I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already.

Mr. Norman Hogg

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) was severely attacked in the intervention of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), which was answered by the Minister. When my hon. Friend tried to intervene to clarify the position, he was arrogantly brushed aside by the Minister.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That has nothing to do with the Chair and is a matter for debating—

Mr. Norman Hogg

It was a good point—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It was a bad point.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Several hon. Members raised the subject of "Taking Stock". Responsibility for the Scottish Arts Council will transfer to the Secretary of State, as will various other responsibilities, such as training, through the establishment of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. There have already been some impressive results. In Scotland, more than half the Scottish work force are qualified to at least Scottish vocational qualification level three, compared to 30 per cent. south of the border. Responsibility for the highlands and islands airports will be transferred to the Secretary of State, which makes sense.

We are giving high priority to ensuring that Scotland is right at the heart of Europe. That is why we set up Scottish Trade International. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), was successful in persuading the Europeans that Scotland should host Europartenariat. Some 350 companies exhibited to similar companies from nearly 50 countries, and more than 5,000 meetings with Scottish companies were held over the two-day event. Scottish Trade International will be carrying out a follow-up exercise to ensure that the participants have all the advice and information that they need to pursue the deals that they made. That has been good for Scotland. On the issue of Scottish Office visibility, not only have we opened up access to more information, but we have established telephone inquiry links and 22 information points, and information leaflets will be made available.

I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) and for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) about the success of the national health service trusts. The benefits of that policy are already becoming apparent, with more patients being treated, improved facilities and services specifically adapted to particular needs.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East demanded a Scots parliament. The Conservative stand on that issue is unrepentant, and is incorrigibly and unequivocally Unionist. At the last election, we stood full square on that platform. Much to the dismay of pollsters, pundits and bookies, we were the only party in Scotland to increase our share of the vote and our representation in the House. Only one Labour seat in Britain was taken by the Tories in the last general election: that of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South. That was due to his vigorous and strong Unionist stand.

Mr. McAllion


Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman at this moment.

It is right to consider the role of the Secretary of State. If the motion were implemented, he would be stripped of resources, without the power to legislate and without the backing of his Department. He would rapidly become a cypher and would be unlikely to retain his position in the Cabinet. If he were to lose his place in the Cabinet, it would be bad for Scotland in the United Kingdom Parliament, and Scotland's influence would be correspondingly reduced.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North was right to consider the number of Scots in the Cabinet. There are four—the Secretaries of State for Scotland, for Transport and for Defence, and the Lord Chancellor. Could that number be maintained if a Scots parliament were established? I am far from certain that it could.

Before the last election, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said that once there was a Scottish parliament that handled health issues in Scotland, it would be impossible for him to be a Minister for health in England. There are also concerns about the number of Scottish Members in the House. There are now 72 Scottish Members. If calculated on the basis of the population, the number should be 57. Would it be reasonable to maintain the present numbers if a separate Scots parliament covering most aspects of Scottish public affairs were established? If we followed the example of Stormont, we would have only 40 Scottish Members. I would not want to see the number of Scots represented in the House reduced as that would be contrary to Scotland's interest, as would the elimination of the office of Secretary of State.

Implicit in the motion is the fact that the parliament would raise taxes. The Scots would then be the most heavily taxed people in the United Kingdom. It would be unreasonable to make the rest of Britain pay for an extra tier of Government in Scotland without comparable parliaments all over England. The difficulty of the policy of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) is that the rest of Britain does not want regional parliaments all over England, and certainly not throughout Wales. Tax-raising powers would constitute an extra burden on Scottish industry.

There was a report in The Scotsman on 19 August 1974 which stated: Mr. John Smith, MP for North Lanark, claimed that members of the party who were pressing for devolution to a Scottish Government without the loss of the office of the Secretary of State and a reduction in the number of MPs at Westminster were being dishonest. I do not wish to see the role of the Secretary of State eliminated, and I do not want the loss of employment that would go with the creation of another parliament. I do not want endless conflict between rival parliaments, which the motion would doubtless entail.

I quote the words of a distinguished parliamentarian, who said: Feelings of pride in one's land and one's culture are both respectable and desirable, but they are perfectly compatible with membership of a somewhat wider political family: to sacrifice benefits accrued over 270 years in order to gratify confused and ephemeral political ambitions would be tragic and unforgivably foolish. Those are not my words, but those of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in his book "Devolution: the end of Britain?" I endorse them today.

Let us remember our common heritage with the rest of the United Kingdom. Let us strengthen those links and not throw away the benefit of hundreds of years of unity. We have an inescapable duty to oppose the motion. The Union has brought with it great benefits to all parts of the United Kingdom. Sometimes it appears that the people of Scotland are not fully aware of those benefits. Identifiable public expenditure per head is 15 per cent. higher than in the United Kingdom as a whole. To look at it another way, Scotland represents some 8.9 per cent. of the population—

It being Seven o'clock, proceedings on the motion lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Arrangement of public business).