HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc888-9
4. Mr. Home Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to mark the thousandth anniversary of the accession of King Kenneth III to the Scottish throne. [17316]

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I see no reason to mark the anniversary of the accession of King Kenneth III, who came to the throne by the violent overthrow of Constantine III. As the only significant event of his reign was the loss of Lothian to the English, who were led by Ethelred the Unready, I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman's desire to honour him.

Mr. Home Robertson

The question was inspired by the Prime Minister's hallucinations about 1,000 years of British history. Is the Secretary of State aware that King Kenneth reigned fully 710 years before the Union with England? Is he further aware that King Kenneth lost his seat, so to speak, as a consequence of a rather drastic leadership challenge? I should warn the Secretary of State that such has been known to happen in the Stirling area. Would not the best recognition of 1,000 years of Scottish history and 300 years of British history be a modern constitution with a parliament for Scotland for the next millennium?

Mr. Forsyth

Perhaps I should remind the hon. Gentleman that it was Ethelred the Unready who won Lothian in the year in question. I know that the Labour party seems to have forgotten its principles and its history, but perhaps I should also remind the hon. Gentleman that the first person to talk about 1,000 years of history in the context of the British constitution was the late Hugh Gaitskell. During his speech to the Labour party conference in 1962, he warned of the dangers of a federal Europe and said: It does mean, if this is the idea, the end of Britain as an independent European state ‖ it means the end of a thousand years of history. I advise Opposition Members to learn from their party's history and perhaps start putting principles before their narrow political interest and risking the integrity of our constitution.

Mr. Jessel

Did not the late Hugh Gaitskell insist that constitutional Bills should be taken on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Forsyth

It is correct that the late Hugh Gaitskell was a member of the Procedure Committee which in 1945 established the principle that constitutional matters should be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House. The fact that the Leader of the Opposition has placed that in doubt is a disgrace and a threat to the integrity of the House of Commons.

Mr. Canavan

What about King Kenneth I, otherwise known as Kenneth McAlpine of the same clan as Lord McAlpine, who spilled the beans about the Government's skulduggery and is now saying that the Tories must be defeated in the general election in order to clear their heads?

Mr. Forsyth

Perhaps I could remind the hon. Gentleman, who is a constituent of mine in Stirling, that I am the Member who represents Bannockburn. When the hon. Gentleman was the Member for part of my constituency, he fled the field because he was scared that he would lose.