§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [12 January], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Which amendment was, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House, while accepting and respecting the clear decision of the Scottish people in favour of a devolved Scottish Parliament with limited income tax-varying powers, nevertheless believes that the Scotland Bill is not an acceptable measure because it fails to create a constitutional settlement which is stable and enduring within the United Kingdom; because it undermines Scotland's role both in Europe and within the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom; and because its lack of clarity on taxes and resources threatens the interests of Scottish business, Scottish people and Scottish jobs."—[Mr. Ancram.]
§ Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
§ Madam Speaker
Before I call the Minister, I wish to make an appeal to the House for short speeches. I see hon. Members in the Chamber who sat through the entire debate yesterday while waiting to be called; I was not able to call them. I wish to call them today in addition to other hon. Members who I know also want to speak in today's debate. Voluntary restraint in the length of speeches would be helpful all round.
§ The Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office (Mr. Brian Wilson)
We had a useful debate yesterday, and I hope to take up some of its themes today. I was particularly grateful yesterday for the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). I pay tribute to the contribution that he and his party made to the work of the Scottish Constitutional Convention where, as he remarked yesterday, sleeves were rolled up and hard work was done. Without that groundwork, we might not be debating the Bill today. I join the hon. and learned Gentleman in saying that the Bill represents an opportunity to create a bold new constitutional settlement that will give Scotland the best of both worlds, which is its own Parliament firmly within the United Kingdom.
As one who shares the strong view that devolution need not and must not become a Trojan horse within the Union, I was greatly encouraged by the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who was anxious to warn that the Bill is a reckless measure that will lead to the destruction of the Union. If the argument that the right hon. Gentleman advanced represented the true strength of that case, we can all sleep sound in the knowledge that the Union is indeed secure.
I recall the days not so long ago when the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) was describing the work of the Scottish Constitutional Convention as laying the ground for nothing more than a puppet Parliament. The hon. Gentleman has since thought it prudent to retreat from that position, for the simple reason that the general election results showed just how far out of step he, too, was with the views of the Scottish people.
The work of the convention led with remarkable accuracy to the White Paper published by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland within 150 weeks of the general election. That White Paper led with remarkable accuracy to the Bill that is before the House. Everyone who has been involved in the three stages of that process is entitled to take enormous satisfaction from the speed, efficiency and integrity with which it has been pursued. As the party of government, the Labour party is entitled to take particular satisfaction from the historical reality, which not even our meanest-minded critics will ever be able to contradict, which is that we promised it and we delivered it. Above all, that achievement will be identified with the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Much was made in the debate yesterday of constitutional architecture, the position of Scotland in the Union, relationships between the devolved Parliament, the Administration and our counterparts in London, the position in relation to Europe and financial provisions for the Parliament. Those are all important issues, which must be debated carefully.
I was struck yesterday by the gloom and pessimism that were being spread around by the right hon. Member for Devizes and some of his colleagues. In contrast, the Government are confident that the settlement, as described in the White Paper, endorsed by the people of Scotland and now translated into the Bill, will produce better government in Scotland and strengthen the Union. We have recognised the desire for change and modernisation and have responded positively and constructively. There is no doubt in our minds that the package of measures in the Bill provides the basis for a stable settlement that will benefit all parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)
Will the Minister explain the difference between this measure and the Scotland Act 1978, which he opposed so vehemently and so successfully in Scotland, and when he was on the same side as I was during that referendum campaign?
§ Mr. Wilson
As I recall, the right hon. Gentleman supported that legislation. He, too, will remember the substantial differences between that measure and this one. [Interruption.] I am sorry; he opposed it. The precise chronology is obviously important in these matters. There are enormous differences between the 1978 legislation and the Bill, many of which I can claim prescience of as I argued for them, most notably the inclusion of tax-raising powers—they were absent from the 1978 legislation—which give the Scottish Parliament a fiscal authority and a legitimacy that it would not have had if they were not available to it.
However, let us cast aside the gloom and doom of the right hon. Gentleman and turn to the central and essential fact: the Bill gives the Scottish Parliament the powers to make laws for Scotland, and that substantial scope to do so will be devolved to Edinburgh. The Bill sets out clearly and in necessary detail the powers that will be reserved to Westminster, and the many exceptions to those reservations, which will broaden and extend the devolved powers of the Parliament.
The fact that anything that is not listed in the Bill is devolved and will become the business of the Parliament in Edinburgh means that a very wide range of responsibilities will be devolved. The powers that will be devolved are in areas that are crucial to Scotland's 151 economic and social well-being: health, education and training, local government, social work and housing, economic development and transport, law and home affairs, environment, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Devolution of the Scottish courts and legal system will also mean that responsibility for that fundamental part of the Scottish constitution will lie where it logically belongs, while the Bill makes provisions that protect the stature and independence of the judiciary. Legislators elected solely by voters living in Scotland will have the power to pursue a distinctive agenda that responds to the needs and aspirations of the Scottish people. There will be an opportunity to devote significant time to debating and legislating on Scottish issues, some of which may have been neglected for many years.
I already sense that some far-reaching debates are beginning within Scotland about what the Parliament might do in areas that are within my current portfolio. I shall say a little about each of the main areas that fall within it: education, industry, tourism and the Gaelic language.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
It is encouraging to ask a question of somebody with such a consistent track record on these matters. On the devolved matters, clause 27(7) says that the power of this Parliament to legislate even in devolved areas will not be affected by the legislation. It is an all-catching, all-encompassing clause. Can the Minister give the House an example of one area that the Westminster Parliament will still want to legislate on and overturn the will of the Scottish Parliament in devolved areas? If he cannot, why have the clause?
§ Mr. Wilson
The clause, as the hon. Gentleman has repeatedly been told, is a simple statement of fact rather than a prediction of events. It is very difficult to think of an instance in which it would be invoked.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
If one reads the small print of the Bill, the circumstances in which the clause would be invoked seem implicit. Clause 54 gives the Secretary of State the power to direct that the Scottish Parliament shall pass certain legislation to keep it in conformity with our international obligations. Presumably, the Minister agrees that if the Scottish Parliament were not to pass such legislation, that would be an instance in which this Parliament would pass legislation for it.
§ Mr. Wilson
If the Scottish Parliament were ever to fall into such irresponsible hands that it passed legislation that was in direct contradiction of international obligations, it would be right and proper that it should not have the power to pursue that further. That eventuality should not come about, because the power to renege on international commitments is not being devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
My hon. Friend referred to the independence of the judiciary. Will Ministers look benignly on an amendment to clause 89 to double-lock the independence of the judges, particularly 152 in relation to their removal, rather than their appointment? Should not the Government look again at the tenure of the judiciary?
§ Mr. Wilson
I understand that the position is being strengthened, because a two-thirds majority of the Parliament would be required to dismiss a judge. My hon. Friend will be entitled to pursue such points tenaciously in Committee.
I should like to say a few words about—
§ Mr. Ancram
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Clause 27(7) is important. I was dealing with it yesterday. Will it be possible for a private Member's Bill in this House to change the law on a devolved matter in Scotland?
§ Mr. Wilson
I understand that the answer is no. If the right hon. Gentleman needs a fuller reply or explanation, I shall be pleased to provide one after the debate.
I should like to say a little about the main areas in my portfolio—education, industry, tourism and the Gaelic language. Our system of schooling and higher education in Scotland has always been distinct in its legislation and its administration. I think that a majority of those present today are products of that system, and I am sure that we all share a belief in its merits and a concern to build on those merits. Our system already has a strong Scottish identity and its own legislative framework. The vital interests of our schoolchildren and students should not have to queue for parliamentary time and attention. The Scottish Parliament will look at those issues from a Scottish perspective. I trust that it will not be tempted to import measures that reflect the prevailing Westminster ideology, but enjoy no popular support in Scotland, such as the measures that were so damagingly imposed on Scotland under the previous Administration. I look forward to the Scottish Parliament stimulating all those in the education service and in further and higher education to continue to build on the achievements of the Scottish education system.
The Parliament will be responsible for policy and legislation on higher education and the support of students. We have had administrative devolution for some time, although funding for universities was devolved only in 1992—another significant improvement on the 1978 legislation. There was a suspicion that higher education could become inward-looking and parochial, but the past five years have proved the sceptics wrong. The Scottish higher education sector produces high-quality, employable graduates. I understand that Scotland produces proportionately more graduates than any European country apart from Finland. Research evidence shows that our graduates earn 15 per cent. more than they would had they not attended university, representing a considerable contribution to the Scottish economy.
The breadth of Scottish education is also highly valued. The traditional honours degree provides a longer period in which students can consider wider aspects of their 153 education. There is no point in being distinctive for its own sake. We need to be clear about why we want that extra year's study and about its costs and benefits.
One concern frequently raised is that the extra year's study will act as a disincentive for some students who are expected to make a contribution towards their tuition costs. Scottish students have always borne higher costs in maintenance and earnings forgone as a result of longer study. I have ended the need for a Scottish student to pay more in fees for an equivalent qualification than someone at an English university. Around 40 per cent. of our students will pay no fees in any year of their course.
That is a preamble to the fact that, as has been mentioned, it will be open to the Scottish Parliament to change the new student support arrangements if it chooses to do so. That would mean forgoing around £140 million of income for higher and further education and a return to the underfunding left behind by the previous Government. That will be a matter for the judgment of the Parliament.
We also have some exceptional centres of research in our universities. Scotland is ranked third in the world in research publications per head of population. The responsibility for the research councils will remain with Westminster. Scottish universities, which welcome that proposal, will continue to access UK funds for specific research projects. The sector has welcomed the Government's proposals as a means to ensure that research activity maintains its high standards against its counterparts across the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The reservation strengthens the Parliament. It maintains a UK system where appropriate, but provides the Parliament with powers to support research in, for example, higher education via the funding council, or by commissioning its own research through the Executive.
The Scottish Parliament, of course, will also have responsibility for further education. Colleges will play an increasing part in helping Scottish people to equip themselves with the skills needed for a growing, healthy and competitive economy. We are already encouraging and seeing those developments through Government programmes such as the new deal and our emphasis on lifelong learning and widening participation, especially in further education. I want to ensure that the Scottish Parliament takes over and can build on a strong FE sector with a clear vision of its key role in the future of Scotland.
I come now to the industry remit. Much of the basic infrastructure within which Scottish industry and commerce operate will continue by virtue of the reservations in the Bill. That is an important aspect of the settlement proposed in the Scotland Bill, and one which will safeguard the benefits of a single market for Scottish business in the UK and beyond. In the framework of that single market, devolution will present important new opportunities for business to present its concerns and make its voice heard in Scotland. Across a wide range of devolved topics, the Scottish Parliament and Executive will have direct powers over services and decisions that affect industry and commerce. Perhaps more important, the Scottish Parliament will be anxious to encourage and support all aspects of business activity.
Legislative responsibility for Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise will pass to the Scottish Parliament. The bodies, in turn, will continue to delegate statutory responsibilities for economic development, environmental renewal and training to local enterprise 154 companies. Immensely valuable organisations, such as Locate in Scotland and Scottish Trade International, will also be accountable to Parliament. I have not the slightest doubt that all those bodies will continue to serve Scotland's interests as effectively in future as they do at present. Equally, I might add that in order to be effective, they must be allowed to operate at arm's length from government. That is a reality which will not change with the advent of a Scottish Parliament.
As became extremely apparent to me on recent visits to the far east, Scotland does well in the area on its own account, and also benefits greatly from its place in the United Kingdom. The UK commercial, trade and diplomatic presence in every corner of the globe serves us well. We add a great deal of value through our Scottish-based effort. That is the best of both worlds, which we shall maintain and build on under the legislation.
A Scottish Parliament in the United Kingdom can also bring great benefit to Scotland's tourism industry, which I am sure we all recognise is a major and growing contributor to the Scottish economy. It is therefore right that the development of the industry and the work of the Scottish tourist board should be among the important issues to be subject to the democratic control of the Scottish Parliament. It is the kind of industry whose status and public profile should benefit from the new political focus through which it will be scrutinised. The Scottish Parliament will be able to make the focused and informed contribution that tourism requires.
However, we see the benefits—the argument of the best of both worlds—of our continuing place in the United Kingdom, as the tourism industry will also remain able to call on the experience, resources and expertise of the British Tourist Authority, which has promoted Scotland well overseas for many years. That will be a real benefit and is greatly appreciated by those who are in the front line of the industry.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Kensington and Chelsea)
I am glad to hear the Minister draw attention to the tourism industry in such a sympathetic way. Will the Scottish Parliament have complete powers of decision and arbitration over interests that sometimes come into conflict with the tourist industry? I draw to his attention a case with which he is familiar. The Cairngorm funicular railway is totally opposed by all environmental lobbies in the highlands, yet subsists on the argument that it might be beneficial to the tourist industry—discounting, of course, the fact that many tourists will be greatly offended by the sight of an ugly funicular railway. That is an example of something that one would like to be entirely within the remit of the Scottish Parliament. Can the Minister confirm that it would be?
§ Mr. Wilson
Of course, many aspects of the Cairngorm funicular debate will be devolved responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament. Offhand, I cannot think of any that would not. For instance, there is the conservation argument. The right hon. Gentleman is not right to say that everyone opposes the railway. Scottish Natural Heritage has approved it in its refined form.
The tourism element, too, will certainly be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Many people in the area, as well as the development agency, support the idea. The other 155 aspect with which I have a direct involvement is the economic development responsibility, as a substantial amount of the money will come from public sources. All those would be devolved responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament.
The funicular railway is a good example of a matter that I would expect to be the subject of lively debate within the Scottish Parliament—a debate which would then inform the decisions both of the agencies involved and of Ministers.
It is also interesting to note that, in future, as at present, we must have regard to European environmental directives. Ultimately, another element in the funding package will be an application for European regional development fund money, so there is another European element, too. The proposal presents an interesting case study of a matter that is clearly of great public concern, with strong feelings on both sides of the argument, which would be far more fully debated in a public forum than it has been in present circumstances.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)
If, under clause 54, the Government decided to cancel a Scottish law passed after much discussion because they considered that it was in breach of what are referred to as convention rights, what could the Scottish Parliament do about it? Would it have an appeal? Would there be anywhere for it to go?
§ Mr. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman would have to give me a hypothetical example. If he cares to present me with one, I shall try to answer his question. Within the areas of devolved responsibility, laws passed by the Scottish Parliament are not open to cancellation. That will not happen.
§ Mr. Wilson
No, I must try to respect Madam Speaker's suggestion, but I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman at a later stage, if he can be patient. I must move on now—although the intervention by the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) was helpful, because it allowed me to cite a good example of an issue on which we would be able to have a far fuller democratic debate than has hitherto been possible.
§ Mr. Wilson
Funicular railways are not the kind of railway on which the right hon. Gentleman doubtless commutes daily.
I shall now say a word about the fourth in my selection of responsibilities—the Gaelic language. I am the first Minister to have been appointed with special responsibility for that language. I would be the first to recognise that the previous Administration did many good things in connection with Gaelic, and the present Government's first priority is education, especially advancing the cause of Gaelic-medium education and supporting pre-school provision.
156 We also support a wide range of cultural organisations, and the funding of the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee, currently a matter for the Scottish Office, will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. That area of broadcasting as a whole will be a responsibility of the Parliament. I hope that it will carry forward the work currently being done and give due place to the language in the organisation of its affairs—but that will be a matter for the Parliament itself. Historically, most of the reasons for the decline of Gaelic have been self-inflicted, from within Scotland, and I hope that we shall do better in future.
§ Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)
I congratulate the Minister on his appointment as the Minister responsible for Gaelic. We all know of his support for, and keen interest in, the language. Does he agree that it would be sensible to amend the Bill to include a clause that secured the status of Gaelic, similar to the status secured for the Welsh language in the Welsh Language Act 1993?
§ Mr. Wilson
It is not for me to say what will take place in Committee, but I am sure that an hon. Member will try to raise that matter in Committee. The hon. Lady—whose long and consistent interest in this subject I recognise—indicates that she may be the one who seeks to do so. Some interesting things are happening on the issue of status which, I hope, will not all have to wait for the Scottish Parliament. The Parliament will have extensive powers in that area, and I hope that it will use them sympathetically, wisely and with a sense of historic obligation.
That is a summary of virtually all the powers that I am currently privileged to exercise through the Scottish Office and which will become the responsibility of what Parliament. It illustrates the depth and breadth of what is being devolved.
Yesterday, some Tory Members became exercised about the UK-wide structure of devolution and what they regarded as an ad hoc approach. They took the view that if we could not have a rigid unitary state—which they perhaps prefer—we needed a solution that treated all parts of the Union in an identical fashion. I see that train of thought; it starts from wanting to control everything from the centre and, failing that, having a neat symmetry for the entire country. The same mentality doubtless resulted in the map of Africa having straight lines drawn all over it.
§ Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)
I can assure the Minister that that is not the motivation of those of us who made that argument yesterday. We did so because we believe in the equality of Members of this House. Can he make it clear that the Government accept that, as a result of the Bill, there will be hon. Members with different levels of power over the activities and public services provided in the areas that they represent?
§ Mr. Wilson
I do not accept that. We could get into an argument about constitutional theory. A decision by the whole House to devolve certain powers for legislative purposes to the Scottish Parliament would doubtless result in a difference in the nature of hon. Members' work load. However, in constitutional theory or in practical terms, it would not create two levels of Members of Parliament, and neither should it be allowed to do so.
157 The view that everything has to be the same throughout the United Kingdom is one which we reject. The United Kingdom did not grow up on a symmetrical, neat constitutional basis, and neither can power be devolved away from the centre on a symmetrical, neat constitutional basis.
The two underlying principles of devolution are that government that is closer to the people should be better government, and that the system of devolution chosen must fit the needs and desires of those involved. The Bill is specifically designed to produce better government for the people of Scotland within the United Kingdom. Similarly, the proposals in the Government of Wales Bill are specifically designed to meet circumstances in Wales. Our proposals for the English regions—which will be subject to the wishes of people living in those regions—are aimed at improving government in those areas. This seems to me to be a matter of common sense, as well as constitutional propriety.
We are not afraid of devolution and decentralisation; neither are we afraid to listen to what people want and to tailor our proposals to those wishes. Asymmetric devolution not only can work but, in my view, is the best way to improve the governance of the United Kingdom. Different histories, different geographies, different identities and different aspirations all require different solutions. In the view of the Labour Government, that is not a threat, but a challenge.
Let us consider for a moment precisely how the Parliament might go about pursuing a distinctive Scottish agenda. For a start, I would expect the Parliament and the Executive accountable to it to be good at listening as well as acting. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said yesterday, it will be for the Parliament to decide how it will operate, but I am sure that when it makes its decisions, it will want to experiment with new ways of consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Scottish Parliament will be geographically closer to the people it represents. Because of the voting system that we are putting in place, it should also be a fairer reflection of opinion in the country. In a relatively small country, it will be possible for ideas, proposals and even draft Bills to be debated openly, sensibly and constructively.
I am delighted that there are already signs that interest groups from across the spectrum are thinking seriously about how to grasp the opportunities that devolution of substantial powers will present. I welcome that willingness to engage with the future and, in particular, the constructive note that has been struck throughout the business community in Scotland since 11 September. All that bodes well for the future.
As I said, the right hon. Member for Devizes showed a depressing pessimism about the quality and maturity of future political debate and about each Parliament's ability to seek an effective working relationship. He argued that our proposals had to be tested against the worst possible case and suggested that little in them passed that test. That view is unnecessarily doom laden.
The authors of the White Paper and the Bill have been widely congratulated on the clarity with which they set out the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and Executive as opposed to those of the United Kingdom Parliament and Government. The Bill also establishes robust processes for resolving disputes over the 158 Parliament's powers—myself. Clarity and robustness are key elements in achieving a stable settlement. Of particular importance is the fact that the responsibility for deciding whether the Scottish Parliament has acted within its powers will be subject to judicial scrutiny, ultimately by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the decision will not be made by the UK Government.
The approach to determining the boundary between devolved and reserved matters was taken on the ground that it was the best way to build stability into the settlement. The White Paper pointed out that the approach taken in 1978 of defining the areas to be devolved would have required frequent updating and might have given rise to regular legal arguments about whether issues were devolved.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
May I draw the Minister's attention to clause 29(2), which states that subordinate legislation may be used to make modifications to the schedule that sets out the reserved powers? Clearly, no one would suggest that that power might be abused by the Secretary of State, but does the hon. Gentleman accept that this Bill, when enacted, will last for some considerable time and that, as it stands, a Government who were hostile to devolution in Scotland could use that subordinate legislation to take powers away from the Scottish Parliament? A safeguard might be required.
§ Mr. Wilson
That is an important question, and there is an important answer. That could be done only by agreement, and that is the safeguard for which the hon. and learned Gentleman is looking.
Briefly, on the West Lothian question, in the context of setting up a Scottish Parliament, it is only fair that the requirement for a minimum number of Scottish seats should be dropped. In future, of course, Westminster will no longer be the forum for scrutinising as much of Scotland's domestic legislation. That strengthens the case for dealing with the present disparity in constituency sizes between Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. However, it is also important to note—as Opposition Members tend to forget—that there are other statutory requirements. For example, the need to give due weight to geographical considerations and local ties will still apply. I have dealt with the question, and we do not believe that it would be right to introduce a mechanism to limit voting rights for Members of Parliament from Scottish constituencies. That would be against the spirit and the theory of devolution.
The Scotland Bill has the blessing of the Scottish people, but should also be good for democracy within the United Kingdom as a whole. Indeed, as we move into the second day of debate on the Bill, I must reiterate the Government's philosophical position. We believe that the establishment of a Scottish Parliament together with a Welsh Assembly and, in due course, regional assemblies in England, will modernise and enhance democracy and, as a result, strengthen the United Kingdom itself. The experience of other countries throughout the developed world is that a strong and vibrant devolutionary system is perfectly compatible with loyalty to a larger nation state.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am sorry, I must continue.
159 Fulfilling the aspirations of the Scottish people for a devolved Parliament is the surest way of cementing the United Kingdom. Continuing to ignore the legitimate demand would have been the most likely way to weaken it. Margaret Thatcher was a bigger threat than the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan could ever hope to be, and the United Kingdom was strong enough to survive even her.
A brief survey of recent European history shows us that devolution works, and works well. In Germany, Spain, Italy and Belgium, devolving power from the centre to the regions has not led to break-up; indeed, they are some of the most affluent, successful and best functioning countries in the world. Every European country has separatist movements comparable to the one in Scotland, and there is no example in the modern history of western Europe of devolved government leading to the success of any of those movements. That is the real lesson of history, conflicting directly with the bombast of nationalism.
We have reacted in direct response to the wishes of the Scottish people, but we were determined not to get out of step with them. That is why we legislated for a referendum in Scotland. That democratic safeguard was also attacked by our opponents, but we were right, and our democratic credentials were strengthened as a result.
Now that the electorate have spoken so decisively in favour of a Parliament with law-making and tax-varying powers, the onus is on us as a Government and, I suggest, on all of us as parliamentarians, to ensure that we deliver the best possible legislation, based firmly on the proposals endorsed in the referendum.
Clearly, there are differences of view between parties, but that should not hinder the process of constructive scrutiny that we hope will take place over the next few months. The Government are certainly prepared to consider sensible amendments on points of detail that do not cut across the White Paper principles. I hope that the debate today and in Committee will be conducted in that spirit.
§ Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)
I shall try to be as brief as possible, Madam Speaker, given your earlier strictures.
I welcome the decision to have all our Committee proceedings on the Floor of the House. That says a great deal about the Secretary of State's willingness to have proper constitutional debate. I ask him, even at this late stage, to have a word with the Secretary of State for Wales to find out whether the same courtesies might be given to the House on the Government of Wales Bill.
Yesterday, many hon. Members, especially Conservative Members, said that they had long supported the concept of devolution. Many said that, naturally, as a result of collective responsibility, they had never felt able to say that openly in the House. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) made such a speech, and an excellent speech it was.
I would never pretend to be among that number: I did not want devolution as proposed by the Government; I argued and campaigned against it—that is the honourable course in a democracy—but my side lost. I 160 disagreed that it was the best way in which to safeguard the Union, but I agree with the Government about two things: it is the clearly expressed will of the Scottish people; and it must be made to work. No shame attaches to those Conservative Members who argued against and lost, but I hope that everyone will try to make the system work and not obstruct what clearly has a democratic legitimacy.
The Secretary of State says that his plans safeguard the Union, and I accept that that is his genuine belief, so we should be working in roughly the same direction—he looks worried about what the catch to that sentence will be, but he need not, because it means exactly what it says—but, if the settlement of the Bill is to endure, it must suit not only Scotland's needs but those of the whole United Kingdom, and it must be fair, just and equitable to all its constituent parts.
Despite what the Minister has just said, we cannot change the constitution of one part of the United Kingdom without fundamentally changing that of the rest: when we alter the arrangements for one set of Members of Parliament, we automatically alter them for others. The Bill's ability to endure will have to be judged against its openness and fairness to all Members of Parliament from all parts of the United Kingdom.
Some matters may best be dealt with in Committee, but I want to take issue with what the Minister said about the West Lothian question and to touch on the relationship with local government, the relationship with Europe, and some other unresolved matters that we feel exist in the Bill.
Those who seek an answer to the West Lothian question in the Bill will be disappointed: within the framework of devolution as proposed here, there is no perfect answer, because devolution means an unequal status. What the Minister referred to as asymmetric devolution is a constitutional hotch-potch, with Scottish Members of Parliament able to vote on English matters, but English Members of Parliament not able to vote on Scottish matters, and even Scottish Members of Parliament not able to vote on Scottish matters that affect their own constituency. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said yesterday:there is something improper in the new arrangement if the hon. Member for Linlithgow may vote on matters in relation to Lincolnshire but, in relation to Linlithgow, he cannot. How long can that go on? I say to any of my hon. Friends that that cannot endure."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 83.]Some arrangement must be found. [Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) was not in the Chamber when he was being baited by the hon. Member for Linlithgow yesterday. I am sure that if he reads Hansard he will enjoy what his hon. Friend said about clause 27.
§ Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Bill takes its confidence from the large majority that the Government currently enjoy? Does he agree that in a future House of Commons, in which the majority was accorded to a Labour Government by Scottish Members of Parliament alone, the taking of decisions by Scottish Members on matters 161 relating to, for example, my constituency, would be a recipe for the friction that the Government claim that they are trying to avoid?
§ Dr. Fox
There are many in-built frictions in the Bill. I shall come to the point that my hon. Friend raises in a moment.
An answer to the West Lothian question requires either a federalist solution, providing a balanced solution constitutionally without the United Kingdom, or independence, which would remove the question altogether. Neither has public support, but, within the devolutionary framework in the Bill, that answer is not available.
Two questions need to be asked. Do we need to balance the inequality and diminish the unfairness, as my hon. Friend the Member fo Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) mentions, and, if so, how do we go about doing that? The Government propose that we reduce the number of Scottish Members of Parliament to the equivalent of English constituency levels. That is to acknowledge the question, but not to answer it. We could reduce the number to below what would be required to give parity, as was the case in Ulster. We could have designated English legislation. We could have English-only days.
Whichever way is found round the question, the fact remains that, as a result of the proposals in the Bill, we shall no longer be equal Members of Parliament. No amount of arguing by the Minister will change that. We shall lose our equal status within this House as a result of the passage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
The asymmetry about which the hon. Gentleman complains existed in the previous Parliament. Northern Ireland Members voted on the Firearms (Amendment) Bill—a measure which did not extend to Northern Ireland. Would the hon. Gentleman like to comment on that?
§ Dr. Fox
The question was raised on many occasions yesterday, as the hon. Gentleman will know. The question of scale cannot be ignored here. We are talking about large numbers of Scottish Members—72—as opposed to a small number of Northern Ireland Members. The scale and the over-representation give added weight to arguments such as that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid"Kent about the backlash that would result from the Bill.
Failure to tackle the West Lothian question will provide a dangerous tension within our constitutional relationship. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent alludes to funding. How long are Members of Parliament from the north of England likely to want to continue funding Scotland at a higher level than their own constituencies within the current funding formula? How could they justify that to their constituents? That is likely to cause a huge amount of tension. It makes a mockery of the idea that a Scottish Parliament could reduce the level of taxation there without a subsequent reduction in the Consolidated Fund.
The House of Commons and English Members of Parliament would be unlikely to sit back while a Scottish Parliament reduced its income tax and to remain willing to contribute the same amount of money through the Treasury.
§ Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the study carried out before the general 162 election by the previous Secretary of State, Michael Forsyth, for which a firm of consultants were commissioned to compare local government expenditure per head in England and Scotland? When the firm got down to comparing apples with apples, it found that there was absolutely no difference between Scotland and England.
§ Dr. Fox
I do not believe for a moment what the hon. Gentleman says. He will no doubt get a chance to use Scottish nationalist creative accountancy techniques on the House later, but on a head-by-head basis, public expenditure is clearly higher in Scotland. In the referendum, we argued that that question would come up early in the passage of this legislation.
In government, we accepted the Barnett formula as a reasonable mechanism for assessing and redressing need in Scotland, as part of the constitutional architecture that existed then. When that constitutional architecture was deconstructed, it was inevitable that questions would be asked. They have been asked in Select Committees not by Conservatives but by English Labour Members. That is where the tension will arise. The question will need to be addressed if we are to have a stable constitutional relationship.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)
I have a simple question. I do not want a detailed answer. [Laughter.] No, no, it will all come in time. May I ask whether, as a matter of principle, the Opposition spokesman will produce solutions to these conundrums in Committee?
§ Dr. Fox
The Secretary of State must contain his curiosity until we get there. On the funding formula, a continuing problem with the assessment of need—we will advocate that it needs to be addressed—is the sensitivity and specificity of information. We will table amendments on all the matters that I have mentioned.
The Minister spoke about the Government's willingness to reduce the number of Scottish Members in this House. If he accepts the principle of the need to reduce their number, why cannot it be done for the general election that immediately follows the setting up of a Scottish Parliament? Is it, as a Labour Back Bencher said yesterday, that the boundary commission cannot get it done in time—which, frankly, I do not believe—or is there a point that we have not yet considered? No answer comes forward, because there is no logic in what the Government propose. There is no reason why, when the Scottish Parliament is put in place, the reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament could not be made for the next general election. We hope that the Government will rethink that. Their proposal is illogical and has no justification.
What will be the role of Scottish Members of Parliament in this House? I cannot speak for Labour Members, but if housing, health and education were taken out of my mailbag, it would be very small. Labour Members smile, but I should be surprised if their mailbags were substantially different. What will the work load be that entitles so many Scottish Members of Parliament to sit in the House after the Scottish Parliament has been put in place? How will they justify a full salary for only a fraction of the work that they do now? More importantly, what will be the role of the regional list Members of the Scottish Parliament in Scotland? More specifically, what will be the role of political parties?
163 I have served in the Government Whips Office. I know the power of patronage and the techniques that Whips may use to twist arms. However, there is no power remotely as great as that of dropping people from a party list if they do not back the party line. Labour Members who smile may not be smiling much longer. Those who have a rebellious tendency, those who have not yet been through the Millbank cloning process, may come to regret previous rebellious comments when they are dropped from their party's list for having views of their own. Proportional representation is always a mechanism for increasing the power of parties. I do not believe that that is healthy. I have never believed in PR and never will do. I can give an assurance, though only on behalf of my party, that no candidate will appear on a list for our party who has not stood for a constituency in the Scottish Parliament. If candidates are unwilling to face the electorate directly, they should not be able to find their way on to a party list.
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth)
I am interested to hear that, because all the political parties in Scotland are looking at how to deal with that matter. Perhaps the hon. Member is not aware that the lists will normally comprise a number of candidates somewhat in excess of the number of constituencies for the Euro-area from which they will be compiled.
Are we now being told that the Tories in Scotland will not put forward 129 candidates? That appears to be the impact of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. We should all be interested to learn that the Tories intend to put forward just 79 candidates, not 129.
§ Dr. Fox
Seventy-nine seats in a Scottish Parliament would do us absolutely fine. I would be very happy with that, and I am sure that the hon. Lady would be, too. We will be fighting all the constituencies, but our lists will not comprise people who have been unwilling to face the Scottish electorate in the past. No one will go forward in the name of the Conservative party who has not been willing to face the Scottish people at the ballot box. That is a correct principle for any democratic party to follow.
I was sorry to note that the Secretary of State was unable to give us an assurance yesterday that Millbank will not veto his party lists. Certainly no veto will be exercised by the Conservative party south of the border when we choose our constituency lists.
Yesterday, much was made about the relationship between Scotland and Europe, and the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and Ministers who currently may attend Council of Ministers meetings. It is obvious that any change in the United Kingdom structure will also affect the relationship between Scotland and Europe, but Ministers did not quite grasp that point yesterday.
At present, Scottish Office Ministers can represent the United Kingdom at a Council of Ministers meeting. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) made that point several times. He is not present now, but to save one of his colleagues from repeating it, I remind the House that, on occasions, albeit not many, that has happened. For example, the previous 164 Member for Aberdeen, South, Mr. Robertson, represented the United Kingdom at a Fisheries Council meeting. Such representation is important.
Article 146 of the Maastricht treaty states:The Council shall consist of a representative of each member state at Ministerial level, authorised to commit the Government of that national state.Does the authority exist for a Scottish Minister to represent the United Kingdom? I do not believe that the Scotland Bill gives Scottish Ministers the authority required by article 146, because schedule 5 states that a Scottish Minister may assist a Minister of the Crown in relation to international issues, although foreign affairs and other matters referred to in paragraph 6(1) of that schedule remain reserved.
Even if there were a power to allow a Scottish Minister to represent the United Kingdom, how could the House of Commons accept that its interests were represented by someone who could not be called to account on the Floor of the House? As several of my colleagues have already said, that arrangement would be an affront to the House.
§ Mr. Wallace
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the White Paper made it clear that if the position that was agreed and argued on behalf of the United Kingdom at a Council of Ministers meeting was one agreed between a Scottish Parliament Minister and a United Kingdom Minister, the responsible UK Minister would have to be answerable to the House for the line agreed by him or her at that Council meeting? A Minister would still be directly accountable to the House. Such a practice already exists. For example, if a Minister from the other place represents the United Kingdom at the Council of Ministers, it is still a Minister of the House of Commons who must answer to this House.
§ Dr. Fox
That Minister is still a United Kingdom Minister, but, under the Bill, such a Minister would not be a United Kingdom Minister, answerable to the House as a Minister representing all the United Kingdom. That simply would not be the case. I do not believe that the authority exists to allow for such representation, and it is something which the Government must address.
At present, Scottish farmers and fishermen—[Interruption.] I will give way to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) if he can put a sentence together. It does not surprise me that he is content with monosyllabic sedentary interventions.
At present, Scottish fishermen and farmers can be directly represented at the Council of Ministers, but that will not continue. Whatever concordats the Secretary of State may put together will not have the same legal force as the current arrangements.
I had some sympathy with the Minister who opened today's debate. He previously held a position on devolution that differed from his current position.
§ Dr. Fox
No—I am very conscious of the time.
165 If being in opposition has any benefits at all—they are hard to find—it at least allows us to focus on the wider picture. I am sure the Government will agree that there is clearly something wrong with the running of local government in Scotland, especially in the west of Scotland, as is illustrated by the cases of Paisley, Govan and Monklands—all apparently isolated examples, until we join up the dots. It is obvious that the larger part of the blame for that must lie primarily with individuals—those who conduct their careers in local government—but secondarily with the party to which they belong and those who are responsible for the management of that party.
Both local government as a whole and central Government must examine their respective roles. I accept our full responsibility in the diminution of the status of local government in our political system. We have seen a great deal of bad local government and, in the words of one of my colleagues, we have on many occasions used a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Like many of my colleagues, I have long believed that power should be exercised at the lowest practical level. Yesterday, the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said that were we able to start again with a clean sheet, that is what we would do and we would allow power to be moved to the level at which it was required in order for functions to be properly fulfilled.
§ Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok)
The hon. Member never said anything like that when the Conservatives were in government.
§ Dr. Fox
The hon. Gentleman really should listen. Since the 1970s, there has undoubtedly been a creeping centralisation in our relationship with local government, and I regret that trend. Moreover, I believe that the Conservative party in Scotland should return to a more traditional, decentralising position and begin with functional, not geographical, decentralisation. One of the challenges facing the Scottish Parliament will be resisting the temptation to take further powers from local government.
In this country, politics is a profession in disrepute and nowhere is that more true than in local government.
§ Dr. Fox
The hon. Gentleman should ask the voters of Paisley, Govan and Monklands what they think about the calibre of the local government that they have. They will tell him that it is rotten to the core: almost nobody in those areas does not know someone who could not get a 166 job because he did not know a member of the Labour council, or could not get a house because he did not know someone on the housing committee—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
Order. The House must calm down, and I must point out to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) that we are not having a debate about local government.
§ Dr. Fox
It was the Minister who referred to local government in his speech.
There is a need to improve the calibre of those involved in local government in Scotland and to increase accountability and public interest. I believe that it is unjustified for Glasgow and Edinburgh to require so many councillors. We need to conduct a widespread review of the new relationship that will need to be forged between local government and the Scottish Parliament.
We will question other details in the Bill—the tax proposals, borrowing and lending proposals, summons powers and procedural matters. At this early stage, I make a plea to the Secretary of State on one point, which is the question of privilege. One of the questions that often arise in the House is that of relative and absolute privilege, especially the relative privilege of hon. Members who write to Ministers and the fact that they are not protected in the same way as they are when raising a matter on the Floor of the House. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider a reform which is overdue in this House and which should be introduced at an early stage in the Scottish Parliament: to give proper privilege to Members of the Scottish Parliament when writing to Scottish Ministers, just as Members of this Parliament should have proper privilege when writing to Ministers of the Crown.
We shall also table early amendments relating to abortion and embryology, because we believe that not to transfer the relevant powers is illogical. It is morally illogical for the Scottish Parliament to have the power to introduce the death penalty in Scotland, but to be unable to make its own rules on abortion and embryology. Given that health powers are being devolved, why are powers relating to abortion and embryology not being devolved? It is not acceptable to leave something so illogical in the Bill, simply for the convenience of the Labour party.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Let us be absolutely clear. Is the hon. Gentleman advocating, or have I misunderstood his remarks, a Scottish human fertilisation and embryology authority? Is that the proposal?
§ Mr. Wilson
I ask the hon. Gentleman to reconsider what he has just said. Does he really want to introduce a cross-border trade in abortion? If not, will he reconsider his pledge to table amendments on that subject?
§ Dr. Fox
First, that question assumes that Ministers believe that there will be a different law in Scotland from that in the rest of the United Kingdom; that goes to the 167 core of the proposal. The only reason the Minister puts his question in that way is that he knows there may be tension in the Labour party on that issue.
Secondly, I thought that the Bill was about trusting the people—the Minister's own words. Surely the Scottish Parliament should be as able as the United Kingdom Parliament to make a decision on health matters. It seems that the people are to be trusted, but not where that is inconvenient for the Labour party.
We welcome clause 27(7), but would have liked it to be given greater prominence in the Bill, instead of being hidden in the undergrowth. The question of sovereignty was discussed yesterday and, of course, sovereignty rests with the people of Scotland. We have always accepted that if the people of Scotland wanted to leave the Union, they would have a right to do so—but they show no sign of wanting to do so. That is the heart of the matter and the point on which we are in agreement with the Secretary of State.
In the referendum, Scottish voters expressed their sovereignty as UK citizens. We accept that the Scottish people chose to have devolution within the Union; the Government accept that the Scottish people chose to have devolution within the Union; and the Liberal Democrats accept that the Scottish people chose to have devolution within the Union. That leaves the Scottish National party. The first three parties have an interest in making devolution work, and we accept that that was the democratically expressed wish of the Scottish people. Only the Scottish nationalists have a direct interest in not making it work. If the Bill has a wider benefit, it is in making explicit the nationalist threat to the Union—to the nationalists, devolution is merely a stepping stone to independence. Where the Government genuinely seek to protect the Union we shall support them and where they seek to thwart the nationalists we shall join them with whole-hearted relish.
I cannot say that I believe in my heart that the Bill is the best way for Scotland to proceed. All the risks that we pointed out during the referendum campaign are still present, but we accept that devolution is how we shall proceed, and we shall do our best to make it work equitably. Fairness and balance for all parts of the United Kingdom are required if the settlement and the Union are to endure. The Bill can be improved and, in a constructive and Unionist spirit, that is what we will join the Government in seeking to achieve.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I remind the House that Madam Speaker has asked for brief speeches, as there are so many hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) invited me to intervene, but I did not want to prolong the agony, as his was one of the most depressing speeches I have heard from an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman in this Parliament. He started by saying that he accepted the principle of the decision taken by the Scottish people on 11 September, but spent the rest of his speech making threats that a future Conservative Government would seek to thwart that decision.
168 This is certainly the most important piece of legislation that I have seen in nearly 20 years as a Member of the House; I suspect that it is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before Parliament this century. After so many years campaigning through thick and thin for Scottish home rule within the United Kingdom, I am extremely happy to be here to support the Bill today.
The Bill, together with our proposals for Wales, London and the House of Lords, add up to a bold and constructive package of constitutional reforms. I also welcome today's news that the Scottish Parliament may be able to join a framework to help to achieve a settlement in Northern Ireland—an example of the radical thinking of the Labour Government.
The Bill addresses a genuine problem. Far too much power has been centralised here in Whitehall, especially during the Thatcher years. It would have been better if the hon. Member for Woodspring had acknowledged the role of the Government he supported in that process. The Labour Government are right to reinvent the principle of accountable government in response to the settled will of the people of Scotland.
This process is much more than an academic debate about the machinery of government; it affects people's lives. Unaccountable government is inefficient government, and too often it can be oppressive government; there are plenty of examples which range from the outrage of the poll tax, through a long catalogue of neglect and delay and abused power. I shall cite a couple of examples, one small and one large.
I recall a nasty little statutory instrument that destroyed the traditional livelihoods of small groups of salmon netsmen on Scottish rivers at the behest of landowning interests in Scotland. To his credit, Alick Buchanan-Smith voted with us against that measure, but it was forced through as a result of those vested interests in Scotland.
At the other extreme—an extreme of neglect—is the extraordinary survival of the feudal system in Scotland. I should declare an interest as an hereditary feudal superior. It is a ludicrous anachronism, which is wide open to serious abuse. Parliament has signally failed to address the problem for many years, but I am sure that it will be high on the agenda of the new Scottish Parliament.
Opposition Members have been waxing eloquent about the cherished rights of English Members to speak and vote on Scottish affairs. I cannot help wondering whether they are the same hon. Members who have been heard grumbling and moaning about being whipped for late votes on Scottish business in days gone by. I am not entirely convinced by their new-found concern for Scottish affairs. We have devolved Scottish legislation already; it takes up a lot of time for hon. Members from other parts of the United Kingdom. It must make sense to have a devolved Parliament to deal with devolved powers.
We should spare a thought for our constituents. The government of Scotland is currently conducted on a merry-go-round of trains and planes between Edinburgh and London. If a Scottish Member of Parliament manages to get a constituency case on to the Floor of the House, constituents have to travel from Scotland to sit up in the Gallery, officials have to travel from Edinburgh to advise the Minister for an exchange, which may or may not lead to action in St Andrew's house. It is time to put the Parliament of Scotland in the same place as the people and the Executive of Scotland. That is what the Bill is about.
169 As we all know, Scotland already has wide-ranging devolved powers and a substantial devolved budget, but the chain of democratic accountability has been stretched beyond all common sense or credibility. The Bill will establish a devolved Parliament to take control of those devolved powers, and the people know that that makes sense.
I may be a parliamentary private secretary, but Ministers will concede that I am not by nature a sycophant; when I pay tribute to a Minister, I mean it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues produced an excellent White Paper last year; we took the case to the people in a referendum, and now we have a commendably clearly written Bill, which delivers exactly what the people voted for, including the system of proportional representation.
I find clause 1(1) particularly appealing in its clarity and brevity. It states:There shall be a Scottish Parliament.That is what we shall vote on tonight.
I even agree with the choice of Holyrood as the site for the Parliament. We shall have a modern Parliament on an accessible site in the historic heart of our capital city. Speaking of history, I cannot resist a reference to Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, my constituency predecessor in the Scottish Parliament in 1707. He warned that the minority of Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster woulddance around for all eternity in a trap of their own makingin the incorporating Union between Scotland and England as proposed at that time. Happily, that eternity will come to an end when the new Scottish Parliament assumes its responsibilities in the year 2000.
In the intervening 293 years, Scotland has been a jurisdiction without a legislature, a Government without a Parliament, a nation with a clear identity and distinct institutions submerged in that irrational incorporating Union. The Bill will transform the Union into a partnership. It removes those aggravating anomalies, and it will strengthen the successful union with our neighbours in England and Wales.
We all know that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and his colleagues have a different agenda, but I submit that the Bill is a redundancy notice for the Scottish National party. The Bill fulfils Scotland's legitimate demand for home rule within the United Kingdom, and it will take the constitutional issue off the agenda in Scotland.
§ Mr. Swinney
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the issuing of redundancy notices to politicians is a matter for the electorate, not for one Labour Member of Parliament?
§ Mr. Home Robertson
Indeed, I think that the hon. Gentleman may find that, as the constitutional issue is addressed in the Bill, interest in his party will diminish rapidly. We are already seeing that. The only hope for the Scottish National party is to fill the vacuum on the right of Scottish politics left by the collapse of the Tory party. I shall leave it for the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and Mr. Bill Walker to work that one out.
I offer just one suggestion which could make a good Bill even better; it relates to the important principle of entrenchment. The Scottish Parliament that we are establishing in the Bill will be no ordinary subordinate 170 body: it will be not another council, board or quango, but a national Parliament, established by the specific authority of not only this Parliament, but the people in a referendum.
The referendum of 11 September 1997 was not just an opinion poll, but a serious historic decision made with a turnout of more than 60 per cent. of the electorate of Scotland, on an old register on a rainy day. There was a clear result: 74 per cent. of our people said yes to a Parliament; 63 per cent. of our people said yes to tax-varying powers.
One of the main arguments for holding a referendum was to secure an entrenched status for the new Parliament. I therefore submit that there should be a specific reference to that endorsement by referendum either in the Bill's long title or in clause 1, in order to cite the authority of the people for the establishment of their Parliament and to make the implicit point that the legislation should not be repealed in future without a similar direct democratic mandate from the people of Scotland.
That is a very important point, and I hope that the Government will consider an appropriate amendment to cite the authority of the referendum and so entrench the status of our Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)
No Parliament can bind its successors. If what the hon. Gentleman has suggested is inserted in the clause, will he also insert a statement that 44 per cent. of the people of Scotland voted for the Parliament, and 38 per cent. voted for the tax-varying powers? The hon. Gentleman mentioned the people of Scotland—those are the figures.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I should not have given way to the hon. Gentleman. Of course no Parliament can bind its successors; I am simply saying that there should be a reference on the face of the Bill to the fact that it is being enacted on the strength of a referendum. That would make the implicit point that such legislation should not be repealed except on the strength of a similar referendum.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I must make progress, because Madam Speaker has asked us to be brief.
Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) tried to chide my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on the subject of who was going to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament. I have bad news for my right hon. Friend, and it is probably just as well that he is not in the Chamber: I intend to seek the nomination of the East Lothian constituency Labour party. I believe that the Scottish Parliament can make a very real difference for our people. After 20 years of campaigning to get that Scottish Parliament, I make no bones about it: I want to be there.
In conclusion, I cite one area where the new Scottish Parliament can make a fresh start: rural affairs and land in Scotland.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
No. Madam Speaker has asked us to be brief and I want to be fair to other hon. Members.
171 Vast areas of Scotland are very sparsely populated—not only the highlands and islands, but the north-east, the borders, Dumfries and Galloway and other parts of rural Scotland. With only 5 million people in a land of 30,000 sq miles, our population density is nearly six times less than that of England, so the new Parliament is bound to pay greater attention to rural affairs than the Westminster Parliament has done.
I mentioned the anachronism of the Scottish feudal system. I could talk about land ownership, land use, rural development, employment, transport services and ways of making European Union policies work far better in rural Scotland. After centuries of neglect and abuse, and the cynical manipulation of Government policies by powerful vested interests in recent years, rural Scotland will have strong representation in the new Parliament. The Parliament will be able to apply new policies, and will be able to target resources. It will be able to legislate for change in rural Scotland—which is just one of many reasons why I hope to be a Member of the new Scottish Parliament.
Words cannot adequately express my support for the Bill, but I must say that tonight's Division will be one of the happiest experiences of my career in this House of Commons.
§ 5.1 pm
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
I very much welcome the opportunity to support the Second Reading of the Bill, which I believe marks the start of a fundamental reform of the United Kingdom constitution—an idea which terrifies the Tories but which we whole-heartedly welcome. It has implications for England, which England must address.
I shall briefly take issue with one or two markedly inconsistent things that have been said by members of the Conservative Front-Bench team.
The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said:On 11 September 1997, the Scottish people endorsed the concept of a Scottish Parliament with tax-varying powers, and I respect that democratically expressed view"—but we have heard nothing constructive from the Conservatives as to how that should be brought about—just carping, criticism and complaints. [Interruption.] I accept that some legitimate questions have been asked, but nothing positive or constructive has been said. In those circumstances, it is difficult to understand why anyone in Scotland would vote for a Conservative candidate for the Parliament, to which the Conservatives have no contribution to make.
§ Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)
What could be more constructive than the suggestion that the Parliament's funding should be secure and protected?
§ Mr. Bruce
I do not have a problem with that, and I have said that a number of comments were made, but the Conservatives have said nothing about how they would set about reforming the United Kingdom and the government of Scotland in a way that meets the aspirations of the Scottish people. Most of their comments were complaints about the new Parliament.
172 Indeed, the right hon. Member for Devizes said, when referring to our "Gladstonian … euphoria", that the Liberal Democratshave had very little constructive comment to offer to the debate."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 35.]Has he any idea what went on in the Scottish Constitutional Convention over eight years? If the Conservatives had been there, they might have a legitimate argument to suggest that they had helped to shape the operation.
It was always open to the Conservatives, knowing that they were opposed to the idea of a Scottish Parliament, to participate in the constitutional convention and express their reservations. They took no part in it, because they never believed that this day would come, and it is to their eternal shame that they failed to recognise their responsibilities.
§ Mr. Bruce
I am coming to that.
The right hon. Member for Devizes said that he wanteda full reassertion of the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 42.]I have news for him. If he does not understand what is going on in the next few years, he will start to realise that the days of the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament are, thankfully, numbered, and that sovereignty will be returned to where it came from—to the people, not to the arrogation of people elected in a representative Parliament. Ultimately, the people should decide. The people of Scotland have made a clear decision on what they want, and it is our job to pass the legislation.
I strongly believe that the practicalities of the birth of this home rule Parliament will concentrate the minds of people in Scotland on two complementary benefits. First, they will at last have real influence over and control of the decisions that affect the day-to-day lives of all those people living in Scotland, from wherever they come, as long as they have the rights of residence and participation. Secondly, the Parliament will focus the attention of people living in Scotland on the benefits of participating in the United Kingdom rather than opting out.
This is an evolutionary process. I do not believe that the Bill sets in stone the final, ultimate constitutional settlement for Scotland, but I firmly believe that it sets the foundations of what will inevitably become a federal settlement for the United Kingdom, even if the final formula is not wholly foreseen.
I believe that people in Scotland will realise that it is in Scotland's interest for us to share in funding and participation in matters such as social security, defence, foreign affairs, trade and economic policy development, instead of trying to do those things on our own. It is extraordinary that Conservative Members suppose that taking a close interest in social security, defence, foreign affairs, trade and economic policy is a minor detail, which should not occupy much of our time.
Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster will do two vital things. First, they will protect the interests of Scotland so far as the Parliament at Westminster is legislating for Scotland, ensuring that Scotland's voice continues to be effectively heard. Secondly, in partnership 173 with all Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, they will share in the development of policies on those issues in which we all have a common interest. In both those roles, it seems to me a very worthwhile job to do.
§ Mr. Bruce
No; I will not give way on that. I simply say that I would find the decision whether to be in the Scottish Parliament or the Westminster Parliament very difficult. I have believed all my life in the case for a Scottish Parliament, and I want to see it operating effectively, but I believe that there is a very important job for Scottish Members of Parliament to do in Westminster, and I therefore firmly intend to continue to represent my constituents in the House as long as they will elect me.
§ Mr. Bruce
I will not give way.
When some Conservative Members talk about the tensions and divisions that arise, as they see it, from the introduction of the Bill, they seem to fail to understand how much tension and division exists under the present system, creating the need for the Bill.
A dynamic democracy must change. If it was always run by Conservatives, it never would, by definition. Conservatives must interact with the forces of change from time to time, and now they are finding that they must react to the momentum for change.
I sometimes wonder, listening to them, whether Tories take the view that the only way to resolve disputes is to ensure that there is only one source of power. Actually, one must put in place mechanisms to recognise and resolve friction. Much of what is in the Bill does just that.
§ Mr. Bruce
Yes, it is fair. We were subjected to English Members voting on Scottish legislation for the 174 past 18 years. We in my party are unashamed federalists. We do not think that the Bill delivers federalism, but we support it because we see it as a building block which can lead to federalism. These issues can ultimately be resolved; in the meantime, it would help if English Conservatives had a clearer idea of how England could be better governed, and abandoned their view that Scotland should not control its own affairs. More constructive thinking on the issue is called for—perhaps the passage of the Bill will force Conservative Members to do some.
One Conservative point that was constructive concerned the financial arrangements for the Scottish Parliament. I agreed with the right hon. Member for Devizes, who said yesterday that he would like the future financial arrangements for Scotland and the rest of the UK to be set out in the Bill. I know that the Government have made their position clear, but it would be nice to see it in the legislation.
The block grant and the formula system have been in place since before the Barnett formula—effectively since 1947, if not before. I find it offensive—wherever the idea comes from—that a formula found acceptable when administered by devolved administration subject to the Secretary of State should become unacceptable when administered by an elected Parliament operating inside the same system. Now is not the moment to try to change that system. I believe that the current funding arrangements and the continued operation of the Barnett formula are essential to the success of the project and to ensuring that it goes ahead without unnecessary friction.
I was a member of the Treasury Select Committee which reported before Christmas. I would not have minded what happened so much if the Committee had taken any relevant evidence: but it did not. Some questions were asked about the Barnett formula, but halfway through the evidence it suddenly dawned on members of the Committee that they were not interested in the Barnett formula. Rather, they were interested in the overall funding for Scotland—about which they asked nobody any questions. That did not stop them voting 10 to one in favour of recommending something which they had not even investigated.
It was a shoddy piece of work for a Select Committee of this House. I have served on a number of Select Committees, but I have never before participated in a piece of work that was so badly researched and so unjustified in its conclusions. I hope that the Government will reject it out of hand.
Yesterday, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) touched on the business case. I welcome the growing number of Scottish businesses that are beginning to recognise that a Scottish Parliament is not a threat, and might even be a real opportunity. Standard Life and the Bank of Scotland have offered actively to encourage their employees to take part in elections to the Scottish Parliament, and to hold their jobs open for them in the event that they are not successful. That should be of some comfort to Conservative party candidates.
I have had a number of informal discussions, too, with business people, who are beginning to see how these developments in Scottish administration could be positively helpful. The suggestion was put to me that, because of the importance of the oil and gas industry to Scotland, it would be valuable to have a Minister in the Scottish Parliament with responsibility for oil and gas.
175 For the avoidance of misunderstanding, I make it clear that I fully accept that licensing and taxation policy in respect of oil and gas remains at Westminster; but the development of the industry and its export opportunities and jobs are all crucial to Scotland. As such, they are of legitimate interest to the Scottish Parliament, and a Minister with such responsibilities could make a useful contribution to developing the industry.
I end on a note of concern about the north-east, although it is a concern shared to a lesser extent by other parts of the country. We should not be pushing ahead with local government changes, in the form of council numbers, at a time when we are about to devolve power and responsibility to the Scottish Parliament. I should prefer such changes to be left until after the Parliament is elected.
Neither I nor my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith) can fathom why the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland is arguing that Aberdeenshire's complement of councillors should be increased from 47 to 68. It is a complete waste of money, and utterly unnecessary. No one anywhere in Aberdeenshire is in favour of the change, yet the Boundary Commission is insisting that it go ahead in time for the next local government elections. I hope that the Minister can do something to stop the change going ahead, or at least that he will defer it until the Scottish Parliament has been set up.
In due course, the local government boundaries may need to be reviewed.
§ Mr. Bruce
I appreciate the Minister's comment.
If Aberdeenshire's boundaries were changed to conform to those of the old Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire, and Moray were extended to become Moray and Banffshire, re-creating the two as a joint authority, that would prove a popular move, improving the administrative efficiency of both areas without fundamentally altering their political mix.
The funding settlement for the new Parliament gets us off to a good working start, but over time we may need to revisit the issue. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) pointed out yesterday that we are talking about tax-varying powers of only 3 per cent. of the total spending power of the Parliament. Over time, people will argue that the Scottish Parliament should have access to more of its own resources through some form of assigned revenues or the collection of taxes within Scotland. In 10 years' time, such a rethink may prove welcome, once people see how the system has settled down.
The block grant formula and the 3 per cent. tax-varying power will not last for ever, although they are a good start. Without them, there would be too many uncertainties; and it would have been much harder to persuade people to vote for anything more complicated. Of course, wide consultation will be called for, but the Minister will recognise, I hope, that such a review will encourage the Scottish Parliament to be imaginative and enterprising. It will have the incentive to control its own taxes and to be accountable to the people it serves.
176 We should like the same principle to be applied to local government generally, which has been heading in the wrong direction—as even the Conservatives acknowledge now. To include in the Bill security for existing funding and a recognition of the need for a fundamental review in 10 years' time would be most desirable.
The Bill is an historic development which will have far-reaching implications for the whole United Kingdom. I urge Conservative Members who have thus far been so resistant to it to embrace the programme for change and to start to think constructively about how the English question can be resolved—not at the expense of Scotland, but to the benefit of the whole United Kingdom.
§ Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South)
Every time I have spoken in the Chamber on the Scottish devolution I have used the word "historic". To avoid being too repetitive, I thought I would turn to the thesaurus for new words. I found the following: celebrated, acclaimed, legendary, great, illustrious and glorious.
On this glorious day, I am delighted to take part in this legendary debate on an acclaimed Bill introduced by my celebrated, great and illustrious right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Perhaps that is a bit over the top, contrasting as it does with the traditional understatement of the Scots. When they think something is wonderful they say, "It's no bad"; they also think that the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office team have done "a pretty good job".
I feel that I have been practising the arguments for this debate almost all my life—for years and years. It is therefore unlikely that I shall say something new, but it is worth reiterating the importance of the Bill and of the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament will address the democratic deficit in Scotland, which has led to so many bad decisions being made over the past 18 years. One feels that Scottish legislation has always been tacked on at the end of English and Welsh legislation, and never given its own priority. There never seems to be parliamentary time for legislation that is peculiar to Scotland. That is why we have a feudal system, to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) referred.
I now know who to blame, because I have been a victim of the Scottish feudal system over the past few months. I bought a new house in my constituency. Until we get houses for life, and houses that people in wheelchairs can get into, I must build a ramp. I applied to the local council for planning permission, and six weeks later a letter dropped through my door, stating that planning permission had been granted, but along with it dropped another letter reminding me that I have a feu superior, and that no alterations can be made to the outside of the house without the permission of the feu superior. Consequently, I have waited another six weeks for further permission to build the ramp. I am still not in my house, and I am still waiting. Perhaps at Easter I will be able to invite hon. Members to the house-warming.
§ Miss Begg
I am an Aberdonian—of course you can bring your own bottle.
177 I am sure that Scottish land reform will be tackled early in the new Scottish Parliament, as it is long overdue and has never been able to be dealt with in the House. Scotland is different; some may say that it is peculiar. We need the Parliament to deal with matters that are peculiarly Scottish.
The Scottish Parliament will give Scots a new confidence in their ability—not a confidence that will result in the narrow nationalism of the "fa's like us, nae many and they're a' deid" mentality, but a confidence that will come from having control over our domestic affairs, although we will still be part of Britain and Europe.
It is one of the strengths of the Scottish psyche that we can happily be Scottish, British and European all at the same time.
§ Miss Begg
Yes. That is why the Scottish people have voted for devolution, not independence, and why we Scots do not display the antipathy to the European Union that is displayed by Opposition Members.
However, I have a word of caution. We have been waiting such a long time for a Scottish Parliament that there may be a danger of over-expectation. I have a great fear that the Scottish Parliament may fail to live up to what each person wants. Let us be clear that it will not be a panacea. It may come as a surprise to some, but a Scottish Parliament will not help Scotland win the World cup. I am sorry about that, but it will not. Even a Scottish Parliament will not be able to stop it raining in Aberdeen. I am sorry to disillusion the SNP, but the Scottish Parliament will definitely not lead to independence; it will, however, allow decisions to be taken in Scotland on issues that are distinctly Scottish—decisions on education, health, local government, and law and order.
Before I got on the plane yesterday morning, I was listening to Radio Scotland. One hears Radio Scotland only in Scotland, never down here, which is strange. It was interesting to hear an explanation of how the Scotland Bill will progress through the Houses of Parliament. The fact that the Westminster legislative process had to be explained on national radio speaks volumes. That is because it is a great mystery to most people. Indeed, it is a mystery to many hon. Members as well. It is to be hoped that there will not be such alienation from the political process in the new Scottish Parliament.
There will be new structures for the new Parliament, and an end to the archaic procedures of the House. I often think that those procedures were designed to keep the population at arm's length, and to persuade us that there is something mystical and complicated about the exercise of power.
The Scottish Parliament will be open, accessible, accountable and—something that is quite alien in Westminster—it will be consensual. It will be new politics. Those who do not believe that politicians in Scotland can behave in the grown-up, civilised manner that is required to come to decisions through a process of consensus should look at how the constitutional convention operated. There is the potential for maturity in Scottish politics.
It is right that the new Parliament will decide on its own structures. That is not a job for Westminster, as it would be likely to create a Parliament in its own image, which would be a disaster. If the Parliament is to be truly accessible, it needs to be open and understandable to all.
178 The Parliament must also be physically accessible, which is why I welcome the decision to site the Parliament at Holyrood in a new, purpose-built building. Anyone who believes that Calton Hill was the ideal site, perched on top of a hill in a converted old building, has never lived life from a wheelchair. Any adaptations would always have been a compromise and never satisfactory—one just has to look at this place.
Another reason why the new Parliament will have greater accessibility is that it will be elected by proportional representation. There is no doubt that the result of the referendum in Aberdeen was so decisive because the people of the north-east know that they will have a strong voice in the new Parliament.
There is no doubt that the electoral system will prove to be the saviour of the Scottish Tories. I suppose that it is too much to expect a thank you from Opposition Members to the Labour Government, but we can always live in hope.
Today is not the day to be churlish. I welcome the recent conversion of the Opposition, who realise that the Scottish Parliament is the settled will of the Scottish people. The Opposition have said that they want to make the Parliament work, and I am very glad about that. The Tories claim that they want to make it work. The Liberal Democrats claim that they want to make it work. Even the members of the SNP claim that they want to make it work, and I hope I can believe them. Obviously the Labour Government and the Labour party want it to work. If those claims are true, the Scottish Parliament proposed by the Bill will be a great success and will allow the Scottish people, after 300 years, to claim their right to home rule.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)
We have all been delighted to hear the optimism expressed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg). I hope that it will prove to be wholly justified, and that those of my opinion will prove to be wholly wrong.
I would counsel the hon. Lady against overoptimism. I had the pleasure of being a Scottish Member of Parliament and then coming down to England, which was quite a transfer. I am surprised that the feudal system concerns her. My experience in Scotland was that that seemed to cost very little, and one used to deal with respectable lawyers, whereas in England one must pay a great deal more and deal with people who are not respectable at all.
It is outrageous for Scottish Members to argue that devolution will bring more democracy direct to the people, while the same Members consistently argue for more power to go to the European Union, where people's rights do not exist and where democracy is effectively dead.
I was horrified to hear from the Liberal Democrat Benches the astonishing interpretation of the views of the Treasury Select Committee, of which I am a member. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) seems to be interested in parish pump, rather than accuracy. If hon. Members study the Committee's report, they will see that no conclusions were arrived at and that the Committee called for further investigation of what it considered an interesting idea.
179 In light of the referendum result and the massive Government majority, it might appear that there is little point in my taking part in this debate. However, I believe that there is a little merit in people such as me, who have opposed the devolution proposals presented by both Conservative and Labour Governments, making suggestions, just in case devolution turns out to be a great disaster.
Some people may have forgotten—people of your age, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and others who were not around when the Conservatives presented their proposals—that those devolution plans were very similar to Labour's. The impression that I gain from speaking to colleagues is that among the true believers in devolution, there was hardly anyone who believed in it at all. They thought that the way to cope with the rising threat of the SNP was to offer devolution as a kind of halfway house.
Strange to say, as the House will well recall, when we, the then Conservative Government, were promoting devolution, instead of the SNP fading away, it enjoyed a wonderful boost. From 1979, I think we had 11 SNP Members, who were all of great ability and enthusiasm. Basically, they argued the case for an independent Scotland. Unfortunately, I have met quite a few Labour Members who do not appear to be quite so enthusiastic about devolution when one speaks to them privately as they do publicly.
Those who think that devolution will knock the SNP on the head are living in cloud cuckoo land. Those who think that the move to devolution will lead to the collapse of the SNP will be subject to a brutal shock. I think that this time round, like last time, instead of the SNP collapsing, it will enjoy a mighty boost. I think that the SNP Members who are present will agree with me and will be content to see what happens.
What is my objection to the Government's proposals? First, it is obvious that the proposed Parliament will be one of utter frustration. We know that it will have the power to talk about everything, but it will have extremely limited powers. One example is fishing, where the powers of the new Parliament and those of the Westminster Parliament will be very limited. The power of discussion without the power to act will lead to a great deal of frustration, and that frustration will become infinitely worse if different parties are in charge of the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament.
Secondly, it should be appreciated, especially by the enthusiasts such as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South that the proposed Parliament will be one of cuts in services. There is a great danger in that some Members think that the new devolved Parliament will be able to bring better services and organisations to Scotland. The costs will be substantial and will have to come from the block grant. The Government's estimate is that the cost will be about £5 per head in Scotland, which is, let us say, £20 a family. Sadly, as we know from the present Government and previous Governments, such estimates always prove to be wildly inaccurate.
If we assume that nothing else will happen, there will still be a reduction in services for the average Scottish family to the tune of £20, which is a considerable sum. I suggest that if we in this place were suddenly put in 180 charge of Edinburgh and of administering the affairs of Scotland, a cut of £20 per family would not prove particularly agreeable.
Thirdly, we are talking about a Parliament of constitutional mess. We in this place cannot appreciate what it must be like to have a Parliament in which about half the Members have constituencies to look after, committees to which they must be answerable and constituency correspondence to which they must attend, along with meeting representatives of the boroughs in which they operate, while another group of Members—albeit, not quite so large—sitting in the same Parliament have no such responsibilities. Those Members without constituency responsibilities will simply be a party of hacks, people who have been presented by their parties and put on a list.
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman's rather pessimistic view of what the list Members would have to do is not necessarily borne out by the facts, as I understand them, across Europe. List Members often end up with more work than constituency Members because electors who do not agree with their elected constituency Members turn to list Members. I suspect that list Members will end up with larger postbags than constituency Members. We may find that list Members have much more work than the hon. Gentleman thinks.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor
It is possible that that will be the case. I hope that the people of Scotland will know who the list Members are and to whom they should write. I think that experience will prove that if someone is not directly elected the average person will not be entirely sure who they are. The people can be sure only that list Members will probably have the privilege of being invited to lunch by the CBI—something that will, of course, achieve a great deal.
We should not disregard the fact that the proposed Parliament will be a Parliament of strife. Some of those who have spoken in the debate have perhaps not read some of the Bill's provisions, which are quite frightening. For example, it seems that clauses 53 and 54 would give unlimited power to the Secretary of State. They seem to mean that, irrespective of a decision that the Parliament has taken or decided not to take, the Secretary of State can instruct it to cancel legislation that has been agreed to—in other words, to cancel the action or to take other action.
If we in this place were sitting in the Assembly and someone outside had the power to tell us that what we had done was wrong and should be cancelled, or that what we had not done should be done, there would be a great deal of confusion and stress. Similarly, we should not disregard the capping powers that will be given to the Secretary of State, whereby if, in his opinion, the Parliament is spending too much money or is charging ratepayers too much, which is a form of indirect taxation, he can basically cut its grant. That would create constitutional privilege.
I note that the Minister is shaking his head, and that surprises me. I have set out my understanding of what I have read. It would appear that the capping powers that would be given to the Secretary of State would enable him to reduce the grant. Perhaps I have misread the relevant provisions, but I assure the Minister that I read them rather carefully.
181 We are setting up a rather ridiculous structure with some Members representing constituencies and some not. It is all very well to be critical, but what should be done instead? I, like others, think that the whole process will end in an horrendous nightmare. Is there another approach? Those who come from Scotland, as I do, are well aware that Scotland is a nation and not a region and that there has sometimes been great frustration in Scotland when legislation has been applied there that was considered unacceptable. The same objective could almost certainly be realised by giving independent powers to, for example, the Scottish Grand Committee, consisting solely of Scottish Members, so long as the same power was given to English Members in respect of legislation relevant to us. There lies one of the great fears, and one which should not be disregarded.
§ Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise the concern that would be felt in the north-east given the total domination of the central belt and of the Labour party in any policy making in Scotland, with no restraint at all on the powers of the Scottish Executive? Unless the House were reformed with the introduction of proportional representation, does the hon. Gentleman recognise that his solution would be more frightening than the current system or the proposed Bill?
§ Sir Teddy Taylor
I am well aware of the fear in Southend-on-Sea, where I now reside, about the central powers of Chelmsford, which is about 10 miles away. That is one of the reasons why in Southend we have a unitary authority, which was established on 1 May.
Outlying areas should remember that in terms, for example, of unemployment and prosperity, they do quite well. I remind my hon. Friends from elsewhere that the level of unemployment in my constituency is 10.3 per cent. Against that background, it is rather strange to hear others say that they are neglected. There are piles of grants and a great deal of prosperity along with far lower unemployment levels.
Even within Essex there is the fear of centralisation, but if the problem in Scotland is effectively to be resolved without creating appalling constitutional difficulties, such as the West Lothian question, we should consider seriously proceeding through this Parliament.
The cost of the Scottish Assembly will be substantial and the democratic situation will be extremely dangerous. As proposed, we can expect from the Assembly, or the Scottish Parliament, only a curtailment of services. There will be battles within the United Kingdom and opportunities will be stoked up for the SNP.
I spent most of my life in Scotland and I believe that people will have to make up their minds. There is a good, logical and strong case for an independent Scotland. I do not agree with that case and I would campaign and argue against it, but I accept that there is a logical case that must be argued. There is an appalling danger for Scotland, England and the United Kingdom if we try to find a halfway house. That approach will create many more politicians, all of whom will want researchers, secretaries and visits. Such a system will generate a great deal of cost, and the people of Scotland will have to pay.
We are creating a constitutional nightmare, but one which will not be obvious immediately so long as the Labour party dominates both Parliaments. There will be 182 a real nightmare, however, if the constitutional situation changes. I hope that my party will make it clear that in the event of there being a Conservative Government at some time in the future, the issue will be faced and every effort made to resolve it. The way to resolve what is a real problem is not through the Bill, which I believe will create additional cost, result in a reduction of services and cause a great deal of strife within the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)
The speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) was like a repetition of an old record from the 1970s, but it was no golden oldie. It sounded as though the needle had been stuck since the 1970s, and as though he was stuck in a time warp.
In the 1970s, the hon. Gentleman represented Glasgow, Cathcart. He and I are two of the few hon. Members present this evening who were also present on Second Reading of the previous Scotland Bill, which proposed to set up a Scottish Parliament, or Assembly as it was called. The man who piloted that Bill through Parliament was the late John Smith, and here we are, more than 20 years later, trying to finish what John described as unfinished business and the settled will of the Scottish people.
After the general election in 1979, one of the first things that the Tory Government did was to repeal the Scotland Act 1978. One of those who spoke in favour of repeal—indeed, who voted in favour of it—was the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who has just left the Chamber, and who opened the debate for the Opposition yesterday. He spoke and voted for the repeal of the Scotland Act 1978, despite the fact that the majority of the people who voted in the 1979 referendum voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament, or Assembly, as it was called—so much for his respect for the wishes of the people of Scotland. No wonder he was subsequently kicked out of his Edinburgh, South seat. Just as the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East was kicked out of Glasgow, Cathcart, so the right hon. Member for Devizes was kicked out of Edinburgh, South—just as he had previously been kicked out of Berwickshire and East Lothian. The right hon. Gentleman had to seek refuge in the salubrious climes of Devizes, where he proceeds to lecture the people of Scotland on what is best for us. What a cheek. What an effrontery. It is rather like Edward II trying to lecture Robert the Bruce on the best military tactics to be used at Bannockburn.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) referred to the unique democratic deficit that has existed in Scotland for many years because of the absence of a Scottish Parliament. Scotland is constitutionally unique in that we are the only country with our own laws and legal system but no Parliament of our own to pass laws. As a result, this place has to act as a legislature for Scots law as well as the laws that apply throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
During the 18 years of Tory misrule, the Tory Government cynically exploited that democratic deficit by foisting on the people of Scotland many laws and decisions that were quite contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people of Scotland and the majority of their elected representatives. We can think of many examples: the misuse of public funds for private 183 fee-paying schools and the misuse of taxpayers' money—more than £30 million—for a private hospital in Clydebank while people were queuing up to get into national health service hospitals. Probably the worst example of all was the deliberate use of the people of Scotland as guinea pigs for the iniquitous poll tax.
During those 18 years of Tory misrule, an increasing number of people came to realise that if there had been a Scottish Parliament, those abuses of power would have been impossible. We had a much bigger majority in the referendum last year than in the 1979 referendum partly because many of the people who were sceptics way back in 1979, and others who voted no in the 1979 referendum, had come to the conclusion—after 18 years of Thatcherism and 18 years of Tory misrule—that a Scottish Parliament would be able to give some protection to the people of Scotland.
I congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland and his ministerial colleagues on their excellent job in getting the message across to the people of Scotland during the referendum campaign and on helping to bring about that magnificent victory in the referendum last year. I look forward to the Bill reaching the statute book at the earliest opportunity so that we can have the first elections to the Scottish Parliament on 6 May next year.
I realise that not everyone will be satisfied with the contents of the Bill, but it proposes an enormous transfer of power to the people of Scotland. I would be one of the first to say that it is not absolutely perfect in every respect, but I do not see the Bill's contents as something that has been handed down from high on tablets of stone. I see the relationship between the future Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament not as being static but as being dynamic. The dynamics, in time, may well lead to more power being given to the Scottish Parliament if that is the democratic wish of the people of Scotland.
The sovereignty of the people of Scotland is surely at the heart of the matter. Those of us who are members of the Scottish Constitutional Convention signed the Claim of Right acknowledging the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government that is best suited to their needs.
The Bill will certainly eradicate the democratic deficit to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South referred. It will give the people of Scotland the first democratic Parliament in Scotland's history. We all know that there was a Scottish Parliament before 1707, but the Scottish Parliament that existed then could hardly be described as democratic or truly representative of the people of Scotland as a whole. If it had been, its members might not have been foolish or corrupt enough to vote for its abolition. This is not a case of turning back the clock or restoring something that used to exist three centuries ago; it is a case of establishing, for the first time, a modern, democratic Parliament for the people of Scotland, elected by the people of Scotland and accountable to the people of Scotland. It will be a new Parliament for a new millennium—a Parliament that will help to give a fresh start and build a better future for the people of Scotland.
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth)
Thank you for allowing me to speak, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I listened yesterday to some fascinating interventions, particularly 184 from the Conservatives. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was echoed by several of his colleagues, all gravely concerned about the apparent risk of Scotland becoming increasingly marginalised after devolution. Listening to their expressions of concern, I thought, "Excuse me, where have they been for the past 20 years?" It is precisely because Scotland was marginalised by the previous Government that the desire for more control over the affairs of Scotland has not only not gone away but increased to the extent shown in the stunning referendum result on 11 September.
I never fail to be amazed that, in their oh so grudging acceptance of the scheme, after all their attempts to defeat it and their continued half-hearted approach to it, not once have I heard any Conservatives accept that maybe—just maybe—the Scottish people felt as they did at least in part because of the atrocious attitude to Scotland exhibited by the previous Government. A little humility might be in order, but we have come to accept that we shall never hear any humility from the Conservatives.
It seems that having once attended a Burns supper, or something similar, is regarded by the Tories as sufficient qualification to opine on the future of Scotland. I am getting fed up with listening to the genealogical history of Conservative Back Benchers who feel the need to display their genetic credentials when they speak.
I have personal experience of living outside Scotland—indeed, my colleagues are fed up with listening to me talk about those experiences. I wanted to be part of the debate in Scotland. There was an easy way to resolve that. I was taken away at the age of eight and came back in my mid-20s with the express purpose of becoming politically active. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) talked about having practised all her life for today. I do not regard today as the end point of what I have been practising for, but it is a stage post on a journey that started 12,000 miles away. I suggest to those who are so keen on their Scottish ancestry and so desirous of having their voices heard that they take the same not very difficult step. They should go to Scotland and help their colleagues in the Scottish Conservative party. They might find that their perspective changes substantially. I might be criticised for inviting an increase in the number of Conservative activists in Scotland, but let us be fair—there are so few of them and at 12 per cent. in the opinion polls a handful more transferring to north of the border will probably not make much difference.
§ Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)
I certainly have no Scottish credentials to rehearse before the House. Does the hon. Lady accept that we are not pontificating about the affairs of Scotland? The Bill has profound implications for my constituents in England.
§ Ms Cunningham
I have been listening to Tories pontificating about Scotland for years and years. Many of those interventions have been made in this Chamber—including several last night.
As a nationalist, I regard the devolution scheme as half a loaf. I fully expect that when the people of Scotland have devoured this half a loaf, they will look around them for a few more crumbs. That is a matter for them. As democrats, we all accept that. We shall continue to urge them to look for an increase in the power of the Scottish Parliament. I have heard tonight that the Liberal 185 Democrats are expecting that. I think that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) used the word, "evolutionary".
§ Ms Cunningham
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and I agree on many issues, of which that may be one, although I do not think that the hon. Member for Gordon would agree with such an approach.
The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) was all over the place this evening. While adopting the typical grudging attitude of the Conservatives, he went on to argue for more powers for the Scottish Parliament, with the transfer of responsibility for abortion and embryology. At one point during his speech, I saw the spectre of a Labour-Tory coalition as he canvassed the possibility of a Unionist cabal to ensure that there were no changes to the scheme in future.
Hon. Members would not expect me, as a nationalist, to say that the scheme went far enough. However, our comments so far have made it clear that we are not going to attempt to change the Bill to an independence measure, much as I might wish to. We have focused on three specific areas in the devolutionary spirit—a difficult spirit for me to get into, but we try—in an attempt to amend the Bill for the better. I shall deal with broadcasting.
In the convention scheme, broadcasting was listed as a proposed devolved power. Until the publication of the White Paper, there was a widespread understanding that that would remain the case. However, the White Paper made it clear that, regardless of the understanding, broadcasting would remain a reserved power.
To be fair, the White Paper made some reference to the importance of broadcasting. Paragraph 2.11 referred to cross-border public bodies that wouldcontinue to be significant in the economic or social life of Scotland, and therefore likely to be of interest to the Scottish Parliament.It allowed that the Parliament would be able to invite the submission of reports and the presentation of oral evidence to its Committees from such bodies. The short list of examples given—I did not expect it to be exhaustive—included
broadcasting and telecommunication organisations such as the BBC and the Independent Television Commission".That did not represent the devolution of power over broadcasting, but it allowed for the prospect of scrutiny of broadcasting by the Scottish Parliament and the expectation that people from the BBC and the ITC would be accountable to the Scottish Parliament.
Last night there was a bit of a flurry on the Government Benches when my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) remarked that there had been a retreat from the commitment in the White Paper. Labour Members began waving their White Papers excitedly and pointing to them. The Secretary of State went into little private confabs in an attempt to understand what was being implied.
Clauses 83, 84 and 85 deal with cross-border public bodies, which are defined as those having
functions exercisable in or as regards Scotland which do not relate to reserved matters.That is a little different from the definition outlined in the White Paper, but it might not necessarily have caused enormous alarm. There are good reasons for not producing a list of those cross-border public bodies in the Bill.
186 However, there is a detailed list in annexe E of the guidance notes, which were helpfully published alongside the Bill. As I flicked through the notes, which carefully outline the very few changes from the promises in the White Paper, I wondered whether I should be a tad cynical about our attention being directed to such specific areas. Perhaps there might be aspects that were overlooked. That is indeed the case. Annexe E gives a comprehensive list of 41 cross-border bodies under a variety of headings, including agriculture and fisheries, sport and the arts, the environment, home affairs and health. The list covers three pages. Lo and behold! What is missing? The BBC, the ITC and the other telecommunications organisations are missing.
Perhaps Labour Members, including Ministers, were totally unaware of that omission—and, perhaps, I came up the Clyde on a banana boat. Somewhere between the publication of the White Paper and of the Bill, the BBC and the ITC have mysteriously disappeared from any definition of a cross-border public body. As far as I can gather, they are therefore not even subject to the minimal scrutiny originally suggested. So, the next time that the BBC in London decides to repeat the infamous "Panorama" experience, the Scottish Parliament will not be able to call it to account.
I give the Minister every opportunity to state on the Floor of the House that the omission is wholly accidental and will be rectified in Committee. I wonder whether he will leap to his feet to give us that reassurance. I see that he does not. In those circumstances, we shall table amendments to ensure that both organisations will be deemed cross-border public bodies—just in case, somewhere along the way, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport puts his nose in the matter or broadcasters quietly indicate that the last thing that they want is any parliamentary scrutiny by the troublesome jocks.
§ Ms Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman is leaping to his feet to tell me that, despite everything, the BBC and the ITC will be answerable to the Scottish Parliament. I would like him to say how.
§ Mr. Browne
Is not the hon. Lady barking up the wrong clause? Are not the powers in paragraph 2.11 of the White Paper reflected in clause 23, which deals with the power to call witnesses and documents?
§ Ms Cunningham
There is no specification anywhere that the BBC or the ITC will be answerable to the Scottish Parliament. It does not matter what clause one looks at. Nowhere in the guidance notes is there any indication that those bodies will be answerable.
§ Ms Cunningham
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman, who did not make his point.
We are debating a scheme in which responsibility for the arts, education and Gaelic are devolved—yet responsibility for broadcasting is not. That means that all 187 aspects of cultural life except broadcasting are covered. There will be a separate Scottish arts council, but no body responsible for broadcasting.
It struck me as interesting that the Minister for Education and Industry made a number of remarks about education. He said that the Scottish Parliament—at least concerning education—will not import measures which reflect the prevailing ideology at Westminster and which would be so damaging. That is an interesting use of language.
§ Mr. Salmond
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne), who once told me to cut to the chase, seems to have cut to the wrong clause. Clause 23, to which he referred, is specific that witnesses and documents can be called ondevolved matters concerning Scotland,matters in relation to which statutory functions are exercisable by the Scottish Ministers.I am not certain how the BBC or the ITC would apply to that clause.
§ Ms Cunningham
Indeed, they do not. In no way will the BBC or the ITC be accountable to the Scottish Parliament.
I return to my comments on the Minister's use of language concerning education. I found it interesting because the phrase is one which I could certainly use without blushing. I wondered whether his youthful membership of the Scottish National party had not quite been eradicated. If such comments apply in respect of education, why in heaven's name do they not apply to broadcasting? I do not see how the argument can be made in respect of education but not broadcasting.
The omission of broadcasting represents a major inconsistency in the Bill. In the arts, Gaelic and education, broadcasting plays a central and vital role, and the SNP believes that it should be devolved as well. Rapid changes are taking place in broadcasting. Indeed, such changes, especially the imminent arrival of digital television, have already provoked major changes in ownership and control of the Scottish media. I know that hon. Members who represent the area covered by Grampian Television are already expressing concerns about that.
§ Mr. Grieve
I come in on a discussion which I have no doubt will be pursued in Committee. Does the hon. Lady agree that one reading of clause 23 certainly gives the Scottish Parliament power to require attendance at a Select Committee in order to answer questions by organisations that produce material which comes within devolved provisions? She is complaining that the Scottish Parliament will not have control over the BBC's charter in so far as it relates to broadcasting in Scotland. She is in fact asking for the BBC to be split in two.
§ Ms Cunningham
Although I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I notice that the one person who has not yet leapt to his feet to give any reassurance is the Minister. Until some such reassurance is given, we must take the view that the apparent omission between the publication of the White Paper and of the Bill was deliberate. If it was not deliberate it will be rectified. 188 I look forward to that. Nevertheless, even if it were rectified, we would still be arguing for full devolution of broadcasting. At least the White Paper offered a minimal amount of control.
§ Mr. Wilson
In her public pronouncement on the matter, the hon. Lady talks blithely about controlling broadcasting. I have listened to her go on for some minutes on the subject, but I am still no clearer about what exactly she wants to control. Does she want to control the content of broadcasting or its structures? If so, is not she endorsing what the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) has just proposed? Does not she in fact want to set up a Scottish broadcasting corporation, a Scottish ITC and, who knows which other bodies? If she elucidates what she wants to control, it might be easier to help her.
§ Ms Cunningham
If the Minister will hold his horses, he might hear one or two things that apply to that criticism. I do not take on board by any manner of means the implied criticism. I have already stated that we are not talking about an independent Scottish broadcasting commission. Would that we were! We shall not be proposing that in the amendments that we intend to table. I described the changes that are taking place and the need for the Scottish Parliament to be part of them.
§ Ms Cunningham
No, I will not give way. I want to move on. Some of what I have to say will answer the Minister's point.
I understand the way in which the Minister looks at the issue. He thinks that, since broadcasting is outwith the remit of politicians, it would be folly to hand it to the Scottish Parliament. That is the basic line that the Minister is peddling. Leaving aside the small contradiction in his remarks that is exemplified by the specific reservation of broadcasting powers—since, if Parliament does not have powers, I do not see how they can be reserved—we are arguing for devolution to the Scottish Parliament of powers that are presently exercised by the Westminster Parliament in relation to Scotland and the services there.
In keeping with the devolutionary—as opposed to the independent spirit—of the Bill, such an argument would exclude a number of areas that would be included under any independence proposals. It would exclude, for example, the allocation of frequencies, since they are affected by international agreement. We are trying to look at the matter within the spirit of devolution, difficult though that may sometimes be. The truth is that the framework for broadcasting is set by politicians. We desire at least to create a framework for Scotland, not only for what cannot happen but for what can happen.
For example, we might insist on there being more take-up from the independent sector. Scotland is not currently well served by broadcasting. Up to 97 per cent. of news and current affairs on Scottish television comes from network sources, which remain largely uninterested in the debate in Scotland. For example, I understand that last night the 9 pm news headlines did not even mention this debate.
Network coverage is not designed with a Scottish audience in mind. Perhaps that is what the Labour party wants to continue, to ensure that news remains dominated 189 by big brother and Big Ben. We propose that there should be exceptions to the reservation in schedule 5 so that scheduling and finance in so far as they relate to services in Scotland—for example, responsibility for BBC Scotland and its services within Scotland—are devolved to a broadcasting council for Scotland, whereas the BBC generally remains responsible for United Kingdom services.
Equally, sthe Scottish Parliament would have powers over a Scottish ITC equivalent to those currently exercised by Westminster over the ITC. With a proper devolution of broadcasting it would become possible to allocate in Scotland the unused frequencies that I am told exist, but have not been allocated because their counterparts are in use in England, and England is where the decisions are made.
Leaving the situation unchanged would lead to anomalies and inconsistencies. For example, I understand that STV is now forced to pay for large chunks of network programming, even for programmes that it does not broadcast, or even want to broadcast. Surely it would be preferable for STV to be able to opt in rather than opt out, paying along the way only for the programmes that it uses.
No doubt some people in the Chamber will object that in those circumstances Scotland would end up with parochial and irrelevant programmes. However, in my view we are already subjected to much parochial and irrelevant material from a Londoncentric broadcasting base that has trouble seeing beyond the M25. That situation cannot continue after devolution, and that is why we shall table our amendments.
Yes, the Parliament will be able to make substantial changes in many areas. I look forward to some of those—changes affecting land, law and local government, for example—but even within the spirit of the scheme there are major improvements that we should be able to make. I believe that broadcasting is one which, on the face of it, should receive widespread support, especially as it was originally designated for inclusion in the list of devolved rather than reserved powers.
§ Ms Sandra Osborne (Ayr)
In keeping with Madam Speaker's request, I shall be brief. I apologise in advance if what I say is somewhat repetitive. I have sat through the debate both yesterday and today so I know that, unfortunately, some of the points that I wish to make have already been made by others. No doubt that is inevitable at this stage. However, I have great pride in and enthusiasm for the Bill, so I hope that hon. Members will forgive me.
What I am holding up may look to Opposition Members like a credit card, but they would not get very far if they tried to buy anything with it. My hon. Friends may recognise it as the card containing Labour's five early pledges.Keep this card and see that we keep our promises",it says. For Scotland our pledges were slightly different in that, because of the swifter Scottish juvenile justice system, we did not mention a fast-track punishment for young offenders. Instead, our card states:Legislate for a Scottish Parliament in our first year by holding a referendum on devolution and campaigning for a Yes Vote".190 First and foremost the Bill is about trust, and about promises kept.
The Labour party always said that we would deliver a Scottish Parliament—the Parliament that the people wanted. Some Opposition Members did everything that they could to question and undermine that commitment. I am especially pleased to be standing here now, because throughout the long unofficial election campaign and the six weeks of the official campaign we heard the Conservatives say that the last thing that we needed was more parliamentarians. Indeed, we have heard that allegation repeated today by the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor).
However, the people who said those things are now in Scotland scrambling for nominations to stand for that same Scottish Parliament. To be fair, I must admit that the Conservatives were not all singing from the same hymn sheet. While my predecessor prophesied the end of the Union, others were saying that they had always been devolutionists. We have heard that repeated in the debate too. While some talked of abolishing the Parliament if it was set up, others warned, "A Scottish Parliament is not for Christmas, it is for life."
As for the Scottish National party, it told us that the Parliament would not be worth having. It would be a toytown, Mickey Mouse effort, and in any case the referendum was a cunning device to get off the hook and fail to deliver. None the less, I welcome the last-minute conversions to the cause, from whatever quarter they come. I also welcome the positive public support given by the SNP during the referendum campaign, as well as the positive contribution we have had from SNP Members to this debate. That has been gratifying to hear.
However, the party that has consistently said that there will be a Scottish Parliament has kept its promise in government at every stage of the process, just as it is keeping all its other pledges—on the minimum wage, welfare to work, reform of the health service, tackling crime and investing in education, child care and nursery provision.
We have kept faith with the principles of the Scottish Constitutional Convention. I join others in praising the convention and all the hard work that it carried out over the years. I was not involved personally, but it is gratifying to see that all that hard work has now to come to fruition.
We campaigned vigorously for a double yes vote in the referendum, and we secured three quarters of the vote. We delivered a White Paper clearly outlining what was proposed, and now we have delivered the Bill. The whole timetable has been driven by the Government's determination that there shall be a Scottish Parliament.
The support for that idea, both from the Government and from others throughout the community in Scotland, derives from the principles undergirding the policy. We genuinely support a Scottish Parliament looking after Scottish affairs, while remaining within the United Kingdom and playing our part in Europe and the world.
We do not support the Parliament for the same reasons as the SNP—reasons that have just been outlined by the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham)—nor do we take the negative view outlined by some that the Parliament should be supported simply to stop the break-up of Britain. We genuinely see it as good for 191 Scotland. It will be a shot in the arm for our democracy and for our self-confidence, economically, culturally and politically.
I shall now turn from promises kept to the opportunity that the Parliament offers for a new politics. I have not noticed any particular interest in that aspect of the argument on the part of Opposition Members during the day and a half that this debate has lasted so far. Perhaps they should consider how people throughout the country, in other parts of the United Kingdom as well as in Scotland, view our democracy at the moment—with cynicism and alienation. In that context the possibility of a new politics should be welcomed.
Keeping our promise on the Scottish Parliament in itself goes some way to restore public trust in the political process following the public cynicism born in part of the years of Conservative government.
Changes are being considered in the way in which this House operates, and I welcome that—but with a brand new Parliament we shall have a unique opportunity to do things differently from the outset.
§ Ms Osborne
The new politics formed as part of the Scottish Parliament will include discussions with all the people and will be different from the cynical and hostile attitude displayed by the hon. Gentleman.
There will be a place for all-party discussions. These have already begun, as was announced yesterday, and I genuinely welcome that. There will be a place for history, tradition and institutions, but not at the expense of modern culture and civilised behaviour for the 21st century. If the Scottish Parliament is to have credibility and is to contribute to the evolution of democracy in this country and beyond, there must be no place for practices that make sensible co-operation impossible, polarise every issue and inhibit thought and constructive debate.
There have been 200 Acts passed since 1979 removing democratic responsibilities from elected councils and there has been an enormous growth in the quango state. In that context, the Scottish Parliament is not a stand-alone issue, but is part of a wider process; an extension of democracy, including the Welsh Assembly, an elected authority for London and the opening up of debate on appropriate regional decentralisation.
Conservative Members have commented on the principle of regional government. I will not attempt to suggest what is appropriate for England, but I believe that the institution of a Scottish Parliament will open up the debate. That is why the type of Parliament that we create is important, as it will provide the model for improving democracy, and not just in Scotland.
We need a modern legislature with sensible working hours and conditions, and it must be accessible to the public. I know—as others do—of the level of interest in Scotland and the enthusiasm, particularly among young people, for the Parliament. I hope that the structure of the Parliament will encourage participation and generate further enthusiasm.
192 The Parliament needs to be representative of Scottish society as a whole, politically, geographically and socially. However, it must go further than being a beauty contest between the parties to see how many show business personalities can be cajoled onto the additional member list. People of different political views will be genuinely delighted to hear that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to stand for the Scottish Parliament because they all recognise the wisdom and experience that he will bring.
We need to draw on a range of different experience and we need to ensure the fair representation of women and men. If this institution can be transformed in a single election into one that has more than 100 women Members of Parliament, there is no excuse for failing to find gender balance in the Scottish Parliament which has no sitting Members and no favourite sons.
§ Mrs. Laing
Does the hon. Lady agree that any attempt to achieve what she calls "gender balance" by positive discrimination in favour of women is simply an insult to women, because it presupposes that women are not capable of doing on their own what men are capable of doing—in other words, being elected to this institution or to the new Scottish Parliament?
§ Ms Osborne
I totally disagree with everything that the hon. Lady has said. I find it offensive—many other women agree—that we are not represented in public life as we should be. As we all know, that has nothing to do with merit and, as we can see, the Conservative party does not regard this as a significant issue. It does not regard the fact that women are under-represented in politics as a problem. That is one of the reasons why the Conservatives have no Scottish Members of Parliament.
The election on 1 May brought equality into this House. Now we can go one better and achieve equality in the Scottish Parliament. We do not want equality for its own sake, but for the positive difference that it will make well beyond the life of the political institution.
We have legislation to ensure that women and men are treated the same, but there are real differences in their social and economic positions. Girls in Scottish secondary schools achieve better exam results than boys, but fewer go on to higher education. Full-time women workers earn only three quarters of their male counterparts' wages. Only a small percentage of women retire on the full basic pension. Women make up about a third of solicitors and 10 per cent. of police officers, and there is only one woman judge. In public bodies over which the Scottish Parliament will have authority, women make up 40 per cent. of the members, but only 25 per cent. when children's panels are excluded.
During yesterday's debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) said that the Government are committed to gender equality in the Scottish Parliament and asked whether a temporary special measure could be introduced to exclude the first election from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. I am aware that Scottish Office Ministers are making strenuous efforts to examine how a 50:50 gender balance can be achieved, and I look forward to a report on their progress.
I noted that the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) also raised the possibility of tabling an amendment relating to the Sex Discrimination 193 Act. I welcome his interest in the issue of gender equality, but I hope that it does not signify the laying of the groundwork to renege on the agreement that his party has entered into to ensure gender equality following discussions with the Scottish Constitutional Convention.
It has been shown that when women are fairly represented alongside men in the decision-making process, there is a difference in the way things are done and in the policy priorities. Not only can the Scottish Parliament be a shining example of new politics, it can begin to promote new politics. On that subject, it was very unfair of the media to make so much of the fact that the site for the new Parliament is to be a brewery. They did not mention that it is also the site of an old folk's home. That is equally significant.
As an aside, I concur with many of my hon. Friends that the distribution of jobs associated with the Scottish Parliament should be considered throughout Scotland. Just as the competition to design the Parliament building will be open to architects from throughout the world, the Parliament is a completely new political institution which can contribute to the development of democracy in other countries.
Just as the campaign for a Scottish Parliament drew strength from the examples of Catalonia and the German lander, we have the chance to encourage developments elsewhere. Just as the movement for gender equality draws from the successes of other countries, we have the chance to promote further equality elsewhere by successfully achieving equality in a Scottish Parliament.
Finally, I wish to say a few words about the scope of the Parliament's powers and the opportunities they present. I was around during the previous devolution referendum and legislation in 1978 and 1979. I know what was proposed then, and this Parliament is no 1978-style assembly. This is a Scottish Parliament for the new millennium with powers over all Scottish Office functions. This is a Scottish Parliament which will act in partnership with the UK Parliament in many areas of reserved powers. This is a Scottish Parliament which will have oversight of other Scottish public bodies—more than 100 are listed, especially within the health service and local government. This is a Scottish Parliament with the discipline and responsibility of defined financial powers.
Let me comment briefly on the importance of the range of functions devolved. The social and economic problems facing Scotland do not arise from national suppression or London mismanagement—they result from a political failure to tackle inequality and from the narrow centralised nature of our democracy.
The problems we experience in Scotland are no different from the problems experienced in other parts of the UK—inadequate social services, poor housing, homelessness and health service waiting lists. The distinctive and separate Scottish education system and criminal justice system—indeed, the whole devolved administration of the Scottish Office—is crying out for political accountability.
From my background in local government and my previous job dealing with the problems of homelessness, I know at first hand the distinctive Scottish tradition of socially rented housing. The Scottish Parliament will be able to address the specific and distinctive nature of Scotland's economic, social, political and cultural needs in a way that will liberate our capacities and aspirations.
194 In conclusion, the Bill is about trust and promises kept by the Government, but it is also about new politics, democratic advances affecting well beyond the Scottish borders and the opportunity to take control of our own affairs to the economic, social, political and cultural benefit of Scotland. It represents the settled will of the Scottish people being put into practice by the Government in whom the people placed their trust.
§ Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
While listening to the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham), I was reminded of a recent former pupils' dinner at my school, Glasgow high school, when I was sitting next to the rector, who turned to me and said, "What's a nice boy like you doing in the Conservative party?" I explained why I was in the party and why I believed in the Union. He explained why he was such a passionate Scottish nationalist and why he was so passionately convinced that Scotland must go her own way. I then asked him to tell me where he was educated and he said, "Rugby and Cambridge."
Significantly, the hon. Member for Perth spent her formative years, from the ages of eight to 25, in Australia. She therefore went to great lengths to rubbish those of us who do not feel any need to establish our Scottish credentials. My Scottish credentials are available for all to see in "Dod", and I intend to waste no more time on the matter.
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. He presumes that because I have a vaguely English accent, I am somehow English, as was the case when I fought a seat in Scotland in 1992. If he believes that a man who attended Hillhead primary school, Glasgow university and Glasgow high school, whose father was a minister in the Church of Scotland and became Moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland and whose every ancestor was 100 per cent. Scottish—a man who never left the borders of Scotland once until the age of 20—is not Scottish, he is wrong. He is judging a book by its cover and making a significant mistake in doing so.
§ Mr. Gray
I will not take any more interventions on the subject of Scottishness now. My point was that when I spoke recently in the referendum debate, I spoke as a Scot, and 100 per cent. Scot I am indeed, but, like hon. Friends who have spoken in this debate, I fully accept the outcome of the referendum that I so wholly opposed. I accept the fact that the people of Scotland—my colleagues, relations and friends—have now voted convincingly in favour of devolution. I deeply regret that decision, but I none the less speak today not as a Scot, but as the representative of an English constituency, which puts a different complexion on the matter.
The Bill will be desperately damaging to the interests of the people of North Wiltshire. First, it will, without question, lead to the end of the Union as we know it. I say so for two reasons. Two time bombs are ticking away underneath the Bill and sooner or later, whether in 10, 20 or 50 years, they will explode and lead to the end 195 of the Union as we know it. The first is the devolution drug, which has affected this nation since we first invented the notion of administrative devolution around the end of the previous century. Since then, we have made more and more devolutionary changes, handing more and more power to the Scottish Office and Scottish Ministers, culminating in the new Parliament that we are setting up.
The history of devolution shows that the more power we get, the more we want. If anything demonstrates that that is the case, it is the discussion of the past two days. The hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) argued, convincingly enough, that the railways are such an important issue that they should be handed over to the Scottish Parliament. Since then, more and more hon. Members have argued that a variety of the powers reserved under schedule 5 should be handed over to the Scottish Parliament.
Imagine what it will be like when the Scottish Parliament is in existence and the properly elected representatives of the Scottish people are sitting in Edinburgh. People will raise all sorts of subjects at their surgeries and will ask why people in Westminster continue to take decisions on, for example, the railways in Ayr or the funicular railway in the Cairngorms. You name the subject, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the people of Scotland will be telling their Members of the Scottish Parliament, "We want you to decide these matters in Edinburgh." Those MSPs will properly argue in Edinburgh over and again that more powers must be handed over to Edinburgh. They will argue that only the residual powers left in Westminster prevent them from carrying out their due mandate.
The effect on finance, to which so many hon. Members have alluded, will be precisely the same. The situation is directly analogous to the relationship between Westminster and local government. Anyone who has been involved in local government in the past few decades will know that increasing numbers of local authorities have said, "We want to do X, Y or Z, but the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and our paymasters in Westminster are preventing us from doing it." Precisely the same will happen when the Scottish Parliament is in existence, except that it will be magnified to the nth degree.
Members of the Scottish Parliament will make all sorts of legitimate and sensible decisions on all sorts of issues. They will vote to give teachers more money and vote money for all sorts of things, such as better roads and trains. You name it and they will vote for it in the Scottish Parliament, but the 3p in the pound will not even begin to pay for it. What will happen then? It will be one of two things. MSPs will say that they are being capped because of a law passed in the old Westminster Parliament—the Bill. They will say, "Isn't that disgraceful? Our people in Edinburgh want us to spend the money, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer in London is preventing us from doing so." By definition, the cap will be busted.
Alternatively the people of Scotland will, reasonably, ask for more money to be spent on Scotland, 3p in the pound will not be nearly enough and more and more money will be spent, legitimately, on the people of Scotland. Ultimately, that will lead to independent taxation and finance and an independent Chancellor of the 196 Exchequer for Scotland. Those are the two time bombs that are ticking away—the devolution drug and the taxation time bomb.
I do not intend to concentrate entirely on the effects on the people of North Wiltshire of the inevitability of independence for Scotland. Far more potent for those people are the conundrums laid down so well 30 years ago or more by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—conundrums that lie on the table today as unanswered as they were then. If I may deviate for one second, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my ancestor the covenantor John Parker fought for his beliefs in Scotland, was captured at the battle of Rullion Green in 1666 and was condemned to hanging, drawing and quartering by the general who took part in the battle. I regret to say that that general was none other than Bloody Dalzell of the Binns, and I forgive his descendant for that ancient wrong. None the less, the questions that he laid down are as potent as ever.
Asymmetric devolution is a crafty little expression dreamt up by the Front-Bench spokesman. It is an obvious absurdity that Scottish Members of Parliament will have a say in education and health in North Wiltshire, but I may have no say in those matters as they affect Scotland. My constituents in Chippenham and elsewhere are already complaining about it. That absurdity would be even more magnified if there might have been a Conservative Government in England were it not for Labour Members of Parliament coming down from Scotland. Then we would have the absolute absurdity of health and education in Wiltshire being determined not by the Conservative majority in England, but by an overall majority in this House that was Labour because of representation from north of the border. That is a nonsense and it cannot be sustainable.
Incidentally, the over-representation question has not been addressed. I welcome the proposal in the Bill to reduce the—
§ Sir Robert Smith
How does the hon. Gentleman think the House should respond to the referendum result? What action would he propose in response to the wish expressed in that referendum?
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman asks what I would do if I were talking about Scotland, but I think that I made it clear that I am talking about the effect of the proposals on my constituents in Wiltshire. I very much regret that the referendum took place and that the people of Scotland have chosen that route. I am speaking on behalf of the people of North Wiltshire and I do not intend to pontificate on what should happen to the people of Scotland, as the hon. Member for Perth asked me not to. I very much regret the fact that there is so little reference in the Bill to what will happen to my constituents.
§ Mrs. Laing
Does my hon. Friend agree that the referendum to which the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith) referred would have had a lot more constitutional legitimacy had my hon. Friend's constituents in North Wiltshire and mine in Epping Forest been allowed to vote? The Bill affects the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Gray
That is absolutely correct. I especially regret the fact that the Scottish soldiers based in my 197 constituency, who moved their votes to the south—which is perfectly reasonable if one is based there for some years—but who serve in tartan, are members of Scottish regiments and are more determinedly Scottish than most, were prevented from voting in the referendum.
Scotland has always been over-represented in Parliament and I welcome the fact that that representation is to be reduced, but I am deeply puzzled by this question: if 75 per cent. of matters affecting the people of Scotland are to be discussed in Edinburgh, why on earth should there still be 50 or 56—whatever the number will be—Scottish Members here? Surely the reduction should be to a small lump—a small group of Scottish Members of Parliament who will represent the interests of the Scottish people on issues such as foreign policy and defence. What on earth are those Scottish Members to do all day long, when they are no longer to deal with constituency matters?
The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) addressed that point a moment ago when he said that he intended to become an MSP and to remain a Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
What I said was that I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that there is not a great deal of important work for Scottish Members of Parliament to do in Westminster. I intend to stay in Westminster and not to stand for the Scottish Parliament, much as I would like to.
§ Mr. Gray
I regret the fact that I misunderstood what the hon. Gentleman said. There are none the less quite a large number of Members of Parliament who intend to become MSPs and remain in the House. That must mean either that they are doing half a job now or that they will do half a job in Edinburgh; one cannot do two jobs then and claim that one is doing them as well as one is doing one job now. If the Bill becomes law, it will not be enough to reduce Scottish over-representation to the level that now exists in England. Scottish representation here must be reduced much further.
My constituents also resent greatly the fact that some Scottish Members will have ministerial roles in English Departments of State. That is an absurdity. Why on earth should a Scottish Member take an interest as a Minister in purely English matters? Surely ministerial jobs in English Departments should be restricted entirely to English Members.
The ultimate absurdity under the West Lothian question comes about when the Labour party is maintained in power in Westminster wholly as a result of its Scottish Members. It would be an absolute absurdity for my constituents to labour for years to come under a Labour Government not because the people of England had voted for them, but because the people of Scotland had voted for representatives in Westminster as well as for their own representatives in Edinburgh.
Those conundrums, first outlined by the hon. Member for Linlithgow, and which I have expressed so much less eloquently than he did, are unanswerable and will blast a hole through the centre of the Bill. We shall have to address them in detail in Committee, and the Government will have to come up with detailed answers to the real concerns of my constituents. If they do not, they will indeed have founded their Scottish Parliament on top of a ticking time bomb. It is not a Scottish but an English 198 time bomb: the people of England will ask why on earth the Scots who have gone off to look after themselves and run their own Parliament should dominate us and take such a keen interest in our affairs in Chippenham.
§ Mr. Gray
I will indeed send the Minister all the letters that I have received from my constituents on the subject, and I shall expect a personal reply from him. I shall expect him to answer the points about the West Lothian question, and if he does so, he will be doing something that Ministers have signally failed to do in this debate; they will have to do a certain amount of thinking between now and when they reply.
My constituents in North Wiltshire look on the Bill as the beginning of the end of the Union as we know and love it. They foresee all manner of appalling catastrophes, and they do not accept that they should continue to be dominated by the Scottish Labour party. Anyone who cares about the future of the Union should join me in the Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. Eric Clarke (Midlothian)
I declare the fact that I was born in Edinburgh and my father was born in Edinburgh, but I am half Irish and half Scots. I would be very proud if I was half Ukrainian, half Polish or half Lithuanian; I represent people in Midlothian who happen to be miners and mining families. The difference between some Conservative Members and me is that I am a Scotsman representing a Scottish seat. I know that I have been closer to the Scottish people for many years than certain Conservative Members. I have not been in the House very long, but I have been around a long time, and I have worked with the people, not just listened to them.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues and their staff on the timeous way in which they have introduced the Bill. It was done, as promised, within a year, as a priority for the people of Scotland. It is an historic event. Yes, it is emotional, but more than that, it is a fulfilment of the dream of many people in Scotland. It is as obvious as that. It is a strengthening of the Union and of democracy in Scotland. It is ridiculous that I have to say that, after all the debate over the years.
We still hear the same ridiculous arguments from a certain quarter that has no representatives in Scotland. Some of the Caledonian Society Scots on the Opposition Front Bench who dictate their opinions to us meet many workers on their estates and perhaps when they get their hair cut. I am proud to be of peasant stock, but I am not an inverted snob. I am a very good friend of some of my aristocratic colleagues. I am sitting here because I like to sit beside my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I do not agree with him one iota on this issue, as I have told him in the past, in the nicest possible way.
§ Mr. Clarke
The difference between us and some other societies is that we can live together although we differ. We do not want to be dictated to from afar. There is a colonial mentality that says, "We know better than the 199 natives. It may hurt you now, but you'll thank us in the future." How many times have we heard that? By the way, we do not need to go outside Scotland to find exploitation, because the Scottish coal owners were chromium-plated, de luxe models.
I must record for posterity the names of many of my colleagues, now departed, who kept the flame alive. I must mention Jim Boyack. We knew him because he kept alive the campaign for a Scottish assembly. I also want to mention many trade unionists and former colleagues, such as Alex Kitson; Johnnie Walker of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen; and of course the great Jimmy Milne, who came from Aberdeen but was known as the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.
The STUC started off the convention. I remember, because I was there. There was an unofficial convention; yes, the Scottish National party, the Confederation of British Industry and the Conservatives were represented in our first two meetings, but some of them drifted away, for some mysterious reason, after the convention became official.
A great role was played by the trade union movement in Scotland, especially the STUC under Campbell Christie and others, with the Transport and General Workers Union; ASLEF; the Fire Brigades Union; what is now known as the RMT; the General and Municipal; the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union; and Unison. I must not forget my own union, the National Union of Mineworkers, Scottish area, and the role of Mick McGahey and other colleagues. They were the people who campaigned. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) can cough and splutter. I hope that he chokes on it. I should not say that to an hon. Member, but if it makes him choke, there is something wrong with him. Go and see about it.
We have to have a meaningful Parliament. That was the slogan. We do not want a Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. We do not want some kind of administrative assembly thrown at us. It has to be a legislative assembly. What will it do? It will give us more detail and more time for consultation on Scottish affairs than we have ever had here, with due respect to this place. The priorities of elsewhere always took precedence over Scottish affairs in parliamentary business.
A Scottish Parliament will provide accountability and will be recognised by the Scottish people. It will not be able to hide behind civil servants of "Yes, Minister" calibre. A Minister for fisheries, a Minister for agriculture, a Minister for education, a Minister for health and for many other subjects will be identified, named and acknowledged by all. They will certainly have the power and the responsibility, but, more than that, they will have accountability for their work.
The most important aspect is accessibility. The people of Scotland and Scottish organisations will be able to go to the Scottish Parliament. I hope that caring people will be appointed to positions of power. More than anything else, it will be a Parliament of elected representatives, not a quango of persons appointed by the Secretary of State or someone else, people defeated in an election—or his or her spouse, by the way—put in to take responsibilities.
200 Much effort has been made to shackle democracy, and I make the threat that such a process will be met with anger and action by the Scottish public. The House must realise that delays or political stymieing by the other place, especially their honourable lordships, will not be tolerated. I am making a declaration. We have our mandate of a referendum of the people of Scotland, and that means that there will be a Bill and there will be a Parliament in Scotland. We must adhere to that. We have no alternative.
I am aware of people in this place who can split hairs with laser beam accuracy and create deep pools of red tape to catch the unwary. Yes, and they roll about like hippos in those pools of red tape. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench should drain those pools so that the Bill can have a true and clear passage through this place.
I have listened to some of the statements made by Opposition Members. I wrote some comments on the back of my notes. I was a councillor for 16 years. I do not have to read about it; I was there. I take exception to people who say that my colleagues who are in office just now in Scotland, in the west and in the rest of the Scotland, are any less devoted to local government than me or anyone else in central Government. It is ridiculous and insulting to say that local government in Scotland is all wrong. If it is all wrong, the previous Government reformed it. They reformed it on the basis of political bias. They wanted to get rid of the regions, which were so effective in Scotland.
If local government is to be reformed, I am sure that the new set-up in Edinburgh will do it far more sympathetically, democratically and efficiently than the rest.
§ Mr. Clarke
It will not take any powers away from local government. It will be there to make laws, just like other people.
My council was not capped. Who started the nonsense of capping? When councils had so-called independence, we stood by the rates that we set. I hope that we shall go back to that position and give back to the people the right to decide their future.
The financial argument is an absolute nonsense. I say just two words—poll tax. That is all that I need to say. Yes, we shall make mistakes, but, as someone once said, they will be correct mistakes. We want the same as anyone else. We want the same as people in former colonies who now have freedom. We will make our own mistakes. A lot of mistakes have been made in this place and they have cost us a lot of money.
Democracy is the most important aspect of the proposal. The separatist argument is a nonsense. People in Scotland are far more sensible than Opposition Members think. I do not know where people get their arguments from. The Bill is not perfect. Yes, it will be adjusted and extended. Yes, we shall learn from it. But it is a start. That is the most important facet to me. We are giving Scotland the opportunity that it deserves and wants. Anyone who dares to stand in its way will be walked over and forgotten for ever more, as happened to a certain party not far away from here.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
I do not think that the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) needs a laser beam to split a hair. His roar and sledgehammer do a pretty good demolition job as it is.
I want to make the observation that this is the end of the unitary state for Great Britain, for the British Isles, after 290 years. There can be no question but that the Bill will be carried by a large majority of the House formed by members of three parties across the House. That is the reality. It will happen whatever my regrets about it, whatever my nostalgic, romantic belief and my passion for the progress of this island Government as an island state, which has led us to freedom, liberty and democracy—a House which has been formed by the genius of its constituent parts. The central theme to that was our equality as citizens.
The most distressing aspect of the construction of the Bill is its almost wilful determination not to deal with the question of our equality as citizens within the government of this island. That the Government have decided to proceed with the measure and to reject that central principle of democracy is extraordinary to me. The history of the Labour party was to extend the franchise and ensure that, in the democratic age, the weight of our votes and the purpose of our votes was equal across the Union government.
We shall no longer have a unitary form of government. Some of the purposes and powers that were held in trust for us all, and which we decided together as a common British people through this Parliament, will no longer be the reserve of this Parliament. I do not make light of this monumental step, because it is important. It is not a matter which has been debated for just 18 or 20 years; it is a theme which has recurred since the 1890s. Sometimes one ponders the wisdom or foresight of Gladstone. Perhaps as I grow older, I am becoming more of a Gladstonian in the sense that I want to identify the principle that unites our democracy.
In all the arguments that I have tried to make in this House, whether on the rule of the European Union or the rule of Downing street, I have always tried to assert the essential quality of us as citizens and us as elected representatives, holding within our core all the powers of the state to ensure equality across this land.
When I listened to the Scottish nationalist representative for the fair city of Perth, I could only cry out in a backward-looking way, "Where is Sir Nicholas Fairbairn?" At least he was spirited, and stood for the Union.
§ Mr. Shepherd
He was spirited, that is true. There would have been a bonny zest, not a dour bid to become the Minister of propaganda and to control the means of broadcast and freedom of expression, to try to interpret for the benefit of the Scottish National party something that many of us in the House hold in trust: freedom of expression in the press and the lack of central and political control over it. I commend the Government to the extent that such matters are protected and closely watched in the Bill.
202 I am trying to look at the matter from the point of view of the Union because that is what I was born in. It was a unitary state. As I see it, we are now confronted with a federal proposition. Scotland is to have devolved powers. In the construction of the Bill, that will cause great difficulty.
There are two great omissions. I accept the Claim of Right because I have always believed profoundly that sovereignty lies with the citizen—we, the people—and that the magnificence of this Parliament lies in its being the representative institution of us, the people. We are either one people or we are divided peoples. If this is a grope towards a federal system, then, for the powers that we call devolved, I want to maintain the central grasp on what is the purpose and expression of this Parliament.
Scotland's ambitions cannot be met even within the terms of the proposed legislation for devolution. It will need the means to fund itself. There cannot be a call on English constituencies to fund the ambitions—the particulars—in what I shall call the devolved areas, so that they are funded by others who have no part in them or a say in how the money raised across the Union should be spent. That will be a constant source of profound irritation.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) pointed out how that may happen. Why should the ambitions of Scotland depend on the transfer of funds from his constituency or, perhaps more relevantly, from those parts of northern England that, by any criteria, are depressed? In a unitary state, money would be transferred to them. At present, the balance of the argument, for historic reasons, lies with Scotland. Scotland is better off than Wales, yet, on a per capita distribution of central funds, Scotland receives more money than Wales. If that situation were to be equalised, it would be at the expense of Scotland.
Underlying much of the Government's argument in favour of the Bill is a perverse clinging to the Barnett formula that is unsustainable over the long term. The Parliament of the United Kingdom will not dispose of funds in that way for ever. No Government can maintain that that will be so. That is why it is essential for the well-being of the Scottish Parliament that it has the right to raise funds. I further suggest that if the Scottish Parliament raises the funds for the devolved matters, the other side of the mirror—perhaps I have not said this clearly enough—is that England is as ancient, proud and great a nation as Scotland. England will therefore want to exercise the mirror image of those powers.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I know the recently elected hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) well, because I hear in his voice that knowing Edinburgh accent that so irritates half the world. The extent of ignorance involved does not matter; it is said in such a knowing, profound and absolute way. We are trying to question and to work our way towards a proper balance in the Union. What will be appropriate for the future and what will make the arrangements sustainable?
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Much of what he has said has been, 203 as always, interesting and thoughtful, but he is clearly leading up to a recognition that now that the unitary state is over, we must build a federal United Kingdom. For God's sake, can he persuade the leadership of his party to recognise that?
§ Mr. Shepherd
I respect the hon. Gentleman's contribution, but political life is a constant debate—the weighing and evaluation of issues. I often recall the past because I know that my journey has been long and has often taken different courses, as has the history of this island. My frustration is partly because it seems from the debate as if England is not an ancient and equal part of the Union. I understand that this is a Bill for Scotland, but how will it be sustainable if we do not do something about the English element? That is all that I am groping my way towards.
A weakness of the Government's construction is that they rightly assert that this is the determination of the Government, supported by large numbers of English Members who knew the programme. However, none of them are here to contribute. Do they have no view?
What about the electoral arrangements we are to have? Scottish Members of the Union Parliament will have no competence for matters such as social security and education, the bread and butter of our daily lives. In Edinburgh, for the same constituencies, there will be a Members of the Scottish Parliament who will be competent for those matters. I see only divisiveness there. Even if, as is likely on the basis of current constituencies, both Members come from the same party, where will it lead? The aspiration and ambition of constituency Members—don't I know it well—is to cry out for the alleviation of problems in their constituencies. If the funding is granted outside the Union Parliament, the representative of the Union Parliament, who would have no direct responsibility for education, health or whatever the issue may be, will always risk the charge that he or she has not secured a sufficient settlement for Scotland. I see only conflict in that.
That is why if we look forward, we are looking forward to a federal Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) said yesterday that that cannot work because of the size of England. I do not have that fear. I do not see why it should not work. The Union Parliament would be left all the reserved matters. That is the only basis for Union finance. I am not sure that those who believe in the Union would disagree with the reserved powers: overall responsibility for our constitution; our foreign policy; our defence and national security; the protection of borders. Those powers are fundamental to our island and to our island Government. There is also stability of the United Kingdom's fiscal, economic and monetary system, which must be right, and the common market for United Kingdom goods and services.
If my history is right, it was access to English markets which determined Scotland's accession to the Union, not the bribery and pots of gold of the family of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram).
204 It was the commercial classes of Glasgow and the lowlands, realising the importance of access to the English market.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I do not mean to go on for much longer.
The English market was put at risk by the English Parliament as a coercive measure to intimidate—in the end, I think, rightly—and to bring Scotland into a Union with the English Parliament.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I am sorry, but I will not give way.
Those reserved powers also relate to employment legislation, social security policy and administration, regulation of certain professions, and transport safety and regulations. Those are the appropriate matters for what will be the Union Parliament. That is my basis for arguing that Union, national finances should be raised for that purpose. Therefore, the other, equal side of the coin is that a Scottish Parliament should be responsible, as an English Parliament should be responsible, for the raising of moneys to meet the devolved matters—health, education and training, local government, social work and housing.
The House is familiar with the list of devolved matters as they are called. The balance of those may not be right, but when one looks at the federal structures of the world, one must see that, in the end, accountability can exist only if one raises the money and then has to stand in front of an electorate to justify it.
The English are quiescent at the moment and, by and large, they are benignly disposed towards the Scottish Parliament. I do not believe that they realise the risk inherent in the scheme in front of the House. England awakes only when it is in disaster—that seems to be the lesson of history. The truth is that we do not have to look very far ahead to suppose that the Prime Minister wins the next election but his majority is formed only on the basis of Scotland. It is the killer question.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), to whom my heart goes out in the pan sense of our Union, has patiently set out that argument over many years. That the Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland, no less, who has fought another argument for many years, refuse adamantly to recognise the weight of the argument put by the hon. Gentleman diminishes the House. There can be no future without addressing that argument candidly and honourably.
I wonder whether the Prime Minister even knows what is in the Bill. If the Secretary of State wants to assure us about that, I am happy to take his assurance. I am familiar with great pieces of legislation. The Maastricht legislation was one of them, but, during its consideration, I recognised that the Government were in grave ignorance of the weight of the arguments that they were putting forward, even though they put them forward with honourable intent. Their assurances about who would interpret certain matters did not amount to anything in the end. I say that because I have witnessed the burden of work on a ministerial team across the United Kingdom.
I did not mean to take up so much of the House's time. I believe that the Bill is flawed because it is myopic and looks at only one area of where we want to be or what 205 we are. It will not work in those terms, and the indignation of huge England—within it there are 48 million people—will ultimately turn and cause great trouble.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
At times during the past two days, I have been slightly depressed by the tone of the debate, but the contributions of the hon. Members for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) and for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), and those of my hon. Friends the Member for Ayr (Ms Osborne) and for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) lifted my heart. They started to talk in the terms that people want to hear such a monumental proposal being discussed. Their contributions were made in the tone in which the Bill should be discussed, rather than that which has been adopted during much of the debate.
I will not be a member of any Committee that may sit elsewhere than on the Floor of the House, unless, of course, I get sacked as a parliamentary private secretary in the meantime. I will miss the joys—they can exist—of the detailed debate on such matters as broadcasting, which is obviously one of the major constitutional issues left for the Scottish National party.
§ Mr. Connarty
We have still to find out whether that will be the case.
I was struck by the briefing I received on broadcasting from one organisation. It stated:Under Schedule 5 Head 10 Section 1 the Scotland Bill reserves the subject matter of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the Broadcasting Act 1996 to the Parliament of Westminster. In addition under Schedule 5 Head 3 Section 9 the Bill reserves the subject matter of Part II of the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act to Westminster.As I have said, I will not have the joy of debating that in tremendous detail. I was interested to note the time given to broadcasting by the SNP. In another foray, SNP Members mentioned the Hypnotism Act 1952, the terms of which are also reserved. I wonder whether that is part of a plot by the SNP to catch the voters' eye through the use of broadcasting in order to hypnotise them to vote for independence. After all, the SNP is not likely to get independence through the Bill. It has been presented to the House to secure the Union.
The blindness and the folly of the Conservative Government was to think that their centralist, rigid proposal for Unionism would in any way sustain them. They suffered at the ballot box, and we are now attempting to rescue the Conservative party as well as the Union from the political dustbin of history in Scotland.
On 11 September—my mother's birthday—the Scottish people voted for devolution. It was the greatest birthday present she has ever had. The Scottish people did not vote for independence, but every time members of the SNP speak they echo the argument for independence, not the argument for devolution.
I have been disappointed by the tone of the debate, starting with the contribution from the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), the Conservative spokesman on Scotland. He should not be treated as a proper shadow Secretary of State for Scotland because he does not 206 represent anywhere in Scotland. His loyalty is to the English Crown and he is supported by those who have fled Scotland; even today, we have heard contributions from them. They have not returned to Scotland and have sought a mandate from others, rather than from the Scottish people.
I felt that at times the right hon. Gentleman was whimpering like a beaten animal. He did not bare his fangs and fight with the vigour that we have seen from him in the past when he has fought for something in which he truly believed.
Some good, salient speeches have been made, which are relevant to the debate and which raised the discussion to the right level. I welcome the Bill, the terms of which are thorough and brave. I know that the Secretary of State fought very hard for its detail and that he is proud of the Bill. It is not the final word, however, on how a Scottish Parliament will run, but it is a bold statement of how it should start out.
After listening to the debate so far, my great worry is that the Scottish Parliament should ever become like this place. The Bill represents a big, grand idea which would be nibbled into tatters if the joint opposition had their way. It should be devoured like a feast. It is a feast of heart and mind—BSE-free heart and mind—for the Scottish and the British people. Perhaps the politicians do not have the stomach for it. It is a big idea, which should not be nibbled at as it has been by Conservative Members on the Opposition Front Bench and Back Benches.
The Bill will change the way in which British democracy has run for the past 300 years, but it is interesting to note that it is the small details on which people are picking. I wish that they would stand up and say with more heart that they genuinely want to make it work so that it can be used as a model to go forward. From the Opposition's contributions, however, everyone realises that, if they had the chance, they would nibble it to tatters. They would bring down that model rather than build it up.
There are some things about the Bill that worry me and other Scots, although they may not be the same as those outlined by the Opposition. I heard the Secretary of State say that the First Minister would be appointed by the Queen. I hope that the Bill also makes it clear that the First Minister will be elected by the Parliament. I am also worried that the Executive will operate another system of patronage like that which works in the British Parliament. That could become subject to the dictatorship of one Minister and I would not welcome that.
§ Mr. Grieve
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman agrees with me, but, looking at what is said in the clauses, it is quite clear that, as in this place, the sovereign's rights and duties in respect of the appointment of the First Minister are inextricably mixed. Obviously, no First Minister can hold office without the Parliament approving that, so the hon. Gentleman should not worry.
I should be interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's comments about the mechanism according to which the presiding officer may appoint interim First Ministers if no one emerges out of the parliamentary morass of negotiation on proportional representation. That is extraordinary.
§ Mr. Connarty
Some strange things happen in our democracy. I was the leader of a council where the 207 majority was not held by any party—it was balanced between two parties—and the majority was decided by cutting cards. I thought that was extremely quaint. I would certainly prefer an objective person to appoint an interim office holder who would chair the Executive under a system of proportional representation until the Parliament decided which of the people who had put themselves forward should be the First Minister. That is why it is important that the First Minister also takes into account the fact that, if we have a system of proportional representation without a simple majority, patronage must not result in dictatorship but must form part of the co-operative model that I hope will develop from the Scottish Parliament.
I do have concerns. Although they are estimable men, the idea that the Donald and Alec show will continue into the Scottish Parliament does not fill me with excitement; nor does the Donald and Alec and Jim show. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has grown in stature for his work over many years in the House and on the Bill before us—indeed, I heard that he was recently described as "saintly" in one of the popular prints in Scotland. That may be so, but—with all due respect—I do not think that those men are necessarily the charismatic leaders that reflect the aspirations of the Scottish people for the next millennium.
Although those men may do a good job in starting the process, there must be more, because the people of Scotland see this as a beginning. Although the process may be set off by the Bill and this Parliament, it must go somewhere this Parliament has not been for a long time—into giving people a feeling of democratic involvement in what happens in the chambers of government. That does not happen here. Events here are filtered, sometimes distorted and often trivialised by the media, so there is something wrong with the people's view of how we conduct government in the late part of the 20th century. I hope that the Scottish Parliament will give the Scottish people a new feeling of involvement; the English may want to look to the Scottish Parliament to see whether there are lessons on how to rearrange the workings of this Parliament. I have no fear of that; nor does any democrat in this nation or these islands.
I have a question for members of the Scottish National party: they say that they will stand for the Scottish Parliament, but will they stand for both the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments; or will they resign and stand for only one Chamber—the Scottish Parliament? I shall happily give way if any SNP Member would care to enlighten the Scottish people on this point. Will they stand only for the Scottish Parliament, or for both Parliaments? People are unclear about where the SNP's priorities lie. If SNP Members will not answer, the Scottish people may judge them as having some duplicity in mind.
§ Mr. Connarty
I will not give way at this moment—perhaps I shall do so in a few minutes, when the hon. Gentleman has been sitting down and listening to the debate for a bit longer.
§ Mr. Connarty
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was outside my field of vision. I am sure that we shall discuss 208 this issue at great length when we work on the armed forces scheme together next week. He may not have heard me, but I paid him a compliment during my remarks on the seriousness of the past three or four contributions to the debate.
The electoral system is of fundamental importance, and people have called into question the status of Members of the Scottish Parliament who are elected on lists, as opposed to those who are elected to represent constituencies. I do not see that as a problem. Those elected on a list will be part of political parties, which I presume will employ a form of discipline and a code of conduct, just as we have a protocol on how to behave towards members of our own or other parties. I hope that MSPs will have the temerity to change the way we relate to our constituents and share the functions between those who are elected on the list and those elected by a constituency and, in so doing, demonstrate how, as parties and as a Parliament, they want to serve the people of Scotland instead of fighting about who are class A or class B Members.
There are Tories in Scotland. That is the great thing about the proposals—the Labour Government are offering to give away power. I predict that we will be in government for the next 15 years—or possibly more if the Conservatives do not wake up and realise that they cannot represent the people with backward-looking principles—but we are willing to share our powers with the Conservatives in Scotland. Although there are few Scottish Conservatives willing to come out into the open, 500,000 people voted for the Conservative party in Scotland. Those people deserve a voice in the Scottish Parliament, and they will get it.
Labour would have been short of an overall majority in the Parliament on the 1997 results. That is a good thing, because it means that we will have to share power with others and work towards something that will be more useful to the public. We should not reduce the Parliament to deals done in smoke-filled rooms or in any other cabal between one major party and one minor or less-than-a-majority party. I hope that we will look at ways of involving as many people and as many parties as possible in the principle and the process of government.
Gender balance is important, despite its being chided and chastised by those who view it as mere political correctness. It is wrong to think that we can continue in the old ways. Conservative Members must recognise that they are now seen being deficient in not having enough Members of both genders. Women form the majority of our population, and many minority groups in our country deserve representation as well. I hope that that will be taken into account in the new Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament is a new vehicle of government, but I am concerned that people will see it as another series of conflicts—another level on which people can fight each other. That need not happen, just because this place has deteriorated to the sort of yah-boo politics that has made us the laughing stock of the people of Britain and reduced our status in their eyes. Why can we not co-operate? We do it away from the Floor of the House, in Select Committees, so why are we afraid to show people that we can co-operate here in the Chamber? The Scottish Parliament must show the way. Why should local government be in conflict with the national Parliament? Why should the national Parliament see itself as taking powers away? Why should it not be the bulwark 209 of the power of local government, giving local government the power it requires and working to ensure that government functions at all levels? In that way, people's admiration for the democracy that we shall build will increase.
Why should reserved areas be areas of conflict? Transport will be part of the UK remit because it is attached to an infrastructure that will extend into Scotland—although it currently does not appear to extend far north of Watford—but it should be a matter for co-operation between Ministries on both sides. Why is the prospect of the regions and the new regional development agencies talking face to face, developing new policies in co-operation with the Scottish development agency, so frightening that people want to raise it as a point of conflict? Labour will be in government here for 15 years or more. We can show how devolution can work and get the model running, so that it will not be easy for those who come after us to dismantle it and turn back to the old conflict method of government. The people have had enough—they have had a century of bad government based on conflict, rather than on trying to win consensus.
Why do people say that the Scottish business community and the Scottish economy have something to fear from devolution? I spoke to Standard Life before the referendum and it has changed its position entirely. I went around, working with the Labour Front-Bench spokesmen, talking to many companies that—albeit with some nervousness—looked forward to the Scottish Parliament as a partner they could talk to and develop with. If we create a new team within Scotland, it may be possible for us to set aside the them-and-us mentality that divides private sector and public sector. It is important that we take the chance to do that. The process is a dynamic one and it is possible that a new economic plan will emerge from Scotland to act as a model for other parts of the United Kingdom. The regional development agencies are already looking at what happens in respect of Scottish Enterprise.
Nationalists say that we can be a nation only if we have a structure of politics and administration that makes us a nation, but we already are a nation. The hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said that he liked reading the Bill and, although I know that he was being flippant, I know that he and his party will contribute the Committee stage so that we can perform our task well. I would rather read Kelman, Mcllvanney, Janice Galloway or even Irvine Welsh, or the poems of Tom Leonard or Norman McCaig. I do not see our nationhood as lying only in the Bill: it is to be found in the development of Scottish opera, Scottish arts, Scottish culture, Scottish education and Scottish law, even without our having a Scottish Parliament. This is just a logical response to that cultural nationhood. It is not a deficient form of nationhood because it is not an independent Parliament.
The principles and practices of democratic government must move on, and I worry that many of the Opposition speeches have been ringing alarm bells rather than looking for ways to solve the problems. They have not seen the problems as gems and looked for solutions, as the private sector would, but as problems that they cannot overcome. This is not the end, but the beginning. No one should see this as the last statement about which powers will be reserved and which will be devolved. Other things will happen that will be natural and will follow from this.
210 My warning is as much to the Conservative party as to anyone else: no one should act as a brake on the process. If they do so, the Conservatives, who were rejected in 1997 because they tried to put a brake on the development of Scottish democracy through a Scottish Parliament, will be rejected for that Parliament and will appear only on lists.
The dynamic of social and economic development eventually leads to political empowerment—and this measure is part of that process. I wish the Bill well. It is an opening and an opportunity which I hope the next Parliament will seize. I use the words of Jim Morrison of The Doors, who said that we should go through the opening andbreak on through to the other side".That is where there is a new democracy and a new future for the people of Scotland and Britain.
§ Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)
I shall attempt to be extremely brief.
My constituents did not have the benefit of the referendum, although this measure affects the whole of the United Kingdom. We have no constitutional convention requiring constitutional matters to be subjected to a referendum, but we do have a constitutional convention that such matters should be taken on the Floor of the House. The fact that we are to take the Bill on the Floor of the House is very important, as it will give my constituents, who were denied their voice in the referendum on a matter affecting the whole of the United Kingdom, the right, through me, to express their reservations about the Bill's detail as it goes through the House.
The Bill contains financial uncertainties. The fact that the funding of the Scottish Parliament—the disbursement of its own funds—is not to be placed on a statutory basis gives rise to persistent uncertainty that will lead to argument year after year. Every time that Opposition Members have raised the problems associated with that subject, we have been told that there will be an abundance of good will, that this will be a new Parliament with new, consensual politics—a Parliament for the new Jerusalem. We have heard of children tripping about in the aisles, and of how Members will agree and always find a way forward.
An abundance of good will has been on display. Those of us more familiar with traditional politics were no doubt revolted by the community love fest displayed across the Floor of the House yesterday between the now-sainted Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). The sainted Secretary of State told the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan that he could read his mind, and the hon. Gentleman agreed. I have known the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan for the past 20 years, and while there may be a great display of good will across the House, I know that one of the two parties to the love fest is being taken for a ride. I do not believe for one moment that it is the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan.
What Labour Members have failed to realise about the Bill's nature and its reliance on good will—there is even to be an electoral system maximising the requirement for good will—is that one of the parties to the arrangement is wholly opposed to the Bill as it stands. I agree that we 211 have seen a healthy show of support for the Bill, but one of the parties wants something quite different in terms of the principle behind the Bill, and sees it as a mere stepping stone on the way.
That party has made it clear that every opportunity will be taken to push the new Parliament into becoming a beast that it was never designed to be. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan is on record recently in The Scotsman as saying that it is work in progress, and that the Scottish National party will finish the job. Arrangements that rely on good will be put in great jeopardy.
§ Mr. Swinney
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me when my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) changed his story? I have heard him on many occasions both before and after the referendum on 11 September telling people that that was exactly what he wanted to do, but the people of Scotland still voted for the package of reforms on 11 September.
§ Mr. Swayne
I accept entirely that the people of Scotland have voted for a Parliament as outlined in the White Paper. What I wish to see, and will certainly argue for in Committee, is certainty in the arrangements, so that they rely less on good will and more on detailed prescriptions laid out in the legislation. The arrangements as described will maximise the opportunities for the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and his friends to create something quite different, for which the people of Scotland did not vote. If the people of Scotland choose independence, that is their right, but I should hate them to arrive there by mistake.
Last night, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) raised some pertinent points relating to the electoral arrangements to be put in place by the Bill, only to be challenged by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie), who said that it was precisely because the people of Glasgow will continually vote Labour that arrangements had to be set up to gerrymander the system to overcome that. That sums up the nonsense of the electoral system that is being set up for the purpose of the Scottish Parliament.
The 20 Members who will be elected as part of the regional list will represent the most pernicious form of democracy—indeed, it is not democracy. Those people will owe more to their selection by party managers than to votes cast by voters. They will inevitably become preoccupied with the priorities of the party managers rather than those of the voters.
Anyone who has seen the system in operation in Europe will have been able to see the results clearly. If someone goes to Germany, he will be amazed by the number of people—ordinary people on the street or business men—who express deep anxiety about, if not open hostility to, economic and monetary union. But if he speaks to any member of the political cast—any elected politician—he will find that that feeling is absent; they have no such reservations.
212 How has that division arisen between the voters and those whom they have elected? It has arisen precisely because of the electoral system of the closed party list—the system that the Bill wishes to put in place. Those elected owe their election to party managers, not voters.
§ Mr. Davidson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for repeating many of the points that I raised last night. Given that the Conservative party is unlikely to win any seats at the Scottish elections under the first-past-the-post system, will he tell us what thought the Conservative party has given to the way in which the difficulties could be overcome?
§ Mr. Swayne
As I have always understood it, the Conservative party lives and dies by the first-past-the-post system. There has been no carping among Conservative Members about the number of seats that we failed to win in Scotland. We have accepted the judgment of the voters, and we are quite prepared to live by it. It is a matter of principle rather than party advantage.
We have heard much nonsense spoken about how Members of the Scottish Parliament will be all the better for not having constituency preoccupations, and will be freer to take a fairer-minded, objective view on many issues. By their very nature, the people elected as a result of having served the party will be the worst form of toadies.
§ Mr. Salmond
Speaking of that, I believe that I have the solution to the hon. Gentleman's problems. The Scottish National party, the Liberals and the Labour party believe in proportional representation, and the Conservative party believes in first-past-the-post. If the Scottish Conservatives stand only for the first-pastthe-post component of the new electoral system, we can all have what we want. Just do not put up members for the party list; you can stand for the first-past-the-post component, and we shall stand for the PR component.
§ Mr. Swayne
The difficulty arises from the arrangements. If the electoral system is arranged in that way, we have no alternative but to play by the rules that have been instituted. I am arguing that such an arrangement should not be allowed, because of its consequences. We wish to avoid in our political culture following the example of Germany, where representatives have no care for the preoccupation of the voters who elected them. The Scottish Parliament is in great danger of beginning its life with a huge democratic deficit.
§ Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)
Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You took me by surprise; I did not expect to be called this time.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Ms Osborne) said, we are in danger of repeating arguments that have been used before. I would go a stage further: given that we have already had the debate on the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill and the debate on the White Paper, there is a danger that each of us individually might end up using arguments that we ourselves have used before.
I pay special tribute to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). He reminded me of Christmas television. I started getting a feeling of familiarity, then a 213 sense of déjà vu. Then I noticed some things getting outdated, and suddenly I realised that this was a programme that I had watched before, and that it was being repeated in its entirety. To be fair, all participants in the debate are in danger of repetition, but that should not lead us to become blas" about the momentous significance of what we are discussing.
If—as I believe will be the case—history books regard 1997 as a watershed, one of the supreme reasons will be because it will be seen as the start of a major process of constitutional change. The Scottish Parliament will be regarded as being at the forefront: a trail-blazer, a pace-setter for a system of constitutional change.
That system will include the national assembly for Wales and the arrangements that we shall make for London. It may include a process of devolution to English regions or, as some people suggest, perhaps a move towards a federalised system. It will include the alterations to the other place, which one is so pleased to see getting started today. Above all, I believe that everyone in the House hopes that constitutional arrangements will be made in Northern Ireland that can at last bring settled peace to that part of Britain.
The building in which we are meeting, in its history, its structure and its art, enshrines a steady progress of devolution of power, initially from an elite—from the monarch to the Lords, then from the monarch and Lords to the Commons, and then from a Commons that largely represented a fairly small oligarchy to a Commons that represents the whole population. I believe that the Scottish Parliament will have a proper place in that progress of devolution of power to the people.
I have said previously in the House that there is a proper place in politics for confrontation and a proper place for working together and for consensus. I believe that, above all, when we consider constitutional matters, we should seek to work with a consensus. I therefore welcome, in so far as we have seen it occur, movement by the Conservative party to recognise the result of the referendum.
I say "in so far as we have seen it occur": when one reads the motion on the Order Paper today, which effectively says that the Conservatives recognise the result of the referendum, but therefore they will vote against it, one might be tempted to accuse them of schizophrenia, if that did not imply that the Conservative party had a collective mind, which I doubt.
However, I believe that the movements that the Conservatives have made, in so far as they have made them, have been forced by the fact that they see that the result is very decisive. Seventy-five per cent. of the Scottish population voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament.
Indeed, I gained an impression from the Aberdeen results that that figure probably underestimates the strength of support. In Aberdeen, we noticed that, in the areas with the strongest no votes, there were high votes, and in the areas with a very high percentage of yes votes, there were low votes. I therefore believe that there was some complacency among some supporters of devolution. Probably, real support runs higher than 75 per cent. In any event, it is overwhelming.
I strongly hope that the Conservative party in this place, and especially in the other place, will recognise that it would be monstrous for it to try to obstruct the Bill's 214 progress. I am glad that the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) recognised that negotiations through the usual channels had meant that the Government had agreed to take this matter on the Floor of the House. I recognise that that involved the co-operation of the Conservatives, and I welcome that fact. I welcome every sign that they are moving towards trying to make constructive proposals, not destructive ones.
At the weekend, I was disappointed to hear the trivial comments of Mr. Raymond Robertson on the costs of the Parliament. Of course we want the Parliament to be cost-effective, but the important thing is that it should be effective, so the money should be spent to make it effective.
The Parliament's first major challenge will be to make itself effective. To meet that challenge, it will be important for us to seek good examples from Parliaments in Westminster and elsewhere internationally, but we should also be innovative. I hope that we shall not just follow but will set examples.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) said, there will be proportional representation and a more consensual style of politics. There are lessons there that could be learned in this place. I think especially of sometimes working on consensus, not simply on conflict.
There is also the question whether proportional representation is desirable. I am not persuaded that it should be used in this Chamber, although that will be a matter to be debated, and one to be put to a referendum later in this Parliament. I would support the replacement of the other place with an assembly elected by proportional representation.
§ Mr. Grieve
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if it proves difficult to achieve consensus in the Parliament under a proportional representation system, resulting in constantly shifting coalitions and an inability to produce a First Minister—the subject of one of the central clauses in the Bill—the Scots electorate will enjoy the luxury of politics while depending ultimately for continuity in government on what goes on in this House under the first-past-the-post system? It will be weak government unless that consensus can be achieved.
§ Mr. Savidge
Certain proportional representation systems can produce weak government. The excessively proportional system in Israel, with a great multiplicity of parties, has that effect. The system that we are adopting, which combines two systems, has shown itself far more stable in countries where it has been used.
I should like the Scottish Parliament to set an example to this Parliament by being representative in the sense of containing balanced numbers of women and men. That issue was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr. That issue must be tackled, either by the legislation itself or by each of our parties doing all that it can to ensure proper representation.
I think that all-women short lists are an imperfect system, but I have stood at two general elections and one by-election and found, not short lists, but all-men long lists on each occasion. What is more, every candidate for the other parties was also a man. I am certain that that is wrong. It is extraordinary that the media speak so often 215 of how many women there are in the House; instead, they should be reminding people that there are only one third as many women in the House as there should be truly to reflect the make-up of the population. I certainly hope that there will be a proper balance in the Scottish Parliament, and that that will spread to Westminster as well.
Scotland can set an example in other areas, too—modernisation, for one, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South pointed out. Fixed-term Parliaments for this House as well as for Scotland should also be considered.
I also hope that Scotland can set an example to the rest of the UK in another respect. Not much reference has been made to the second question in the referendum, but I for one was pleased by the strong vote for tax-varying powers. I hope that electorates can come to believe again that there is a place for progressive direct taxation in building a civilised, humane society.
There is, however, one consequence of the setting up of the Scottish Parliament that I do not want to occur in this place. It has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Devizes, by the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) and various other Conservative Members, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell).
I do not want a reduction in the powers of Scottish Members who remain in this House, although I completely accept that their numbers should be reduced. I have four things to say about the West Lothian question. First, the West Lothian answer is the fact that 79.6 per cent. of people voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament. I sometimes think that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow should pay more attention to that fact.
Secondly, there is what we in Scotland sometimes call the Westminster question. The West Lothian question which has caused such terrible consternation on the Conservative Benches states that Scottish Members might have a peripheral influence on some issues relating only to England. For 18 years in Scotland, however, every single issue was controlled by a party that was rejected by the people of Scotland. In the end, the Conservatives in Scotland had no MEPs and were wiped off the electoral map in the councils which they themselves had gerrymandered. Furthermore, they ended up with no Members of Parliament—
§ Mr. Grieve
I understand the hon. Gentleman's strength of feeling, but does he not understand that the principle of government introduced by the Union of 1707 meant that I, as Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield, have as much interest in Caithness as the Member of Parliament for Caithness has in Beaconsfield? It is the hon. Gentleman's party which has decided to break that arrangement by setting up a separate Scottish Parliament. As I know from my own constituency, that will lead to grave objections to Scottish Members of Parliament interfering in matters of purely English concern.
§ Mr. Savidge
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise what we have been saying? Our affairs were not being interfered in: they were being totally controlled.
§ Mr. Swinney
Does the hon. Gentleman recall, as I do, that the poll tax was introduced in Scotland a year before 216 it was introduced in England, primarily by English Members of the UK Parliament voting to impose it on Scotland against the votes of Scottish Members? When it was implemented a year later in England, there was an enormous explosion of anger; and English Members of Parliament, who were supposedly so concerned for Caithness and other parts of Scotland, suddenly realised the enormity of the poll tax, and decided that they did not want it in Beaconsfield or other parts of England.
§ Mr. Savidge
I find the idea of English Conservative Members being so concerned about Scotland about as credible as the story we heard earlier about how the people of North Wiltshire crowd their MP' s surgeries to ask about Scottish education and Scottish health.
My next point concerns the former suggestion that there would always be a Tory majority in England, so that my party could govern only by the Scots delivering Labour a majority in the British Parliament. That problem has been resolved, and I pay credit to the Conservatives for the major part that they have played in that resolution by rendering themselves a minority party in England. Indeed, they have done much to keep things that way over the past seven months.
My last point about the West Lothian question is that there is always the solution of English devolution. If there is a strong desire for it, it can be met either in the form of an English Parliament—for those who want a federal solution—or, as my party would favour, in the form of devolution to the English regions.
I have been gratified by the swift and total fulfilment of John Smith's unfinished business. This Labour Government have kept their promises. I pay tribute to the Scottish Office, to Ministers and to staff for that. Most of all, I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I can do so without being accused of sycophancy, now that he has said that he is to go to the Scottish Parliament and I have made it clear to my constituents that I intend to stay at Westminster.
Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Devizes said, that does not show a lack of commitment to the Scottish Parliament. I will stay here because I said when I was selected that there was such a wealth of talent among those wanting to go to the Scottish Parliament that I should stay in this Parliament.
There may be Conservative Members who find the idea of a wealth of talent among their candidates rather unlikely. Indeed, I understand that you have appointed a talent spotter in Scotland to look for people of youth and intellectual vigour to stand for the Scottish Parliament. You have appointed Mr. Bill Walker to be your talent spotter—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)
Order. Several times this evening, hon. Members have used the words "you" and "your". I do not want to interrupt each time to bring them to order, but I should be grateful if Members remembered to use proper parliamentary language.
§ Mr. Savidge
I sincerely apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I was paying tribute to the Secretary of State for Scotland, although perhaps in less flamboyant terms than those used by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, 217 Pollok (Mr. Davidson). I have admired my right hon. Friend for more than 30 years, ever since I first saw him debating at Aberdeen university as a young MP. His achievements during the past year have earned him the vast respect of Members throughout the House. If, as I believe it will, the Scottish Parliament finds a place in history, that will be part of the place in history that my right hon. Friend himself deserves.
I remember a summer of discontent in 1996, when there was some confusion over the referendum and other aspects of policy. Our opponents accused us of conspiracies and worse, and our friends felt a sense of distrust. In the light of some of the problems that we have faced up to in the past few weeks, I hope that it will be recognised that we have answered all those fears. I trust that our opponents—at least, our sensible opponents—will recognise that in Scotland the Government have proved that they can be trusted, and that they keep their promises.
§ Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
My colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches and I, together with many other right hon. and hon. Members, welcome the provisions of the Bill, principally because it will improve the quality of democracy that we enjoy in Scotland, it will make decision making more accountable to Scottish people, and it will ensure that decision making takes place at the appropriate level.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said yesterday,Home rule allows us an opportunity to right the wrongs of Scottish misgovernment and to renew and replenish Scottish democracy."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 49.]For those of us from north of the border, this is the starting point, but the effects run wider. As the Secretary of State put it yesterday,The Bill will be welcomed by democrats everywhere. It is not simply about Scotland."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 19.]As a federalist—someone committed to the United Kingdom—I hope that this is the first of many Bills that will be welcomed by democrats everywhere, and renew and replenish democracy everywhere.
Like the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge), I believe that it is appropriate to pay tribute, without turning it into some Tom Ferrie Radio Scotland dedication, to the many people who, over the years, have contributed to the Bill. The Government should be commended for the quality of the Bill that they have produced. We should pay tribute to the participants in the referendum campaign and to the Scottish people—not least to those who endorsed the yes, yes outcome, but also to the many thousands involved in the convention before that and to the members of many other groups who have agitated for change over many years.
Despite all the conclusive evidence of the Bill's fulfilling the settled will of the Scottish people, there are still hon. Members who are determined to argue against it. We hear strange noises from the Conservative Benches, as Opposition Members have been outed as closet devolutionists. We heard the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) say that the Conservativesdo not seek to oppose the principle of the proposals"—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 35.]218 The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said:I have never been opposed to the principle of devolution."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 76.]The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) stated:I am not against Scottish devolution in principle if that is what the Scottish people want and the recent referendum certainly suggests that they do."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 89.]Finally, we heard the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) say:
I wish to make it clear … that I do not oppose the principle of devolution."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 96.]Onlookers might think that here we have a rare outbreak of unanimity, and that across the Chamber there will be agreement about the Bill, but, despite the mood music, there has been a grinding and gnashing of teeth. Many of the attacks yesterday and today were as relevant to modern Scotland as the Bay City Rollers and their tartan flares. In particular, there have been several mentions of the West Lothian question. Constitutional theology is taken to extremes by many hon. Members.
Far more important, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North said, is the Westminster question. Research shows, as anybody can quickly find out, that the times when Scottish Members of Parliament have made the difference and influenced the outcome of English measures has been limited to a few months in the past 50 years in this place, whereas the many occasions when English Members of Parliament have influenced the outcome of Scottish measures are sadly forgotten.
§ Mr. Moore
Mine and that of others outside the House, which I will be happy to discuss with the hon. Gentleman in due course.
Conservative Members say that the Bill is misunderstood by their constituents. What are they doing to overcome that? If we are to believe that all Conservative Members are now devolutionists, we should challenge them to go out and explain their new confidence in devolution and argue positively for change in England to create a modern, dynamic United Kingdom.
We hear much discussion about funding, the Barnett formula and the complaints that constituents in England bring about the proposal. Those arguments will continue, whatever the structures of government across the United Kingdom. English Members, especially Conservatives, should be explaining and debating with their constituents the differences within England, as much as the differences between Scotland and England.
We hear, too, about the role of Members of Parliament. The decision not to stand for the Scottish Parliament is criticised. I do not accept that. The proposals in the Bill 219 make the prospect of being a Member of the Scottish Parliament a very attractive option, but an on-going presence in the United Kingdom Parliament is still extremely important. Surely the most important aspect of the new politics and the new way of governing ourselves in Scotland is that as many people as possible should be drawn into the process.
My constituency has recently closed the long list for applicants for the nomination to be the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate. More than a dozen people have applied for that nomination. They include business men and women, industrialists, health service workers, various voluntary sector workers—a broad section of Scottish society. Women represent more than a third of those who applied for selection. There are no Members of Parliament, past or present, on the list. Canon Wright, who chaired the convention, expressed his view that there should be a trickle of Scottish Members going to the Scottish Parliament, not a torrent. I heartily endorse that sentiment.
There are some strange factors in the Bill, with which we should deal. It seems crazy that the dual mandate is still tolerated and is not explicitly ruled out. Anybody seeking representation in the Scottish Parliament or at Westminster could not reasonably expect a Member of Parliament also to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Why is there no provision in the Bill to ensure that the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 does not apply to the provisions and to the procedures of parties selecting their candidates? The position of the Equal Opportunities Commission is a further anomaly. Although it is primarily responsible for employment matters, which are reserved, it also has interests in education, which are devolved. We must hope that the Government will clarify the position as the Bill progresses. Clearly, women and other groups must be attracted to the Parliament, and no obstacle put in their way.
I am particularly pleased that since the referendum result, people in business are waking up to the possibilities of the Scottish Parliament and realising the important contribution that they must make. I speak as a Scottish chartered accountant and someone who benefited from the fact that my employers before the election, Coopers and Lybrand, gave me substantial support and understanding when I stood for the Westminster Parliament.
I welcome the fact that those great friends of devolution, Standard Life and the Bank of Scotland, have recently announced that they, too, will allow their employees to stand. The Bank of Scotland's press release of 9 January states:Aspiring politicians within Bank of Scotland will now be able to take a career break to stand for election following the introduction of the Bank's Parliamentary Leave Scheme.From Standard Life we hear that
Standard Life believes that the quality of the members of the Scottish Parliament will be crucial to the success of that Parliament. As a practical example of its commitment to Devolution, Standard Life will now offer career breaks to any employees who wish to stand for the new Parliament.Those two financial institutions are not the be-all and end-all of Scottish business; nor should they be the only ones that have representatives in the Scottish Parliament. 220 Nevertheless, I welcome that change. If the Conservative party needs a benchmark of how out of touch it has become since the election and especially since the referendum, it should speak to some of its former soulmates in the business community.
Times have indeed moved on. Key evidence of that comes from my own area in the borders. In the referendum, people backed the White Paper proposals on both counts, which was a major change from the provisions of 1979. I feel that there were two main reasons for that. First, there was the effect of 18 years of Conservative Government. Secondly, there was proportional representation. No matter what system we have, small rural areas will never be able completely to overcome the effect of urban weight. With PR, however, the effects of central belt domination are hugely and even completely reduced. Indeed, I believe that PR and the tax-varying powers of the Bill are two of its key features and provisions that make it commendable and acceptable to my constituents.
All Scotland has been crying out for change over many years. It is important that the House does not delay further that call for change. The Bill is a huge step forward towards delivering it and I hope that it will be successful.
§ Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for enabling me to make a short contribution to the debate. I support the Bill on behalf of my constituents, who, as is consistent with their long-held aspirations, voted overwhelmingly for constitutional change at the general election on 1 May 1997. In so doing, they contributed to the election of a Labour Government, who enjoy an unprecedented majority and who were elected partly on a platform of constitutional change. Devolution for Scotland, Wales and the English regions is but part of that manifesto.
It is worth while taking a moment or two to reflect on why the people of Kilmarnock and Loudoun and the rest of the United Kingdom endorsed constitutional change at the general election. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland reminded us that at the heart of the devolution argument lay a history of political decision making that was in the hands of politicians who commanded no support from Scotland. That has been a theme that has run through the contributions of all but Conservative Members during the debate. What my right hon. Friend said is true, but I suspect that the Scots could have lived with the democratic anomaly that I have described. That product of the asymmetrical constitution of the United Kingdom was an anomaly which gave a majority of English Members the power to make decisions that affected only distinctly Scottish interests. Yet neither they nor their electorates had to live with those decisions. If they had not imposed on Scotland time after time, especially in terms of health, education and local government, measures that were wasteful of our scarce resources and which were directly at odds with the hopes and aspirations of the Scottish people, things might have been different.
It was the failure of the constitutional status quo in the hands of certain people to deliver good government which offended the Scottish peoples, not the constitutional status quo itself. While that history created in Scotland a longing for constitutional change 221 to ensure that the experiences of the past 18 years would never be repeated, for other, but related, reasons the electorate of the United Kingdom were becoming more and more disaffected with politics and politicians.
It is the common desire of the United Kingdom electorate that there should be greater openness, greater representativeness and greater accountability from its democratic institutions. Indeed, that is what the electorate voted for on 1 May. They wanted a package of constitutional reforms to modernise and improve the government of the United Kingdom, to make it more responsive to the people and so to create institutions that would be close to their needs and concerns while recognising the diversity of the communities that make up this great Union.
In my opinion, the people knew what they were voting for on 1 May. They knew also that they would have to live with new anomalies while the process of constitutional reform was worked through, and perhaps thereafter. After all, the electorate are no strangers to constitutional anomalies or asymmetry. They have lived with them for generations. Like the Scots, they will live with them if they enjoy good government, and they expect their politicians to do likewise. That, in my submission, is the answer to what is called the West Lothian question.
The people of the United Kingdom wanted a Government with the courage to tackle the problems that were being generated by the constitutional situation, and they secured one who are doing just that. Part of the Government's clear mandate was to consult the Scottish and Welsh people by referendums on their desire for devolution and, for the Scots, to deliver them a Parliament with both legislative and tax-varying powers if that was their desire. That part of the process is almost complete and the other parts of a comprehensive process of constitutional reform are under way.
When what was begun is complete, the task of constitutional evolution will be far from over. The Labour Government's mandate for constitutional change is a continuing one and will end only when we have in place a modern Government who provide greater democracy for all the people of the United Kingdom.
I shall turn for a few minutes to the central point of the debate. In my view, democracy, accountability and accessibility are the underlying principles of the Bill. It is a complex and innovative piece of legislation that follows on from a White Paper that was remarkable in its clarity.
Yesterday the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) described the Bill asso badly drafted … that it is for us as Conservatives—the one party that stood against devolution—to try … for the sake of the United Kingdom, to make the proposals work."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 35.]That comment generated much mirth in the House. The right hon. Gentleman is not in his place, but, lest he be in any doubt, I should explain that the House was not laughing with him on that occasion.
Having heard that trailer, and shared the view of the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) about the draftsmanship of the Bill, I waited for the development of the theme that had been introduced. What were the areas of ambiguity? 222 What proposed measures had particular "draconian" and "frightening" consequences "on individual rights"? What proposed measures in the Bill are "incomprehensible"? No development of the right hon. Gentleman's theme has been forthcoming.
It seems that the right hon. Gentleman, newly emboldened since he and the Conservative party no longer fear reform of the constitution, and newly, if somewhat belatedly, listening in responsive mood—as he and his party are not now seeking to delay or destroy the Bill—was unable entirely to disengage himself from his Cassandra-like past. He could not and cannot support his extravagant claims with any hard evidence.
Thinking that the right hon. Gentleman may have had a point or points that he was holding up his sleeve for consideration of the Bill in Committee, and knowing from some of his hon. Friends' contributions to the debate how heavily they had relied on the briefing from the Law Society of Scotland. I sought a copy of that document to ascertain whether there was a catalogue of criticism of drafting or good examples of ambiguity or incomprehensibility therein. No such luck, unfortunately, for the right hon. Gentleman.
In the second paragraph of the letter that we have all received, the author, a much respected and experienced lobbyist, representing the views of the Law Society of Scotland, stated:The Society commends the Government for producing a Bill which is, by and large comprehensive, well structured and clear in its terms.Thereafter the society lists a modest number of questions and observations, mostly requiring clarification of the most technical parts of the Bill. Contrast that with the society's trenchant and comprehensive criticism of the 1970s Bill, which it attacked root and branch, and the House has some appropriate measure of the achievement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his team in producing the Bill.
I had intended to develop some themes relating to the potential of this Parliament, but I must forgo the opportunity given that many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate. However, there are one or two things that I wish to say before concluding. I wish to return to my exchange with the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham), during which the hon. Lady referred to clauses 83 to 85, which she criticised for their failure to further the undertaking in paragraph 2.11 of the White Paper. I suggested that she was barking up the wrong clauses and suggested that she would find the answer in clause 23. I was wrong because clause 23 does not provide the answer. I am slightly embarrassed because both of us are members of the Scottish Bar and we were both wrong. Clauses 83 to 85 are totally irrelevant to the issue that she was addressing in relation to paragraph 2.11.2. The difference is between the power of the Parliament to require people to attend before it, and the intention in the White Paper that the Parliament would have the power to invite people to attend before it. That is the distinction. I misled myself slightly after reading the notes in the margin on clause 23. I returned to that merely to clarify and to say that I was wrong.
223 I welcome the Bill and the Parliament that will come from it because of the opportunity that it will generate to reform the Scottish legal system. During her short speech yesterday, the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) said:I am also concerned about the protection of the Scottish legal system."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 109.]Like the right hon. Member for Devizes, she failed to develop that theme and say why she has such concern for the Scottish legal system. Since devolution became a probability with the election of a Labour Government, she is the only Scottish lawyer whom I have met who is not looking forward to an enhanced income from the introduction of a Scottish Parliament. I look forward to a Scottish Parliament because of the opportunity that it will generate to develop Scots law—I am no longer a practising member of the Scottish Bar—particularly in areas where it is much needed.
After the Orkney inquiry, I was involved in an advisory capacity with the Scottish Office, in relation to amending child law. After our work had been done, we came together, with a representative of the Scottish Law Commission. We were all in agreement—civil servants, advisers, those who were being consulted in the Scottish Law Commission—that we needed far more time and a far more comprehensive Children Act to address the needs of Scottish children. However, there just was not enough parliamentary time. If parliamentary time could not be found from that available to Scotland to address the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society—our children—there is something fundamentally wrong with the system of legislation in Scotland.
I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate and to follow the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne).
I think it was the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) who spoke earlier about the ability of hon. Members to split hairs. When I listened to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun developing the reasons why he and my hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham) were wrong in their exchanges about broadcasting, I felt that he had something to learn from the hon. Member for Midlothian. I am sure that that issue will be talked about when we read the Official Report tomorrow.
Much of this debate and the debate on the referendum, and much of what the Secretary of State said yesterday, has been about trusting the people. The greatest fault line lies between the Conservatives and everybody else in the House who is quite prepared to allow the people to decide. We in the SNP are perfectly happy to allow the people of Scotland to decide their constitutional future. We have no wish to force our constitutional options down the throats of the Scottish people. We only want them to vote for them at the available opportunities. It will be up to the people of Scotland to decide exactly how much or how little constitutional change they undertake. That is welcome.
The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) said earlier that the SNP came to the debate interested only in making the Parliament fail. I could not disagree more, 224 because any analysis of Scottish history will show that when Scotland becomes steeped in failure it tends not to move ahead terribly far; that we can look among ourselves for the reasons of failure; and that we do not take on the outward dynamics of the development of a community.
I want to ensure that the devolved Parliament is successful, because out of that success and the strengthening of that Parliament will come a greater self-confidence in Scotland. I certainly hope that there will be a mood in Scotland that independence is the way forward for Scotland as a result of this package of devolution. The SNP has every interest in making devolution work in the best interests of the people of Scotland.
I wish to make two substantive points in relation to fiscal powers and the concordats, which were talked about yesterday, but I shall concentrate first on funding the Scottish Parliament, because the supposed haemorrhage of resources that will come from the Treasury to the Scottish Parliament once the English backlash takes full effect has been a recurring issue. I have paraphrased many long arguments. The Treasury Select Committee had a go at this subject before the turn of the year. It tried to blow away some of the cobwebs of the debate on the Barnett formula.
As the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) said earlier, when the Select Committee started to talk about the issue, it wanted to discuss something else—the needs of Scotland rather than the formula that guarantees our funding. It is essential that we ensure that we are talking about the right subject when engaged in these discussions, because the Select Committee went on to produce a half-baked analysis based on no evidence. I was pleased to see the hon. Member for Gordon dissociate himself from it on 22 December 1997.
Many points are raised by the Treasury analysis, but I draw one quote to the attention of the House. It comes from Professor Heald of the university of Aberdeen, who gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on 13 November. He talked about the quest to get information about public expenditure in England, and comparative figures and information about Scotland. He said that the Committee was keen to getregional data for English regions—particularly for the north. We have largely failed in that quest. If you look at the numbers in the statistical supplement, what you will see are numbers for English regions, a huge blob of the unallocated expenditure. One of the problems is people sometimes compare the north with Scotland and Wales without adding anything from the unallocated blob, but also we have no idea where that goes.That is a central point on which many people have to reflect when they allege that Scotland benefits from disproportionate public expenditure. Huge unidentified sums of public money are spent by the Kingdom Government, which do not go to many parts of the United Kingdom other than the south-east of England. The analysis that is done of public expenditure is far from transparent, so some of the comments made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis) about disproportionate spending are way off the mark. When one looks at the Government's analysis of Government expenditure and revenue in Scotland for 1995–96, the last year for which information was published, and takes into account issues such as Scotland's share of the public sector deficit, and takes true account of oil revenues and privatisation proceeds for Scotland, precious little of a deficit is left.
225 I made a point yesterday, during an intervention, that Her Majesty's Treasury has told us since 1979 that Scotland contributed £27 billion more to the United Kingdom than we received in services. In the time since the election, no Minister has disproved those Treasury answers. That information is based on Government assumptions and assessment. Those are important points on which to reflect in the debate.
I now move on to fiscal autonomy, a subject to which we shall return in Committee. I make a positive suggestion about how the debate about financing the Scottish Parliament can be strengthened. I propose that the Scottish consolidated fund benefits from all the revenue that is raised in Scotland and from Scotland's share of the revenue generated by the Scottish continental shelf, and that the Scottish Executive makes a payment to Westminster in respect of the reserved powers for which the Scottish people benefit in terms of the support that is offered. That will allow us to guarantee and secure much greater transparency in public finances in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. It will also apply much greater rigour and responsibility to the Scottish Parliament in accounting for public funds. Under the proposed arrangements, the Scottish Parliament will have much less discretion over fiscal matters than any Scottish local authority. The Bill must be strengthened in that respect to assist accountability and responsibility.
I should like to raise one other issue, but I also want to ensure that some Labour Members who have waited a long time to contribute—they are already asking me to sit down—have a chance to speak. I ask them to let me make my final point—they will enjoy it. The hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) made an interesting contribution, suggesting that there was a great deal of detail behind the Bill that we were not hearing about. To an extent, I have some sympathy with him.
§ Mr. Swinney
Right on cue. I am glad that he is here to hear this. I received a copy of a Scottish Office document that purports to be a concordat between the Scottish Executive and the Ministry of Agriculture to guide relations after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) referred to it yesterday. My best lines are always stolen by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan. He sought reassurance from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) about the status of the concordat. The Minister responded:
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan asked whether concordats could be agreed before the setting up of the Scottish Parliament. The answer is no. Preparations can be made, but they can be signed only between the Scottish Parliament and Ministers here. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman."—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 116.]I went home last night feeling comfortable about that. This morning, I re-read the document that I had received. It says:it is clear that concordats will not come fully into operation until the devolved administration is up and running. However, we see considerable advantage in getting the groundwork established well before then and, indeed, operating a period of shadow-running in order to iron out any kinks.We are left somewhat bewildered by the details of the note and the Minister's comments last night. I hope that the Minister who replies tonight will take the opportunity 226 to clarify the status of the concordats and whether there will be any shadow running to iron out the kinks. We also need to know how many concordats are in existence, how many more we can expect to read about—
§ Mr. Swinney
And how many kinks are left? If the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) can quote from The Doors, I can quote from The Kinks. [Interruption.] I assure the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) that I shall sit down shortly.
We have given the details of some of our concerns about the Bill. When we come to vote on the details, particularly in relation to the concordats, we need to know what other information and details lurk behind the Bill. Those are important issues. I hope that the Minister will respond to them.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I must take issue with those in the media who have said that Members of Parliament who wish to stay here rather than go to the Scottish Parliament want to do so because of the comfort of the green Benches. I have been sitting here since 3.30. They should try it.
Some Conservative Members have made the extraordinary claim that Scottish Members who remain at Westminster, if their voters allow them to do so, will have almost nothing to do. I invite them to attend my surgery any day. I frequently have housing cases, although that is really a matter for the local authority. I am sure that when we have a Scottish Parliament, people will still come to my surgery and to the surgery of the Member of the Scottish Parliament.
§ Mrs. Fyfe
And the European one.
Schools are an issue in Glasgow at the moment, but they are not usually, because people are broadly satisfied with how schools are run. There will still be immigration and nationality and social security issues—the Child Support Agency alone could keep me going—as well as foreign affairs and international development. As far as I can see, foxes will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. That may be a relief to some.
I was interested to see an exclusive in The Herald today saying that Scottish political history would soon be made, with all four major parties forming a committee together for the first time to co-operate on drafting rules for the workings of the Scottish Parliament. I welcome that, but I am concerned about one or two aspects. No one on the list provided by the journalist,. Mr. Murray Ritchie, has had any deep involvement in parliamentary procedures, although of course my hon. Friend the Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, who will chair the committee, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), as Members of Parliament, have a working knowledge of what is allowed and what is not allowed here. However, there is no one who has been deeply involved in creating procedure. I make that point not because I want the Scottish Parliament to copy procedures 227 here—emphatically not—but because I want the committee to be aware of the pitfalls, so that we have a properly working democratic Parliament.
Although no women are listed in Mr. Ritchie's article among the prominent citizens to take part in the committee, I am glad to welcome a number of outstanding women who will be involved, including Esther Roberton, Joyce McMillan and Alice Brown, who can contribute a great deal. I welcome them not just because they are talented women who can contribute to the committee. Long after the committee has done its work and passed into history, the rules will be in place for the workings of the Scottish Parliament. Now I can be sure that women's voices will be heard on that vital subject before the rules are set in tablets of stone.
I want to ensure that heed is paid to the work done by one of the committees of the Scottish Constitutional Convention many years ago, which decided that the Scottish Parliament must work to normal daytime hours, must have a normal working year that fits in with Scottish school holidays, must have fixed dates for parliamentary Sessions so that families can be free from the uncertainty that besets us here and must conduct itself in a manner that allows the Members of the Scottish Parliament to be more in touch with their families, their communities and the wider world.
I am concerned that some of the members of the committee might be so busy with their many other commitments that they will not have the time to devote to the detail of the committee's workings. I should like reassurance from the Minister on that.
However, my main reason for speaking is to welcome the Bill with a glad heart. I have supported Scottish devolution nearly all my adult life. Today, I have the immense privilege of being here to vote the measure through Parliament after so many fruitless years when I could have wept at the endless frustration of the democratic will of the people of Scotland. I was somewhat bitterly amused yesterday to hear Tory Members claim that, as a matter of course, they were willing to accept the verdict of the people. If they had listened during the years when they inflicted the poll tax and other ills on us, despite our clearly expressed will to the contrary, the fight for devolution would not have built up such a head of steam. If ever there was a case of chickens coming home to roost, this is it.
In the age of the soundbite, one in particular sticks in my memory from Canon Kenyon Wright at the opening of the first meeting in Edinburgh of the Scottish Constitutional Convention. He said:What if that voice in the south says no?At that time he was referring to Mrs. Thatcher. His reply was:Well we are the people and we say yes.The point of devolution is to do things our way within the wide-ranging law-making and tax-varying powers that the Bill will deliver. The new Scottish Parliament will last a long time if it wins the people's respect. Let no one imagine that our people will put up with policies designed for other parts of the United Kingdom or with anyone's desire for neatness or tendencies towards centralisation.
The Welsh Assembly may have different ideas, priorities and ways of doing business, but that is for it to decide—as it would be following after any developments 228 in Northern Ireland and the regions of England. I say to any centralisers among us now and in future that we did not struggle for devolution for all these years to end up with de jure difference but de facto sameness.
That is not a nationalist point. I make it because we have the recent memory of Mrs. Thatcher to allow us to recall just how authoritarian and domineering a Prime Minister can be. I do not offer the warning lightly. That is why I very much welcome the Secretary of State's statement yesterday that British public life has been scarred by cynicism, which has sometimes amounted to contempt in public places for parliamentary democracy. That is a dangerous state of affairs. We have seen in other parts of the world what happens when there is contempt for parliamentary democracy.
My right hon. Friend is right when he says that he hopes that the new Parliament can earn the trust of Scotland's people. It will not come automatically; it will have to be earned. The Scottish Parliament starts its days with such long-felt commitment behind it that anyone who ever lets it down will get short shrift. The quiet determination, the very lack of razzmatazz in the expression of the people's will for a Scottish Parliament, spoke volumes that no one dare ignore.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State rose to the occasion. He was absolutely correct to say that the Bill's arrival on the Floor of the House is a milestone and that the sweep of legislative powers that are to be transferred is difficult to overestimate. We are all taking pretty calmly the final end to Scottish provisions being tacked on, apologetically or otherwise, to basically English legislation. No longer will Scottish health, housing and education have to wait for a place in the Westminster queue. We had to wait almost three decades—from 1968—for parliamentary time for legislation on children in Scotland. So, let us have no more of that.
It was sad to see the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) failing to rise to the occasion and being unable to do more than make the preposterous claim that the Bill is so ill-drafted that it needs his scrutiny for it to come to any good. That, coming from Mr. Poll Tax himself, gave Labour Members much innocent amusement.
It would be uncharacteristic of me to speak in such a debate without mentioning equal representation of the sexes. I therefore welcome the reiteration yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland of his party's commitment to gender balance in the Scottish Parliament. I welcome the fact that the Liberal Democrats have devised a means by which they can deliver a 50:50 membership ratio. Of course, I also commend my own party's commitment, which has been held for a good number of years. It is fervently to be hoped that such efforts will not be challenged in the courts. That is why I am interested in the proposal made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm). I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his colleagues will consider such a possibility. I want the Scottish Parliament to be different from other Parliaments: to start its days with equal representation of our people, not to have to slog wearily for years to overcome imbalance.
I think that I am running out of time. I wish that I could say more on the subject. Just before Hogmanay, I was clearing out a load of old rubbish from my house.
229 I was glad to include among it all the articles that I had found on how Labour would not deliver and how there would not be a Scottish Parliament, or that, if there were, it would only be a souped-up regional council. It all went into the bin, where it belongs. I look forward to the future of our Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
It has been a pleasure to listen to the debate. Such debates are always educational. Indeed, that is their purpose. Having sat through two days of the debate, I certainly feel wiser after listening to many of the comments, particularly many of those of Labour Members.
Opposition and Labour Members certainly start from two different philosophical bases. Labour Members say that we do not trust the people, that we simply do not see the demand for the Parliament and that it is being met by the Bill. I fully appreciate the strength of feeling. There is undoubtedly a tide of feeling—and has been—for a change in the Union created in the 18th century. I do not want to go into historical anecdotes, but it is amusing to listen to many of the arguments on the complaints about the way in which Scotland has been governed under the Union. Many of them arise directly from the ring-fencing of Scottish law, which resulted in different statutes having to be produced and the Scots complaining that they were at the end of the queue. That is an interesting reflection on complaints about the way in which the Union works. It is also said of Conservatives that we have changed our tune.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the problem is not so much the ring-fencing of Scots law but that Scots law is based on an entirely different system and therefore needs separate legislation?
§ Mr. Grieve
I fully appreciate that Scots law is different. One of the great merits of the Union is that it preserves the differences. Indeed, how well those differences have been preserved is a tribute to the way in which the Union works. Nevertheless, it is an interesting irony that one of the complaints—it resulted directly in the desire for a Parliament—has been that two different systems are in operation.
The question that we must answer is how we can make the new system work—even if I, as a Conservative, would have preferred the old system to continue. Labour Members did not listen to what we said during the referendum campaign. If they had, they would have heard clearly that, whatever views we held on the dangers of the course on which they were embarking, we have always accepted that we must try to make the new system work. I certainly pledge myself to do that throughout the process and in Committee.
Nevertheless, we are entitled to, and must, point out the risks and oddities. The Bill represents a major constitutional proposal, yet I have noticed over the past 48 hours that hardly any Labour Members who represent an English constituency have spoken. I find that extraordinary. If the measure is to work, it must be a United Kingdom measure. The Conservative party may not have any Scots Members of Parliament, but that is the electorate's fault. [Interruption.] Or, it could be our own 230 fault. None the less, plenty of Labour Members who represent English constituencies might have explained how they see the system working. They have not done so, and that bodes ill.
We shall look at the detail of the Bill in Committee, but even a moment's scrutiny enlightens us about some of the oddities that it will produce. Let us take clause 23, to which reference has been made. It appears—I hesitate to say it to some Labour Members—that even the finest brains of the Scots Bar may have admitted the clause's limitations. There is no doubt that, under clause 23, the power of the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise and call to account those who may be operating in Scotland will be far more limited than that in Westminster. I hope that we can consider that in Committee.
It is regrettable that a Scottish Parliament will be able to scrutinise vast areas of activity in Scotland, but not to summon certain persons before it, when a Committee in Westminster will be able to do so. It is a deficiency which stems directly from the parochialisation of politics, which arises when areas start to split themselves from others and decide that they want to run their own affairs. The question is how we can make adjustments for that, which will still allow maximum scrutiny.
There are fascinating provisions concerning the Scottish Administration, which we shall go into in greater detail later. Such provisions will produce a weak administrative system. I do not know whether the wonderful consensus that is talked about so glowingly will be achieved in Edinburgh. It would fill me with delight if it were. People complain about adversarial politics, but we do co-operate and get on well in many forums. We also have serious differences. Those differences are expressed in the Chamber. I doubt very much whether in the system as it will exist, even with proportional representation, those differences will disappear. There is no doubt that if the result is weak government and a difficulty in achieving consensus, the system that is to be put in place will produce a Parliament in Edinburgh, and an Administration, that is unstable.
The most regrettable aspect is that, as has been pointed out by Scottish nationalist Members, there is a host of areas in which there will at that stage be potential for friction concerning the reserved powers that remain at Westminster.
I pointed out yesterday, and I repeat now, that clause 54 allows for the most bizarre interference by the Foreign Secretary in the workings of a Scottish Parliament. It says not only that he can effectively revoke legislation—that I can understand—but that he can coerce a reluctant Parliament into introducing a Bill. That sounds to me like cloud cuckoo land.
I do not see why the Scottish Parliament should pass the Bill. Instead, the legislation would have to be dealt with in this House, and if that were the case, it would be a major source of friction. The minimisation of friction must be the central hallmark if we are to maintain the Union and allow it to develop.
There are many other things that I wish to say about the Bill, and I will say them at a later stage. But for now I shall finish by returning to the English dimension. Let us forget for a moment about the West Lothian question; the real question centres round the fact that a new United Kingdom is being created, yet there has been no consultation with the people of England.
231 It is said that the Labour party commands a majority in England and can therefore do as it pleases, that it has a mandate. I accept that—but it is curious that under a Government who have been so careful to seek approval for their constitutional proposals by means of a referendum, such a consultation process has not taken place. Instead we are offered vague ideas about constitutional reform in England, no test of whose acceptability has ever been seriously put forward or even canvassed.
If the whole thing works and the constitutional proposals go through, we shall have a radically and totally new country. However, if it does not work, because the people of England are broadly satisfied—my own soundings lead me to believe that, although they may not be satisfied with individual Governments, they are broadly satisfied with the parliamentary system under which they are governed—a central plank of the great edifice put forward by the Labour Government will not be there.
How will that be compatible with the maintenance of the Union in the way that has been described? I am a believer in strong government, but if we do not have strong government, people should have clear choices. If they do not, difficult decisions are not taken.
I am also a believer in trying to achieve consensus as far as possible, but if the people of England have not been invited into the consensus, enormous pressures will be generated as it becomes apparent to what extent Scotland is being accorded certain rights that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge"Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) said, are not mirrored in equity or echoed in any way in England.
We have to address that problem, and for that reason there must be substantial reform of Scottish representation at Westminster, unless some wholly new federal construct is introduced. Because of the disparity in size of the two halves of the United Kingdom—England and Scotland—I see no prospect of a federal construct's working, although I should be happy if somebody could persuade me otherwise. Unless we address that problem, we shall not produce a good and sound Union for the future.
I make a commitment to work hard during the passage of the Bill to see how it may be improved, so that the Union can work. However, I would not be doing justice to my own conscience or to the views of my electorate, which I have taken some trouble to sound out, if I did not put forward a note of caution about whether the proposals will work in practice.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
One of the striking characteristics of this two-day debate has been the reception given to the speeches of Tory Front-Bench spokespersons and, with one or two honourable exceptions, to those of most Tory Back Benchers. That reception has been universally hostile, not only from the Government Benches but from the Opposition Benches below the Gangway, where the Liberal Democrats and the nationalists sit.
I had always thought that the Tories were hated because they had been in government for the past 18 years; now I understand that they are hated just because they are the 232 Tories. May I therefore begin by offering my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Minister on having the great good fortune to be in government when the official party of opposition is so hated and reviled by the country as a whole, as the debate has shown to be the case?
I am also grateful to have the opportunity to take part in the debate myself, because there was a time when I thought that I might not make it—especially during the Christmas recess, when I received a letter from the Labour Whips telling me that I had been awarded a constituency week this week and did not need to attend Parliament.
I am sure that there was no malice in that letter, and that it was a pure coincidence. No doubt it had escaped the Whips' notice that this was the week of the Scotland Bill, and that this was therefore my chance to take part in the debate and vote on the Bill. I am delighted that at least they have not physically tried to stop me doing that. It will be nice to go through the Lobby willingly with my party.
I thank the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) for his warning about the dangers of party lists. He warned that some Labour Members might not make it on to those lists—and I took it personally, because as he delivered his warning, he was looking directly at me.
That reminded me of a song by Dundee's great songwriter, the late great Mary Brooksbank:No longer from industry's sonDoes Labour seek improvement,The Cambridge and the Oxford donHave pinched the Labour movement".That was written a long time ago, which shows us that the problem that the hon. Gentleman identified is not new, but one that we in the Labour movement have been coping with for some time.
I hope that the day will never dawn when to be working class, to be a trade unionist, to be a socialist or to be independent-minded will be seen as a disqualification from being a Labour party candidate. In fact, I am sure that that day will never arise—that is just a wee bid to make sure that I get on the panel.
During the debate, it has struck me that almost since the time of the Act of Union itself, there has been pressure on Scottish Members of Parliament to withdraw from Westminster. I think that it was Lockhart of Carnworth, in the 18th century, who first put that proposal forward, and it was suggested again at the beginning of this century by the nationalist journal, the Scottish Review. Near the end of this century it was suggested again by Willie Mclllvanney, who, as many of us will remember, in the aftermath of the 1992 general election when the Tories had got in for a fourth successive term, called upon Scottish Members of this House to withdraw and return to Scotland.
Until now, that pressure has been firmly resisted by Members of this Parliament, so we should not be all that surprised that that continues to be the case, except there is now a difference—now there will be a Parliament in Scotland. In the past, Scottish Members of this House refused to withdraw because they recognised that power lay in this House and, like any politician, they wanted to be close to the source of power. That will no longer be the case after the Bill is passed and a Parliament is established in Scotland.
233 I accept that there are many legitimate reasons why Scottish Members of this House should choose not to return to the Scottish Parliament and to remain and represent their constituencies here; not least because they will have a guaranteed seat in the House of Commons for another four years at least, and a Westminster seat in the hand may be worth two Scottish Parliament seats in the bush. I recognise also that some hon. Members have legitimate concerns with foreign affairs, defence, macro-economics and any of the other matters contained in the 18 pages of reserved powers in the Bill, and they will wish to spend their time dealing with those issues. That is entirely legitimate.
It would not be legitimate for any hon. Member to decide that he did not want to join the Scottish Parliament because he perceived it to be in some sense a second-rate or subsidiary Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) came close to making that argument yesterday when he spoke about the Scottish Parliament being a lower form of Parliament. If that perception—that the Parliament was not a powerhouse in charge of Scotland's affairs, but was some kind of puppet Parliament placed in Edinburgh to carry out the bidding of this Parliament—was ever understood in Scotland, the great optimism that was released by the result on 11 September and by the publication of the White Paper and the Bill would evaporate in Scotland. Hon. Members who want to break up the Union should allow that notion to go forward in Scotland, because that would be the death knell for the Union between Scotland and England.
§ Mr. McAllion
I am not giving way. I do not have time and other hon. Members want to speak.
We must take seriously some of the criticisms that have been made during the debate. There are 18 pages of reserved powers, and we shall have an opportunity in Committee to debate why there are so many. However, few in Scotland will disagree with some of them. For example, very few people in Scotland will deny to Westminster the right to keep control over the Crown, the succession to the Crown and the functions of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, as we do not have a great deal of concern with them anyway.
There are other reserved powers about which most Scots will not be too bothered, including the Hypnotism Act 1952. I am not sure what that Act does, but I am sure that the Scottish Parliament will get along fine without the considerable powers that it gives. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister will give us an idea of what that Act does when he winds up. For example, if it makes it illegal to brainwash politicians by making them endlessly repeat stupid soundbites until they believe them, perhaps it would be more appropriate to leave the Act in the control of this House than pass it to the Scottish Parliament.
Some reserved powers cause concern. Many hon. Members have touched on the powers relating to broadcasting. The exact powers to be reserved by Westminster are those set down in the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996. Those are considerable and wide-ranging powers. Originally, our party, through the constitutional convention, was committed to devolving them to Scotland. In the White Paper, that commitment 234 was watered down, but it was still there in a form. It has disappeared from the Bill, and an important debate will be held on that issue in Committee. I am not taking sides with the Scottish National party against my own party, but if we are changing our mind on broadcasting, we cannot do so without explaining why or justifying why broadcasting is not to be devolved, as was originally intended, to the Scottish Parliament.
We can easily dismiss some other concerns—for example, the West Lothian question. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said that he could not understand how any Scottish Member of this House after 1999 could in all conscience vote on purely English matters. If I have the great misfortune still to be here after 1999, I shall find it very easy to vote on purely English matters. I shall have no problem whatever with that in any sense at all. This is a United Kingdom Parliament, and any Member of this Parliament has exactly the same rights as every other Member.
If English people make the choice that their domestic legislation should be considered by the United Kingdom Parliament, they must accept the consequences of that decision. If they do not like it, they can go down the devolutionary road and set up an English constitutional convention. If they are looking for a consultant, I shall be happy to take on that role for them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said that the settlement in the Bill is not stable. My answer to that is, "So what?" I have spent all my political life trying to destabilise the settlement in this Parliament, and I can tell Opposition Members that it is great fun and that it is even better fun when one gets one's way and destabilises the constitutional status quo, as that is good not only for the rest of Britain, but for England—if it ever learns the lesson.
Last weekend, one Scottish Sunday newspaper described the battle lines of the new Scotland as being drawn on either side of a divide, and asked whether the new Parliament would be a driving force for separation and independence or a stabilising force to save the existing Union. I am not on either side of that divide. I want the Parliament as set out in the Bill, because it will be good for the government of Scotland. It is up to the people of Scotland what happens to that Parliament and what we make of it. They will decide what sort of Parliament it will be. If it leads to a separate Scotland, it will be their decision; if it leads to a devolved Scotland, it will be their decision; and if it leads to a socialist Scotland, I shall be over the moon. On that basis, I am happy to support the Bill.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), because when I made my maiden speech on the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill, he followed me and was extremely kind.
I wanted to speak in the debate because I care very much what happens to Scotland. I have visited and stayed in Scotland many times and spent a great deal of time working there. Indeed, I honeymooned on the Isle of Arran, so I am well aware of the wonderful backdrop that Scotland provides to some delightful activities.
I realise that a number of hon. Members who represent Scottish seats feel that those who represent English seats should have no say in the issue. As I have said before in 235 the House, Scottish devolution is a matter not merely for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom of which we are all citizens. Therefore, Scottish devolution is not merely the preserve of hon. Members representing Scottish seats; it is of fundamental and constitutional interest to all of us.
English Members have not only a right but a duty to speak out on the issue. In fact, it is incumbent on us to do so, not only to preserve the Union, but to preserve the United Kingdom's position as an independent, self-governing nation state. There cannot be any doubt what is in the Government's mind. It is the breaking up of the United Kingdom and, bad though that is in itself, it is only part of a strategy that involves submerging this country in a federal Europe. We have Scottish devolution and Welsh devolution, we do not yet know what is coming for Northern Ireland, an assembly has been proposed for London and regional government for England. That all seems to be part of a plan to break the United Kingdom down into regions, with the intention of submerging each of those into a federal Europe.
European federalism and the breaking up of the United Kingdom are the reverse of what people in this country want. Not many people mentioned Scottish devolution to me during the general election campaign, but since the referendum many constituents have done so, both on the doorstep and through the post. People in England are concerned about devolution because they see, as I do, that it could well usher in the break-up of the United Kingdom. Many of us would agree with that analysis.
Curiously, although Scottish Office Ministers say that devolution will hold the United Kingdom together in some way, the Scottish National party claims the opposite—that it is the first step towards full independence for Scotland. Both views cannot be right and, having read the Bill carefully, I tend to agree with the Scottish National party's opinion, which is also held by many of my constituents, who realise that full independence for Scotland will be the natural consequence of the Bill and of devolution. That may well please the SNP, but it is anathema to so many people who believe in the integrity of the United Kingdom.
I unashamedly stand by the Union because I want Scotland to be part of the kingdom in which I live, not because I want to impose some supposed English power on the people of Scotland, but because I have a genuine affection for Scotland. I hope that the Scottish nationalists will take that as it is intended, which is sincerely.
I should have preferred the Scottish people to be asked to vote on such a constitutional matter part way through a Parliament, when the popularity of the Government and the result of the recent general election were not telling factors—I accept the popularity of the Labour Government—because it is an issue which is important enough to be discussed independently over a period of time.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the people of Scotland, at least, have been debating this subject for the past 18 years, if not longer?
§ Mr. Robertson
The people in Scotland debated it in 1979 and came up with a different verdict.
236 The Government were successful in the referendum in September. As my Front-Bench colleagues have said, however much we dislike that decision and may fear its consequences and feel that the Scottish people were persuasively manipulated, we have to accept the result of a democratic referendum; but that does not mean that we should not point out the flaws, weaknesses and inherent dangers that we perceive in the Bill.
As well as introducing a second Parliament in one nation, which is likely in itself to give rise to conflict, the Bill introduces a voting system that is completely peculiar in Britain. Not only will Members be elected to the Scottish Parliament by proportional representation, which is in itself a totally flawed and undemocratic system, but there will be two systems in operation at the same time, and two tiers of elected representatives: those with constituencies and those without; those who serve their constituents and those who serve those who compile the PR lists; those who will receive letters from their constituents on important matters and those who will not; those who will be replaced by electoral means if they choose to leave the Parliament early and those who will simply be replaced.
At the moment, it may be especially important to my party to have such a system, because, as has been said, we may win seats that we would not otherwise have won; but that is far too weak and unconstitutional an argument to persuade me to support the proposals. On the contrary, we in the Conservative party are concerned about creating correct, lasting constitutional arrangements to serve everyone in the United Kingdom equally and fairly.
I should love to say much more, but we are constrained by time. Time, I am afraid, will deny the House the wisdom of what else I had to say. My concern and my priority is to ensure the survival of the Union of the United Kingdom and the continuation of the United Kingdom as an independent nation state.
§ Mr. David Stewart (Inverness, East, Nairn and Lochaber)
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak in this historic debate. I add my contribution to the congratulations given to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his part in getting the Bill to the stage that it has reached. I know that, with his characteristic modesty, he may not want to acknowledge his place in history, but hon. Members of all parties may want to acknowledge it for him.
I want to concentrate on two main subjects: the role that the Parliament will play in rural areas, especially with respect to land use, and the issue of who will be eligible to stand for the Parliament in the 1999 elections. As the Member for the geographically largest Labour constituency in the United Kingdom—it stretches from the Atlantic to the North sea—I am extremely conscious of the real role that land has played in the history of the highlands.
In the emotive highland clearances, sheep were deemed to be more important than ordinary working-class men or women. More than 100 years ago, many ordinary men and women, six of whom were indeed elected, stood for Parliament under the banner of the Highland Land League and contributed to forcing through the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886, which still gives security of tenure to crofters.
237 In 1947, a Nazi sympathiser in the Knoydart estate in my constituency refused his tenants any development capability. That led to the seven men of Knoydart laying claim to crofts to give them some rights over land use. In current times, we have some excellent examples of community land use, such as the Stornoway trust and the Assynt crofters; and in my constituency we have the islanders of Eigg who, through a consortium, managed to get control over their land when absentee landlords refused them permission to be involved in the running of day-to-day land use.
I welcome the setting up of the land reform policy group by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It is an excellent step in analysing the use of land. We have to set land use in its proper context as part of a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable rural policy. I am convinced that the Bill is radical. I am convinced that the Parliament will be radical. My plea today is that we take a radical view of land use in the highlands.
In 1964, Harold Wilson set up the Highlands and Islands development board, a body which stopped the depopulation of the highlands and islands. It had the power to intervene in land use and to acquire land where it was under-used and underexploited.
I suggest that we need to consider four points in land use. First, we have to eliminate feudalism in land use—for example, the use of feudal superiors and vassals, which puts an historic slant on land use. It is outdated and needs to be changed. Secondly, we need to create new crofting land, which is not covered by existing legislation. Thirdly, we must provide farming tenants, who have security of tenure under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, with the entitlement to buy the land. Fourthly, where there is to be large-scale purchase of land, especially in the highlands and islands, there should be conditional and legally enforceable land-use codes.
I also wish to touch on eligibility to stand for the new Scottish Parliament. Most of us agree that the new Parliament will provide an opportunity for new blood to be elected; for more young people and more women to be elected. I note from clause 15 that the Bill allows peers, ministers of religion and ordained persons to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament. However, thousands of local government employees who are politically restricted at present will not have the opportunity to stand. In Gandhi's terms, they are becoming political untouchables. They hold politically sensitive posts. They include middle managers, lawyers, architects and engineers—people who could contribute to the Parliament in terms of the quality of their abilities.
I understand that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is reviewing the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. My plea today is that Ministers examine clause 15.
§ Mr. Wallace
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about local government employees' eligibility to stand for election. Where in the Bill is there a disqualification for local government employees to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament?
§ Mr. Stewart
Under the 1989 Act, staff who earn more than £25,000 are politically sensitive and cannot stand for election to the Westminster Parliament, the European Parliament or the Scottish Parliament. There is an 238 anomaly. That is why I referred to the review of the Local Government and Housing Act. There is an opportunity to make a change. If we deprive the Scottish Parliament of its lifeblood—as many able people as possible—we shall make a mistake.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill. We have had some reference to the musical taste of some hon. Members. The hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) mentioned his interest in The Kinks and the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) mentioned his interest in a variety of bands including The Doors. If I may lower the tone of the debate and mention the Spice Girls, what I want, what I really, really want is the people's Government made for the people, by the people and answerable to the Scottish people. That is our manifesto commitment and our historic decision. It is an opportunity to resolve the land issue, which has stymied highland land development for generations.
§ Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)
I am slightly perplexed in following the hon. Member for Inverness, East, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Stewart). He and other Labour Members talked about land use in Scotland, and the Secretary of State mentioned feudal tenure. It is ironic that one of the first acts of the Scottish Parliament will be to bring land use and tenure in Scotland into line with practice in England. That will just have to be one of those things.
I shall not consider at length the electoral system, although I pay tribute to the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) and for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson). I shall briefly reflect on the fact that many of the contributions of Conservative Members were not blanket criticism of the scheme or, rather, the proposals in the Bill. Perhaps I should not use the word "scheme" in a debate about Scotland. Those speeches were the beginnings of our party's response to how the English question should be addressed.
I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who made an impassioned speech, which I regret missing, and the speeches of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) addressed the possibility of moving towards a federal system in the United Kingdom, which is one way of tackling the West Lothian question. All hon. Members should consider how we English Members of Parliament should respond to the devolution agenda.
In many respects, the Scots, having spoken, have put the ball in the English court. That is their right and privilege; it is our job to respond. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) spoke at length on the same theme. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) is not in his place, but I say to him that we should engage in that debate. I invite him to join me and other hon. Members on Friday in discussing the Referendum (English Parliament) Bill. That reflects the fact that we accept that there will be a different constitutional landscape at the end of this Parliament.
The Secretary of State described the Bill's arrival on the Floor of the House as a milestone, but, as he also said, there is a strong sense of anti-climax in the debate. The long campaign for a Scottish Parliament, 239 the overwhelming dominance of pro-devolution parties in Scotland, Labour's dramatic general election victory in May last year and the decisive result of the September referendum all contribute to the perception that tonight's vote is not an historic decision. The moment of destiny has already passed. The Bill is about putting into effect choices that have already been made.
When the Secretary of State first sat down at his desk in St. Andrew's house after the general election, he will have found that the Scottish people enjoy high levels of employment; that unemployment is below the European Union average and falling; that there is record inward investment; strong and sustained growth; and that public services, though one would never believe it from Labour rhetoric, are better funded than ever before.
Scotland still has its problems, but it has undergone an unprecedented transformation over the past 18 years—like that of the rest of United Kingdom, but, in many ways, more dramatic—from a backward-looking, strike-torn failure into a modern, vibrant and confident nation. Long may that positive outlook continue. That is not only the legacy of the successful record of the previous Conservative Government but Scotland's latest dividend from the Union of the United Kingdom.
The Union is not a dogma or a blind faith but a constitutional settlement which has secured the interests of all the nations in it for nearly 300 years. It is difficult to grasp the enormity of the consequences of this measure, which is no less than the recasting of that constitutional settlement. The Secretary of State described the Bill as a catalyst for change. There has been plenty of change for the better over the past decade or so, much of which the other parties did their best to resist. It is our responsibility to ensure that, as far as possible, the new constitutional arrangements do not disrupt or set back that change. That is the objective of Conservative policy on the Bill.
The Conservatives campaigned long and hard against devolution because we fear the risk of breakdown in the relations between a Scottish Parliament and Westminster. That risk remains, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) has described. The debate has centred extensively on that danger, because therein lies the slippery slope towards total isolation for Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) painted a graphic picture of how that could occur.
That is why—I am grateful to the Secretary of State for quoting my Edinburgh speech so extensively—Conservatives are now determined to engage in the process of that major change to our constitution. That is why our candidates will fight the forthcoming elections in order to win and participate. It is vital that all responsible and reasonable voices are heard. That is the only way in which the new Parliament will become a stable and secure part of a new United Kingdom constitutional settlement, for it is the Union which has served Scotland so well in the past and is Scotland's lifeline to the future.
The new Parliament must acknowledge and recognise the advantages of the Union. It must exercise restraint and finesse in all things, but, above all, in its relations with Westminster and Whitehall. The reason we still fear for Scotland's future is that the parties that have hitherto dominated Scotland have advanced their case for the 240 Parliament on the false premise that Scotland has done badly from the Union. Nothing could be further from the truth, but those parties have revived old suspicions and hatreds that are ultimately destructive.
When in opposition, Labour and the Liberal Democrats spared no opportunity to whip up nationalist sentiments against the English where there was political advantage in doing so. It is to be expected that the nationalists should be past masters of that technique, but it was deeply disturbing to see serious political parties ride on the nationalists' coat tails.
Our concern now is that the Edinburgh Parliament might be dominated by the same left-liberal alliance, spiced by the poison of nationalism, which foolishly, or cynically, has so far succeeded in persuading so many Scots that Scotland has had a bad deal from the Union. If that is what is meant by "new politics" north of the border, we are happy not to be part of it.
Now is the time for all Unionists to make common cause. In making common cause with Unionists from other parties, I will repay the Secretary of State the compliment of quoting him, when he pointed out in yesterday's debate that the Edinburgh Parliament as proposed is not the reincarnation of the pre-1707 Parliament. He reiterated:it is unashamedly a settlement within the United Kingdom".—[Official Report, 12 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 34.]We have never doubted the commitment of the Scottish people to the United Kingdom, but when the Secretary of State signed the Claim of Right it was fair to doubt his because there is nothing in the Scottish Constitutional Convention's Claim of Right—[Interruption.] I am glad to note that I have irritated the right hon. Gentleman because what I am saying is obviously true. There is nothing in that Claim of Right or in any of the convention's recommendations that recognises the ultimate sovereignty of this Parliament. By contrast, clause 27(7) implicitly acknowledges that—grudgingly perhaps, but, none the less, it is in the Bill, and we welcome that as progress. To acknowledge the sovereignty of Parliament is to acknowledge what it is to be part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Wallace
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point because although the sovereignty of Parliament is quite clearly a concept of English constitutional law, if he reads the dicta of Lord President Cooper in McCormick v. the Lord Advocate, he will discover that that concept was never part of Scottish constitutional law. The Scottish Parliament did not have the same sovereignty as the English Parliament claimed, so there is no reason why the United Kingdom Parliament should have adopted exclusively English constitutional practice.
§ Mr. Jenkin
That was the case in a previous period of Scottish history, but the referendum result confirms that the sovereignty of the Scottish people is vested in this Parliament. That is what the White Paper said and what is expressed in the Bill. Sadly, it is no surprise that this is a matter of dispute among pro-devolution parties. The hon. Member for Gordon has said that the days of parliamentary sovereignty are at an end. I sought to intervene on the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) to ask him whether he would support 241 explicitly clause 27(7), but I doubt whether that is the case. The Minister of State did nothing to resolve that ambiguity. The consensus in Scotland Forward was a false consensus.
§ Mr. Salmond
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman fully picked up on the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), so I shall give him another opportunity. The quotation from Lord Cooper is:The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctly English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.That was the opinion of the First Division of the Court of Session in Scotland. Does the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) disagree with it?
§ Mr. Jenkin
The reality of the British constitution is that to be part of the United Kingdom is to accept that the sovereignty of the people is vested in Parliament. It does not surprise me that the nationalists should take an opposite view, but it does surprise me that Members from other, supposedly Unionist, parties should do so.
The fundamental question is whether the new Parliament will respect the limits set on it by the Bill. That ultimately depends on how the Parliament behaves and how it is perceived, rather than on how its powers are defined in law. Will it be no more than a parish council, to which the Prime Minister once rather unwisely compared it; or, if it chafes against policies such as welfare reform or student fees, will it claim a mandate at least equal to that of Westminster to assert the sovereign will of the Scottish people? That is clearly the expectation of the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan).
For that reason, it is vital that the sovereignty of this Parliament should be reaffirmed. We shall table an amendment that should offend none but those who have an implicitly nationalist agenda. Although such an amendment is, of course, superfluous from a legal point of view, its purpose is not legal, but political—it is designed to reinforce the bonds that hold the Union together, at a time when they are likely to be tested. The Secretary of State will have a chance to show that he is not the Dr. Faustus of Scottish politics, who has sold his Unionist soul to the nationalist devil for the temporal glory of holding office.
§ Mr. Canavan
To portray my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as some threat to the Union is patently ridiculous. The biggest threat to the Union over the past 20 years was Lady Thatcher's stubborn refusal to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Scotland to have a Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I seem to remember that the trade unions in Dundee, East cost the people of Dundee an electronics plant. That is what Mrs. Thatcher fought in Scotland, and the people of Scotland should be grateful that she succeeded.
There are bound to be serious disagreements between the two Governments. The White Paper assumes that the new Scottish Executive—effectively the Government of Scotland—will work harmoniously and in mutual co-operation with Whitehall. Any observer of relations 242 between Whitehall and local government, or between national Governments in the European Union, will testify to the likely difficulties ahead.
This afternoon, the Minister made much of the German, Italian and Spanish models of devolved government. If we were independent states drawing under a single Government within the framework of a carefully balanced constitution, the German experience would be instructive, but that is clearly not the case in the United Kingdom. In Italy, regional government has made public finances all but impossible to control; and Spain should be a cautionary tale to reckless British regionalisers. The lesson of Spain is perfectly clear: a rolling programme of devolution generates a process of inter-regional competition, leading to precisely the sort of instability that we should all fear. Spain's politics have become bogged down, and its economy is sclerotic with unemployment rampant. It is hardly an advertisement for the success of such a devolution policy.
Here, there will be the same delay and confusion as disputes are resolved—delay and confusion that could threaten inward investment and hurt business confidence. At worst, such conflict will be deliberately used to fan the flames of nationalism, both Scottish and English, in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East. An Edinburgh Parliament, dominated by the nationalists and the left—who have spent the past 20 years denigrating the constitutional settlement under which Scottish culture and enterprise have flourished—will inevitably demand more powers for itself and greater independence for Scotland. That is why we have always said that the Government's plan could destroy the United Kingdom. Unionists must join forces to ensure that that does not happen.
Scotland's profile is not the same as Scotland's influence. The danger is that Scotland and its interests are being removed from the real spheres of influence upon which jobs and prosperity depend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) talked of Scotland's potential isolation in Europe. Scottish Ministers will no longer participate in collective decision making at Westminster to help to construct the UK's negotiating position, except with the permission of the Westminster Government. All that the Executive will have is the right to be consulted. Instead of having a genuine involvement as equals, Scottish Ministers would have to take it or leave it.
What would happen if Edinburgh campaigned openly against a UK position at a crucial point in negotiations on an issue such as fish or agricultural prices, or some competition issue? What would happen if Edinburgh refused to implement a European Community decision to cut fish quotas? What sort of influence would Scotland have then, except to be subject to a concordat?
Scotland is reducing its voice in Whitehall just when it most needs it. With the reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster and the office of Secretary of State stripped of all its powers, Scotland will lose its influence in Whitehall and Westminster, where the crucial decisions affecting Scotland will continue to be made. The prospect is that Scotland will have its existing share of public spending eroded. Maintaining that share is the greatest challenge facing the new Parliament.
243 Money is likely to be at the heart of most of the conflict between Westminster and Edinburgh. The present system has served Scotland remarkably well. The most recent figures show that public spending per head of population was 24 per cent. higher than in England.
The Government's White Paper says that the Scottish Parliament's budget will be broadly comparable to the present budget of the Scottish Office and also includes a commitment to the Barnett formula. But those promises are not enshrined in the Bill—quite the opposite. Clause 61(2) simply says:The Secretary of State shall from time to time make payments into the Fund out of money provided by Parliament of such amounts as he may determine.It will be up to the Secretary of State to determine how much money Scotland will receive, but the Secretary of State is answerable to Parliament here at Westminster, not Edinburgh, thus providing an annual flashpoint between the Scottish and UK Governments.
Under the present system, the Secretary of State is able to fight for Scotland's interests within the Cabinet, which has direct responsibility for government north of the border and hence every interest in securing a good deal for Scotland. That will no longer be the case after devolution, when the Secretary of State will have little clout in Whitehall. Suggestions that he could combine the job with that of First Minister are improbable in view of the responsibilities given to each party in the Bill as drafted.
I repeat that the Conservatives stand by the spending settlement that we gave Scotland in the previous Parliament. It reflects Scotland's needs, but it will take some explaining in future as the figures fall under scrutiny in the new political climate surrounding devolution, and Scotland starts to deploy its own tax-raising powers.
Devolution has led to widespread questioning of the Barnett formula, with many complaints about it from the Government's own Benches, including complaints from Lord Barnett himself. The insidious and insistent questioning of the existing public expenditure settlement between Scotland and England is likely to be a permanent feature of the new post-devolution politics. Its effects are bound to be felt by Scottish public services and taxpayers in the years ahead. There may never be a dramatic reckoning, but Scotland should prepare for the likelihood that billions of pounds will be whittled away from the Scottish block grant in the next few years unless the Scottish Parliament can play as canny a game with Westminster as successive Secretaries of State for Scotland have played in Cabinet.
What an irony it would be if the very devolution of which Scottish socialists have dreamed for so long and which was so dreaded by the Conservatives should result in exactly the same sort of paring down of the public sector in Scotland that all Scotland's political parties dread. Nothing would return Scotland's politics so rapidly to reality than the unravelling of the generous public spending settlement that Labour inherited from the Conservatives; nothing will create as much uncertainty, tension and turmoil.
The Opposition do not invite the House to decline to give the Bill a Second Reading tonight, but nor does our reasoned amendment accept the Bill as it stands.
244 We do not have a rose-tinted view of how the Parliament will work. The new arrangements are not a settlement but a series of unanswered questions. The political context of the Bill leaves huge scope for dashed expectations for the Scottish people, and misunderstanding and dispute between Edinburgh and Westminster.
Scotland is set to be sidelined in Europe and UK politics, and it is far from clear how Scotland will continue to secure its interests or public funding without raising domestic and business rates alongside the tartan tax. That threatens the Scottish prosperity that Labour inherited from the Conservatives.
History will judge whether Labour has led the Scots responsibly, but we shall make our case in Committee on all these points. We are grateful to the Secretary of State for the spirit of co-operation across the Floor on this matter.
We hold our faith with the Union—it is unimpeachable—but, as the Conservative and Unionist party, we also hold our faith with the clear decision of the Scottish people.
For 300 years, the Union has survived the challenges of famine, revolt, depression and the threat of invasion. Devolution represents a new challenge which, as a party and as a nation, we must take in our stride. I urge the House to support our reasoned amendment.
§ The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office (Mr. Henry McLeish)
This is truly an historic and momentous day for Scotland and for the United Kingdom. I am confident that, in a few minutes, the House will approve in principle the Government's plans to establish a Scottish Parliament.
On 11 September 1997, it was yes, and I have no doubt that tonight it will also be yes. We shall thus pave the way for one of the most significant shifts in the British constitution in decades. We shall advance the aspirations of the Scottish people, and we shall be one step closer to delivering on the promise that we made to the people of the United Kingdom on 1 May 1997.
Of course there is a sense of history; we have been discussing this matter for more than 100 years, as the aspiration for home rule has ebbed and flowed. Of course there is a sense of anticipation; for the past 20 years, there has been disappointment and frustration. Now, however, there is a sense of achievement, because real progress has been made in the past eight months, under a Labour Government.
We can now look 16 months ahead and see the election of 129 members to a new Parliament in Edinburgh—the first sign that we can deliver on the promise we have made. That will be the new dawn. I believe that all Labour Members, and many Opposition Members, look forward to that day.
The Bill is a genuinely historical document. The whole of Scotland can take pride in its achievements. It is a more radical piece of legislation than anyone could have imagined more than a year ago. The Bill enshrines a far-reaching settlement, and provides the basis for the new politics in Scotland. That concept has been much abused, but it ill behoves the Conservatives, who after 18 years in government have got themselves into a sorry mess, not to 245 want to support some idea of a new politics in which participation and inclusivity can again become the hallmarks of the British political system.
The White Paper is all there in the Bill: there has been no cutting of corners or back-sliding. The Bill will deliver a Scottish Parliament with wide-ranging law-making powers, and, of course, tax-varying powers. It is a key part of the Government's programme of reform and modernisation of the UK constitution and Government. For the UK, we have delivered a new constitutional foundation, building Scotland firmly into the UK, and giving her the opportunity to take responsibility for her own affairs.
Again, the Opposition from a sedentary position throw up smears when concepts are talked about, but the importance of devolution is simply the fact that we are now marching forward to a new constitutional settlement for the United Kingdom. That is vital. It is high time that Conservative Members woke up to that new reality.
The agenda is imaginative and exciting. On it are measures regarding Scotland, Wales, a voice for London, regional development agencies, House of Lords reform, the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into UK law, and freedom of information. In the past few days, there has appeared on the agenda the possible step forward in Ireland of a settlement that looks at the constitution and looks at government.
The Government have moved swiftly since 1 May 1997. We have had an election, a White Paper, a referendum, a Bill, a site, and a Second Reading; and next week, with the involvement of the Conservative party, we shall set up a consultative steering group to look at the working practices of the Parliament and its Standing Orders.
Change is vital. This is not a debate about some abstract political theory. The Bill will strengthen the economy of Scotland and of the United Kingdom, just as it will contribute to social cohesion. It will reinforce national identity, which is so vital to our pluralist society. It will nurture cultural diversity, and ultimately it will enhance personal freedom. Is that not something worth fighting for—something worth debating in the House?
This is not just a settlement for Scotland. The Opposition should appreciate that it concerns the whole United Kingdom. We hear stories of an English backlash, but the most hurtful aspect for the constitution of the UK is that the Opposition fail to distinguish between practical reality and political prejudice. English people should not hear it suggested of them that they are anti-Scottish or involved in a backlash of some kind. That does nothing for the credibility of this House.
§ Mr. Rowe
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Scottish people have every right to expect to determine their future in their own way; but is there not something improper about the proposition that Scottish Members of Parliament should be able to determine the future of my constituents when my constituents have absolutely no right to determine the future of the people of Scotland? If, as the Minister rightly says, the Bill affects the entire United Kingdom, is he not anxious lest he sow the seeds of future disaffection?
§ Mr. McLeish
I apologise to the House for giving way to the hon. Gentleman. Had he been here, he would have heard that matter raised, and answered, several times toda1y.
246 What has happened since 1 May means that we shall have new structures and institutions in United Kingdom politics, and a new relationship between people, politics and Parliament.
I want to analyse a little more closely the Opposition contribution to today's and yesterday's debates. The Conservatives seem to have adopted several positions. First, there was the realism that is evident to some extent in the reasoned amendment and in some of the remarks by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram); but most evident in the attitude of the Scottish Tories. They recognise that the Scottish Parliament is the future, because it is what the people of Scotland want. They also recognise that the electoral system that we have proposed gives them an opportunity for some representation and rehabilitation in Scotland. Most importantly, I hope that Conservatives recognise that the establishment of a Scottish Parliament will bring significant benefits to the people of Scotland.
Other remarks from Opposition Front Benchers, however, show that they remain sceptical—some would say cynical. They clearly find it hard to believe that the UK Government and the Scottish Administration can co-exist peacefully and sensibly in the interests of the whole United Kingdom. They are hung up on worst case scenarios, and seem to believe that we should legislate for every conceivable eventuality likely to arise from devolution if an Administration in London or Edinburgh deliberately set out to be destructive or obstinate.
If, for example, an English nationalist Conservative Government decided to cut the block grant to the Scottish Parliament, or to deny Scottish Ministers access to European discussions, no amount of legislation could prevent wrecking action of that type.
I refer in passing to the other positions adopted by Opposition Members. The English nationalist spectre was raised several times, but I wonder whether that was a product of fevered imaginations at Westminster, rather than based on real feeling in the country at large.
After all, devolution was a central plank of the Labour party's manifesto at the last election, which found favour throughout the UK. I am not aware of a groundswell of resentment in England since the Scottish and Welsh referendums, or of any genuine, widely supported calls for an English Parliament. The Government are, however, committed to a genuine rolling programme of devolution to the English regions that will further strengthen the Union.
The other position adopted by Opposition Members was almost fundamentalist—a defence of the status quo. There seems to be a fear in some quarters that the sky will fall in if there is any constitutional change whatever. Hon. Members outwith the Conservative Benches will confirm that that will not happen.
I shall deal with some of the major points raised by the Opposition over the two days. One of the key themes in a number of speeches was Europe. We heard much from hon. Members about the alleged lack of influence within the Councils of the European Union, but before I respond to that, I shall remind the House what the Bill provides.
The Bill gives the Scottish Parliament and Executive all the powers they need to play a full role in European matters, as promised in the White Paper. The Parliament and Executive will be responsible for observing and implementing Community law in the devolved areas.
247 The Parliament will be able to scrutinise relevant EU proposals to ensure that Scotland's interests are properly reflected, and feed its views into the UK scrutiny process. The Parliament will be able to legislate to give effect to Community law for Scotland; similarly, Scottish Ministers will be able to make regulations or otherwise take any necessary action to give effect to Community obligations.
Scottish Ministers will be able, by virtue of schedule 5, to take part in negotiations with the UK's European partners and otherwise assist UK Ministers to work constructively for the common interests of Scotland and the UK in Europe. [Interruption.] It is interesting, when standing at the Dispatch Box, to listen to the sneers, hisses and largely unintelligent remarks coming from the Opposition Front Bench. It is useful to remind Opposition Members on the Front Bench that humility is easy to say, but difficult to practise. Unless the Conservative Opposition start to recognise reality, they will continue to be marginalised.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, as I know that he is one of the epitomes of humility in the House, and we always like to take lessons in humility from him.
I am sure that the Minister did not intend to mislead the House. He referred to schedule 5, paragraph 6(2)(b), and suggested that that allowed Ministers of the Scottish Parliament to take part in negotiations. He used the word "assist", but can he tell me where in that passage there is any reference to taking part in negotiations?
§ Mr. McLeish
The point has been raised repeatedly. The existing situation works perfectly well. Are the Conservatives making a veiled threat about the future, and implying that they will overturn, undermine or reject what works satisfactorily now?
The right hon. Member for Devizes asked how a Scottish Minister who led a UK delegation would answer to the House for the leadership he gave. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman raised the matter, as it is an important issue, and illustrates the point that we are trying to make. It would be for the UK Minister who would be participating in the delegation to answer to the House for what had been said and done by the delegation. It is the UK Minister who will be accountable to Westminster. In the same way, the Scottish Minister will answer to the Scottish Parliament for what the delegation has done. That shows that we are talking about a joint UK delegation.
I was grateful for the contribution from the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis). He raised several important points, and I assure him and the House that we take them seriously. We are determined that the Scottish Executive will be properly held to account. The argument, if there is one, is not about the underlying principles, but about the means of achieving agreed goals.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that those goals can be achieved only through detailed scrutiny and control by the House—detailed scrutiny and control that the House does not seek to exercise in relation to local authorities; nor did it do so in relation to devolved administration in Northern Ireland. However, we must 248 ensure that there is proper scrutiny, and we want to develop that in discussion with the Opposition in Committee.
Many matters that have been raised by Opposition Members require a sensible and constructive response. That would be extraordinarily difficult in the time available. However, the question of finance raised by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is one that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will take seriously. I hope that we shall be able to show that the proposed Parliament will have substantial legislative powers and new, more effective and modern ways of ensuring that public funds are spent properly, and that we obtain genuine value for money.
I turn briefly to the reasoned amendment, which betrays some of the schizophrenia from which the official Opposition continue to suffer. The amendment complains that the Billfails to create a constitutional settlement which is stable and enduring".My first reaction is to suggest that the position which we, the Government, inherited in May, with its obvious and massive democratic deficit north of the border, was hardly a recipe for stability. The Government's response has been to create a settlement which can endure precisely because it has secured overwhelming support among the people of Scotland.
There is little point in the Opposition's continuing to take at face value the votes of 1.7 million who said yes but then turning quickly away, and pretending that that did not happen. To cement relationships between people, Parliament and politics, we must be crystal clear that, when the public or the people speak, this House and any House must listen.
§ Mr. Jenkin
During the past two days, we have heard one supporter of devolution after another suggesting their own changes and amendments, and suggesting that what is before us is not a stable settlement. That is because they imagine more and more power being transferred to the new Parliament. How can the Minister say that we have a stable settlement when the nationalists, who were supporters of his proposals, are saying that they see the Bill as the start of a journey towards an independent Scotland?
§ Mr. McLeish
The hon. Gentleman is in danger of digging a deep, deep hole. During the debate, there have been only two signs of potential trouble ahead. Those have come from Conservative nationalists in England, with the possibility of potential trouble from the nationalists in Scotland. What we are proposing will embed us within the Union. It will give considerable devolved power to Scotland to enable it to involve itself in markets that affect Scotland. I suggest that that is a sensible and stable way forward. Of course, the enduring settlement is embraced within the Bill.
I firmly believe that the settlement that we are proposing will be stable and enduring. I believe also, contrary to the second complaint in the Opposition's reasoned amendment, that it will enhance Scotland's position within the United Kingdom and in Europe, and indeed within the wider world. The Bill provides for a powerful Parliament and a powerful Executive at the heart of the Scottish Administration. They will have full powers 249 to observe and implement European law within the devolved areas, and they will be able to play a role in negotiations with European partners.
The Opposition's amendment argues that the Bill's lack ofclarity on taxes and resources threatens the interests of Scottish business, Scottish people and Scottish jobs".Nothing could be further from the truth. In Scotland, the business community is being far more progressive under Conservative Opposition. A new reality is dawning, which it wants to participate in and promote. The business community wants to see Scotland as a showcase for internationalism, technology, and investment in industry, as well as wealth creation and jobs.
I started by saying that this was an historic day for the people of the United Kingdom, including the people of Scotland. I urge right hon. and hon. Members to vote against the Opposition's reasoned amendment, but I welcome its opening words. They accept and respectthe clear decision of the Scottish people in favour of a devolved Scottish Parliament with limited income tax-varying powers".I recognise that the Bill is a significant step forward, and it is high time that the Opposition also appreciated that it is a step forward for them. Constitutional change requires all political parties to sign up for the project. There is still a hesitating and grudging acceptance that that is where the Conservatives might want to be.
Elections will be fought in Scotland, and there will be Conservative candidates. I think that some Conservative Members might be considerate of that, because anything that is said here will become part of the debate north of the border.
I welcome the part that all Opposition parties played in drawing up the programme motion for the remaining stages of the Bill's passage through the House. I am obviously delighted that they have agreed to scrutinise the Bill in a spirit of partnership rather than antagonism. That is good news for the people of Scotland. I am very pleased that all the political parties have accepted an invitation to join the consultative steering group.
The Scotland Bill is the start of a new chapter in the history of Scotland, but it is only a start. It is up to us as politicians, to the people of Scotland and to the rest of the United Kingdom, to make devolution work. I am confident that we shall do so, and that we will all reap the benefit.
With some humility, and tremendous pride, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 148, Noes 411.253
|Division No. 126]||[9.59 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia|
|Amess, David||Brady, Graham|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Brazier, Julian|
|Arbuthnot, James||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Browning, Mrs Angela|
|Baldry, Tony||Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)|
|Bercow, John||Burns, Simon|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Butterfill, John|
|Blunt, Crispin||Cash, William|
|Body, Sir Richard||Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Chope, Christopher|
|Clappison, James||Luff, Peter|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||MacKay, Andrew|
|Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Collins, Tim||Malins, Humfrey|
|Cran, James||Maples, John|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Mates, Michael|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham)||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Day, Stephen||Moss, Malcolm|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Duncan, Alan||Norman, Archie|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Ottaway, Richard|
|Evans, Nigel||Page, Richard|
|Faber, David||Paice, James|
|Fabricant, Michael||Paterson, Owen|
|Fallon, Michael||Pickles, Eric|
|Flight, Howard||Prior, David|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Randall, John|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Robathan, Andrew|
|Fraser, Christopher||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Gale, Roger||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Garnier, Edward||Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Gibb, Nick||Ruffley, David|
|Gill, Christopher||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Shepherd, Richard|
|Gray James||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Green, Damian||Soames, Nicholas|
|Greenway, John||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Grieve, Dominic||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Spring, Richard|
|Hague, Rt Hon William||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Hammond, Philip||Steen, Anthony|
|Hawkins, Nick||Streeter, Gary|
|Hayes, John||Syms, Robert|
|Heald, Oliver||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Horam, John||Tredinnick, David|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Trend, Michael|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Hunter, Andrew||Viggers, Peter|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Walter, Robert|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Wardle, Charles|
|Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Wells, Bowen|
|Key, Robert||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Wilkinson, John|
|Kirkbride, Miss Julie||Willetts, David|
|Laing, Mrs Eleanor||Wilshire, David|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Lansley, Andrew||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Leigh, Edward||Woodward, Shaun|
|Letwin, Oliver||Yeo, Tim|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Mr. Nigel Waterson and|
|Loughton, Tim||Sir David Madel.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Armstrong, Ms Hilary|
|Ainger, Nick||Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov"try NE)||Ashton, Joe|
|Alexander, Douglas||Atherton, Ms Candy|
|Allan, Richard||Austin, John|
|Allen, Graham||Baker, Norman|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Ballard, Mrs Jackie|
|Banks, Tony||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Barnes, Harry||Cummings, John|
|Barron, Kevin||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Battle, John||Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)|
|Beard, Nigel||Dafis, Cynog|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Dalyell, Tam|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Darvill, Keith|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Benton, Joe||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Davidson, Ian|
|Berry, Roger||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Best, Harold||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Betts, Clive||Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Dawson, Hilton|
|Blizzard, Bob||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Denham, John|
|Boateng, Paul||Dewar, Rt Hon Donald|
|Borrow, David||Dismore, Andrew|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Dobbin, Jim|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Brake, Tom||Doran, Frank|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Dowd, Jim|
|Breed, Colin||Drown, Ms Julia|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Edwards, Huw|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Efford, Clive|
|Browne, Desmond||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Ennis, Jeff|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Etherington, Bill|
|Burden, Richard||Ewing, Mrs Margaret|
|Burgon, Colin||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Burnett, John||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Fisher, Mark|
|Byers, Stephen||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Fitzsimons, Lorna|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Flint, Caroline|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Flynn, Paul|
|Canavan, Dennis||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Cann, Jamie||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Caplin, Ivor||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Caton, Martin||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Foulkes, George|
|Chaytor, David||Fyfe, Maria|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Galbraith, Sam|
|Church, Ms Judith||Galloway, George|
|Clapham, Michael||Gapes, Mike|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Godman, Norman A|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Goggins, Paul|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Clelland, David||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Clwyd, Ann||Gorrie, Donald|
|Coaker, Vernon||Graham, Thomas|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Grant, Bernie|
|Cohen, Harry||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Coleman, Iain||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Colman, Tony||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Connarty, Michael||Grocott, Bruce|
|Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)||Gunnell, John|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hain, Peter|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Cotter, Brian||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Cousins, Jim||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Cox, Tom||Hanson, David|
|Cranston, Ross||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Crausby, David||Harvey, Nick|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Healey, John||McFall, John|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)||McIsaac, Shona|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||McKenna, Mrs Rosemary|
|Heppell, John||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Hesford, Stephen||McLeish, Henry|
|Hewitt, Ms Patricia||McNulty, Tony|
|Hill, Keith||MacShane, Denis|
|Hinchliffe, David||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||McWalter, Tony|
|Hoey, Kate||McWilliam, John|
|Home Robertson, John||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Mallaber, Judy|
|Hope, Phil||Mandelson, Peter|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||Marek, Dr John|
|Howarth, Alan (Newport E)||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Martlew, Eric|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Maxton, John|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Hurst, Alan||Meale, Alan|
|Hutton, John||Merron, Gillian|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Michael, Alun|
|Illsley, Eric||Michie, Bill (Shef"ld Heeley)|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Milburn, Alan|
|Jamieson, David||Miller, Andrew|
|Jenkins, Brian||Mitchell, Austin|
|Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)||Moffatt, Laura|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)||Morley, Elliot|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Mountford, Kali|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Mudie, George|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Mullin, Chris|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Keetch, Paul||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Kelly, Ms Ruth||Naysmith, Dr Doug|
|Kemp, Fraser||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)||O'Hara, Eddie|
|Khabra, Piara S||Olner, Bill|
|Kidney, David||O'Neill, Martin|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Öpik, Lembit|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Kingham, Ms Tess||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Pearson, Ian|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Pendry, Tom|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Laxton, Bob||Pickthall, Colin|
|Lepper, David||Pike, Peter L|
|Leslie, Christopher||Plaskitt, James|
|Levitt, Tom||Pond, Chris|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Pope, Greg|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Pound, Stephen|
|Linton, Martin||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Lock, David||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Love, Andrew||Primarolo, Dawn|
|McAllion, John||Prosser, Gwyn|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Purchase, Ken|
|McCabe, Steve||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Quinn, Lawrie|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Radice, Giles|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Rammell, Bill|
|Macdonald, Calum||Rapson, Syd|
|McDonnell, John||Raynsford, Nick|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Swinney, John|
|Rendel, David||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)|
|Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Rogers, Allan||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Rooker, Jeff||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Rooney, Terry||Timms, Stephen|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Tipping, Paddy|
|Rowlands, Ted||Todd, Mark|
|Roy, Frank||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Ruane, Chris||Touhig, Don|
|Ruddock, Ms Joan||Trickett, Jon|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Truswell, Paul|
|Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)||Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Salmond, Alex||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Sanders, Adrian||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Tyler, Paul|
|Sawford, Phil||Vaz, Keith|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Wallace, James|
|Sheerman, Barry||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Shipley, Ms Debra||Wareing, Robert N|
|Short, Rt Hon Clare||Watts, David|
|Singh, Marsha||Webb, Steve|
|Skinner, Dennis||Welsh, Andrew|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||White, Brian|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Smith, John (Glamorgan)||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Snape, Peter||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Soley, Clive||Wills, Michael|
|Southworth, Ms Helen||Wilson, Brian|
|Spellar, John||Winnick, David|
|Squire, Ms Rachel||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Wise, Audrey|
|Stevenson, George||Wood, Mike|
|Stewart, David (Inverness E)||Woolas, Phil|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||Wray, James|
|Stoate, Dr Howard||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Stott, Roger||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Wyatt, Derek|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Stunell, Andrew||Jane Kennedy and|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Mr. Jon Owen Jones.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills),
§ That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]
§ Question agreed to.
§ Committee tomorrow.