§ '.—The Secretary of State shall carry out and, not later than 12 months after the passing of this Act, publish a review of the appropriate functions and powers of Members of the House of Commons representing Scottish constituencies in relation to the conduct of business in that House in light of the provisions contained in this Act.'.—[Mr. Ancram.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.4.12 pm
§ Madam Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 2, in clause 114, page 52, line 30, at end insert—
§ '(2A) No order under subsection (1), other than an order relating to section 81, may be made unless the Secretary of State has published the review of the functions and powers of Members of the House of Commons representing Scottish constituencies which he is required to carry out under section (Review of role of Scottish Members of House of Commons)'..
§ Mr. Ancram
The new clause is about the English dimension of the Bill. It is about how to retain fairness and balance within the United Kingdom Parliament, which we believe the Bill threatens to undermine. In particular, it is about what the role of Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster should be once there is a Scottish Parliament. This is all the more relevant today, because it looks as if the worst fears of Unionists about devolution are set to be fulfilled, because the Scottish National party is likely to seize at least a substantial tranche of seats in a Scottish Parliament.
I make no apology for returning to this issue. From the outset of the legislation, the Government have done their level best to dismiss its importance—on the last occasion cynically manipulating and curtailing the time for debate. The Government are caught between a rock and a hard place. They know that the glaring imbalance created within this Parliament by their proposals will inevitably become a source of resentment and division between Scots and English, and they do not want that. They know equally that, if they genuinely addressed the problem, they would substantially weaken their influence in the House on English matters, and they do not want that, either. It is not that they have no answers, but that they fear the answers, because either their Unionism or their political power base is at risk.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
I do not recall substantive proposals coming from Conservative Front Benchers when we debated the matter previously, and the new clause would pass the buck to the Secretary of State after a Scottish Parliament was established. The 735 right hon. Gentleman has just started his speech: can we expect substantive proposals for tackling what he describes as the English dimension?
§ Mr. Ancram
As a lawyer, the hon. and learned Gentleman would expect me to make my argument logically and consequentially. If he waits, he will receive the answer to his question.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point, but, in terms of logical advancement of rational debate, I would have expected the solution favoured by Conservative Front-Bench Members to appear in an amendment. It has not—why?
§ Mr. Ancram
I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was present when we debated the issue previously. He may not have been; throughout, he has buried his head in the sand and hoped that the problem would fade away. Had he been present, he would have heard me say that a number of solutions are available, none of which is without flaws, but each of which must be examined and used to find an answer to the problem. I am asking the Secretary of State, who is in charge of the Bill, to set up an independent inquiry to examine the matter and make non-partisan recommendations to the House. I shall return to that matter later in my speech.
The Government do not like to discuss this subject. In our previous debate on it, they resorted to abusing any Conservative Member—including my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), a former Prime Minister—who mentioned it. They hurled pathetic accusations, suggesting that we were anti-Scottish in raising it. I can think of nothing more nonsensical, unless by anti-Scottish they mean anti-separatist. I would plead guilty to that.
If the Government's claims that they want the United Kingdom to be maintained and Scotland's place in it to be strengthened are genuine, fairness in this Parliament is paramount. They should welcome our efforts to find an answer that works, but instead they are making an enormous political miscalculation, which is becoming a habit for them. Only six months ago, they campaigned hand in hand with nationalists for a yes vote in the referendum and, as my hon. Friends remember, told their supporters that they had the measure of the Scottish National party. In haunting words, the Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Robertson), said that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead. Stone dead? Nationalism is trampling all over them.
Opinion polls consistently show what Conservative Members warned about throughout the devolution referendum. We said that the creation of a focus for nationalism would not weaken nationalism, but strengthen it. We were mocked for our pains. Opinion polls now show nationalists running Labour neck and neck for seats in a Scottish Parliament. The Government are running scared—they could not have got it more wrong if they had tried. They apparently believed that the credibility that they had bestowed on the SNP would fade away once the referendum was over. They were wrong then, and they are wrong about the English dimension now.
§ Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside)
The right hon. Gentleman is commenting on trends in opinion polls, 736 which are what should be observed. What does he think about the trend of Conservative party support in opinion polls since the referendum?
§ Mr. Ancram
If the hon. Gentleman reads the opinion polls today, he will see that the Conservative position has improved somewhat in terms of a Scottish Parliament and a general election. I shall not make a great deal of that: I merely point out that the people of Scotland were told by the Labour party during the referendum campaign that if they voted yes, Scottish nationalism would be killed stone dead. The hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) looks anything but stone dead. The opinion polls this morning show just how wrong the Labour Government were.
The Government are also wrong about the English dimension, because that political reality cannot be ignored. This debate is far from anti-Scottish. It is about the United Kingdom and about the place of England and Scotland in the United Kingdom. It is in all our interests to get the legislation right before it is too late. It would be easy for us to sit back and enjoy the Secretary of State's well-earned discomfort, saying, "We told you so." But, as Unionists, we cannot do that.
We have argued throughout the discussions on this legislation that we must make the Scottish Parliament work. We did not want it, but, as Unionists, we have accepted democratically that the aspirations of those who have shown in the referendum their desire to have more say over their own affairs within the United Kingdom must be met. That is easier said than done.
The Bill is full of fundamental flaws, especially relating to Scotland's voice in Europe and the fair allocation of resources in the United Kingdom after devolution. It is packed with anomalies, such as why a Scottish Parliament can vote for euthanasia or capital punishment but not for abortion. It is full of ambiguities as to the future role of the Secretary of State and who precisely in Scotland will pay the extra tax presaged in the Bill. The Bill came to the House a mess, and I fear that it will depart it a mess because of the Government's intransigence. Nevertheless, we must try to make it work, if only to ensure that the Edinburgh Parliament does not collapse into an uncontrolled free fall towards separation.
We want to ensure that the Scottish Parliament works in harmony with the United Kingdom Parliament, because destabilisation and imbalance are the enemies of that harmony. It is not enough to rely on the Government's increasingly implausible scenario of Labour Administrations in London and in Edinburgh acting in fraternal concert to create synthetic harmony and stability. On current evidence, it would be laughable and irresponsible to do so, but that has been the Government's only answer throughout.
The Government have told the House that there is nothing to worry about. We have all heard the phrase, "Nothing has really changed." We have heard them say in answer to questions about an imbalance, "What imbalance?" One thing is certain: the Bill creates a substantial constitutional imbalance within the United Kingdom between Scotland and England, and even between Scotland and Wales. That instability cannot be wished away. The vital task of redressing the balance must begin in this House of Commons. If there is to be balance, it must be based on fairness within this Parliament. 737 It is clearly unfair that Members from one part of the United Kingdom should be able to decide or influence decisions on matters solely affecting other parts of the United Kingdom, when they cannot similarly decide for their own areas or constituents, particularly if there is no reciprocal right of decision making or influence for Members from those other areas; yet that is what the Bill sets out to do.
It is not an option for the House to do nothing about that, because the Bill leaves the largest part of the United Kingdom—England—with the rawest part of the deal. It constitutionally diminishes England, and excludes it from influencing domestic issues in parts of the United Kingdom while allowing Members from those very parts to influence similar domestic issues in England, even if they cannot do so for their own constituents. It leaves England to pay the lion's share of the bill, while not being able to call to account those who spend it.
That runs counter to the principles of the Union, and produces nothing but unfairness for England. We should not be surprised if England starts to object. There will not necessarily be a backlash—if I may say so, the English do not tend to lash—but growing English consciousness is bound to have political consequences if it is not addressed.
It is axiomatic that, where possible, the same rights and restrictions should apply to hon. Members whether they represent constituencies in Scotland, England, Wales or even Northern Ireland. Our constitutional objective as Unionists must be to sustain a supreme and sovereign United Kingdom Parliament, in which Members from throughout the Kingdom enjoy the same status and esteem.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for showing characteristic courtesy.
Why is the right hon. Gentleman so hostile in principle to constitutional change, given that he argued, honourably, for radical constitutional change in Northern Ireland? Is he coming round to the idea—supported, apparently, by an increasing number of his right hon. and hon. Friends—that a federal Britain is the way ahead?
§ Mr. Ancram
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should accuse me of taking that view on constitutional change. I make no secret of the fact that I did not want devolution to occur in the way that the Bill proposes. However, having taken account of last September's referendum result, I have said that my party and I intend to try to ensure that devolution works in a way that does not further undermine the United Kingdom. My case today is that there is an enormous hole, or vacuum, in the Bill, which, unless we find some way of filling it, will not only lower the status of the House but endanger the settlement throughout the United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the answer was federalism. I do not find it easy to see how a balance can be created in the light of the Bill. It is hard to see how that can be done, given that the duties of groups of MPs from different parts of the UK will inevitably vary widely after devolution. There are no simple solutions—at least, I have seen none so far—that do not risk further anomalies and unfairness.
738 The Government's policy of regionalisation in England—which is, as far as I know, their only response to the West Lothian question—does not resolve the problem, because it fails to address the fundamental legislative imbalance that lies at the heart of that question.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)
The right hon. Gentleman is being uncharacteristically coy. If the Conservative and Unionist party, of which he is the senior constitutional affairs spokesman, cannot think of any way in which to deal with the problems that it thinks are being created by the Bill—or the knock-on effects in Wales—Sir Malcolm Rifkind is presumably wasting his time in chairing a think tank that is supposed to be coming up with a bold, imaginative solution.
§ Mr. Ancram
On reflection, the hon. Gentleman may think that his question was slightly illogical. I am not sure whether he was here during our last debate; I was one of the few who managed to speak, which is why I do not want to take too much time today. I went through the options then, and my right hon. and hon. Friends will rehearse some of them again. I pointed out that, while each case had attractions, there were also flaws. I said that, although those pieces had to be on the board, so that we could examine them and see how they played, there might be other pieces that we had not yet examined. The committee chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, among others, may produce answers that have not yet been thought of. That is why we need this debate, and why we will not be silenced.
I hope that, if a committee or independent review is set up to take evidence from Members of Parliament and constitutional experts the length and breadth of the land, it will come up with recommendations that will resolve the problem. In the current circumstances, that is the right way to proceed.
If the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) had been here last time, he would have heard other solutions debated. They have not changed, and some of my hon. Friends still argue that Bills should be designated for the exclusive attention of English Members. That has its merits, but it would create two categories of Member of Parliament within the UK Parliament. I am told by constitutionalists that that would undermine the constitutional nature of Parliament. Others will press the case for an extended English Grand Committee; others again will call for an English Parliament. Those ideas have their merits, but when we examine them closely, we find anomalies and imbalances.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)
The right hon. Gentleman is saying that some solutions to his problem are yet to be propounded, but is that not the fault of his party, which for 18 years presided over Scotland with a minority Government, knowing that there was a demand for constitutional change, yet making no effort whatever to come up with any solutions?
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. Gentleman suggests that I should have a solution to a question that is not of my making. I would not have started from here. The Bill is the reason that we have this problem. I have argued over and again that it should be not for us but for the Government to produce the answers and solutions to the constitutional vacuums. It is because they have abdicated their responsibility to do so that we are having to do it for them.
It is vital in this process that we look at all the options, examine them and debate them fully. Each has its attraction, but none of those attractions is untrammelled. There is much more thinking to be done if we are not to replace one imbalance just with another.
For a start, any sustainable solution must take account of certain elements: the respective duties and responsibilities of the various national groups of Members of Parliament and the limitations that devolution will impose on them; the number of constituents that those Members represent; the comparative work load that they will notionally be required to undertake; the acceptability of the roles that they might be asked to perform within a United Kingdom Parliament; and the maintenance of the link between representation and taxation. Those will almost certainly vary from English Member to Scottish Member to Welsh Member to Northern Irish Member, but any fair answer must address them. A United Kingdom Parliament where those elements are not faced will remain unbalanced and unstable. We need to find ways in which to restore that balance.
§ Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok)
If the right hon. Gentleman is interested in taking account of work load, does he intend to ensure that those hon. Members, particularly from his party, who have several outside jobs will in some way have either their salaries or responsibilities diminished, and that those Labour Members whose sole job is being a Member of Parliament will be rewarded?
§ Mr. Ancram
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell us where his hon. Friends are this afternoon and what they are doing. During this important debate on an important constitutional issue, it is extraordinary that the Labour Benches are empty.
This thought was put into my mind by a comment from the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), who very early in these debates said that he had worked out that the work load of a Scottish Member in this House would be cut by about two thirds as a result of devolution. That is something of which account has to be taken.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)
I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not allow the opportunity to pass without remarking that there are only seven Labour Back Benchers in the House.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for making that point. What is even more extraordinary—I am looking around quickly—is that I cannot see a single English Labour Member. Where are the voices of the north-east, who are so vociferous about devolution's effects on their area? Has Millbank tower given instructions that English Members should be kept 740 away from a debate that touches on English and United Kingdom matters? It will certainly be a matter for comment in their constituencies when the question is asked: where were they when the effect of devolution on their constituencies was debated, and when the vote was taken?
The new clause suggests that we should try to achieve this balance in a non-partisan and agreed way. The Secretary of State may find it very difficult to be non-partisan, but, at the moment, I am not sure that his partisanship is necessarily scoring many runs in Scotland. The new clause seeks to put this problem to an independent body to consider and to report back to the House before the die is finally cast and it is too late. Its remit should be to examine simply the respective roles and responsibilities of Members of Parliament from all four parts of a devolved United Kingdom and to recommend answers that would maximise fairness of representation, while minimising disparity of power. That would meet the imbalance of the English dimension at least.
There are many other imbalances, some affecting England, others Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Those, too, will need addressing, but not in this new clause. We may reach some on Report next week and beyond. Some imbalances may have to await the scrutiny of another place, but they will have to be dealt with.
Conservative Members did not seek devolution, but we are Unionists and will work to preserve the Union within the new devolved constitutional landscape. We will not allow the corrosion of nationalism further to unbundle the United Kingdom.
We may well have to redefine our Unionism to meet the new context. We must give new life to the concepts of partnership, of sharing problems and the means to meet them, and of strengthened unity—all of which are so essential to the Union, and all of which are so undermined by the Bill.
We must develop the dynamic and the will to sustain the United Kingdom itself. Ultimately, we must be able again to be proud of being Scottish and British, English and British, Welsh and British and Northern Irish and British. We have to renew that spirit of mutual respect upon which that is based. Although our new clause may be only a small part, it is a start in that process.
The Government, in their funk, have lost the plot in the fight to protect and sustain the Union—but the Opposition have not, and we never will.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) just now used the phrase "unbundling of the United Kingdom". I am sure that he would confirm that that phrase was coined, and constantly repeated, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) in the debates on Welsh devolution. Those who heard my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) in those debates will know exactly the entire background to the phrase "unbundling of the United Kingdom"—or, as some others have called it, "the de-wiring of the United Kingdom". I fear that that is what it is about. Above everything else, I fear the slow-burning candle of English nationalism.
The current parliamentary arithmetic—which is part of the problem—of the House disguises the whole problem in the short term. A majority of 179 is so large that it is 741 inconceivable that 72 Scottish Members will ever hold the balance in a Commons vote. However, that is not an excuse for doing nothing about a latent constitutional problem. Instead of waiting for a crisis, we should do our best to face up to it now, because there will come a time when it is no longer sustainable for Scots Members of Parliament to vote on exclusively English Bills.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It is not nonsense; it is the reality of the situation. My hon. Friend will no doubt catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to make his case on why he thinks that what I have said is wrong.
In parliamentary terms, I am a bit grizzly and ancient. Nevertheless, I remember very well the period 1964–66, when the incoming Wilson Government had a majority first of five, soon—with Patrick Gordon Walker's by-election—to be whittled down to three. I remember also the period 1974–79.
In such circumstances, the position of Scottish Members of Parliament—as they will be under the Bill—will become a matter of maximum controversy. One has only to remember the bitter things that my own Front Bench—Harold Wilson, in particular—had to say, rightly, when it came to steel nationalisation, the defections of Desmond Donnelly and Woodrow Wyatt and the position of the Irish. Given parliamentary arithmetic, what Harold Wilson had to say about the Irish will, sooner or later, apply in certain circumstances.
The truth is that an arbitrary cut in numbers of Scots Members of Parliament does not resolve the dilemma. There is an urgent constitutional question facing post-devolutionary Britain, and it is one that all of us, not least the Scots Members of Parliament, must face. It is, how is England to be governed now that the unitary state is to be fundamentally transformed? After the passing of the Bill, England is no longer, if it ever was, coterminous with the United Kingdom. If domestic affairs are to be devolved to Holyrood, some legislative entity is going to have to emerge in England to fill the vacuum left by Scottish home rule. It is important that the Scots make that point.
The situation cannot be ignored any longer. The English dimension is now on the political agenda. It is not at all satisfactory that all this should have been done within the Scottish Office, because the last time around it was done within the Cabinet Office, and that was rather a different kettle of fish.
§ Mr. Hogg
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman's argument, with which I agree, with considerable care. He has stated, quite rightly, that there is an implication for the constitution of the United Kingdom in how England is to be governed, but is there not also an implication for the party structure in the United Kingdom, in the sense that there is going to have to be a considerable gap between—the hon. Gentleman used the example of his party, but it applies equally to mine—the Labour party in Scotland and the Labour party in England and the Labour party in Wales? Their interests 742 are not going to be identical; indeed, they may end up arguing among themselves, so we may be looking at the fragmentation of the party structure.
§ Mr. Dalyell
One of the things that I have learnt from the whole question of devolution is that one should not give snap answers off the top of one's head. I mean no discourtesy to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but before giving any serious answer to his question, I shall have to look in Hansard to see exactly what he said and then reflect on it. Once one gets involved in devolution, it is as well to be extremely cautious because it is by giving snap, instant answers that one often gets into the greatest difficulty. Indeed, it may have been snap, instant answers in the mid-1970s that created many of the problems that we subsequently faced.
Paradoxically—this point does relate to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question—the only country in the United Kingdom which does not now have, or which from May 1999 onwards will not have, its own government is England, and therein lies a problem.
The self-evident problem becomes acute when a Government party has to depend on its favourable majority in Scotland to get its English business through the House of Commons. I shall leave the question in shorthand—it will be asked, how come whoever is the Member of Parliament for Linlithgow or Livingston can vote, and vote decisively, on policy in relation to Liverpool or London, on matters on which not only English but Scottish Members of Parliament cannot trespass? Unless clause 27 is operated differently from the way in which we have been led to believe it will operate, that remains a problem. That is the old, so-called West Lothian question, which I need not go into in this regard because it has become familiar.
Coupled with that is another problem, which unfortunately was not discussed because of the guillotine on clause 33 but which is relevant to this debate. It is the position of the Secretary of State, or whoever occupies that position. One of the major perceived advantages given to Scotland in the current system is the presence in the Cabinet of a senior Minister directly concerned to defend Scotland's interests. The Secretary of State's practical authority among his Cabinet colleagues has derived essentially from the Executive responsibility that he shoulders as head of the Scottish Office.
The more those responsibilities are reduced by the devolution settlement, the less standing the Secretary of State can have as anything other than a strictly irresponsible "more or better for Scotland" campaigner. If the Scottish Office has no Executive responsibilities—as the stance noted in paragraph 18 of the White Paper implies—whoever is Secretary of State is nothing but such a campaigner and a repository, megaphone whipping-boy for all the Scottish Assembly's grumbles against Westminster and Whitehall, and those grumbles will be manifest. It cannot in the long run be sensible or acceptable to non-Scottish viewpoints as a basis for a seat in the Cabinet. Nor can a substantial role sensibly be created, as paragraph 4.14 of Cmnd. 3658 seems to imply, by designating such a Secretary of State and a small supporting staff as a prime channel or bottleneck of communication on substantive issues between London and Edinburgh. The London interlocutor must surely be whichever Department is responsible for the particular subject.
743 Frankly, I believe that whoever is Secretary of State will find herself or himself in the position of Oliver Twist and in a girning position that will create maximum irritation. Any Prime Minister in Downing street will want to deal with the Prime Minister of the Holyroodhouse Parliament and not the Secretary of State in London. That issue really has to be addressed in terms of what is advantageous or unadvantageous for Scotland.
§ Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)
Is it not possible that the situation would be exacerbated by circumstances such as those that prevail at present when the entire Treasury team, including the Chancellor and his second in command, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, represent Scottish seats and sit in what basically will be an English Parliament deciding on funding matters for Scotland?
§ Mr. Dalyell
I attended the revealing and interesting Friday debate when the hon. Lady—in my opinion justifiably and legitimately—introduced a Bill proposing an English Parliament. I hate referring to previous speeches, but many hon. Members wish to speak. I was able to speak at some length that Friday morning and I stick to every word that is printed in Hansard. There is a real problem inherent in her question.
§ Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)
Does my hon. Friend accept that the proposal by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) is absolutely preposterous as it is perfectly clear that Treasury business will be a matter for the United Kingdom Parliament and will not be devolved, therefore it would be ludicrous to exclude Scottish Members from being involved in such decisions?
§ Mr. Dalyell
The difficulty is that Scottish Members will be highly dependent on the actions of those people in Great George street. I do not know whether or not he will speak, but it might be very revealing to hear what the former Conservative Chancellor, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) has to say on those matters. There would be great difficulties, not only if there were an overall Labour Government with a Conservative majority in England, but if there were a Conservative Government in Britain and a Labour Government in Scotland. In addition, I say with total friendliness to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) that he should not imagine that the difficulties would be much less if both Governments were of the same party because those in Holyroodhouse will certainly need a reason for not being able to fulfil the massive expectations that have been aroused. It is human political nature to blame someone else, so, being human, they will say, "We would have mended your roads or done this for schools or reduced waiting lists, except that we do not get the resources from those parsimonious people at the Treasury in Great George street."
§ Mr. Savidge
Do I take it that my hon. Friend would therefore consider abolishing all local councils for the same reason?
§ Mr. Dalyell
The fact that my hon. Friend equates this matter with the position of local authorities reveals volumes about his thinking. The answer is no.
744 The problem goes deeper. One aspect of the so-called West Lothian question that has been forgotten over 20 years is that the problem goes beyond voting on exclusively English legislation. One cannot escape from an equal, if not more serious, dilemma. The problem is not that of an occasional vote on legislation; it is that Scots Members with no responsibility for such matters could easily—and probably will—sooner or later determine the political colour of the English Secretaries of State for Education and Employment and for Health, the English housing Minister and the English Home Secretary.
Let us not delude ourselves that, in the circumstances created by the Bill, with a Labour Government overall and a majority of English Members that is either Conservative or Conservative and Liberal, the slow fuse of English nationalism would not be ignited. Having voted, rightly or wrongly—wrongly, as I would think, but rightly, as others might think—by a majority for a party different from that with an overall majority in the United Kingdom, people in England would ask why Members of Parliament who had no responsibility for matters relating to them—or, incidentally, for matters relating to the Scottish electorate who elected them—should determine the political complexion of the Secretaries of State heading the great spending Departments of Government. That situation cannot continue. There is no escape from a position in which the political colour of the head of a spending Department, dealing with English health, education and local government, can be imposed by hon. Members for Scotland.
The position now is, as it has always been—devolution in anything resembling the form in which it is proposed is a staging post, a halfway house, or a springboard to something else. Liberal Democrat Members think that it will lead to federalism—I see them nodding, so I am not distorting their position. Scottish National party Members think, as I do, that this is a paving Bill—I see them also nodding—towards the dissolution of the United Kingdom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Independence."] It is coming to that. That, rightly or wrongly, is what I think.
How long can this last? How long can the Bill endure? Of course it will endure for this Parliament, given the parliamentary arithmetic, and it may well endure for the next Parliament. If we are to take the Bill seriously, we must think about the long term. The Bill is not a settlement. The deal must not be seen by the English majority, at the outset or as experience builds up, as giving Scotland one-sided privileges and advantages of an unacceptable kind or scale. Unless that condition is met, there is no chance of the Bill enduring in the form that those who proposed it presumably hope that it will endure. Carrying on as before is simply not an option. An ancient Labour Member of Parliament must warn his colleagues—although they have not exactly exuded gratitude for this—that, come May 1999, some of us will not he able to bring ourselves to vote on matters that are exclusively English and over which we shall have no control.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Not for the moment; I must be brief. 745 If we are facing a break-up, and either federalism or independence is decisively what people want, so be it. If Scotland is to be a separate country from England in the European Community—I admit that that is a point of view—at least we better know about it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If people in Scotland do not want such a situation, they ought to have one last opportunity to say so. I believe—it is not up to me, and I shall be doubly unpopular for saying this—that the other place, as a revising Chamber, has a responsibility in this matter to reflect on whether there should be, as I think there should, a post-legislative referendum. It should be on the question: "Are you sure that you want a Scottish Parliament, with the inevitable consequence that Scotland either becomes part of a federal set up or becomes an independent country?"
Whether one likes it or not, that is the reality that we face. People in Scotland ought to be allowed to make up their minds. The pre-legislative referendum seemed a very cunning device, but as people wake up to the reality of the choice, they may find that that choice is a little different. We must bend our minds on whether they should at least be given that choice.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)
As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) correctly anticipated, Liberal Democrats see the Bill as part of a developmental process for a re-casting of the United Kingdom constitution and the entire role of Westminster. I shall address our preferred option of federalism in that context later.
I speak as one who has an on-going personal interest, not just for the remainder of this Parliament but, God and the electorate willing, in future Parliaments, in serving in Westminster as a Scottish Member of Parliament post-devolution. I say that in terms of personal interest, but not in a personalised way about the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). It is significant that the new clause does not even reveal any potential further developments or solutions, despite being very heavy on analysis of the problem, as the Conservative and Unionist parties see it.
The new clause is also significant given the role of the right hon. Member for Devizes in Scottish as well as United Kingdom politics since 1983, when I entered the House. He must carry, along with several of his colleagues from the 1980s in particular and into the 1990s, a very heavy responsibility for part of the problem about which he is now so fixated—much of which others and I think could have been averted if the Conservative Government had had the sensitivity, sense and, ultimately, the self-interest to realise that they had to appeal and respond much more to the growing sense of frustration in Scotland. The Scots voted consistently against not just the Government in power but the style of government and the substance of policy that was increasingly being imposed in a heavy-handed and arrogant way on Scotland.
In the previous roles of the right hon. Member for Devizes, both as chairman of the Scottish Tory party and then as a Minister in the Scottish Office, I remember him 746 on many occasions arguing to a standstill with the massed ranks of opposition—which, in those days, comprised Labour, the Scottish National party and the Alliance—that, having examined, for example, the method of local government finance in Scotland, there was absolutely no conceivable practical alternative to the poll tax. Although the Scots were clearly dead against it, it had to be imposed because nothing else could be done.
The Tories all had to change their tune a few years later when there was a leadership change and, suddenly, that was no longer the appropriate script. That kind of approach began to sow the seeds which led to the Conservative party's downfall, and that is why it is so difficult to take seriously the analysis of the right hon. Gentleman today.
§ Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
I should declare an interest, in that I stood against the hon. Gentleman in Ross, Cromarty and Skye in 1992. If what he says is correct, and if the people of Scotland were so massively opposed to the Conservative party, why was the largest swing in the UK against the Liberal Democrats in Ross, Cromarty and Skye? The swing was 5.6 per cent. and the hon. Gentleman lost 5,000 votes to the Conservative party. Why?
§ Mr. Kennedy
You might bring me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I entertained the House with tales of the 1992 Ross, Cromarty and Skye general election campaign. Suffice to say that it is both pleasant and significant to see the hon. Gentleman representing his present constituency, because there was never a snowball's chance in hell that he would ever represent mine.
§ Mr. Kennedy
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about Ross, Cromarty and Skye or the new clause, but I would be interested to find out.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. Gentleman was talking about the effect of our policies in the past 18 years on our standing in Scotland. I wonder whether he could explain why, given his views and his party's policies—which he believes are so attractive to the people of Scotland—he and his party are standing below us in the opinion polls today.
§ Mr. Kennedy
The proof of the pudding, and the comparative popularity of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, will be revealed in 12 months. If I were the right hon. Gentleman. I would not hold my breath about coming third in the election.
Despite the high-minded tone of the right hon. Gentleman, what the Tories are up to with the new clause and their argument is typical of the Tory party throughout history—adopting, in an apparently moral stance, a concern for the wider Union, the empire or whatever. It is all dressed up in that way because it is nothing but naked, belligerent and opportunistic self-interest.
If anything brings home that fact, it is that, between 1992 and 1997—and a fat lot of good it did the Tory party—the previous Secretary of State for Scotland, 747 the arch-Unionist himself, based his entire strategy, and was quite open about it, on trying to talk up the Scottish National party, the supposed deepest foes of any Unionist party, because he hoped to split the vote and, by default, recapture seats here and there which, under first-past-the-post politics, he knew would not otherwise be open to persuasion in the Conservative interest.
All I can say is that one cannot put forward an argument and table a new clause to the Bill on the Floor of the House and present oneself as an arch-Unionist while being willing to run with the hounds and hares of nationalism for self-interested reasons. That was the approach of Michael Forsyth then, and that is why the argument of the Tories now is vacuous.
§ Mr. Kennedy
The hon. Gentleman should go and talk to Michael Forsyth, as many of us did throughout that period. Michael Forsyth was under no illusions about what he was up to.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I know Michael Forsyth—he is a friend of mine. It is slightly odd for the hon. Gentleman to caricature his campaign as Secretary of State for Scotland—when he was constantly warning against the dangers of nationalism—as somehow aiding and abetting nationalism. If that is the topsy-turvy logic that the hon. Gentleman is using in the debate, he is running away from the truth—not us.
§ Mr. Kennedy
I shall not dwell further on history. Suffice to say that Michael Forsyth was warning against nationalism, of course, but he was also talking it up and trying to give it a focus in that campaign because he thought that, if he could polarise the debate into a choice between Conservatism and Unionism or nationalism, he would win. The Scottish people were not taken in—we are a good deal more sophisticated and subtle about recognising that there is a range of options. I shall turn to those.
First, this entire House is a range of historic inconsistencies. Hon. Members have only to look at the role of Irish Members earlier this century, when precisely the dangers or difficulties alluded to in West Lothianism were the order of the day.
§ Mr. Kennedy
Yes; but, with the reimposition of direct rule, there were subsequent changes under the Callaghan Administration to take account of that fact and, indeed, such provisions are included in the proposed legislation. We have long since accepted that. Once we have Scottish devolution, at an appropriate juncture there will have to be a re-evaluation—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Where?"] It is in the legislation. There will have to be a re-evaluation of the basis on which Scottish Members are sent to Westminster. Of course, that will have a logical sequential effect on the number of Scottish Members sent to Westminster. I think that that accounts for the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
748 Historic inconsistency has been a recurrent feature of this place. If one were to start with a blank sheet of paper and draw up a constitution for the United Kingdom today, I doubt whether one would begin with something with the shape and substance of what we have. At least those who are engaged in that process in Scotland and Wales have a terrific opportunity. If one were drawing up a basis for operating a Parliament, as they are doing—considering potential Standing Orders and procedures, how to go about legislation and all the rest of it—one would not adopt the procedures that have been imposed on us in this place, as they hardly take into account how a modern and multifaceted democracy such as ours, with different nation states involved, should be structured.
§ Dr. Godman
On the inconsistencies, the hon. Gentleman mentioned that, sooner or later, we would be faced with a choice between the break-up of the United Kingdom and setting up a federal United Kingdom. In the meantime, how would he deal with the inconsistencies that characterise this place?
§ Mr. Kennedy
I shall be happy to come to that matter in a moment.
The final weakness of the argument put by the Conservatives at the beginning of the debate is that, despite all that period in office and all the great thinking that apparently went on about the different constitutional options, the one practical proposal that they came up with to deal with the anomalies, frustrations and shortcomings of the political system and the business of political administration was called "taking stock" and, as far as any of us who were involved in it can recall, it simply involved turning the Scottish Grand Committee into a rolling roadshow.
The Scottish people were not taken in by that either. As the then Secretary of State discovered to his increasing misfortune, once they had realised that the Committee need not merely be an opportunity for some pump-priming or pulpit politics from the Secretary of State in different parts of Scotland, it became a much bigger opportunity, from Stornoway to Selkirk, for some of the largest demonstrations against the Conservative Government, so the whole thing ended up backfiring in their faces. The inadequacy of the Conservative party in and out of office in trying to produce practical solutions to tackle those genuine political problems has been a great difficulty indeed.
What of the role of Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster after the devolutionary settlement and further into the life of the Scottish, and indeed the Welsh, Parliaments? I do not know how others react, but I am amused by those occasional newspaper accounts of how Westminster Members of Parliament from Scotland and from Wales—and presumably from Northern Ireland, too, if an assembly is established there—will become part-time. Anyone who has tried to fulfil both Scottish and United Kingdom roles in party politics as well as in institutionalised Westminster politics will testify to the contradictions, conflicts and frustrations that can arise. I think that people will accept that, if politicians have 749 more time in which to do their job, they will be able to work in a more informed and detailed way, which will make for better representation at both levels.
§ Mr. Kennedy
I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to be overburdened either, as I care about his welfare. I hope that, in due course, he will be the beneficiary of an evolved system under which he can perform his role more efficiently and effectively—we all know that, under the present Westminster system, there is inefficiency and ineffectiveness.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Gentleman's argument is facile, as he knows. He looks forward to the day when the 500 English Members will have as little to do—and be as genuinely idle—as those Scottish Members who will be sent to Westminster after devolution and who will have very few subjects with which to deal. That is not a good enough answer to the West Lothian question.
§ Mr. Kennedy
The right hon. Gentleman hails from my constituency—he comes from the Black isle, a place that is associated with sound logic. If he thinks about the sound logic of what he is saying and what I am saying, he will realise that it surely makes sense from a reformist point of view to want a United Kingdom House of Commons to operate more efficiently and more effectively for all Members from all parts of that United Kingdom. The Bill represents a significant improvement for those of us who represent constituencies in the Scottish nation. Other parts of the United Kingdom will now have to address their different concerns, paramount among which is what will happen in England.
I have no great ambition, post-Scottish devolution, to cast a vote in the Division Lobbies of the House of Commons on specifically English legislative matters. A system will have to evolve that can take account of the fact that the democratic deficit in the United Kingdom will be most manifest in England. England will have to resolve that in one of several ways: English Members may want to meet as a specifically English Parliament; the best way forward for the predominant partner in the United Kingdom in terms of population may be to move in a more federal direction; or there may need to be a specifically English Grand Committee. The House of Commons will have to be a good deal more open minded and constructive in finding a solution for England than the Conservative party has been in its attitude to Scottish and Welsh devolution.
§ Mr. Hogg
I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman has said that he does not want to vote on exclusively English business. Will he associate himself with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in stating that, after the Bill is enacted and the Scottish Parliament has become operational, he will not vote on English business? May I take it that the hon. Gentleman and other Scottish Liberal Democrat Members will not vote on English business when there is a Scottish Parliament?
§ Mr. Kennedy
No. I chose my words with care and was being quite frank. I have no ambition—I do not think 750 that, in due course, other Scottish Members will have, either—to vote on English matters after a set of constitutional arrangements has evolved that makes sense of the anomalies across the United Kingdom.
I find the new clause almost offensive in its supposition, which is an historic mistake, that, because a solution is being fashioned to a set of problems in the United Kingdom—or two sets of problems, if we include Wales—the way in which to deal with outstanding problems affecting England is to turn the guns on those who have made progress towards resolving the anomalies under which they suffer. That is not an appropriate way forward.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's last comment. I invite him to tell the House to what in the new clause he objects as part of the evolving process of which he has said he approves.
§ Mr. Kennedy
The new clause focuses on the continuing role, responsibilities, duties, performance and contribution of Members of Parliament representing only one part of the United Kingdom—Scotland. Surely it would be far better to focus on the part of the United Kingdom where outstanding problems will genuinely present themselves—across England.
I do not know the solution to the English question. Some Labour Members have mooted the possibility of more regionalism in England—indeed, we are seeing the first signs of that. Perhaps there will be an English Parliament. I strongly suspect that, in the context of a developing European Union, the only way in which to make sense of this entire patchwork is a federal United Kingdom, in which there are specified powers and responsibilities at each tier of representation, and the Westminster Parliament operates federally on items of United Kingdom business that truly carry repercussions and legislative implications across Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England—irrespective of whether England is unitary or made up of the regions. That would be a far better approach than the one suggested in the new clause. Moreover, we should not talk down the on-going parliamentary role of United Kingdom Members of Parliament.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow spoke about conflict, and there have been many predictions of a battleground inevitably opening up between Edinburgh and London. I do not doubt that there will be tensions—practical politics suggests that there will be—or that there will be political conflicts from time to time. However, a much more immediate and perhaps more telling source of tension and conflict may be within Scotland itself-between the various local authorities and the Edinburgh legislative body. In many ways, I hope that that is so, as it may encourage greater autonomy in different parts of Scotland on such subjects as local income tax or whether there should be proportional representation in elections to local authorities.
As the Secretary of State knows, Liberal Democrats welcome the recognition, in the White Paper and in the Bill, that the role of the Secretary of State will not only be highly diminished but—I think that the White Paper acknowledges this—in due course wither on the vine. We also welcome the recognition that the number of Scottish Members of Parliament will have to be reduced. 751 As has been said, the role of the political parties will also change. Liberal Democrats have experience of that, as our party already operates federally. The relationships between London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and elsewhere across the political parties will become significantly different. That will bring fresh problems, but it will also mean that politics as a whole will have a far less top-down approach than under the current unitary and centralised system.
It is surely good that, after devolution, UK Ministers will have fewer territorial responsibilities and so will have to behave with greater regional sensitivities, both within England and to the different political cultures that will then be fully apparent in Scotland and in Wales.
We acknowledge that there are further problems. This is, to coin a phrase, very much unfinished business, in the sense that, even when the Bill is enacted and the Scottish Parliament is up and running, there will be a serious job for the House of Commons to do on a United Kingdom basis in examining its structures and procedures and the roles and inputs of Members of Parliament from different parts of the country.
Some have argued consistently that this Parliament will not have a real, on-going role, but I believe that that is a wrong analysis. Those of us who hope in due course to contribute to the workings of the House under the new, devolved procedures look forward with considerable relish to doing so. Any problems could not be adequately addressed by the new clause or by the general approach of Conservative Members, so we shall certainly not join them in the Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, North and Leith)
I welcome this debate on the West Lothian question. Some people latch on to the question as a rationalisation of their unremitting hostility to any constitutional change, but the issue none the less needs to be debated and clarified.
I make it clear at the outset that I am perfectly relaxed about asymmetric devolution, which is practised in many countries; if asymmetry is regarded as an anomaly, hon. Members should reflect on the anomalies that already exist and are probably inherent in the Union of four nations of greatly different sizes.
I read the new clause with interest. It reminded me of the description by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), of Scottish Members of Parliament after devolution as ships lost in the fog. I have thought about it a great deal, and it occurs to me that the functions of Scottish Members here after devolution will not be all that different. The simple reality is that great areas will be reserved—the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) seemed to forget that they would be reserved—including defence, foreign affairs, social security and the Treasury.
Interested as Labour Members are in Scottish affairs, the opportunities to scrutinise and debate them in the House are negligible. What will be different after devolution? Apart from Scottish questions once a month—there could even be an argument for keeping them—little time is spent scrutinising Scottish affairs in the House. The first anomaly of the present situation is that Scottish affairs are devolved to the Scottish Office, but there is no time to scrutinise them in the House.
752 With due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), this is not a unitary state, but a Union of four nations. For 100 years, the equivalent of nine Whitehall Ministries have been devolved to the Scottish Office. The core argument for the Bill is that it is about good government for Scotland. Some of us cannot wait to have a parliament in which we can talk about the health service, housing, local government and other issues in Scotland—all matters which have been devolved.
We have to force ourselves to be patient when we hear Conservative Members speaking about future scenarios, because we remember that from 1979 to 1997, all the affairs of the Scottish Office were run by a party that was voted against in Scotland at general election after general election. That is a far greater anomaly than the so-called West Lothian question.
For 18 years, English Members imposed their will against the views of the people of Scotland, but in the whole of this century, there have been only two years—from October 1964 to March 1966 and from February to October in 1974—when there was any possibility of Scottish Members imposing their views on the House; and that will become even less likely when, as I hope will happen, the United Kingdom Parliament changes to a proportional representation system.
Mr. Edward Gamier (Harborough)
On the basis of the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made, presumably he regrets the fact that the previous Labour Government had any influence whatever on arrangements in Northern Ireland. There are no Labour Members in Northern Ireland.
I thought that my point was simple. The hon. Gentleman is complaining that, for 18 years, his country, Scotland, was dominated by the Government formed by a Conservative party that, he correctly claimed, did not have a majority in that country. To follow the logic of that point, he must accept that Labour, both now and when it was previously in government, could have no business interfering in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Chisholm
Northern Ireland is to get its form of devolution as well. My point is that, whatever system of government we have for a Union of four nations, there will be some anomalies. I am pointing out the anomaly of the past 18 years and asking Conservative Members to weigh it against the anomaly that they describe. I am quite prepared to accept that what they are going to talk about for the next five hours is, indeed, an anomaly, but it is less of an anomaly than what we have had for the past 18 years, because the prospect of English Members of Parliament imposing their views on Scotland is many times greater than that of the Scottish majority imposing their views on England.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
A constitutional settlement that lasted for 290 years, until last November, established that we were a body corporate: what affected one of us, affected all of us; the concern of one of us was the concern of all of us. The Government decided to change that arrangement and to disband the unitary state. They are groping towards a new constitution 753 in which there is a serious anomaly. That is an entirely different situation from the anomaly that the hon. Gentleman described.
§ Mr. Chisholm
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but my point is that it is a different kind of anomaly. There is an asymmetry inherent in the fact that a large nation, called England, is joined with three smaller nations, called Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Because England is so big, there is far more likelihood of the scenario that we had from 1979 to 1997 arising than the scenario that forms the main theme of Conservative Members' speeches. The hon. Gentleman is simplifying the position. There is no symmetry inherent in the present situation. He is also wrong, in that we do not have a unitary state. He has reinforced my point about the anomalies of having devolution without scrutiny and of having English Members imposing their views on Scotland.
We have lived with anomalies for 100 years, and Conservative Members have lived with them because they believe in the Union. The real question is whether they are prepared to put up with an anomaly that is no greater than the anomalies that we have grown used to over the past 100 years.
§ Mr. Grieve
I do not understand that last point. Why should we as Unionists put up with an anomaly that can and should be addressed as part of the total constitutional package that goes with Scottish devolution?
§ Mr. Chisholm
I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he will give his answer to the West Lothian question. The interesting thing about that question is the fact that most people who ask it have no intention of giving an answer; they ask it only because they think that there is no answer. I am glad that the wider section of the Conservative party is engaging with the question.
Many countries have asymmetric devolution. Spain is most often cited and provides the most interesting example. Different regions of Spain have varying degrees of devolution, yet they all come together in their central Parliament to discuss Spanish issues. First, if Spain and many other countries can live with that, it cannot be so incredible and anomalous. I shall listen to what people say; they can have objections, but it is a perfectly defensible and normal constitutional framework.
Secondly, the decision is up to the House. If the House in its wisdom decides that it wants to devolve certain matters to certain areas—some to Northern Ireland, some to Wales, some to Scotland and, in due course, some to the regions of England, it can live with what it has decided.
§ Mr. Grieve
Matters have moved on slightly since I first tried to intervene, so I shall adjust my question. Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the creation of the United Kingdom was the coming together of two sovereign independent states, and that the change proposed is different from the situation in Spain, where there are regions? This is a matter of two sovereign states, and the unbundling comes through addressing the requirements of one without addressing the requirements of the other.
§ Mr. Chisholm
That is an interesting point, but I would turn that argument against the hon. Gentleman and say that if such a system works in Spain, where there are regions, so much more should a party that is supposed to believe in the Union have respect for the separate nations of the United Kingdom.
I come back to the idea that the key determinant of the future of the settlement lies with the official Opposition rather than, as some now assume, with the Scottish National party. Notwithstanding the polls in Scotland, about which much has been said, I do not believe that they show such a high level of support for independence.
The argument will continue between devolution and independence, but I believe that the future of the Union will be determined by the attitude of the Conservative party to the settlement more than by anything else. I am glad to see that in Scotland, many of the wiser voices of Conservatism have decided that as devolution is what the Scottish people want, they will come together to make the settlement work. That is the Unionist voice of the Conservative and Unionist party.
However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow reminded us, the real danger is English nationalism—although it does not seem to me that it is out there now. Obviously, I do not know England as well as some Conservative Members do, but all the polls and all the evidence suggest that people in England are relaxed about the constitutional settlement. A great burden therefore rests on the Conservative party not to fan the flames of English nationalism. The main threat is the danger of English nationalism in the House making the settlement in Scotland unstable.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me once more; I shall not intervene again. Does he agree that it would be tremendously helpful, especially in view of what he has said about people being tranquil and relaxed about the proposals, if some of his English hon. Friends would come and participate in the debate, and engage in discussion to convince us of that fact?
§ Mr. Chisholm
As reference has been made to the number of Labour Members here, I shall take the opportunity to explain that several Select Committees, including the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, are sitting at this moment, which may explain why some of my hon. Friends are not here.
§ Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)
Does that explain why not one English Labour Member has taken part in the discussion of the Bill from Second Reading until now?
§ Mr. Chisholm
Various points have been made by the Opposition, and different interpretations of them can be made. In a sense, what the hon. Gentleman says backs up my contention that my English colleagues are not getting weighty mailbags suggesting that their constituents are concerned. That is another reason why the onus is on the Opposition to behave responsibly and to behave as Unionists, rather than as English nationalists, on the question.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a little ludicrous for hon. Gentlemen to 755 talk about our unbundling two nations that were joined together, as if they had come together voluntarily? He must have a distorted view of history. The Act of Union with Wales came about as a result of the English having conquered Wales. The idea that devolution is creating English nationalism is ludicrous too. English nationalism has always existed. Many people in this country, especially Conservative Members of Parliament, rarely talk about Great Britain; they always talk about England.
§ Mr. Chisholm
I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. I would like to draw my remarks to a close—
§ Mr. Robathan
The hon. Gentleman has talked about fanning the flames of English nationalism. I have always considered myself British, and always talk about being British rather than being English. It is the people of Scotland, especially the Scottish nationalists, who have fanned the flames of Scottish nationalism. My constituents do not understand what will happen yet, but they will. When they discover that Scottish Members of Parliament are telling them how their health service will work, but they can have no influence on the way in which the Scottish health service works, we shall see English nationalism. I shall regret that, and I will not fan its flames, but the hon. Gentleman must understand that what he advocates is leading to the break-up of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Chisholm
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and no doubt we shall hear those arguments used again. I repeat my argument that that situation would have arisen in only two years during the previous hundred years and is unlikely to arise again—although clearly it is possible. Moreover, that anomaly must be balanced against the other anomalies that I have described.
§ Mr. Chisholm
I think that somebody else has the exact figures, but my understanding is that that applies only to the early part of that Labour Government—and I repeat the point about proportional representation.
§ Dr. Godman
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) talked about a Union between two independent nations, but I seem to recall reading that at the time, Daniel Defoe called the Union a marriage of convenience. Perhaps marriages have come under certain strains in recent years. Does my hon. Friend agree that Conservative Members are ignoring the fact that the constitutional change is to some extent a reflection of, or a reaction to, the legitimate and honourable aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people?
§ Mr. Chisholm
I have been trying to finish for the past four interventions, and I shall not take any more. 756 In conclusion, asymmetric and incremental devolution is a living constitution for our four nations. Let us remember that we are a Union of four nations, and let us not hear any more talk about a unitary state; we have not been that for more than a hundred years, since the formation of the Scottish Office.
The key question tonight is: do the official Opposition want the new settlement to work? I am glad that most Conservatives in Scotland have now come round to that point of view, and I hope that their English colleagues will catch up with them.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) has made an entertaining speech. I was entertained by his contribution, but I was also alarmed by it, because it is obvious that he has come here with a light-hearted approach to constitution making.
What worries me about Labour Members is not when they disagree with our opinions, but when they are incapable of seeing that we have any point of view at all. The hon. Gentleman's reaction is that all that we say is slightly irrelevant, that there is no genuine constitutional point and that the whole of our argument can be answered by accusing the Opposition of being English nationalists who are against devolution. New clause I is a far weightier matter than that and it will not be dismissed in that way, any more than what the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) says can be dismissed.
I shall anticipate what the hon. Gentleman might reply before he stands up to do so, and say that it is true that for as long as I have been a Member of the House, and a member of the Government as I was until the election of May 1997, I have been an opponent of devolution and a supporter of the United Kingdom Parliament. However, I accept that the Scottish people have decided the question conclusively. I concede that an overwhelming mandate has been given to the present Government to give Scotland its devolved government and parliament, and I come here intending to find a way in which to live in harmony with that Scottish Parliament.
I am an English Conservative and Unionist. It is absurd to dismiss my fears of the Bill and my point of view on the new clause as those of an English nationalist. I am not an English nationalist, and I will not be made into one by the fact that those proposals have come forward. I am not in favour of a federal constitution for the United Kingdom, and I fail to see why I should be converted to the notion of a federal constitution in order to accommodate Scottish Labour Members, who have considerable difficulty in answering the important basic question.
As an English Conservative and Unionist, I believe that it is important that we address the constitutional change in such a way as to determine for all of us that the essential elements of a constitution are in place when we have finished. The first element of a constitution is stability—for a time, until it evolves again. I hate to hear all the talk of the moving picture and where we go next, which seems to be accepted on all sides.
The other important element is constitutional legitimacy for the decisions of Government and the votes of the House, because that is what the enviable stability of the United Kingdom over the past two centuries has 757 been based on. The passions and votes on the Floor of the House have never led to the legitimacy of decisions of the House of Commons being questioned.
It ill behoves the House to treat this as a Scottish matter that can be lightly dismissed; there is a serious question, which for 20 years nobody has been able to answer. It is called the West Lothian question and we keep going back to it. I am delighted to take part in a debate with the hon. Member for Linlithgow, who first brought the issue to the attention of the House in the late 1970s, when he represented the constituency of West Lothian. No one could answer the question then and its being asked was the first fatal wound inflicted then on the previous attempt to bring about Scottish devolution. One could see that attempt start to decay as the West Lothian question was not addressed and it collapsed because the then Government's parliamentary majority was no longer sustained by Scottish Members of Parliament. Now the West Lothian question is simply being swept away because, for the time being, the party in power has such overwhelming parliamentary arithmetic in its favour that it has decided that it does not want to answer it. Just like the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith, the Government like to pretend that the question does not exist.
§ Dr. Godman
The right hon. and learned Gentleman used the interesting phrase "constitutional legitimacy". Does he agree that the constitutional legitimacy of political institutions is conferred on them by the electorate? What has happened in recent years in Scotland is that the overwhelming majority of the electorate have withdrawn their approval for the constitutional legitimacy of this place. Whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman likes change or whether he favours stability, we need to examine why the vast majority of the people have withdrawn their approval and therefore that legitimacy from this place.
§ Mr. Clarke
I accept that, for the same reason that I accept that a Scottish Parliament is something to which the House must now give its consent. I accept that the crushing mandate against us was probably produced by the fact that our continuing resistance to devolution made the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland appear to be an English party. I shall support the efforts of my friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind to give back a Scottish identity to the Conservative and Unionist party.
However, it is not enough to declare that there is a mandate for a Scottish Parliament. The whole of the United Kingdom Parliament must now accommodate itself to that reality, but, within that, it must address the legitimate constitutional fears of those who say that devolution must be put in place without destroying the legitimacy of the British constitution and the legitimacy of all those who sit in the United Kingdom Parliament.
There is another big unanswered question, on which I was tempted to intervene earlier as a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. I refer to the proposed financial set-up, whereby there will be different levels of income tax north and south of the border, and difficulties relating to the maintenance of the Barnett formula and to the role of the Secretary of State in the Cabinet and his ability to defend 758 the Barnett formula or anything like it. That is another big issue, albeit out of order in this debate, but it is dwarfed by the issue we are debating today.
We are told that we have to face the fact that there will still be many Scottish Members of Parliament who have no right whatever to vote on Scottish health, Scottish education, Scottish transport, or Scottish housing, but who will have the full right to vote on those matters where they affect England. That goes absolutely to the heart of the willingness of all our constituents to accept the decisions that come out of Parliament as they always have, no matter how bitter the political debate that has lain behind them.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
Why is the right hon. and learned Gentleman so exercised about the prospect of Scottish Members of Parliament being able to vote on English affairs that will not affect their constituents, when he and many other right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches were quite prepared to vote to impose on Scotland a poll tax that did not apply to their constituents?
§ Mr. Clarke
That is the argument that has just been put forward by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith and I regard it as the political knockabout argument. Of course, for 18 years there was a Conservative majority in this place but no Conservative majority in Scotland, and I voted for measures that were opposed by the majority of Scottish Members of Parliament. Similarly, I have served in a Parliament in which I have bitterly opposed the measures adopted by a Labour Government and lost because the Scottish Members of Parliament provided that Government with a majority. I have not looked up the figures so as to be able to be historically precise, but I should be amazed if it were not the case that between 1974 and 1979, when the Conservatives were in opposition. the then Labour Government were sustained by a Scottish majority for a large proportion of the time.
However, at that time, the Government as a whole were answerable to the House; the Scottish block was something for which the Chancellor was accountable to the House; and how the block was allocated was something that the House could discuss. There have been, until now, intricate arrangements between the two parts of the United Kingdom, which ensured that we all accepted that we did not take apart the Division lists, work out the nationality of the constituency represented and seek to question the constitutional authority of the Government of the day to pursue their aims. Those arrangements are being completely taken apart.
There is an anomaly, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith frankly conceded. It is an anomaly with which the Scottish Members of Parliament and the Scottish Parliament will no longer have to live, but the English public and English Members of Parliament are being told, "You must live with it, because there are more of you and if you look back into our recent history, you will see that you have not been on the receiving end quite so frequently as the Scottish." That may be a good political argument, although I suspect that it goes down better in Edinburgh than in Nottinghamshire, 759 but it is not a serious contribution to the making of the constitution of a modern industrial state. Rather than answering the question, that argument shows an inability to do so.
I have followed the debates on the Bill, but not spoken until now. However, the longer we go on, the more glad I am to see a new clause that focuses on the fatal flaw in the proposal. Throughout, the Government have offered but one solution: they have said that they will accept that there will be a reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament. That is an advance, because in all the arguments over devolution in the past, I heard many passionate devolutionists argue strongly against the whole idea of reducing the number of Scottish Members of Parliament; it used to be regarded as an anti-Scottish proposition. However, the Government have moved and offered us some as yet to be determined diminution in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament to deal with the peculiarly anomalous situation of their playing a role in English affairs.
The way in which the Government have done that is utterly absurd. When one asks when we are to have that reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament, it transpires that the parliamentary arithmetic determines that the answer is not yet—we must wait for some time before it happens. It is absurd that the Government's sole response is to shelter behind the alleged administrative difficulties of putting that solution into statute and authorising and instructing the boundary commissioners to go ahead. They argue that, for the time being, they must retain more than 70 Scottish Members of Parliament and promise that that number will, at some point in the future, be diminished.
That is not an answer. It is inevitable that there will be a reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament, but their numbers are not the problem. The heart of the problem is the basis on which they seek to exercise their vote in matters that affect England. I have listened in vain for any solution to that problem from Labour Members, but I believe that my constituents will one day demand an answer.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
The last part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's contribution underlines the fact that he is sorely missed on the Conservative Front Bench. Perhaps he will return there one day. He is always precise in his remarks, so can I ask whether he is recommending that Conservative candidates in Scotland should stand on a platform that, if the Conservatives ever return to government, Conservative Members and other Scottish Members of Parliament will be disbarred from voting on any matter to do with England for as long as there is a Scottish Parliament?
§ Mr. Clarke
My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), as the official spokesman on constitutional matters for our party, must be a little circumspect. The new clause asks for an inquiry. Before it is used against me on issues involving a simple Scottish question, I must say that I believe that it is inevitable that the proposition put by the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) is where we shall go. That is my solution. It is only a matter of time before we arrive at that position.
When talking in my constituency, I do not use the example of Linlithgow because I always use the example of Dunfermline, East, the constituency of my successor at 760 the Treasury. It is ridiculous that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), will have no right to vote on schools, hospitals and roads in his constituency, but will have a right to vote on issues affecting my constituency. That will not be sustained.
It has been said that our constituents are not aroused by that prospect, and that is true. I am disappointed by the fact that there is little public awareness in England of the significance of these constitutional issues. That will change. Time and again, the House has passed legislation on extraordinary propositions and nobody really appreciated what the public reaction would be. The public react when they are at the receiving end of a decision that affects their daily lives. If the Labour party wishes to be cheered up by an example, I can tell them that that is what happened on the poll tax. There was remarkably little interest from the general public—there was a great deal of interest in the House—as we considered that legislation. When it was imposed, we discovered that the British public in both Scotland and England were not indifferent to that change in the way in which they were taxed. It did not last very long.
The first time that something deeply controversial affects the health authority, schooling, higher education or transport system in my constituency and it becomes obvious that it has been done only because the shadow Scottish Members with no responsibility in their own constituencies have imposed it on mine, there will be a strong reaction. It would be ostrich-like to pretend that such a situation will not arise. If, for all time, English Members are to be disbarred from voting on matters of that kind in Scotland—I take no comfort from clause 27(7) which, in theory, deals with that right because it will not be invoked for that purpose because English Members will not vote to impose on Scotland matters within the competence of the Scottish Parliament—sooner or later, Scottish Members of Parliament will be prevented from voting on all the matters where competence has been transferred to Edinburgh whenever English, Welsh or other issues arise. For Scottish Labour Members to pretend otherwise is a mistake. The position of the hon. Member for Linlithgow is honourable and logical. It is what he has predicted for 20 years. He is volunteering for a position that others will have imposed on them before long.
§ Mr. Hogg
My right hon. and learned Friend has said that his constituents in Rushcliffe will not long tolerate the imposition of measures voted on by Scottish Members. There is a further point that his constituents will wish to keep in mind. The constituents of the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) will not be affected by the decision that that right hon. Gentleman is imposing on my right hon. and learned Friend's constituents.
§ Mr. Clarke
My right hon. and learned Friend is right.
There is another matter of slightly less constitutional significance than the voting but which will have a big effect on public opinion. If a Secretary of State for Education and Employment, who happens to be a Scottish Secretary of State sustained by a Scottish majority, imposes a policy that is unpopular in England and the discontented parents of England realise that his policies are not affecting the children of his constituents, it is 761 inescapable that there will be high feeling. It is no good saying that it will be English nationalists who raise that view; it will be a potent problem.
Over the first 12 months of Labour rule in this country, various things have happened, but the Government's insistence on rushing through this Bill without addressing this long-asked question is one of the poison pills that may poison their affairs at some time in the future and will certainly poison the affairs of some future Government unless it is addressed. If we are to live with a devolved Parliament—I accept that we shall—the solution is to have an inquiry which comes to the conclusion that Scottish Members must not vote on English issues where English Members will not have a vote in Scotland.
§ Mr. Leigh
With respect to my right hon. and learned Friend, his solution that Scottish Members should not be allowed to vote on purely English business is no solution at all. After a general election, a Government will have to be formed based on the entirety of Members of this Parliament. If my right hon. and learned Friend's solution were to be adopted, we would have the absurd situation where Scottish Members were sitting in a United Kingdom Cabinet, voting to impose certain matters on England and then not being allowed to vote in the Division Lobby. The whole point of the West Lothian question is that there is no answer.
§ Mr. Clarke
That would take us away from the rather monolithic politics of the past few years, but not in the way I desire because I have never been in favour of this change. The Cabinet of the day will have to have regard to its parliamentary majority. We shall have a Government who are by no means sure of their parliamentary majority in many matters affecting English domestic politics. If such a Government wish to remain in office, they will have to accommodate themselves to that. They will have to produce policies that they can get through the House of Commons. That is a problem which all Governments face. We may get an odd version of that in the House in the future if we have a Labour Government who have to accept that they cannot pursue their chosen policies in England in all those areas where they have transferred competence.
I conclude where I began. We must consider not only the narrow issue, but where we are going if the House just passes legislation that does not answer the necessary questions, decides that it is too difficult, gives devolution a go and waits to see what happens next. If that happens, we shall have to come back to address these issues in Parliament before long. Also, we shall see a profound effect on the politics of Scotland and England while the discontent rumbles.
So far, that may not have occurred very much in England, but it is already having a dramatic effect on the politics of Scotland. I regret to tell the representatives of 762 the Scottish National party that I take no comfort from that party's surge in the polls. However I regard SNP Members personally, I see them as a great threat politically.
The Scottish nationalists are to be congratulated on the wisdom of their tactics and strategy. They resisted all the zealots who told them that they should not settle for second best. They have supported this Scottish Parliament all along and have supported the refusal to address issues such as the West Lothian question and separate taxation because, as they usually say, this is a step in the right direction. It is a step in the right direction for them and it will gather momentum. The Government do not have the first idea where they will put their next foot down; they just want to get the Bill through the House.
This is a dangerous and important measure. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes on getting a day's debate on this matter yet again. Some hon. Members are worried about the status of Parliament, which, in my opinion, is lower than it has been for a long time, with a lack of public regard for Westminster and a diminished role for the House in politics. If people are worried about that, they must take seriously the status of hon. Members and the legitimacy of the House as a centre of national debate. I regret that the Government are not doing that as long as they refuse to address the questions posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes in his new clause.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)
I welcome the assertion of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he is not an English nationalist. As a fellow internationalist, I can tell him that I respect the rights of the people of England to as much self-determination as they want, in the same way as I respect that right for the people of Scotland. We should view the debate in that context.
I am not absolutely opposed in principle to examining the future role of Scottish Members of Parliament in this place after the setting up of a Scottish Parliament. However, I disagree with the new clause in two main respects. First, I disagree with the time restraint put on the review, of 12 months after the passing of the Act. Secondly, I disagree with the targeting of that examination on Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies. The examination of the future role of Members of Parliament must be considerably wider than looking only at those representing Scottish constituencies.
I also question the need to provide for such a review in the Bill and the motives of the Opposition in tabling the new clause, especially because they did not come up with any reasonable answers to the many questions that they put and which they think that the review should deal with.
The alleged problem is the West Lothian question, but there is nothing new in it. For more than half a century, Northern Ireland had its own Parliament. Presumably, there was a West Belfast question, but I do not recall a Conservative Member—indeed, any Member of Parliament—raising it.
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman will perhaps accept that he is wrong. There is a fundamental difference for two reasons. First, as I said to the hon. Member for Ross, 763 Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), Ulster Members were much fewer in number at the time of Stormont. Secondly, they did not generally vote, save on Northern Ireland business. To their credit, that is not true of Scottish Members, who vote on English business. Furthermore, they are disproportionately represented.
§ Mr. Canavan
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman read clause 81, he would see that Scottish representation in this place will be reduced. The electoral quota for Scotland will be similar to that for English constituencies.
§ Mr. Canavan
The boundary commission may consider that matter in the light of experience. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned the voting habits of Northern Ireland Members. I have not looked through every Hansard from when Stormont was set up, but it is a well-known fact that the majority of Northern Ireland Members were Ulster Unionists, who favoured the Conservative and Unionist party when they voted.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will my hon. Friend take it from me that Harold Wilson did his proverbial nut over a crunch issue in relation to steel nationalisation? Woodrow Wyatt and Desmond Donnelly defected, but the then Prime Minister believed that the Northern Irish, who were not affected, should have a say on that delicate matter.
§ Mr. Canavan
I can understand Harold Wilson's point. There may be objections to the voting habits of Scottish Members of Parliament in this place, especially after a Scottish Parliament is set up. There may be objections to our current voting habits, but I shall deal later with how that matter might be addressed.
There is nothing new in the West Lothian anomaly in the British constitution. A similar anomaly was tolerated for more than half a century in Northern Ireland. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who was a Minister of State in Northern Ireland, favours the principle of devolution for Northern Ireland, and most, if not all, Conservative Members favour the restoration of a Northern Ireland assembly or Parliament. There may be a restoration of the West Belfast question, but Conservative Members do not seem to be obsessed by that.
There are similar anomalies in other countries. No doubt there are Catalonia and Andalusia questions in Spain, because its autonomous regions do not all have the same powers. Such asymmetrical decentralisation or asymmetrical federalism sets up anomalies which sometimes lead to alleged injustices, but anomalies in the status quo also cause allegations of injustices. The status quo is an asymmetrical Union, because the Union between Scotland and England is between two countries of unequal populations and, at times, different political complexions and different political traditions.
During the 18 years of Tory rule, many laws were foisted on the people of Scotland against the wishes of the majority of those people and against the wishes of the majority of their elected representatives in this place. 764 There were specifically Scottish Bills on housing, education, the health service, and, worst of all, the poll tax. Even the former Chancellor, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe, seemed to forget that the poll tax was introduced in Scotland a year ahead of England, under a separate Scottish Bill. The Scots were used as guinea pigs and rightly felt grave injustice about that.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman and am interested in his comments. I accept what he says; curiously, the idea behind the Union was harmonisation, except in selected areas, between laws and practices in England and in Scotland. Does he agree that legislating separately for England and for Scotland on a wider and wider range of issues has driven a wedge and promoted devolution?
§ Mr. Canavan
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting the abolition of Scots law? That seems to be the logic of his remarks. There would be massive opposition. Anomalies in the existing constitution resulted in the perpetration of injustices such as the poll tax which reinforced the case for a Scottish Parliament and was part of the reason for our magnificent majority in the referendum last year.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)
The hon. Gentleman cannot be allowed to get away with the endless canard that the poll tax was introduced in Scotland to inflict a guinea pig experience on it. There was a change in local government finance in Scotland because a revaluation of property caused absolute mayhem. People had to pay hundreds of pounds more or even thousands of pounds more after the revaluation, which occurred a year before the English revaluation.
§ Mr. Canavan
The hon. Gentleman is parroting the excuses that were given at the time and is trying to rewrite history.
The main issue arising from the new clause is, what is the answer to the West Lothian question? The Liberal Democrats say that the answer is federalism, which is a neat and logical answer. Federalism may evolve, if the people of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom want that, but the people of Scotland cannot be expected to wait for people south of the border to make up their minds about what type of decentralisation or home rule they want before a Scottish Parliament is set up.
§ Mr. Leigh
Sadly, the federal solution, which is another neat solution, is no solution at all. It depends on the assumption that areas or regions of England, like Bavaria in Germany, have an historical basis. There is no such thing as the east midlands region. People in my county of Lincolnshire do not want to be run by a meaningless Leicester Parliament. We want to be run by a London, national Parliament.
§ Mr. Canavan
The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) should not get it into his head that he speaks for England. The Tory party does not speak for England. I am prepared to listen to the views of people from the various regions in England about what they want. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) recently came up with the idea of a Parliament for the people of England. 765 That may be a feasible proposition in a federal context at some time in the future, if that is what the people of England want. People in the regions of England may not want to be completely ruled from London, as the hon. Member for Gainsborough suggested. They may want a more decentralised form of federalism than a federation of England, Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Gentleman said that the people of Scotland should not be required to wait while this issue is sorted out at the English end. I accept that the Scottish people have taken a decision in the referendum and are entitled to have their Parliament. Is it not regrettable that the Government have not addressed this issue, although they have had 12 months to do so? The Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay was not to establish an English Parliament but to inquire of the English people whether they want to have a Parliament.
§ Mr. Canavan
The issue must be addressed not just in the context of the Bill but in relation to the role of all Members of the Westminster Parliament after the Scottish Parliament becomes a reality.
I emphasise that some people underestimate the difficulty and the time that it would take to deliver federalism. It would require us to write down, for the first time in history, the entire British constitution. That would be no mean feat, and getting it through this place or putting it to a referendum of the people of the United Kingdom would be a formidable task. It is not impossible, but it could not be rushed through both Houses of Parliament or put to the people in a referendum in a matter of weeks. It may be done in the fulness of time, but the people of Scotland will have their Parliament next year. I am pleased to hear that even the Tory party now belatedly accepts that.
What will Members representing Scottish constituencies do at Westminster after the establishment of a Scottish Parliament?
§ Mr. Canavan
I agree. A whole host of reserved matters will still be the responsibility of this Parliament, and will affect the constituents of Members of Parliament who represent Scottish constituencies. Reserved matters such as foreign affairs, international development, defence, social security, macro-economic issues and many others are listed in the appropriate schedule to the Bill.
§ Mrs. Gorman
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to clarify this issue. As he pointed out, fund raising for the whole of the United Kingdom will continue to be decided in this Parliament. English taxpayers will still be expected to stump up a great deal more per capita for people in Scotland. That power may be in the hands of a Scottish Chancellor—backed up by a Scottish team in his Department, as is the case now—who funds Scotland at a better rate than England. That will undoubtedly lead to great annoyance among my constituents in Billericay. I have not heard anyone in the Government explain how they will overcome that problem.
§ Mr. Canavan
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Scot, but his responsibilities as Chancellor are to all the 766 people in the United Kingdom, not merely to the people of Scotland. The distribution of public expenditure throughout the United Kingdom should be done on the basis of population and need. It is not correct to allege that Scotland receives an unfairly large amount of public expenditure compared with England. There may be counter-allegations in Scotland about the Scots having to subsidise public transport in London, for example. I am not opposed to subsidising public transport in London: I use it occasionally. However, the overriding principle should be a distribution of funds based on population and need. It is not helpful to the argument to stir up unrest between the various nations that make up the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Swinney
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) raises an old sage in the argument about funding for Scotland and for the rest of the United Kingdom. Before the last election, studies were published, admittedly by the Conservative Secretary of State, that had been produced by independent consultants who compared public expenditure in Scotland with that in England and found that the difference was negligible.
§ Mr. Canavan
I have not studied the figures in detail, as the hon. Gentleman probably has. Evidence to that effect was undoubtedly produced by the Treasury during the previous Parliament.
§ Mr. Canavan
If it was fiction, it was Tory Government fiction.
I should like to return to my train of thought before I allowed interventions. Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies will obviously be able to vote in this place on reserved matters: there is no problem about that. The problem would arise if Scottish Members voted on non-reserved matters: matters which, for the Scottish people, will be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, but, for English people, will still be the responsibility of this Parliament. That would result in complaints, especially if Scottish representation were to affect the outcome of votes in this Parliament or, even more so, if it affected which party became the party of government after a general election.
Under the proposals in clause 81, the boundary commission will reduce the number of Westminster constituencies in Scotland. That will reduce the possibility of Scottish Members affecting the outcome of a vote in this Parliament, but it will not get rid of it entirely. I predict that there will be a continuing debate on this matter in this Parliament, and there will inevitably be demands from the people of England as a whole or from the English regions for greater decentralisation of power. I would welcome that. When the people of England wake up to the consequences of this legislation and the desirability of decentralisation to their own regions, that will be the time to review the role of this Parliament—not the role of Scottish Members in isolation, but the role of this Parliament as a whole and its relationship with other Parliaments and other assemblies throughout the United Kingdom. I see the Bill not simply as a proposal for radical constitutional change in Scotland, but as the 767 forerunner of further radical constitutional change throughout the United Kingdom, and I would welcome that.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
Order. Back-Bench speeches so far have averaged more than 20 minutes. It is obvious that not every hon. Member who is trying to take part in this important debate will get in if that average is maintained. May I appeal for shorter speeches and briefer interventions?
§ Mr. John MacGregor (South Norfolk)
I hear what you say, Sir Alan, and I shall take as few interventions as I can.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) rightly said that there would be continuing interest in this matter in Parliament and, if necessary, beyond. Perhaps he underestimates just how much keen interest there will continue to be. We are seeing today what we have predicted all along, which is that the Government have unleashed forces whose development they simply cannot control.
What the Secretary of State is worrying about today is the rise of the Scottish National party in the opinion polls—the lead that it now has—and the possibility that he may not command a majority in the first Scottish Parliament. He should be much more worried about the issue that we are debating today, as it is the most fundamental question in the Bill. I find it astonishing that so few Labour Members from English constituencies are present—none so far, in fact.
§ Mr. MacGregor
One has arrived at last, no doubt because the Walworth road bleeper told him to. If not, that suggests that Walworth road itself cannot see the importance of this matter to English Members of Parliament.
I spoke on the Second Reading of the first devolution Bill in the late 1970s. As a comparatively new Member, and as a Scot who represented an English constituency, I focused on two issues that I still consider fundamental: the fact that the Barnett formula, which had then been recently introduced, gave disproportionate per capita public spending to the people of Scotland, and—above all—the West Lothian question.
I do not suppose that anyone listened to me much then, because I spoke at 7 am after an all-night sitting; but those who were there will recall that there were several all-night sittings on Second Reading. Characteristically, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was there. I have subsequently admired the way in which he has pursued the West Lothian question, and brought it to national attention.
I have also waited with interest to see whether the Labour party—now the Government—would find an answer to the dilemma. The Government have not produced one, because they simply do not have one. It is 768 the deep black hole in all their proposals. No doubt that is why they tried to curtail debate on the issue to just 50 minutes in Committee.
§ Mr. MacGregor
It is true, and I am glad that we have a whole day to debate it now.
Having set course for a Scottish Parliament, the Government will be forced to a conclusion that they do not want.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Not at the moment.
The Government will be forced to a conclusion that they do not want, because public outrage at their proposals for English constituents, coupled with the logic of the situation, will make that conclusion impossible to resist.
My only other speech on the matter was on the Barnett formula and public expenditure, in which English Members have a reasonable interest. Interestingly, I was criticised by several Scots for having the audacity to intervene in a Scottish debate, and for speaking only at that stage. I hope that the same point will not be made today, as there is massive English interest in the issue. It is vital that we should speak for the interests of the 90 per cent. of the population who will be affected, including the people of Norfolk and my constituents.
It would be interesting to ask those who objected to my participation in that Scottish debate, in which I had a legitimate English interest, what they imagine the feeling in the House will be when Scottish Members try to speak on English matters while there is no possibility of our being involved in Scottish matters. What happened to me seemed clearly to indicate what is likely to happen, and I hope that they see it in that way.
There are four options before us. I want to be constructive. I stress that I did not want to go down the road that we are taking, but the Scottish Parliament is going to happen. We must accept that, and everything that flows from it is the responsibility of the Government.
The first option is the status quo, but that is totally unacceptable and unsustainable. The arguments against it have been so well deployed—particularly by the hon. Member for Linlithgow—that I need not dwell on them. It will daily become more obvious that it is unsustainable for Scottish Members to be able to vote, and, perhaps, speak, intervene or ask questions, on English matters in a future Parliament. It will not be enough for them to offer to exercise restraint, as the Stormont MPs did—that has already been discussed—and, indeed, I do not think that they will do that. It is obvious that the self-restraint shown by Ulster MPs will not be shown by Scottish Labour Members.
The position will not be just an anomaly, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) said; it will be a constitutional outrage. It has not had a great deal of attention in the English press—most of the Bill's coverage has been in the Scottish press—but, whenever I tell my constituents what the West Lothian question involves, they are outraged. It will quickly become an issue when we see it happening week after 769 week in practice. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) was absolutely right about that. The status quo is unacceptable, and it will not last.
The second option is regional development agencies, or regional assemblies. The Government have, in my view, put those ideas up as a sop, a fudge and a smokescreen, to suggest that they are an English alternative. The Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning said in The Scotsman that regional assemblies would, by definition, be the answer. According to him, the more power is devolved to the regions, the more that answers the West Lothian question, but that simply does not add up. It is nowhere near right, for four reasons.
First, we know that the Government will introduce regional assemblies in a spasmodic way, where there is clear demand for them. There will not be a uniform response in England, and assemblies cannot therefore be an answer to the Scottish Parliament.
Secondly, we must accept that there is no regional coherence, or sense of national belonging, in the English regions, as there is in Scotland. The people of Norfolk do not identify with the people of Essex or Hertfordshire in the same way as the Scots, in relation to their national feeling about a Scottish Parliament.
Thirdly, there is no demand for assemblies in many parts of England. I know that there is demand in the north-east, and, possibly, in one or two other northern areas, but there is no demand in East Anglia, except from a few Labour councillors and a few officials who see big opportunities for further personal advancement. The ordinary population does not want another layer of bureaucracy. There is no demand, and it simply is not an answer to the question of the Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Robathan
How many letters has my right hon. Friend had from constituents putting the case for a regional assembly? Is it as many as I have had, which is none?
§ Mr. MacGregor
That was exactly the point that I was going to make. Not only have I had no letters, but assemblies have never been mentioned at all by constituents, except by those who oppose them. I do not think that Government policy stands up on that ground. That is why we will not see regional assemblies all over England, and that is another reason why assemblies will not be equivalent to the Scottish Parliament.
My fourth point is the one that matters most. Assemblies do not address real issues of comparability. Regional development agencies and assemblies will not remotely measure up to the range of issues, responsibilities and powers of the Scottish Parliament. RDAs will not cover most of the domestic issues that are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Even if they did, they would not control them, but would remain subject to decisions made in Parliament and Whitehall. They would not have the autonomy that will exist in the Scottish Parliament.
Let me turn to expenditure. I do not think that there is any suggestion that regional assemblies or RDAs should be given a block grant, which they could deploy as they wished, to cover not only the issues with which are 770 supposed to deal, but all the issues to be covered by the Scottish Parliament. I have not heard that suggested. There is no equivalence there, and I do not believe that that would ever happen.
RDAs and assemblies will not have powers over primary legislation. It is ludicrous to imagine that 10 English regional assemblies will replicate what the Scottish Parliament will do in terms of primary legislation.
The mind would boggle at the inconsistencies, anomalies, complexities and unworkable arrangements that would arise if the regional assemblies had primary legislative powers, so there is simply no case for saying that devolution to the English regions is the equivalent of a Scottish Parliament, as the Government have sometimes tried to pretend.
I come to the third option, which is the variety of solutions for addressing the problem in this House. That is what the new clause is directed at, and I certainly welcome it. I hope that it takes us a good deal further in the debate. My only caveat about it is that the powers to conduct the review have been given to the Secretary of State. Given the fact that he does not want to address this problem and has shown no sign of addressing it for 20 years, I cannot see that he will come up with a constructive solution that will be appropriate, but it is right for him to try and therefore I welcome the new clause.
It is right to examine—I put this point in all seriousness to the Secretary of State—whether a satisfactory answer to the issue can be found before the Scottish Parliament goes ahead. It would be outrageous for it to do so on any other basis. That is why I strongly support the new clause. However, there are considerable difficulties in finding a solution in this House.
An English Grand Committee certainly would not add up because it would not have anything like the powers of a Scottish Parliament and would not deal with the issues about the two types of Members of Parliament. If one further examines how, apart from an English Grand Committee, this matter could be dealt with, there are many problems, including defining what legislation the body applies to and who decides. It would clearly be wrong, if there were any vote in the House on the matter, for Scottish Members to have a vote on it.
As I know only too well as a former Leader of the House, there would be formidable timetable problems in trying to have differences day by day in the way in which who could speak and vote would work out. There are the problems of the two types of Member of Parliament—those who would not be able to vote, speak or take part in many debates in the Chamber and those who rightly would. We shall have the problem of two types of Members of Parliament anyway, as has constantly been pointed out, but to try to find a solution to the West Lothian question in the House would make those problems much more difficult.
Above all, there is the problem of Government control. If, not in this Parliament, but, as the hon. Member for Linlithgow envisaged, in many situations in other Parliaments, Scottish Members of Parliament had the controlling vote, clearly, the Government of the day might 771 be able to command control over all the issues that are reserved to the House, but not the English issues that came to the Chamber. The Government could lose half their agenda, which is, of course, precisely what the Labour Government fear and why they will not go down that route. A fundamental problem has been unleashed by the Scottish Parliament.
Therefore, it is essential to try to find out whether we can find a solution. I wish the new clause well, but I suspect that we will be driven to the only sensible and logical conclusion—I say sensible and logical not because I want this conclusion, but because it has been forced on us by the Government's decision: it is the fourth option of an English Parliament to mirror the Scottish Parliament. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) for the Bill that she introduced on the matter.
I emphasise that I do not want an English Parliament. It is another layer of bureaucracy, but I am driven to that conclusion—and I have thought about this for 20 years—because, now that the Government have gone down this route, it is the only way in which to bring fairness to all English constituents and to ensure that we do not have the complete nonsense that we have all predicted for future Parliaments.
That is exactly what the Labour Government have unleashed. I warn them that, just as they are running into difficulties in Scotland, so they will run into difficulties on the issue of an English Parliament—which is feared by them; I do not think that they want that solution, and it is easy to see why—and sooner rather than later. That is why this is such an important debate and why it is a fundamental issue in the Bill.
§ Dr. Godman
I promise to be brief.
My two criticisms of the new clause have been voiced already my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan): the timing of the review, which is to take place less than 12 months after we get things going, and the fact that it is confined to Scots Members. If we receive the result that all hon. Members must be hoping and praying for on 22 May in Northern Ireland, might we not be listening to Conservative Members arguing that we need to review the powers and functions of Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland, from Wales and from Scotland, and why not add to that English Members?
The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) argued a powerful case for stability that is based on constitutional legitimacy. He spoiled his advocacy by saying ad hominem that Scots Members treat this serious and remarkable legislative measure frivolously. Speaking as a federalist—I have been a federalist all my adult life—and as someone who has advocated all his adult life the need for electoral change and proportional representation, I assure him that I treat this matter with the seriousness and gravity that it warrants. I put him straight on that point.
Our constituents would not allow us to treat this matter frivolously. The setting up of the Scottish Parliament is of the greatest import to them and they know as well as any Tory Member not only that there are intended consequences of this legislation, but that there will be unintended consequences. That is inevitable with all sorts of legislation.
772 The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe seemed to agree that constitutional legitimacy is conferred on political institutions and legislatures by the approval of the electorate or of a majority of the electorate. I think that Max Weber argued that literally decades ago—that an institution is legitimate in so far as it receives the support of people; he was talking about mature parliamentary democracies.
What has happened in Scotland, certainly in my time in this place, is that that legitimacy, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred in an honourable and fair-minded way, has come under serious question. It suffered severe diminution during 18 years of Conservative Administration because the Administrations of which he was a member refused to check the legitimacy of what they were doing with the Scottish electorate, and they paid the price.
As someone who has advocated proportional representation for many years, I say that it is unfortunate that 500,000 Scots voted for Conservative candidates in the last election, yet do not have a single Scots Conservative Member. With the system that we are going to introduce into the Parliament, there will be Conservative Members in Edinburgh; I hope but a few—I think that there will be a handful. Perhaps one will be the son of the right hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack). Therefore, the legitimacy to which the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe referred has largely gone in the eyes of many of my constituents.
In many Scottish constituencies, Labour Members are not concerned in general elections about the threat posed by Conservative candidates; the Scottish National party poses the greatest threat to us. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe paid a fine compliment to the Poujadists of the SNP by mentioning their political astuteness, and there may be something in that. I have in the past complimented them on their very honourable and rigorous adherence to peaceful and democratic change of a most dramatic nature.
I believe, like my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—although my view is not as bleak as his—that we in Scotland, and others elsewhere in the United Kingdom, are going down a constitutional road that forks, and that it will be one way or the other for us, especially for those of us in Scotland. In one direction lies independence and a separate Scottish state, as an independent member state of the European Union. In the other direction lies federalism.
We have spoken much about legitimacy in debates on the Bill. Despite the legitimate objections to federalism offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), I think that we shall eventually have a federal system in these islands that we share. We sit in a Parliament of a multinational state. I cannot say that the people of some of those nations—certainly not the people of Scotland—have been frustrated by this place or by our Executive of the past 18 years, because frustration is too mealy-mouthed a word. They have been gravely disenchanted, and now have a sense of alienation from our constitutional institutions.
It may well be that we have a serious problem in the West Lothian question. However, in the near future, are we to have a West Belfast question, or a Cardiff question? 773 Why is it that, when talking about subsidy junkets, some Opposition Members always refer to Scotland and not to Wales or Northern Ireland'?
§ Dr. Godman
Yes. I sometimes think that we should have devolved London, so that the rest of us might live happily ever after. However, it is too late for that.
We are experiencing remarkable constitutional change, and Scottish devolution is only a part of it. As one who is fairly knowledgeable about events in Northern Ireland, I certainly hope that there will be a resounding yes vote on 22 May, so that we shall be able to establish an assembly there. If there is a yes vote, north and south of the border, the House will in the very near future have to consider legislation on a Northern Ireland assembly. I believe that the number of representatives envisaged for that assembly is too high, but that, in the course of time, that number will be changed—just as the number of Scots Members in this place may well be changed. An argument could be made also for reducing the number of Members of the Scottish Parliament in the Edinburgh Parliament. In the fulness of time, we shall debate those issues, both in this place and elsewhere.
It is incumbent on Opposition Members to pay close attention to our constituents' aspirations. If some of the measures advocated by Opposition Members were to be implemented, an unintended consequence would be to drive many people in the west of Scotland into the, some might say, seductive embrace of SNP Members—whom, some years ago, I described as Poujadists, exploiting people's discontents with any type of government.
§ Mrs. Gorman
The hon. Gentleman is implying that there is innate alienation between those of us who live in, work in and represent English constituencies and those of us who live in, work in and represent Scottish constituencies. There is no xenophobia among the English on that issue—as witnessed by the fact that, although almost 150 hon. Members are Scottish-born, more than half of them represent English constituencies. That has caused absolutely no contentiousness in the past, and I hope it will not cause any in the future. However, with the introduction of this legislation, hon. Members' origins and which constituency they represent have become contentious issues.
§ Dr. Godman
With deep respect to the hon. Lady, I suggest that she goes back to the "Shorter Oxford Dictionary", because there is a world of difference between alienation and xenophobia.
Although I was born in Yorkshire, of Scottish and Irish families, I have said—not only in this place, but in many other places, including Northern Ireland—that I admire the stoicism and honour that the English people have shown in relation not only to Northern Ireland but to events in Scotland. It is remarkable that so many hon. Members born in Scotland represent—ably—English constituencies. Moreover, Labour Members who were born in Scotland but represent English constituencies have assured me that they are rarely described pejoratively as 774 "jocks" and that they are properly assessed on their performance as elected representatives, which is as it should be.
Yes, during 18 years of a Tory Government, undoubtedly there was alienation. There was deep anger about the poll tax in my constituency—where, in the most recent general election, many people said, "If Labour loses this time, Norman, it will be the SNP and separation for us." Which of my hon. Friends, especially those from the west of Scotland, will deny that that was repeatedly said to them on the doorstep in the general election? Time and again, they were told, "This is your last chance. We want a Labour Government, but if the English do not produce one, we shall turn to the SNP."
§ Mr. Maclean
Might not the hon. Gentleman himself be confusing alienation with a lack of democratic legitimacy? Does he believe that the electorate who vote for us give us democratic legitimacy, and that that is a key part of the question? What gives us democratic legitimacy is the fact that—despite slight differences in our constituencies, such as their size—each hon. Member has an equal voting right in this Parliament as currently constituted. Does he agree that, once a situation develops in which hon. Members no longer have equal rights in dealing with one another and in voting on issues, all vestiges of democratic legitimacy will be removed?
§ Dr. Godman
No, not at all. Although there is something in the right hon. Gentleman's comments on individual elected representatives being given legitimacy by the votes that they receive in elections, I do not know of a single nation that has moved towards a federalist constitution in a purely symmetrical manner. One might argue that that happened in the former West Germany, but let us not forget what preceded those political developments. All those issues will have to be examined.
As someone who has been an hon. Member since 1983, I believe that I—compared with English Members who have voted on exclusively Scottish matters for the past 14 or 15 years—have a hell of a long way to go in catching up by voting on exclusively English issues. The rationalisation of the poll tax offered by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) did him no honour. The tax was introduced a year earlier for our constituents than it was for those south of the border. The Tory party has never been forgiven for that.
The change will present us with the problems outlined so ably and honourably by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, but we need not be so gloomy in our prescriptions. In the long run, I think that the answer is in federalism. The four secessionists on the Opposition Benches—I am referring to the four SNP Members—will say that the answer is an independent Scottish nation alongside the nations of the European Union. I happen to disagree with them profoundly, but I compliment them on the way they have made their case. Incidentally, they are going to lose in May next year, certainly in Inverclyde, but if it is any consolation to them, the Conservative candidate will be out of sight, perhaps deservedly so, because of the Conservative record in Scotland.
What I am saying—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] The Conservatives do not like what they are being told. They denied that they were English nationalists, but the truth was offered by the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and 775 Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), who said that the Conservatives' concerns were shaped to a considerable extent by naked self-interest. I would suggest that that naked self-interest is fuelled by the fear that they will never again rule in a unitary state known as the United Kingdom. That is what disturbs them.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan
If the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) is to be believed, I speak as either one of the hounds or one of the hares of the Scottish National party—whichever it is, we are certainly running at the moment. I shall attempt to be brief because I know that many hon. Members of the party that forms the official Opposition, certainly in this House, wish to go on at some length, and I should not dream of stopping them.
The new clause is an attack on the very principle behind the Bill. Almost without exception, all the speeches and interventions, although disguised as worry about the so-called West Lothian question, have basically been attacks on the principle of the legislation. It is said that there is an anomaly in the Bill, but no one has offered any solutions, with the possible exception of the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor).
Conservatives have used the West Lothian question as a symbol, something that has typified the House's approach to devolutionary legislation for the constituent parts of the United Kingdom for many years. Of the 1893 debate on the Government of Ireland Bill, Joseph Chamberlain said that the question whether Members should be in or out—the West Lothian type question—was not a technical point butthe symbol and flag of the controversy".He later said:
I used that point to show the absurdity of the whole scheme.Today, the West Lothian question needs to occupy us for six and a half hours so that the Tories can show their opposition to the whole concept.
The Conservative party had 18 years to come up with some kind of solution. It should have known that there was a problem in Scotland waiting to be addressed, and that perhaps brought some anomalies along with it from the Conservative point of view, but it spent no time thinking about those anomalies. It ignored them in the hope that they and the Scottish people would go away. The fact that the new clause is just an excuse for six and a half hours of whingeing about the concept behind the Bill is clear from the new clause itself.
The new clause asks the Secretary of State to carry out a review—I am not quite sure which Secretary of State, but it does not really matter. I suspect that any Secretary of State could produce a review tomorrow, and we could then get on. Let us not kid ourselves that the Tories genuinely want the new clause to be added to the Bill. I suppose it is another example of what is called a probing amendment.
§ Mr. Grieve
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if he were to support the new clause and if it were accepted, it would have no effect on bringing the Scottish Parliament into being, but it would enable the House to address, after an inquiry by the Secretary of State, the whole of what is known as the West Lothian question—and is it not precisely the English dimension of that question that is never debated in this House?
§ Mr. Morgan
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Coincidentally, his colleagues have also tabled 776 amendment No. 2, which we are considering at the same time. That would stop most of the Bill coming into effect until the review had been published. The purpose is to delay implementation of the Bill.
As we have heard, the constitution of this country is riven with anomalies of which, in other circumstances, hon. Members are very proud. They are proud of the eccentricities of this country's constitution. Let us consider the anomaly of the other place in this very building. It is in no way representative of the UK or of any cross-section of its population. Until the 1960s, Scotland was represented there by only 16 peers, while the rest of the House of Lords was representative of England, Wales and, of course, Ireland. However, that anomaly apparently did not need to be sorted out.
What about the lack of proportional representation which, as happened in the second election after the second world war, could lead to a Government being elected even though they had fewer votes than the main Opposition party? What about Stormont? Perhaps Stormont Members of Parliament did not always use their ability to vote on legislation that did not affect Northern Ireland, but no one said that that should be written into UK legislation.
One anomaly for the people of Scotland was the poll tax, which has already been mentioned. A much more recent example of an anomaly is the reorganisation of local government in Scotland, which led to water being taken out of the control of local authorities. That change was opposed in the referendum in the Strathclyde region. Despite what the then Secretary of State for Scotland said, the people of the Strathclyde region voted massively against the proposal. In this place, however, hon. Members not from Scotland but from other parts—basically England—voted to press ahead.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) referred to another anomaly whereby, because so little time is spent in this House examining Scottish matters, Scottish Members are hardly ever able to scrutinise the business of the Scottish Office which currently exercises so many functions in Scotland. Apparently, we are supposed to accept that.
If there is an anomaly in the legislation, its extent and nature have been considerably exaggerated. Only twice this century—from 1964 to 1966 and for six months in 1974—have Scottish Members determined who would form the Government of the United Kingdom. Such a situation is not a problem in other countries.
An anomaly already exists because Scotland and England have different health and education systems. Scottish Members may vote on a change to the English education or health system which, even under the current set-up, will mean no comparable change in the situation in Scotland. There will be an English education Act or an English health Act on which Scottish Members may vote with the apparent approval of all hon. Members, yet there is no comparable change at the same time in Scotland. That, apparently, is not an anomaly—it is acceptable.
§ Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent)
That is a very different anomaly altogether. The truth of the matter is that English Members would be able to vote on the Scottish legislation relating to health and education on a subsequent occasion. That will not be the case under the present system.
§ Mr. Morgan
That is a strange sort of quid pro quo. I think that the hon. Gentleman is saying, "It is all right; 777 we shall let Scottish Members vote to change the English health or education system provided that, at some later stage, in the years to come, we can vote to change a wholly different system and that that will balance things out and stop us getting letters of complaint from our constituents about Scottish Members voting on the English health or education system." The truth is that, at present, Scottish Members vote to change the education system in Norfolk or anywhere else in England without any guarantee of a comparable change to the education system north of the border, particularly as the Scottish education system is so different.
The position of the Scottish National party is quite clear. We would solve the problem by having no Scottish Members here on any day of the week. However, as long as the United Kingdom Parliament retains legislative competence over all matters—let us be clear that clause 27(7) retains the right for the House to legislate on anything in Scotland—we need Scottish Members at Westminster.
Let me remind anyone who believes that Scottish Members should not vote on English matters that those English matters are paid for out of United Kingdom taxes, which are contributed to in equal terms—I would say proportionately greater terms—by the people of Scotland. As long as we continue to subsidise the affairs of the City of London and Greater London, we must continue to have a voice at Westminster.
Finally, I wonder whether Conservative Members have considered how today's debate is being seen in Scotland. It will be seen precisely as the Conservatives carrying on as they did from 1979 until last year. I am glad that the debate will continue for six and a half hours, as every hour that passes will drive home the message to the people of Scotland and will undo any good that the former Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands will achieve in his reorganisation or reinvigoration of the Scottish Tory party. I am sure that he will wring his hands as he listens to the speeches of Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Savidge
When I last spoke in a debate on the Scotland Bill, I expressed the fear that I was liable to repeat arguments that I had used before in the House, and not just those of other hon. Members. However, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) did not let that stop them using arguments that we had heard before.
When I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow say that he did not believe in snap, instant answers, the thought crossed my mind that, whatever else it was, the West Lothian question was certainly not a snap, instant question. Conservative Members claim that insufficient time has been devoted to discussing the West Lothian question, but most people in Scotland will feel that it has been discussed for years and years. Some hon. Members feel that it has been discussed for years and years this afternoon.
Let me begin a brief West Lothian question and answer session by repeating the West Lothian answer. The people of West Lothian voted in favour of it by nearly 778 80 per cent. With great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, he should consider that today he is representing himself, not his constituency. He said that people in Scotland should be allowed to make up their minds. They were, and they did.
Let me raise once again what I call the Westminster question in response to the West Lothian question. In describing the West Lothian question, my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow described the possible nightmare that, at some time, a small minority of people in England might vote for one party, but, as a result of the votes of people in Scotland, a different party might form a Government. He invited us to imagine the horrors that could result from that, in that Scottish Members could take decisions on matters that were exclusively and solely English. He described the horror of Livingston and Linlithgow taking decisions affecting Liverpool and London, and Scots Members deciding who became English Ministers for health and education. He said that, if he understood his parliamentary arithmetic, that could happen.
I am a mathematician, and my understanding of parliamentary arithmetic is that what I call the Westminster question has arisen rather more often. It was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) and involves an English majority deciding a result in the United Kingdom that is totally at variance with the votes of the people of Scotland. As my hon. Friend pointed out, we experienced that throughout the 18 years of Tory Government, when, at every opportunity, Scotland overwhelmingly rejected the party that made the decisions.
§ Mr. Grieve
Will the hon. Gentleman spare us the details? We fully understand that his party introduced the legislation because it was no longer prepared to allow issues affecting the United Kingdom to be decided on the basis that an English Member had just as much say as a Scottish Member and vice versa. Will he get to the point without going over the entire history of the times when the wretched English Members decided Scottish issues?
§ Mr. Savidge
The way in which the Tories have argued throughout the debate so far shows that, although they pretend to have accepted the results of the referendum, they manifestly have not. That is why we shall continue driving home the point that English Members decided exclusively and solely Scottish matters. [Interruption.] I apologise, and I will reduce the volume of my speech, but at least I have woken up some English Tory Members and made them listen to what we have been trying to say for hours and hours.
Let us remember that London and Liverpool determined what happened in Livingston and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, and English Members chose the Ministers for health and education in Scotland. The party that inflicted that horror was totally opposed in Scotland; it ended up with not a single Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland, and, in the council elections, having gerrymandered the boundaries, it was still wiped off the electoral map that it had redrawn. Finally, it should never forget that it ended up with not one Scottish Tory Member in the House.
The right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) spoke about the dreadful possibility that Scots Members might interfere in English matters. 779 However, I have gained the impression that English Tories interfere in Scottish matters rather more than Scottish Members interfere in English matters. Usually, English Members presume to pontificate about what goes on in Scotland on the basis that their grandfathers once visited Auchterturra. [Interruption.]
§ Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
Conservative Members are saying that the Scottish Chancellor is interfering, but I thought that they accepted that the United Kingdom still existed, and therefore that we had a Chancellor for the entire United Kingdom, not just for England.
§ Mr. Savidge
I gladly agree with the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I made a similar point when the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) intervened earlier.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow referred to the slow-burning fuse of English nationalism. Having listened to speeches from Conservative Members, I thought that they represented the slow-burning fuse of English nationalism; indeed, given how depleted that party has become, perhaps one ought rather to refer to the slow, burnt-out few of English nationalism.
I should give credit where it is due, however. The Conservatives have provided us with a Westminster answer to the Westminster and West Lothian questions, as they have created circumstances in which the parliamentary arithmetic to which my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow referred is much less likely. I assume that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) would agree that, under the present Leader of the Opposition, they are likely to be in that position for a long time. It is most unlikely that the nightmare conjured up by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow will occur.
It has been said that there will be anomalies. I find it extraordinary that people get so concerned about the possibility of elected Scottish Members influencing English affairs when they do not seem the slightest bit worried about unelected hereditary peers—whether from England or Scotland—affecting matters here.
The system will be asymmetrical, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith said, we are an asymmetrical country. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are asymmetrical in their populations. Solutions are therefore bound to be asymmetrical.
My hon. Friends the Members for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) spoke about the West Belfast question, which the Conservative party has to consider, because it says that it accepts Northern Ireland devolution as a vital part of achieving peace in that island. The right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), who made a most disappointing speech in the previous debate on this issue, accepts that there should be devolution for Northern Ireland.
Let us repeat that the Conservatives now accept that there should be Scottish devolution. Listening to them, one would hardly believe it. I am reminded of the cartoon on the front of The Times today, which shows two people from the middle east talking. One of them asks:
D'you think there'll ever be peace within the Tory party?780 We should ask the Tories for a clause that contains their answer to the West Lothian question. What is their answer? "Answer came there none", which is an apt quote, given that other hon. Members have "eaten every one" of the Scots Tories.
§ Mr. Savidge
I will give the hon. Gentleman an answer. My answer would be simple: those matters that the House decides to devolve elsewhere should be determined elsewhere, and those that the House decides should be determined here should be determined here. All Members of the House ought to participate in making those determinations.
It has been asked what the position will be regarding any growth in demand for devolution in England.
§ Mr. Grieve
On the basis of what the hon. Gentleman has just said, his earlier arguments about the iniquities of the previous position whereby English Members legislated on Scottish affairs are complete bunkum, because, in the past, Parliament determined what should be done, and it was done. Are we to take it that the hon. Gentleman's preliminary remarks were a load of hokum?
§ Mr. Savidge
My precise point is that, if there were a demand for English devolution, it should be granted. That could be achieved by federalism, as suggested by the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde, or by another method, favoured by other hon. Members, including me, which would be a form of devolution to regional assemblies in England such as the London assembly, which the Conservative party now accepts.
There is a case for subsidiarity, as against centralism. I prefer subsidiarity to centralism. I have said before and will conclude by saying that my long-term vision would be a system of world government, continental government, national government and regional government, down to community decision making, with correct levels of subsidiarity meaning that all decisions were made at the lowest suitable level. That would be the way to achieve a peaceful, stable world, and create a properly participatory democracy. Labour Members believe in democracy.
§ Mr. Rowe
I begin by picking up two remarks made by the Secretary of State for Scotland during these debates and outside the House.
First, the right hon. Gentleman made it abundantly clear that, given a choice between being Secretary for Scotland and being in the new Scottish Parliament, he would much prefer the latter. Nothing could make clearer his expectation that the job of the Secretary of State for Scotland in the new system will be relatively valueless. All the arguments about what such a Secretary of State could do, which were well put by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), seem likely to come true. I will be sorry to see the Secretary of State leave this place. He brings an air of sardonic wit to the House that we will greatly miss. 781 The second remark by the Secretary of State during debates on the Bill was that it was the role of a Government to foresee possible dangers and find a way to avoid them. This debate has shown that there are possible dangers that clearly have been foreseen, about which the Government have done nothing.
There has been a series of remarks about the risk of English nationalism. Such a backlash would be unfortunate. The United Kingdom has worked well on the basis of mutual respect, and even if, in the heat of the attempts—which have now succeeded—to get constitutional change in Scotland, some Scottish people have been intemperate about the English, on the whole the temperature has been kept satisfactorily low.
§ Sir Robert Smith
I am still confused about Conservative Members' description of the United Kingdom as having been stable for 200 years, when the previous constitutional solution was achieved on the back of a revolution and many deaths in the civil war.
§ Mr. Rowe
There is no value in my responding to a comment about a remark that I did not make, and I will not try to do so.
There is a serious risk of creating an English backlash. It is sad that, in order to focus the minds of people who on the whole take no interest in constitutional matters, the press and media will whip up feeling on an inflammatory issue, and there will suddenly be a consciousness of English nationalism, to which I would greatly object.
To take one example from my county, there will shortly be—although the Government are remarkably coy about how they will go about it—a form of referendum on the future of the county's education system. That will undoubtedly generate considerable passion. The rules for the referendum will be decided here. If, after the creation of a Scottish Parliament and a new system, a similarly heated subject arises in Kent, the interest and attitude of the press could well start an English national backlash. which we should not accept. I am sorry that the Secretary of State, who could clearly have foreseen such a problem, has taken not steps to resolve it.
Far from being hostile to the Scottish decision in the referendum—I certainly feel no such hostility—we are expressing hostility to the Government's idea that this long-established constitution requires not carefully thought through, well worked out constitutional change, but tinkering. The Labour Government are like small children playing in a building who are interested in finding out what happens if they take the odd brick out of the wall.
In speech after speech, even in this relatively narrow debate, hon. Members have said, "Of course, we shall just have to see what happens. Of course, things will change over time. Of course, we shall have to work things out." Yet no attempt has seriously been made to work out the problem or to foresee the likely outcome. If one pulls enough bricks out of a wall, one is buried by it.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that his request for the matter to be even further thought out will be taken by people in Scotland as yet another delaying tactic? No matter how honourable his 782 motives, that is how it will appear. People in Scotland remember that, during the previous referendum campaign, Lord Home said that we must not accept the 1979 scheme, and that we should bring forward a better one. We are now 18 years on, and the hon. Gentleman says that this scheme is not the better scheme. When will we get the better scheme?
§ Mr. Rowe
The decision has been made, and we accept it—although it is true that the role of Ministers and Scottish Members in Westminster remains remarkably hazy. There is plenty of time for the Government to set up an inquiry into the role that Members of Parliament and their Ministers are to discharge in this place. I see absolutely no reason why that should hold up implementation of the new system. It would be entirely prudent to carry out such an inquiry.
Indeed, I have no objection to considering the role of Members of Parliament generally. I should be perfectly happy to discuss the role of Members of Parliament, how it is changing and how it might change in future. I find no reason for limiting such an inquiry to Scottish Members, although it is perfectly understandable that we should table a new clause relating only to Scottish Members, since the change has been made entirely as a result of Scottish Office effort, and not on a Parliament-wide basis.
I see absolutely no reason why we should go ahead with the new system without dealing with consequences that could be foreseen. Of course many things will happen that we will not expect or cannot work out now, but the role and function of Scottish Members of Parliament who will have a position in this House quite unlike that of any other is one thing that can be considered. We can foresee what that will be like and consider how we might make it more acceptable to constituents such as mine, who will feel—perhaps irrationally—that there is something grossly unfair about being confronted by the activities of Members of Parliament who have absolutely no role to play in subjects in their own country, but have a major role in this country.
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham
I confess to being puzzled about the exact nature of this debate as it progresses. As we are frequently told, the House can debate anything it pleases at any time it pleases. Given that, will the hon. Gentleman explain why an amendment is required to allow the House to debate the role of Scottish Members? I find such a proposition extraordinary.
§ Mr. Rowe
If there were any possibility of the Government considering the future role of Scottish Members of Parliament in Westminster, the new clause would not be necessary. However, there is absolutely no suggestion that the Government think that that is either necessary or desirable. It therefore seems entirely proper to table a new clause requiring them to do what they show no sign of wanting to do. It is for those reasons that I shall certainly support the new clause.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
The hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) said that he accepted the decision taken by the people of Scotland in the referendum but went on to say that he supports the new clause and the associated amendment. That simply cannot make sense. The new clause would 783 prevent my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State from laying the orders to implement the Act until the future status of Members in the House had been resolved.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) said, the problem with Tory Members of Parliament addressing the West Lothian question is that they are not prepared to offer any answer to it. They simply pose it as a sort of catch-22 situation, in which they revel. They would be perfectly happy to leave it as a conundrum to obstruct any amendment to the United Kingdom's constitution until eternity. Well, that is not on; that is not the agenda.
I strongly support the Bill and therefore want it all to be implemented. I reject the delaying device tabled by the Tory quarter of the House. It is wrong to refer to the Conservative side of the House because the Conservatives cannot man a whole side of it.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
The hon. Gentleman is above the Gangway. There are other parties below it—but let us not get bogged down in minutiae such as that.
I have endured very nearly 20 years as a Scottish Member of the House—the Member for East Lothian. I sometimes wish that hon. Members would address the East Lothian question with as much interest as they have the West Lothian question over the years. During those 20 years, I have seen absurd changes in Scotland's local government, which were imposed on us by English Members. I have seen the poll tax imposed on my constituents on the strength of votes of English Members. There is no escaping that; it is a matter of fact. We have an inherent democratic deficit in Scotland.
Under the present settlement, we have a remote system of government. Much devolved power in Edinburgh is not subject to proper scrutiny. Indeed, Sir Malcolm Rifkind—
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I shall finish the reference to Sir Malcolm Rifkind. When debating an earlier devolution Bill back in—I think—1977, for which he voted, he said that Scotland was the only jurisdiction on the face of the earth without a legislature to revise its law. That was the problem then, it is still a problem, and that is why we need a legislature. We shall have it because that is what people have voted for.
Much further back, before the Union, my predecessor, Andrew Fletcher, warned about the shortcomings of what he described as an "incorporating Union". We have that incorporating Union, and it has not worked. We do not have accountable government in Scotland. The Bill is designed to address that. Andrew Fletcher supported the case for a Union, but said that there should be a Scottish Parliament. It has taken an awful long time to get back to that debate, but here we are, and I very strongly welcome it.
This incorporating Union is riddled with anomalies; it always has been. I acknowledge that there will be some more under the proposed settlement, although it is ludicrous for the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent to say that, by creating one new anomaly on 784 top of all the others, the whole edifice will come tumbling down. He must have very little confidence in the inherent strengths of the Union if he fears that prospect.
§ Mr. Grieve
There were anomalies in the old system, but the old system worked until the anomalies became unacceptable. When they did, Scottish Members of Parliament started to complain about decisions being taken collectively by this House. The referendum was held, and the decision was made to set up a Scottish Parliament. Does the hon. Gentleman understand that we believe that the anomalies created by the Bill will prove to be equally unacceptable, and that there is a complete refusal to address them at precisely the moment when they need to be addressed—when the changes are coming about?
§ Mr. Home Robertson
The hon. Gentleman says that what will happen in the future will be intolerable, whereas what happened in the past was, in some way, tolerable. My plea in mitigation is that some of us have argued for constitutional change and for democratic accountability in the government of Scotland for a long time—since before the outrageous impositions to which I referred.
I accept that there will be anomalies in the future, and it is entirely proper that English Members of Parliament, in particular, should address them and make suggestions as to solutions. However, it is absurd to say that everything else in the United Kingdom should be put on hold until hon. Members representing English constituencies work out a way to deal with the problems. That can be debated in the future.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I suspect that the only way in which the new clause could be selected for debate was to frame it in that way, but the intention is clear enough. We know what the Tories are up to.
I certainly welcome the new-found interest of Conservative Members in these affairs. I cannot help harking back over the years to all those occasions, late at night, when Scottish orders or amendments were debated in this House. Can these be the same Members of Parliament who grumbled about the fact that they were required to turn out as Lobby fodder to put through Tory legislation affecting Scotland? They have suddenly decided that the right to vote on devolved Scottish matters is a precious democratic right which they are determined to hang on to at all costs. I do not find that line terribly convincing.
Just as Scotland has had remote and unaccountable government for many years now, the same argument could be made for many parts of England. It would be entirely proper for regions of England to suggest changes 785 to the structure of government in England. That would be proper, and it is quite right that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is addressing that matter.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I am not suggesting that. It is entirely a matter for the people of England if they want an English Parliament or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "They do not."] Then what on earth are Conservative Members fussing about? It is a matter for the people of England, and I respect that.
§ Mr. Swinney
The new clause suggests that there is still work to be done and that a solution has to be arrived at, but every time a solution is suggested, it is knocked down. I heard one Conservative Member knock down the suggestion made by another Conservative Member. Are not we being put through six and a half hours of debate about nothing because the Conservatives are not interested in the solution to the problem?
§ Mr. Home Robertson
Just for once, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is a deliberate wrecking amendment. Well, it cannot be a wrecking amendment—if it had been, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it would not have been selected. It is a deliberate catch-22 question which attempts to spin out the argument for all eternity to obstruct progress towards the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. It is at best mischievous, and at worst dangerous.
Hon. Members have said that there is a risk of whipping up nationalism, and we are enduring a little bit of that in Scotland just now. I would caution English Members about the risks of stirring up English nationalism. Look what happened to Michael Forsyth when he raised the credibility of Scottish nationalism. It did not do him an awful lot of good.
The new clause is, above all, mischievous. Carried to its logical conclusion, it would leave us with one Parliament with two categories of hon. Member. We would have a UK Parliament with one group of Members, eligible to vote on everything, and another group—second-class Members—who are eligible to vote only on Treasury affairs, defence, foreign affairs and social security. I cannot think of any other Parliament on the planet which has two categories of Member with different voting rights.
§ Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's view that it would be entirely improper for Members of this House to be somehow second-class. Does he understand that that is our concern about the Bill as it stands—that those Members elected for Scottish constituencies will have no power over the devolved issues in Scotland, but will be Members of this House, whereas the whole House will have powers over the same issues in England? An imbalance will be created in the responsibilities of hon. Members.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
Welcome aboard, I say to the hon. Gentleman. We have had that anomaly for years in 786 Scotland in terms of devolved powers over which we in Scotland have had no control. That is ludicrous and it has been uncomfortable for us. We are now addressing that matter, and Conservative Members are protesting far too much about it.
The debate is about the old canard, the West Lothian question, which is based on a flawed premise. It is a question which never recognised the fact that we have had so much administrative devolution in Scotland for more than a century. Administrative power has been devolved on a range on subjects to Edinburgh, with no democratically elected body to take proper control and to scrutinise the work of civil servants.
The West Lothian question overlooks the fact that the UK has never been a nation. It is a Union of nations with inherent diversities—and properly so. We should be building on the strengths that that diversity should be able to achieve. Two parts of the UK have voted to take the logical step of taking democratic control over their devolved powers—Wales and Scotland. It is likely, I hope, that Northern Ireland will follow suit shortly, and it is likely also that London will do so in its own way. That is logical progress for the Union, and it should strengthen the Union.
It is depressing that hon. Members who profess to be Unionists are trying to pick away at these anomalies in way which threatens the future of the UK. We have a strange alliance between the Conservative and Unionist party and the Scottish National party. The debate has indicated that the Conservative party wants Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to put everything on hold until equivalent constitutional arrangements can be devised for England or the English regions. That is up to them.
I come back to my East Lothian question. For 18 years, my constituents have been subject to legislation imposed on them by people who did not represent Scottish constituencies. Why has it been all right for hon. Members representing Eastbourne, East Devon or East Surrey to impose unwanted laws on East Lothian for 18 years, but suddenly—now that the situation is turned round and Scottish Members might briefly be in a position to influence legislation covering their constituencies—it is a constitutional outrage? That is inconsistent and absurd, and the new clause should be rejected.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)
Order. I must repeat an earlier plea from the Chair for shorter speeches. An awful lot of Members want to contribute and they simply will not be able to do so unless speeches are shorter and we have fewer and less lengthy interventions.
§ Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)
I come to the same conclusions as my right hon. and hon. Friends, but I may have started from a different point and come by a different route. I do not take the view that a unitary state has some sort of religious sanction. The arguments for devolution are well made.
Two years ago, when some of us were invited to make a presentation at Chequers, I was asked to do one on the constitution, for reasons that escaped me then and still escape me now. I argued the case for a federal structure 787 in the United Kingdom. In the light of the developments that were under way, which were threatened by a Labour party that we recognised was likely to win the election, I felt that we should prepare the inevitable response.
Whether one likes it or not, it is now inescapable that we will end up with an English Parliament, and I feel relatively at ease with that concept. I believed then that we had a centralised state and that that had two major disadvantages. One was that it made our relations within the European Union more difficult because our structures were not equivalent to those more commonly found on the continent, with which our partners were more at ease.
The second reason was that we had deprived of power a large number of the traditional institutions of local government in the United Kingdom, so the sensible job for Conservatives was first to reinvigorate existing organisations—before creating new ones—and secondly, given the sort of political challenge that we faced, to look towards a more radical solution, and that is what will happen.
My idea was that Members would be elected for both their national Parliament and the federal Parliament. I did not see why we needed two categories of Member. The residual functions of what one might call the federal Parliament would be such that, as little legislation is commanded by many of the issues with which it would be concerned, it would be entirely possible for myself, for example, to fulfil a role as a Member of an English Parliament and equally to be a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament dealing with the issues relevant to it. We do not need two categories of Member of Parliament and we do not need to double the political strength of the bureaucracies that go with those.
Moreover, my proposal would achieve what this legislation manifestly will not—equivalence of responsibility within the United Kingdom. The one thing that Labour Members do not want to understand about our concerns is that, whatever the relative proportion of Members elected to this House from different parts of the United Kingdom under the present arrangements, their role has always been precisely equivalent. That will be lost with the legislation.
Whether or not English Members are determining Scottish affairs in votes on the Scottish revenue support grant or, before we all went upstairs, matters to be decided between 10 pm and 11.30 pm or between 11.30 pm and I am, and whether or not Scottish Members are using their votes to determine matters in England, does not matter. What matters is that our responsibilities and obligations are identical and we are elected under the same statute to perform the same role. We discharge the same role and responsibilities. That is why the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) represents his constituents. He is not a delegate to them. His job is to speak his mind as he believes is right on their behalf. That is what representative democracy is about and that is why the accusation that he has failed them is entirely misplaced.
§ Mr. Canavan
When there was a Stormont Parliament, was the role of Northern Ireland Members of Parliament in this place exactly the same as that of Members from Scotland, England and Wales?
§ Mr. Curry
They had the same rights. In their role as Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, they 788 enjoyed exactly the same responsibilities, obligations and rights as the other Members. That is what is at the heart of the argument.
The present proposal would destroy that equilibrium. There are a number of false problems—the most false and the one that concerns me least is the fact that there may be more Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster than English Members and that the ratio may be disproportionate. I realise that that problem will be tackled at some indeterminate time and take the view that in a representative system there are bound to be inequalities of that sort. The nature of the constituencies is such that if one sought mathematical exactitude it would not work effectively in practical terms. So, I am not particularly disturbed about that problem and I do not think that my constituents are. Frankly, that issue is, at the moment, the dog that did not bark. In general elections, it is the dog that has not barked until now in the English constituencies. When my colleagues talk of the danger of English nationalism, I recognise that that may emerge, but none of us are in the business of wafting that fuse—none of us want to profit from that difficulty.
Three real problems exist, as opposed to the imaginary ones. The first is the unequal role of Members of Parliament as individuals under the proposed arrangement. What will Scottish Members do, not merely when they are here—they will not have responsibility for matters in Scotland because the Members of the Scottish Parliament will deal with those—but when they are in their constituencies, where someone else will take responsibility for the meat and drink of surgery business, with which we all have to deal?
I freely admit that I am not one of those Members who believe that surgery activity and that role is something for which I was born and for which I live. We all know that at times the role gets tedious, but we do it because we have to. When someone arrives with an envelope containing 30 years of newspaper cuttings, with the best will in the world one's heart sinks, but that is a job which has to be done. I wonder what some of the Scottish Members, who will be redundant here except for voting on English legislation, will do when they are at home.
The second problem is the nature of those responsibilities. If Scottish Members cannot decide the issues that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, by definition there is no point in having a Scottish Parliament. They can decide the equivalent issues here. They will be rather like members of the Committee of the Regions or the Economic and Social Committee, which are two of the least useful institutions invented by the European Union.
There is a question of legitimacy, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) was right to raise it. One of the things that we learn from history is that no matter how competent successive monarchs might have been, if they were believed to be legitimate in their role they hung on for a great deal longer than anyone had the right to expect. The concept of illegitimacy—that there was somehow something wrong with what they were claiming to be—has been the fatal underminer of authority throughout our history.
789 The real danger is that we will have a group of people here who, with the best will in the world, we will want to fulfil their roles, but legitimacy will be denied to them by Members of Parliament who have much wider responsibilities to discharge than they have.
§ Mr. Hogg
My right hon. Friend is right. On his previous point—that he is not particularly concerned about the disproportionate over-representation of Scottish Members in this House—and reverting to the point that he has just made, will he concede that that disproportionate over-representation could give Scottish Members not merely a decisive vote on individual policies, but could sustain a Minister in place responsible for English policy when that Minister would not command a majority among Members representing English constituencies?
§ Mr. Curry
I entirely accept that my right hon. and learned Friend is arithmetically and logically correct. That would be the case. I was pointing out that we are either defending an arrangement that contains anomalies by definition because it has grown up historically, or looking for a much more radical suggestion—we will inevitably be forced to do so—rather than these provisional arrangements, which are unsustainable. That is what concerns me.
It is an unsustainable arrangement. For a number of reasons, there is no point in pretending that somehow regional Parliaments in England will put that right. First, the Government have deferred the decision, so we are not sure when that would happen. Secondly, we are not sure where it would happen, if it does. It will be left to the testing of opinion in the regions and whether they want to do that in the first place. Thirdly, regional Parliaments are to assume responsibility for the general supervision of the development agencies. The role envisaged for them is relatively limited and is nowhere near equivalent to the role of the Scottish Parliament.
Finally, the elected assembly for London provides an example of what a regional Parliament is likely to look like—it will certainly not have powers equivalent to those of the Scottish Parliament. The idea that regional assemblies will rebalance the equation is wholly illegitimate.
The representation of United Kingdom interests in Brussels will be another real problem. As we have heard, a vague role is envisaged for members of the Scottish Executive—it has even been hinted that they could represent the entire United Kingdom. Those of us with experience of discussions on such simple matters as fisheries will realise that that may not be as easily achieved as the theory suggests. There is a real danger that there will be an appetite for further influence and power in Europe, which could exaggerate our problems.
I believe that we have set out on a course that is not sustainable. Either we must find a further provisional solution, which will not be sustainable, or, regardless of whether it is our predilection, we will be driven to look for a more definitive arrangement for the United Kingdom, which accepts as inevitable the national aspirations in Scotland and Wales—I would not say that that was inherently undesirable—but which accommodates the imbalance that will flow from fulfilling 790 those aspirations. To prevent the fuse of English nationalism from burning and to avoid giving politicians the temptation to waft it, we must seek an arrangement that restores the equivalence that currently lies at the heart of our constitution. If, as I fear, we come to the conclusion that that can be achieved only by the establishment of an English Parliament, there is a great deal to be said for our promoting one constructively, rather than allowing it to happen by accident. We keep saying that our constitution was arrived at by accident. As we are now deliberately altering it, perhaps we should bring that process to its conclusion, logically.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
I apologise for my absence from the first two hours of the debate. It is not true that I was bound, gagged and locked in a cupboard in the Whips' office, from which it took me two hours to escape. In fact, I am a member of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, which was taking evidence upstairs—I apologise to the House for not having been able to attend the beginning of the debate.
I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), not so much because I agreed with his speech—although I did not disagree with all of it—but because, in its tone and rationality, it was by far the best contribution that I have heard from the Tory Benches in all the long hours that we have spent discussing the Bill in Committee and on Report. I only wish that such an attitude was shared by many more members of the official Opposition—if it were, the Conservative party might not be in such a sorry plight.
I regret having missed many of the earlier speeches, in particular that of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I was intrigued by the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge), who said that there was not a snappy version of the West Lothian question. If I may make an analogy with records and compact discs, the West Lothian question is an old 78. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow could have given us a rap version of the question, which would have made it more interesting than it usually is.
One of the central questions of the debate has been whether the West Lothian question is an anomaly or a constitutional outrage. I have detected that the constitutional outrage camp is firmly located in the ranks of the Tory Opposition. As they committed a number of constitutional outrages in the 18 years in which they were in government by using the unitary state against the people of Scotland, I come down firmly on the side that believes that the West Lothian question is an anomaly, and not a very remarkable one at that.
It is often argued, as it has been tonight, that the proposed system will be so anomalous as to be unsustainable—I have also heard it described as unacceptable. That is a poor argument, as the United Kingdom is itself an anomaly. It is a unitary state consisting of three and a bit nations—a unitary state with a multinational dimension. A unitary state with two completely separate legal systems—for England and Wales, and for Scotland—is an anomaly. A unitary state with two completely different systems of local government is an anomaly. There is supposedly only one national health service, but it is administered entirely differently in England and Wales and in Scotland. Moreover, of course, the established Churches in England 791 and in Scotland are altogether different. In fact, there is nothing consistent, coherent or unitary about the United Kingdom as a state. The old adage that the British constitution cannot be written down is justified only because if people ever saw it in black and white, they would not believe that anyone would have embarked on such a constitutional experiment as has been conducted over the past 300 years.
The United Kingdom is anomalous for a reason. The history of modern nationalism in Europe began with the French revolution, which gave birth to the idea that the modern nation state is based on the sovereignty of the people. As hon. Members will know from their history, the French revolution occurred in 1789, whereas the United Kingdom was formed as a unitary state in 1707–80 or so years before the birth of modern nationalism.
The United Kingdom was not a prototype for other nation states that developed later across Europe—they were based on the idea born in the French revolution. The United Kingdom emerged as a unitary state in the era of the ancien regime. The concept of the sovereignty of Westminster is based on the old monarchical idea of sovereignty and the divine right of kings. To this day, the House of Commons does not represent the popular sovereignty of the British people—sovereignty is held to be vested in the Crown in Parliament. We in Britain do not recognise what is recognised in every other nation state in Europe. We are out of touch with the rest of modern Europe; we are the anomaly.
§ Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)
The hon. Gentleman gives a very interesting interpretation of history—I was going to say analysis, but that would be too flattering. How does he compare the glorious revolution of 1688 with the French revolution in the controls and limits that were placed on the divine rights of kings and in the development of national sovereignty and the role of Parliament? As I understand these matters, the glorious revolution was considerably more important than he acknowledges.
§ Mr. McAllion
It is quite incredible that the hon. Gentleman should defend the glorious revolution of 1688 as the basis for governing Britain in the 21st century. I regard the 1688 revolution as an anti-Catholic, anti-Scotland conspiracy, but perhaps that is what attracts him to it—perhaps he wants such a sectarian system of government still to apply.
§ Mr. Robathan
I shall not take the hon. Gentleman back to 1688, yet, as he has suggested that the United Kingdom's constitution is rotten and that every other European country has had a better time because they recognise the sovereignty of the people and so on and on, how does he account for the fact that, in the lifetime of some hon. Members—although not mine or his—every other European country, with the exception of Switzerland, I believe, has been occupied, tramped across by armies or lived under some form of communist or fascist dictatorship?
§ Mr. McAllion
I suspect that that has more to do with the fact that Britain is an island than with its 17th-century constitution. If the hon. Gentleman believes that Hitler did not invade Britain because he was frightened of the divine right of kings, the sovereignty of Westminster or the 1688 revolution, he is not living in the real world.
792 Whether devolution is anomalous is neither here nor there in the context of the entire history of the United Kingdom. The status quo has been anomalous, as my hon. Friends have said time and again in these debates. Scotland has had different legal, educational, health and local government systems; its tradition of public housing has also been different from the one in England and Wales.
It is perfectly possible, under the status quo, for all the policies relating to those specifically Scottish matters to be overturned in the face of opposition from every single Scottish Member, simply by the use of the majority of English Members. No Conservative Member drew attention to that anomaly, which existed throughout the Conservative terms of office.
§ Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree, despite what he has just said, that the facts show that, in more than 300 years, the United Kingdom Parliament has protected as distinct entities the Scottish legal and education systems, and all the other matters that he mentioned?
§ Mr. McAllion
The hon. Lady has been too long away from Scotland. If she had been up there reading The Herald, as she claimed, she would know about the anglicisation of Scottish education and local government. Who in Scotland wanted the most recent reform of local government organisation? Even the Scottish Tories did not want that reorganisation, imposed on Scotland by an English majority in the House.
No United Kingdom Parliament since 1945 has ever overruled a majority of English Members. Time and again, a majority of English Members have overruled Scottish Members, but it has never happened the other way round. The Labour Governments of 1945–50, 1966-70 and 1974-79 were all elected with majorities over the Tories in England. They were backed by the English people in all those Parliaments.
There were only two Parliaments with a Conservative majority of English Members: 1964-66, and February to October 1974. At no point did a Labour Government impose on the people of England any legislative change that was opposed by the majority of English Members. It never happened to England, but it happened to Scotland time and again.
When we said that that was anomalous, the Tories said that anomalies did not matter, but as soon as they think that the boot might be on the other foot, anomalies suddenly matter and the position in which Scottish Members may be used to act against the will of the English is unsustainable. In fact, even now that cannot happen, because the majority of English Members agree with what we are doing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] They are away campaigning for devolved government in London, and good luck to them, although I have my own views on a directly elected mayor.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Grieve
That argument would be more convincing if a single English Labour Member had come along to support it.
§ Mr. McAllion
English Labour Members do not have any problem with the Bill. It was trailed in the manifestos 793 on which they fought the general election. It was made clear to their voters that, if a Labour Government were elected, they would introduce a Bill for Scottish devolution. It is in their interests and those of their constituents to get the Bill through quickly. It is Conservative Members who are trying to thwart the will of the people by delaying the Bill.
Our debates are often badly attended, and only the people who want to speak turn up—everyone else sits in their rooms watching television or doing something more interesting—but Tory Members attend debates on devolution in large numbers. That shows how out of touch they are with people outside. The Bill is not considered controversial outside. It would be controversial if the Government did not deliver their commitment on devolution to the people of Scotland and Wales. The Conservative party is out of touch with opinion throughout the country.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
The English people are not taking as close an interest as they should in the issue because the national newspapers in England are not taking it seriously; they give it no coverage. It is highly likely that this debate will get scant coverage tomorrow. By contrast, the Scottish press has gone into the issue in enormous detail. Perhaps that is why the Scottish National party is prospering.
§ Mr. McAllion
I can only take that as an attack on The Daily Telegraph and Mr. Rupert Murdoch. I am normally happy to join in attacks on both those great institutions. The hon. Gentleman did not worry about the English newspapers when Rupert Murdoch's The Sun backed the status quo in England at the same time as its Scottish version backed Scottish independence.
The press and the media are neither here nor there. People outside are intelligent and do not necessarily believe everything that they read—thank God for that—but make their own decisions after listening to politicians' and others' arguments. They make an intellectual judgment about the future of this country, and the judgment that they made at the general election was that it was time for constitutional change. The Conservative party must come to terms with that, or it will never make a comeback.
We heard earlier about the serious problem of an English backlash and the emergence of English nationalism. I see no problem with the kind of nationalism that delivered a yes, yes vote in the Scottish referendum last September. The only kind of English nationalism that would cause a problem is ethnic nationalism in the style of the National Front and Mr. Le Pen. If any Tory Members want to whip up the flames of that kind of nationalism, they are not doing themselves, or democracy, any favours.
If the nationalism that emerges in England is the civic nationalism that has emerged in Scotland and Ireland, and to a lesser extent in Wales, where is the problem? Why cannot the civic nationalities that live here co-exist peacefully and democratically, and go into the future in a different formation from that of the past 300 years? I am in favour of the English people rediscovering their national soul, because they are a fine nation.
§ Mr. Robathan
I agree with some of what the hon. Gentleman says. There is no harm in nationalism. 794 The trouble is that in all my 46 years, I have never seen a sign in England that says "Scots out", but emblazoned in big letters by the motorway just outside Edinburgh is the slogan, "English out". Nationalism and racism can walk hand in hand. In this country, we have been very tolerant as a whole, but the "English out" nastiness of Scottish nationalism is very worrying.
§ Mr. McAllion
The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to what I said. There are different kinds of nationalism. The "English out" Scottish nationalism is roundly condemned by every hon. Member, including Scottish nationalist Members. [Interruption.] They daily condemn such nationalism, and it is unfair to make allegations against them that are simply not true. Civic nationalism simply wants democratic control over a country's own affairs, irrespective of ethnic backgrounds.
§ Mr. Swinney
There seem to be some rumblings from Tory Members about the stance of my party. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) is absolutely right about our condemnation of "English out" sentiments. We have condemned such nationalism throughout our history. The hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) mentioned earlier my party's commitment to the democratic and civic process. That is the hallmark of our politics. If the Tory party cannot recognise that, that is another example of its being out of touch with Scottish politics.
§ Mr. McAllion
That is a fair point. Many of those who defended the status quo until the general election had never come to terms with nationalism. If asked whether they were English or British, many could not make their minds up. I suspect that there would be many different answers if we asked all Tory Members whether they were English or British, or English first and British second, or British first and English second.
Nationalism never raised its head in the old unitary state, but it has now emerged. It is not the ethnic nationalism that erupted in Bosnia, but a civic nationalism. It is emerging in part in England as well, and can be seen in the campaigns for northern assemblies. People want democratic control over their own affairs, and there is nothing wrong with that. If the Conservative party continues to denounce civic nationalism, it will remain in the political wilderness, and deservedly so.
Conservative Members are not above using a bit of ethnic stirring themselves. Many of the arguments that we have heard tonight have focused on the notion that poor old English taxpayers are subsidising junkies up in Scotland who are getting all our money; but that is simply not true. There is no question of its being true, or even being a factor, after devolution. I am surprised that no one has yet jumped to his or her feet to mention the Barnett formula, but before that happens, let me remind hon. Members that that deals only with identifiable public expenditure.
Billions of pounds worth of Government expenditure is passed every year by the United Kingdom Parliament, but never taken account of when the Barnett formula is applied. The formula excludes, for example, expenditure on Government Departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Foreign Office and the Treasury—all located here in the heart of England and all costing the British taxpayer a whole load of money. 795 One does not hear Scottish Labour Members saying, because of that, that we are subsidising the subsidy junkies down here in England—because we do not believe that. Similarly, all kinds of expenditure traditionally used by Conservative Governments favours many people living in the south of England compared with people living elsewhere. There is mortgage tax relief, for example. I know that that has been reduced in recent years, but it directed huge subsidies to people in the south of England where house prices are high. For many years huge, reliefs were given to people in the south, and nobody in Scotland complained. Nobody raised a flag and said that mortgage tax relief was subsidising junkies in the south of England.
To this day, the upper limit on national insurance contributions is a hand-out to people on very high earnings, most of whom live here in the south of England. Those people are being subsidised by British taxpayers in the rest of the country. Tax relief on private pension contributions, too, favours England far more than Scotland, because of the sheer numbers. There is also the London underground and the docklands development—and the millennium dome; let us not forget that, because it is being built down here.
One of the benefits of having a Scottish Parliament will be that when we enter into negotiations with the Westminster Parliament about the level of public expenditure in Scotland, it will insist on transparency concerning where the tax revenues are coming from throughout the United Kingdom, as well as where the expenditure is going. Until we have that process, it will make no sense to go back to the old-style arguments about English taxpayers being expected to support subsidy junkies in Scotland. That argument is not true; it is not taken seriously in Scotland—or, I suspect, in England either.
We are told that new clause I is necessary because Scottish Members of the Westminster Parliament will still have a vote here after devolution. There are a number of possible solutions to the West Lothian question. The most extreme solution, I suppose, would be to cut the numbers of Scottish Members at Westminster to absolute zero. [Interruption.] I see that there is some support for that idea on the Tory Benches. If we took that course, the West Lothian question would finally disappear and never rear its ugly head again.
However, it is unjust and unsustainable to suggest that that would be a solution to the West Lothian question, because fiscal decisions, for example, will continue to be taken in this Parliament and will continue to affect people living in Scotland and Wales, as well as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The basic and higher rates of income tax, value added tax, corporation tax and levels of tax relief all affect Scotland—and of course, Scotland would not pay any of those taxes if it had no representation in this House. So there has to be Scottish representation here after devolution, and Conservative Members must take that fact on board.
There is no solution that does not include Scottish Members continuing to represent Scotland in this House. If people want to get rid of Scottish Members of the Westminster Parliament altogether, there is only one solution, which would be to make Scotland completely independent—but I suspect that that is not what Conservative Members want. But perhaps it is. Perhaps there are some English nationalists among the Tories who would like to see the back of Scotland altogether.
796 Another suggestion was made in the 1978 Act, section 66 of which—I see the ears of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State beginning to prick up as he remembers the old battles fought over devolution in 1978—required that where a Bill
which does not relate to or concern Scotlandwas carried by a vote in which the votes of Scottish Members were decisive, there had to be a second vote 14 days later which would exclude Scottish Members. By that mechanism, it was hoped, the West Lothian question could be solved.
However, there were, of course, several serious objections to such a solution. First, as has already been said, it would make Cabinet Government impossible. The elected Cabinet could not continue to rule the country if English business in the House were conducted in that way. Then there would be the problem of how we defined business that did not concern Scotland. Who would define it?
Would the Scottish Parliament have a role in defining such business? Would there have to be a joint committee between the Westminster and the Scottish Parliaments to decide what constituted such business? A class of in-and-out Members would be created—second-rate Members who were allowed to vote decisively only on issues relating to Scotland.
I know that Enoch Powell still has some admirers on the Conservative Benches, but in the 1970s, he came out against such a solution, because he saw that it was unacceptable. The constitutional unit has carried out a great deal of research into the implications of devolution for the United Kingdom Parliament, and it recognised that any kind of in-and-out system was unacceptable.
§ Mrs. Gorman
Enoch Powell also said in the 1970s that one cannot have a semi-nation—that it is inevitable that such a nation would become a devolved nation.
§ Mr. McAllion
I thought that Enoch Powell argued that a semi-nation was a devolved nation. I think that the hon. Lady may have meant "an independent nation". She will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with Enoch Powell. I merely mentioned his position because there may be some Powellites on the Opposition Benches who favour an in-and-out solution. If there are, they should realise that their mentor did not support such a system in any sense.
§ Mr. Leigh
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the absurdity of trying to create two classes of Members in this House. It would not work, and would indeed make Cabinet Government impossible. Does the hon. Gentleman therefore accept that the only practical solution, in the minds of many, would be to create a full English Parliament? Does he accept that if that happened, the English Parliament would become dominant and the United Kingdom Parliament would inevitably become an empty husk?
§ Mr. McAllion
I accept some of that. I was about to deal with the constitutional unit, which said that the only real answer to the West Lothian question was federalism—home rule all round. That is the only neat and 797 proper solution. One objection to that idea is that there is no political will in England for it, as far as I can detect, at this stage.
However, English people will have to come to terms with the reality that if they want to solve the West Lothian question, that is how they can do it. I see no problem. An English Parliament would be separate from the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh assembly; the federal parliament of the United Kingdom would be separate from the English Parliament, and would deal only with United Kingdom issues. Representation in the federal parliament would be completely separate from representation in the English Parliament—so where is the problem? I do not see one.
The only problem is that English people are not aware of the constitutional implications of the kind of revolution that is now taking place. We must remember that devolution is not an isolated endgame, which should be seen as separate from the rest of the constitutional revolution being carried out by the Labour Government. It is part of a process that includes reform of the House of Lords, a referendum on the voting system for the Westminster Parliament, regional government across England and other radical changes to local government, and the European convention on human rights being introduced into the laws of Scotland—[HON. MEMBERS: "Is this a filibuster?"] No, I am not filibustering; I am simply making certain points that need to be made in the debate.
Hon. Members must realise that the process will carry on within Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom. It will not end here. We have nothing to fear from that process. England has nothing to fear. Indeed, if we are ever to modernise our economy, we must first modernise the constitution, which predates every other constitution in modern Europe.
The West Lothian question is a dinosaur. Until we put it behind us, we shall never be able to face the realities of the 21st century. For once, I have no hesitation in saying that I shall be delighted to join my right hon. Friends in government in the Lobby to vote down and consign to the dustbin of history the West Lothian question, along with all those who support it.
§ Mr. Hogg
I know that you want hon. Members to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I will be; I will take no more than 10 minutes. I approach the debate as a believer in devolution. I long ago came to the view that it would be wrong for the House to withhold devolution from the people of Scotland if that is what they want.
I suspect that devolution is not in the interests of the people of Scotland, but that does not matter. They will decide their own business, and we must not stand in their way. Therefore, I am a friend of devolution on that basis. I have come to that conclusion from the study of history—conscious, I think, that because of what we did in Ireland—
§ Mr. Hogg
May I pursue my argument, and then give way?
798 Because we withheld home rule from Ireland, we brought about a situation that led to the division of the United Kingdom, then including Ireland. My own belief is that if we do not agree to devolution, the threat to the Union as a whole is much greater than if we do.
§ Mr. Dewar
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks with sincerity when he makes that point, but does he agree that that is a rather good justification for the pre-legislative referendum that we ran? I suspect that if we had not had that decisive vote before the Bill was considered in the House, desperate efforts would have been made to defeat it in the House, on the ground that there was no consent in Scotland, and the House of Lords might have been encouraged to do likewise.
§ Mr. Hogg
I have accepted the need for devolution at least from the time I first entered the House in 1979. In any event, the need for consent could have been met by a post-legislation referendum, which would have been equally reassuring to Conservative Members.
Assuming we are going to have devolution, which I welcome, I am anxious that it should be a permanent settlement and one that is sustainable. My fear is that, unless the settlement that we are putting in place now addresses the entirety of the concerns of the United Kingdom, is put in an overall context and is fair to England, it will not be durable. I am extremely concerned about the English backlash, and about the fact that the specific proposals to be put in place are not fair to England and do not address the wider issues of the United Kingdom as a whole.
I will not repeat the various criticisms of the proposals, save in summary form—too many Scottish Members of Parliament; the fact that spending is too high in Scotland; the fact that the West Lothian question remains; the fact that all the other parts of the United Kingdom will have a Parliament or an assembly, but England will not. We can debate the way out, but one fact that is wholly plain is that what is now being put to the House does not address the English question and is not set in the context of the solution, which is a permanent settlement for the United Kingdom as a whole.
Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I have played with various concepts in the past—for example, the federal system, the practice of designating business to be English-only business and the establishment of an English Grand Committee—but my final personal conclusion is that we shall have to have a fully federal system with an English Parliament. I am struck by the number of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are also coming to that conclusion, which I believe is shared by many right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches. One depressing feature of the debate is that there has been a tendency for Labour Members to say that, because the Scots have suffered what they perceive to be an injustice for a long time, we are now going to commit an injustice against the English. That is not a proper way in which to bring about a durable settlement as it is certain to bring about resentment and the destruction of anything we put in place.
I have spoken in summary form and no more, because the arguments have been deployed by many right hon. and hon. Members. I believe in devolution, but I want it to be 799 sustainable and durable. For that purpose, it must be fair and address the totality of our constitutional problems. It is possible to criticise the new clause tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), but it does offer a way forward. Anyone who is seriously concerned about creating a durable and sustainable constitutional settlement for our country and maintaining the Union should support it.
§ Mr. Dewar
I grateful for the opportunity to speak at this stage, although not with any intention of choking the debate—the House will be glad to know that we have two and a half hours to go, so many interesting speeches will no doubt yet be made. This is an important debate, which I have found genuinely interesting; I have sat through almost all of it and I shall certainly try to last through most of the rest.
I should like to make one small preliminary point to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). He is, on the whole, rather a nice man, but he tries on occasion to whip himself up into a lather and his suggestion that we have somehow obstructed debate on this issue is not a charge which stands up to any scrutiny. There was some difficulty: there was an arranged timetable on 4 March, when we reached these matters during the Committee stage; there was an unexpected statement and no arrangements had been made in the timetable to accommodate that; there were then a large number of points of order and other difficulties, largely raised by Opposition Members; and then—I make no criticism except in the context of the charge—there was an unusually long speech by a distinguished Conservative grandee, which raised the temperature in the House, as he no doubt anticipated it would. We were happy to accede to Conservative suggestions that we have six and a half hours to debate a fairly narrow group of amendments, so I think it fair to say that we have approached the issue in a reasonable spirit. We intend to continue to do so.
§ Mr. Swinney
I understand the rationale for the allocation of time to this subject, but is the right hon. Gentleman not concerned that debate on some of the more complex aspects of the Bill, which have yet to be considered in the remaining stages, will be somewhat truncated because we have spent so long on an extended West Lothian question debate? That worries several hon. Members, who are concerned about the complex matters that we have yet to discuss.
§ Mr. Dewar
I hope that we shall be able to deal with various contentious matters that may lie ahead in the remaining stages, but I also hope that the hon. Gentleman does not feel that today has been wasted. We have had a fascinating opportunity to study the anatomy of the Conservative party, post-defeat. It has been genuinely interesting to watch the Conservative party in the House of Commons wrestle with the future, and largely lose. However, they will have to continue the struggle and some interesting consensus may form on the Conservative Benches in the months and years that lie ahead.
This has not been a waste of debate and, although I accept that the subject is one that most hon. Members find fascinating, if repellant, I have found the debate instructive. There have occasionally been tough touches, for example, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) accused me of deploying an acerbic 800 wit. Of course, I deny it all and I have no intention of laying myself open to a repeat of that charge during the rest of this particular performance.
I do not say it in the spirit of a barrack-room lawyer and a pedant, but I was a little surprised by the right hon. Member for Devizes, who kept talking about an independent inquiry; there is a fairly important distinction to be made, because that is not at all what the new clause calls for. The new clause instructs the Secretary of State to carry out a review and, while I do not know what sort of review would be expected of me—assuming I still held that office—if the new clause was accepted, it would certainly not be an independent inquiry of the sort the right hon. Gentleman hinted at in his speech.
We heard exchanges between my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and Conservative Members about their obstructing progress on the Bill; that accusation was strongly denied. It is worth reminding the House that we are considering new clause 1, but that amendment No. 2 is grouped with it. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Devizes mentioned the amendment at any point in his opening speech, but I presume that he holds to it. It would, in effect, ensure that no part of the Bill could be implemented until after the review had been concluded, so there would be—perhaps justifiably; that is a matter for argument—a considerable delay while we went through the review process. As the charge of obstruction was denied, it is worth putting that point on the record.
§ Mr. Dewar
If the review is to be the thorough-searching review that we understand the right hon. Member for Devizes wants, that will clearly delay matters quite considerably. I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) will not resent my saying that I cannot think of anyone who is better equipped than he to be pedantic—
§ Mr. Dewar
Apart, perhaps, from my good self. The right hon. and learned Gentleman got there before me.
I was interested also when the right hon. Member for Devizes firmly said, in reply to some questions, that options had been canvassed in the past. It became clear that he would not canvass any of those options in his speech. To be fair, other Members have done so, but the right hon. Gentleman certainly did not. It was to be an inquiry, an inquiry and an inquiry. We were being asked to consider whether someone else could find an answer to the problem that worried the right hon. Gentleman. He seemed determined not to make a contribution himself.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am not sure whether the Secretary of State was in the Chamber when previous debates took place on these matters, during which I canvassed various options, and did so at some length. Having done so, I felt that it was only right on this occasion not to weary the House with the same analysis all over again. 801 As for the structure of the new clause, I am sure that the Secretary of State, of all people, will know that there are certain constraints within which we must work in tabling new clauses in relation to amendments that have previously been tabled to Bills on Report.
§ Mr. Dewar
That is a technical defence, but no doubt an ingenious one. If the right hon. Gentleman really wished to spare us further analysis on his part, that is small mercy. It would be churlish not to thank him. However, I would have been interested in hearing some of his analyses.
Some rather odd arguments have been advanced and I shall turn to some of them. I was rather irritated by the suggestion that, once devolution is in order, Scottish Members—however conscientious and hard-working—might find it difficult to occupy their time in the House. That is not so. Whatever one thinks of the balance of the division of responsibilities between Westminster and Edinburgh, there is no doubt that, in Scottish terms, major areas of interest and importance remain at Westminster. Labour Members think that it is a logical split, but that is a subject for legitimate debate.
Anyone who wished to develop an interest in, for example, foreign affairs, defence, macro-economics or fiscal measures—in other words, the plethora of legislative provisions that maintain the framework of the United Kingdom and its level playing field, whether it be company law, labour and employment law or financial services regulation—would find that there was a great deal to be done. It may be that Scottish Members will become more noted for being well-informed specialists rather than for what we tend to be at present—being enforced generalists, because of the spread of Scottish Office responsibilities. The idea that Scottish Members will not be able to make a contribution at Westminster, or to find issues of importance in which they can get their teeth, seems peculiar to me.
It has been a fascinating debate. However, I am not sure exactly what significance to put to it. Clearly, the Opposition Whips have been at work, and I congratulate them on that.
§ Mr. Grieve
I can assure the Secretary of State that the Opposition Whips have not been at work. The debate does not require them to be at work. We are debating a matter which is of the deepest concern to us. Will the right hon. Gentleman understand that it is of the deepest concern to us because the issue is raised with us by our constituents? That is why it is a subject which we wish to debate. It is remarkable that not one Labour Member who represents an English constituency has bothered to turn up for the debate.
§ Mr. Dewar
I feel tempted to say that I rest my case. I am tempted also—I shall not let myself fall into this temptation, because I might have to read them—to give the hon. Gentleman three minutes, so that he does not have time to write them, to get some of his constituency letters, which set out at length his constituents' concerns about the West Lothian question. I intend to return to that point.
I shall make a serious point. I accept that there is something going on in the Conservative party on this issue. I accept that there are concerns and worries. Some 802 prominent Conservative Members have turned up for the debate. I do not think for a moment that they are Whips' fodder. They are in the Chamber to express points of view and concerns. I do not mock that. A significant number of prominent Conservative Members have been present for the debate, including the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry). It is an interesting phenomenon.
The right hon. Member for South Norfolk, who was once a sturdy burgher of Shotts, made an interesting point when he said, to take up the argument of other Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), that his constituents were not worried about these matters at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that they started worrying when he drew their attention to them. That is an interesting comment. If an influential and well-respected Member says to his constituents, "This is an outrage, a difficulty and a threat to constitutional stability", it may be, at least within the South Norfolk constituency party, that constituents will start to be worried. The question arises whether it is wise to make these matters an issue. Is it necessary to make them an issue? Is it counter-productive to do so? I make that point seriously.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Like the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I have been concerned about this issue in relation to Scottish devolution for the past 20 years. However, it has become a reality only since the general election. In England, not a great deal of media interest is focused on the issue. There is hardly any coverage of it in the English newspapers. I know that the coverage has been huge in Scotland because I still have some connections with Scotland—not necessarily Shotts but elsewhere. As I have said, there has not been that sort of coverage in England.
I make the serious point to the Secretary of State that, as soon as the proposed legislation is in place and things start happening in this Parliament, the issue will become extremely serious. It is then that people will see what is happening.
§ Mr. Dewar
That is an interesting comment. It seems that something of a split argument is being advanced. Undoubtedly some hon. Members are saying, "We must do something about this because English opinion is outraged." Other responsible Members are saying, "Sadly, English opinion is not outraged. However, I am outraged and, fortunately, when I tell people about these matters they become ratty as well." I suggest that we should start to consider whether we want to elevate the matter so that it has the status of a major public issue.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
As an English Member who has had a self-denying ordinance for the past 11 years on Scottish business, this is the first time that I have spoken on matters to do with Scotland. It is not necessarily the fact that those who have spoken in the debate are outraged, or that their constituents are outraged. Will the Secretary of State not agree or recognise that part of our function as parliamentarians is to use our foresight and judgment to flag up what is likely to happen if he continues down the path that the Government have outlined? 803 Will the right hon. Gentleman please give me the assurance that he recognises that we English Members of Parliament have concern for the future?
§ Mr. Dewar
I see the crowded Benches opposite me and I have listened to the speeches. I have already acknowledged that some Members of Parliament are concerned about the issue, but I was probing the extent to which it has been artificially inflated and the extent to which it is causing genuine feeling.
I understand the point that, after devolution, the right hon. Member for South Norfolk could say that controversial legislation had been forced on his constituents by my vote and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall). We all play that game occasionally, and legitimately so. These days, we are given to saying that we lost a vote in the House of Lords, but would have carried the day if it had not been for the hereditary peers. I am not sure to what extent people warm to or respond to that.
The arithmetic of the House of Commons has been mentioned. Since 1945, the Scottish tyranny, if I may use that word, has existed as an actual threat, as distinct from one that might have been used, on an enormously limited number of occasions. Such events are very rare and will become more rare because of the certain reduction in the number of Scottish Members at Westminster, which I shall discuss in a moment.
§ Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way because he is repeating what many of his hon. Friends have said. Does he accept that if the Government introduced proportional representation, that pattern would dramatically change and the chances of Scottish Members holding the balance of power would greatly increase?
§ Mr. Dewar
I am not sure that that follows. There would be a different House of Commons under full proportionality. Whoever had his nose in front would not get the substantial seats bonus that comes with first past the post, so the number of hon. Members on other Benches would swell to represent the percentage of the vote that they received. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it would not necessarily benefit my party. It would not benefit my party in Scotland in the short term, although we have gone down that road as a matter of principle. I never tire of claiming that it is the best example of charitable giving this century in British politics. This fear is much argued, but I am not sure that it is a fear of great substance, although I accept that we will all have to learn new lessons and look at a new profile if we change the voting system. The Government would not do that; the people would decide in a referendum, if and when the time comes.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
The Secretary of State fails to understand the point. There may not yet be widespread concern in England at what the Government are doing, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) said, that is because there is not the media attention. There is no doubt that there is increasing concern, however. As people become aware of the magnitude of what the Secretary of State and his 804 colleagues are proposing for the United Kingdom—not only for Scotland—there could be a serious backlash. Concern is growing.
§ Mr. Dewar
That is a matter of judgment and opinion which we could discuss. That is an unwise offer, but I do not know what the other threats are. The arrival of an elected mayor in London is, at least in prospect, comparatively popular. [Interruption.] Let us wait and see. I must not wander into that matter.
§ Mr. Dewar
No. I have given way a lot and it would be appreciated if I pushed on. I have rehearsed my argument and, although it is not accepted by Conservative Members, I still believe that it is largely valid.
The last accolade that I would ever seek would be to be known as a good House of Commons man. That is always a dangerous honour to bestow on any human being, but, in a sense, I am defending my position in House of Commons terms. I believe in the sovereignty of this Parliament, which was in place before the devolution settlement and remains in place after it. The Scottish Parliament is a creation of legislation and is therefore a creation of votes in the House of Commons. We cannot get the Bill through without the support of a wide sweep of Members of Parliament from every part of the country.
Hon. Members may look at me as though I had two heads, on the ground that there is a whipping system, but the Bill is a manifesto commitment. Hon. Members who say that that is not a valid argument should think about the damage that they are doing to the right of any Government to table any controversial Bill and pass it. It is just as valid for us to rely on the argument about the way in which the House of Commons works as it was for the Conservative Government in the past and perhaps will be for Conservative Governments in future years.
The Westminster Parliament remains sovereign. If the current generation of its Members decides that, for the better government of the country, certain powers should be devolved to a Parliament or a body outwith Westminster, so long as that decision was taken by the whole of the House of Commons properly and democratically, it would be constitutionally legitimate and well within the parliamentary system in which we all operate. That point was made extremely well by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge). That is the first bulwark on which I rely. We have a majority for this measure, and, unusually, we have unanswerable public consent following the referendum. We are entitled to put this legislation through.
Some hon. Members who may support me more generally on this issue are worried that the House of Commons, having given, can, in extremis, take away. It would be very unwise to do so, and almost everyone who has spoken accepts that. However, it is still a possibility.
Points have been made about the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster. Undoubtedly, as this century unwound, there was a move to increase Scottish representation. There was a floor on the number of MPs: 805 we had 71 in the House of Commons. That gave us a considerable advantage pro rata. The justification was that, given the distinct and separate stream of Scottish legislation taken at Westminster, that particular work load had to be recognised through Scottish representation. Devolution quite properly alters that position.
Despite the concerns of many of my colleagues, we decided together that we would reduce our representation. I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) used the word "arbitrary", because it was not an arbitrary decision. We said that we would remove the artificial floor and invite the boundary commission to apply to Scotland exactly the same criteria that are applied in England, so that representation would be on a comparable basis. That was right, and was part of our attempt to get a balance on the settlement that we were establishing and to ensure that it was generally seen as fair.
I believe that the settlement is fair, but I accept that there is a balance of advantage. I realise that there are anomalies and difficulties. The House of Commons works on the basis of consent, and the usual channels operate. We reach compromises and agreements. Some people complain that they are reached behind the scenes surreptitiously, but that is not the point. One would not design a Parliament that operates in that way, but we all want to make it work. The point was fairly made by a number of hon. Members that our system is tolerant. I would claim tolerance as one of the great attributes of the British political system. I probably dislike as many Labour colleagues as Tories. Fortunately, in both cases it is a comparatively small number, but they are cherished and carefully defined.
We work on the basis of agreement and mutual tolerance. The strength of the devolution settlement is that it recognises the way in which the Union was constructed and the survival of our separate legislative and legal systems. That has great advantages, and it enriches our democracy. I hope that it will not become the bruising issue that some people suggest. I say that sincerely.
§ Mr. Ancram
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer a simple, straightforward question? Does he or does he not agree that there is a fundamental problem as a result of what has become known as the West Lothian question?
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer another question? If his proposals are considered so satisfactory in Scotland, why is the Scottish National party doing so well in the polls?
§ Mr. Dewar
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I do not want to go into a long digression about the current polls in Scotland. I think that the polls have a lot of shaking down to do in the next year.[Interruption.] I do not intend to be diverted from my argument, but let me say that I do not take very seriously, for instance, a poll that showed support for the Liberal Democrats at 2 per cent. That does not strike me as likely.
§ Mr. Dewar
I note the hon. Gentleman's becoming modesty. He clearly hopes that the whole 2 per cent. will be at Lochaber. [Interruption.] I am sorry; that was the wrong constituency. It could have been a tragedy.
806 There have been three polls recently. One showed the SNP to be 5 per cent. ahead of Labour on one question—a question that was clearly important, but it was just one question, against the background of a high satisfaction rating for the Labour Government. The other two polls, on the same question, showed Labour to be 5 and 12 per cent. ahead respectively. There is much work to be done, and we all take these matters seriously. The SNP, wisely, says that it is not counting its chickens and that it, too, will work hard. I look forward to that, but I urge caution.
Let me turn to a more important issue: the issue that we are debating. The right hon. Member for Devizes asked me whether I considered the West Lothian question to be an absolute problem—a fundamental problem. I think that it could be a fundamental problem if it was mishandled and became a shibboleth. We do not want to turn this into a crisis, but I think that, on balance, it is advantageous to proceed with the scheme. I meet many of those who voted no in the referendum. I have talked to a number of those people, who have said, "We did not like certain aspects of the scheme—on balance we were against it—but we are now determined to make it work, and to get the best that we can out of it". The approach in the House of Commons should be on those broad lines: that would be sensible, and in all our interests.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor
As one of the few who opposed devolution when it was proposed by both main parties, let me ask the Secretary of State a genuine and serious question. If he thinks there is a problem, what on earth is wrong with asking an independent group to conduct an inquiry now? If a problem may arise, what is wrong with accepting the new clause? Who will be angry? Will Labour Members be angry? Will Conservative Members be angry? Will SNP Members be angry? If it is possible that a big problem will arise, what is wrong with accepting the new clause and trying to find a solution?
§ Mr. Dewar
As the years go by, I am consistently amazed at the hon. Gentleman's ability to ask—with the simplicity and naivety of a child—"What would be the difficulty?" He knows full well what the difficulty would be, and how it would be interpreted. I have observed the hon. Gentleman for 20 years on the European question. I have never doubted his sincerity, but I have reservations about his sense of proportion and his starting point, and on this occasion I do not think that I can indulge him.
§ Mr. Dewar
If I ever visit Southend and find the hon. Gentleman digging a large trench, I shall know that Southend is about to float off as a tax haven. 807 This discussion is becoming ludicrously overblown. Let me return to the point, and—comparatively briefly—deal with an argument that I, at least, am taking seriously. I hope that most of the points that I have made so far are being taken seriously as well.
I find it interesting watching the Conservative party try to deal with this problem. The hon. Member for—is it Rushcliffe?
§ Mr. Dewar
Oh, Gainsborough. Sorry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rushcliffe is Ken Clarke."] Yes. Never mind. It is just as well that the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe is away: I suspect that the comparison would not have pleased him.
The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) in a sense put it briskly. He said that there were only two possibilities. He said that there was a problem—he started from that point—and said that the only thing that the Conservatives could do was lump it or hope that there was total independence for Scotland. I do not believe that that view is shared by many Conservative Members.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe, whom I now have at least in my mind's eye, if not physically before me, argued that federalism was not the answer. He did not want a federal solution, but did look back to the sort of in-out solution that Gladstone rejected in the 1890s in the Irish debates. However, the right hon. Members for South Norfolk and for Skipton and Ripon, and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and Hykeham—
§ Mr. Dewar
Precision again. Those three respected and experienced members of the Conservative parliamentary party all argued, at least to varying degrees, that federalism was the solution to this problem. It is clear that there is quite a lot not only of disunity, but of thinking going on. It will be interesting to see whether and how that develops, but, for the reasons that I have explained, Labour Members do not start with the same analysis of the seriousness of the issue, in terms of its being a major problem. Therefore, we will have to hold our fire.
There have been many attempts at this. Obviously, an English Grand Committee would not necessarily be satisfactory. Some people may have thought—I do not know whether the right hon. Member for South Norfolk did so—about the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs, which is an interesting visitor from the past and has not met for 20 years. It consists of all English Members of Parliament plus five. I could never imagine what the plus five were going to do, but it has not met for 20 years. That perhaps makes the point, which was made in another context by Labour Members, that there is a different level of interest in these matters in England.
There is a suggestion that, in the parliamentary party, there are people who are so alarmed by what they see as an anomaly that they want to drive towards a federal solution, but I am not sure that, in England, they would take the same view among the population generally about the difficulty of the situation, particularly as the worries 808 and stories about the effect and impact of the Scottish vote will not be self-evident, because it does not exist in the form that is being suggested.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Is not the real reason why the right hon. Gentleman has put forward various sops that have no equivalents to the Scottish Parliament, and why, over the past 20 years, the Labour party has failed to address the matter, that the only logical and real equivalents to a Scottish Parliament that deal with the West Lothian question are not, on the whole, in most cases, favourable to the Labour party?
§ Mr. Dewar
I do not want necessarily want to get into that argument, because the right hon. Gentleman and I would simply have a stand-off on it. I made passing reference to what we have done in terms of the voting system in the Scottish Parliament. We had an annus mirabilis in 1997. We received 46 per cent. of the vote. We are going to have to receive 50 per cent., or as near as damn it, to form a majority Administration, so to say that Labour Members are always interested just in self-interest, and that self-interest and party interest always overrule judgment on constitutional issues is hard to maintain. Therefore, he is being uncharacteristically ungracious to us, but I can see that I will have to leave him to harbour his sinister and dark, dark thoughts about our motives.
I am coming to an end because I have spoken for an inordinately long time. I apologise for that, but it has been an interesting debate. It is interesting that, time and again in the debate, right hon. and hon. Members have said that they object to devolution because it creates different classes of hon. Members. I think that, in a strange way, the complaint is the exact opposite—that devolution has come and that, because Scottish Members are being left with exactly the same rights as every other hon. Member, it has not created different classes of hon. Members. Most Conservative Members are arguing that we should have different classes of hon. Members—such as hon. Members who can vote only in an English Grand Committee, or hon. Members, including Scottish Members, who are knocked out of dealing with one type of situation or another.
Most of the solutions that are being suggested are ones that will build in differences and distinctions. In extremis, those solutions may well be justified. However, the House has always worked on the basis that every hon. Member has the same rights. If the House has decided that certain business should, as I said, be spilled to a subordinate Parliament or a different legislative forum, that is not necessarily a reason for introducing distinctions between hon. Members—which most of the rhetoric and speeches in this debate have held as abhorrent.
§ 9 pm
§ Dr. Fox
The point that has been made is that those who are elected to the House from English constituencies will be able to ask questions on the health and education 809 of their constituents, but that those elected from Scottish constituencies will not be able to do so in the House. Where is the equality?
§ Mr. Dewar
The House has decided that health and education in Scotland should be dealt with in a different forum, and that that business will therefore not be before the House of Commons. However, every hon. Member will have equal rights in considering the business that is properly before the House. Most of the solutions being offered propose that that should not continue to be so. One can argue such a case, but one cannot do so on the basis that the trouble with devolution is that it will make for different classes of hon. Members. That is logically not a tenable position. The matter is of some importance in the script of this argument.
I accept that Conservative Members have, perhaps to their credit, accepted that they have to live with devolution, and that an unmistakable decision has been taken by the people of Scotland in a fairly contested referendum on an unambiguous question. Conservative Members have to recognise those developments, and I give them credit for doing so. However, if that is the position, people have to realise that they must live with it fully. Perhaps understandably, there is a desire to say, "We reluctantly accept the situation, but we still want to alter and perhaps delay the process until change comes." I do not have such a difficulty or take such a position.
The United Kingdom is a partnership, which has separate units, and has worked well for 300 years. I want it to continue working well and serving the people well. However, I think that we will most effectively remain a United Kingdom by recognising the position of Wales and of Scotland, and indeed of England, within the framework of the nation. In our devolution proposals, we are essentially saying only that there is a part of the United Kingdom that, increasingly during the 19th and 20th centuries, has maintained a difference which we should welcome as enriching the culture and political life of the United Kingdom.
Scotland has different health and education structures, different legislation and a different legal system. In many ways, we have a different cultural tradition. Time and again, friends of mine come up from England and invariably, if they are not familiar with Scotland, are struck by the reality of the differences. I think that, if we have such a situation, there is a considerable democratic advantage in saying, "Let us separate those areas of policy from Westminster, where they have sat a little uneasily, and put them under the control of an elected body that directly reflects Scottish opinion."
I accept that we do not necessarily want to take the same action in the north or west of England, as that might fragment something that most people in England think of as a unit. I accept also that people in those areas have a different tradition and a different attitude. However, there is no reason why the wishes of Scotland should not be so recognised.
If I may, I shall be extremely selfish for a moment. I have been in my present job for a year, and, in terms of better government, I can see enormous administrative advantages for Scotland under a devolved settlement. There are advantages for the scrutiny and analysis of legislation and for the decision-making process, so there is a very strong democratic case to be made.
810 My view, which I put on the record prosaically, is that it does not help to try to turn what I accept Conservative Members genuinely regard as a difficulty into a crisis that will destroy and promote turmoil in this country. By all means, let us talk sensibly about progress and further change. Of course, I have always seen the democratic and constitutional programme as a catalyst for further thought, but let us proceed sensibly to see whether there really is a problem. It may not be the problem that Conservative Members think it is. I do not believe that it will turn out to be that problem, but, if it does, it can be coped with on the basis of the tolerance and common sense that have always been the hallmarks of United Kingdom politics.
§ Mr. Gorrie
I welcome this debate as a few faltering steps on the road to federalism, which our party feels will be the final solution. Much good sense has been spoken in all quarters of the House. I shall set out how I think that we have got to where we are and why I think that the Conservatives have identified the wrong issue with the new clause.
We believe that sovereignty resides with the people and that the United Kingdom is a Union of nations, not a unitary state. The Scots, as one of those nations, have decided, because of their dissatisfaction with activities in this House over a good many years, to exercise their sovereignty and to have some of that sovereignty in future exercised in Edinburgh, as well as some here and some in Europe. By passing the Bill, we shall solve one major problem—the Scots' dissatisfaction with the way things were done—but we have created an anomaly by doing that.
The first question to be asked is how great is that anomaly. Some Conservatives think that it is a major disaster, as does the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) who sometimes appears to have escaped from the Old Testament. He would have been a very distinguished ornament among the Old Testament prophets, or a distinguished member of the group of doom and gloom preachers whom his ancestor so vigorously massacred. However, the hon. Gentleman overdoes the doom and gloom. There is a problem but, as the Secretary of State said, it is not a major one.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
The ancestor of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was reputed to have played cards with the devil; all that the hon. Member for Linlithgow has done is to play a few hands with the Tory party.
§ Mr. Gorrie
In our view, the Conservatives have identified the wrong issue. They think that the issue is the Scottish Members, whereas we think it is the English business. That is what Parliament has to address.
Some hon. Members have maintained that, unless this Parliament runs absolutely everything, civilisation and the world as we know it will collapse. I have been in the House only a short while, but spent 26 years as a councillor. Having become a Member of Parliament and ceased to be a councillor, I have to accept that many things affecting my community are decided by other elected people, not by me. Other people take planning decisions, close schools and so on. The idea that different elected bodies have different powers does not seem to be that great an issue. 811 Under the proposals, there will not be second-class Members because all Members will have the same restrictions. English Members will not be able to vote on Scottish domestic issues, but nor will Scottish Members. So it will be the same for everyone. The Conservatives made the wrong distinction. Some of them conjured up a picture of their surgeries being besieged by constituents who were absolutely livid that their Member of Parliament could no longer vote on education in Caithness or hospitals in Glasgow. I do not find that very convincing. Constituents worry about local services and not about whether their Member of Parliament can vote on issues affecting the other end of the country.
Although we have made great progress, the issue is the English business. I recognise that it is a difficult one because England is by far the most populous part of the United Kingdom and, quite understandably, many English people did not distinguish between England and the United Kingdom. However, now that Scotland and Wales are being treated differently, they are reappraising their Englishness, and that is a good thing. As others have said, it will result in evolution—gradual, uneven and untidy—which will lead to federalism, but there may be another solution.
There are various options for English people in exercising their sovereignty. Just as the Scottish people have chosen to exercise their sovereignty in a Scottish Parliament, the English people, when they have given the matter mature reflection, can opt for the status quo, warts and all; for a combination of strong regional assemblies dealing with English affairs; for an English Grand Committee, as has been mentioned; for an English Parliament made up of English Members of the Westminster Parliament; or for a totally different English Parliament. All those possibilities keep to the basic rule that all hon. Members must be equal.
The Conservative new clause would create second-class Scottish Members, and therefore goes in the wrong direction. What is needed is a way of dealing with the English business in a coherent fashion to allow English Members to deal with English business in whichever way the English people choose. The Irish will have their own Assembly and the Welsh and the Scots will also control their own domestic activities. In that way, whether it is a federal or quasi-federal system, we shall end up with a fair arrangement that will satisfy everyone. The Conservative new clause will be seen as creating second-class Scottish Members and will cause antagonism in Scotland. We accept that there is concern in some quarters in England, but it is an English question—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
Order. I have noticed that a few conversations are taking place around the Chamber. That is not fair to the hon. Gentleman who is addressing the House.
§ Mr. Gorrie
As I have said, we are making a definite move towards federalism. I hope that, before I look down on this place from a loftier height, or up at it from below, we shall have achieved a federal system of which we can all be proud. The Bill is a great step forward. It has made many English people look for the first time at themselves and how they should run their affairs, and I welcome that.
§ Mr. Davidson
I am struck by the number of English Tory Members who have said today that they accept that 812 devolution will now take place. I could almost swear that at least twice I looked up and saw a flying pig disappear behind a cloud outside the window. Their statements have as much credibility as the concept of a flying pig. I do not believe that the Conservatives genuinely accept that devolution is about to happen. Instead of working to improve it and to overcome any difficulties, they continue to fight the general election that they lost. They are still putting forward arguments against devolution, which the people have clearly voted for. One Conservative Member said that he believed in devolution. He would have had more credibility had he said that he believed in revolution. He certainly did not give the impression of believing in devolution in his subsequent comments. That is useful for me and my party because it makes the Conservatives appear anti-Scottish. That is how they present themselves and how they are judged by the people of Scotland. It is why they will continue to fare very badly in Scottish elections.
It is worth remembering why there is so much support in Scotland for a change to the existing constitutional arrangements. I remember the Tories ramming through the poll tax in Scotland against the overwhelming opposition of Scottish Members and the Scottish people. I remember them imposing rigged local government reorganisation against the wishes of the majority of Scottish people and Scottish Members. The same is true of the changes to the structure of the water industry and changes in education. Change after change has been rammed through in spite of the overwhelming views of the Scottish people. They were passed not by an English Member or two making the difference here or there. Those who voted the measures through were overwhelmingly English Tory Members.
The way in which the concerns of the people of Scotland were treated as a joke by Tory Back Benchers has caused the present revulsion against the Conservatives and resulted in the electoral outcome that they richly deserved. Conservative Back Benchers used to speak at inordinate length in Scottish debates to prevent Scottish Members from criticising what was happening in our country. Their arrogance has fuelled the rise in the nationalist vote and the xenophobia that unfortunately exists in parts of Scotland. Until the Conservatives recognise the part that they have played in bringing about the existing political balance in Scotland, they will not be able to move forward and make the contribution that they can make to political debate.
The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland prefer a Labour Government with a scheme of devolution. Their second choice would be the nationalists and independence, ahead of returning to the policies of the previous Tory Government, which were inimical to the interests of the Scottish people. The Scottish general election next May will be a test of those three strands, with the Liberal Democrats tagging along as well. There will be a major debate about whether we want a devolved Scottish Parliament to work.
I regret that the Conservatives have chosen not to make a positive contribution by proposing constructive improvements to the Bill. The best debates on legislation that I have participated in were those on the Bill establishing the national lottery. Once the principle was agreed, all hon. Members came together to discuss how 813 best to make the system operate rather than obstructing a principle that they had not been in favour of initially. The Conservatives are continuing to fight the war that they have already lost.
I recognise the arguments about a Member of Parliament for Dunfermline being able to vote on matters affecting other parts of the country, but not those that affect Dunfermline. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) explained the point well. This House is supreme and can decide whether it wants to retain control over education in Dunfermline, transport policy in Glasgow or social work in Edinburgh. If the House decides to delegate and devolve powers, that is not inappropriate. Anomalies are not heaven sent. They are being voted on and agreed by the House. Anomalies will also be created in Wales and, indeed, in London. Many hon. Members have asked where Labour Members are tonight. Most of them are campaigning for constitutional change in London. They are out there trying to ensure devolution for people in London.
§ Mr. Davidson
We shall see. At least we have set up a position in which a majority will decide. I hope that we shall not create any artificial barriers to the reflection of the will of the majority in any vote.
The issue of federalism has been raised on several occasions in the debate. I am not unsympathetic to some of the principles behind it. The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that there was a danger that, due to the size of England and the balance between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the English Parliament could achieve the status of a cuckoo in the nest. That is why there is a difficulty about such federalism.
I would be very supportive of a Parliament or some similar structure for the north of England because I am aware that the consciousness of feeling there is far greater than in many other parts of England. If the north of England moved at its pace and others at theirs, anomalies would be created, but at least the structure would correspond to what people wanted. Then, if areas wanted to take powers, they could have them, and the powers that they did not want could remain in the House. I accept that that is untidy, but it corresponds more closely to the will of the various peoples of these islands than some other solutions that have been proposed.
On what Scottish Members of Parliament will do after devolution, I speak as an hon. Member who would be quite prepared to leave the House. I have agonised over whether the House would be able to survive without me. Regrettably, I have come to the conclusion that it would—perhaps, it would be diminished. I should say that some seem so worried that the House might not survive without me that they are prepared to move, if not heaven and earth, at least twinning boundaries to ensure that I am unable to depart.
It is clear—we cannot say this often enough—that major responsibilities will remain in the House, some of which were mentioned by the Secretary of State. Consideration of trade union legislation, which will be coming up shortly, will remain in the House of Commons. 814 Decisions on reform of the welfare state will remain here virtually in their entirety. Defence matters, foreign affairs, trade and industry and many consumer issues will remain in the House in their entirety.
All those functions could occupy an hon. Member on a full-time basis. They all offer the opportunity for constructive input into political decision making in the House. There will be more than enough work in Westminster for Scottish Members who choose to remain. It is appropriate that those of us who wish to leave recognise that and fly that flag on their behalf. There is no record of Scottish Members pulling less than their weight. I believe that they will continue to do so.
I hope that the House rejects the new clause because it is simply an attempt to wreck the process of devolution. The sooner that the Conservatives get round to accepting genuinely what has been proposed and the will of the Scottish people, the sooner they will make the constructive contribution to Scottish life of which many of them are capable.
§ Mrs. Gorman
I do not want to go over all the matters that have been well rehearsed all evening. I feel sad that, when we have these debates, we hear so many Labour Members from Scotland speaking as if they were quite separate from what this Parliament represents, which is the whole of the UK. I remind them that those people who had the opportunity to vote in the referendum were the Scots—and English people and others—in Scotland.
However, not all the Scottish people voted. If those who live in this part of the UK—numerically, they are probably greater than the 5 million in Scotland—had been asked, this debate would not be taking place, because the referendum probably would have gone a different way. We must not allow it to go on the record that this is the will of the whole of the Scottish people, a great many of whom are thoroughly integrated in England.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan
Surely the hon. Lady realises that the Government, who proposed the Bill, held the referendum and stated in the manifesto that they would introduce Scottish devolution, were largely elected by votes from south of the border.
§ Mrs. Gorman
The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly good point. However, there are many parts in a party's manifesto, and it is difficult to suggest that any one is significant in getting the party elected.
I listened with great care to the Secretary of State, who was extremely emollient, charming and high-minded. However, I noticed who crept in and sat alongside him—the Minister without Portfolio, otherwise known as one of the main spin doctors. The party political element—raised briefly by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) and dismissed by the Secretary of State—is that there is considerable political advantage in the arrangements which the Labour party has proposed.
The creation of separate states in Scotland, as I believe will happen, and in Wales—with a tiny majority—and the motives for the referendum in London, are seen by Labour spin doctors as having a distinct political advantage in maintaining the Labour party's position of power. It is proposed to break up England into regions, because the Labour party feels that many regions would have a strong Labour majority. That ought to be put on the record. 815 This is not a matter of high-mindedness entirely—of devolution to a people who feel somehow under-represented and oppressed in this place. That is not the basic motivation. That is all the more reason why we should pause, as the new clause asks us to do, and think again about the issue while there is still time. It is certain that the Labour party will not want any alteration to the Bill, but the new clause gives the English people a better opportunity to express their concerns.
The second issue around which we have tip-toed—although it has been mentioned—is the financial issue. Although Scottish Labour Members have been tempted to dismiss it, it is a fact that, in a representative democracy, the people allow themselves to be taxed, by those they elect, for purposes which they see to be of advantage to them. We are ensuring that people who are not elected by English voters will nevertheless have a significant say in the spending of the taxes raised from the English citizens of this country, who are in the majority and who provide the great bulk of the revenues of this country—despite what Scottish Members have said.
There will be contention about that—whether the Scots like it or not. I know that this is not a part of what we are debating, but, if Scottish Members wish to accept the full responsibility of Scottish devolution, they should accept that the time will come when the full financial cost will—I hope and suspect—be devolved to Scotland. That will be anomalous. We could have a predominantly Scottish Cabinet—we have one now, as nine Cabinet members are Scottish, plus the Prime Minister, who does not have a Scottish seat but is nevertheless Scottish—determining decisions that will be interpreted in terms of the financial demands made on citizens in England, which will cause dissent and contention.
Both are issues of practical politics. We have heard much about historical events and the background to the situation in which we find ourselves, but little about the practical politics and, in particular, the venal interests of the Labour party in bringing all this about. Labour Members see the legislation as part of the preservation of their hold on the governance of this country. I hope and believe that they will be sadly disappointed.
§ Mr. Paice
We have heard many arguments from both sides of the House. It is sad that, with one or two honourable exceptions, such as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and, to a certain extent, the Secretary of State, Labour Members seem to have been tilting at windmills. They have been impugning the motives of my right hon. and hon. Friends in tabling the new clause and the amendment, but those have nothing to do with English Members voting on Scottish issues or Scottish Members voting on English issues. The new clause and the amendment are not about devolution or delaying it, but about this House and the fundamental constitution of the United Kingdom. To the nationalists, it is therefore not an issue, but I am greatly saddened that the Labour party, as a major constitutional party and the Government of the United Kingdom, does not want to face up to what is happening.
The kernel of the issue is that, at every general election, every one of us is elected to this House to serve as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and not in any other capacity. We are all equal. Although, 816 from then on, we divide into parties, a Government are created and so forth, and we may decide, as we do, to devolve responsibilities, that does not negate the fact that at the time of our election we are supreme. We are all equal Members of this House of Commons, part of the United Kingdom Parliament, which is the supreme authority.
I am saddened that the Labour party has not faced up to that fundamental issue. My right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled the new clause and the amendment because of the imbalance created by the Bill, which will change, for the first time, the equality to which I referred and of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) spoke so eloquently.
The issue is not whether there is enough for Scottish Members to do—I understand that they will have plenty of opportunities to fill their time—but that they will be elected on a different basis than Members representing the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Paice
No. I have sat here fuming at the many interventions, wondering if I would be able to speak, and I know that some of my hon. Friends still want to do so.
The issue is that Scottish Members of this House will come here with many fewer responsibilities after the Bill is enacted. I think that the Secretary of State referred to duties and rights. Of course Scottish Members will have the right to talk about any issue that they want to, but, like English Members of Parliament, they will not be able to speak on matters that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
We are talking not about Scottish Members' rights, but about their responsibilities. As Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, we shall all have responsibility for education, for example, in England, but not in Scotland. All being well, I shall have responsibility for education, the health service and other matters that affect my constituency. All English Members will be able to say, "I have a role in my constituency"—that will be the basis of their election to the House of Commons. Scottish Members of the Westminster Parliament will not be able to say that, however—they will not have the same responsibilities. That fundamental difference is the core reason why I believe that we shall face a serious problem.
I do not want to waste the time of the House by talking about English nationalism, although I believe that the Secretary of State was wrong to dismiss it so cavalierly. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) said, our job is to look forward. We have all been guilty—I say this honestly as a Conservative Member—of not thinking through the implications of legislation far enough into the future. Of course we make such mistakes, but that is why the Opposition are now pointing out to the Government what we perceive to be one of the consequences of the Bill.
I had hoped that the Government would take the issue more seriously, and recognise the validity of our argument. We are not trying to stop devolution; nor are we acting out of any of the motives that have unfairly been ascribed to us. We could argue the issue at a lower plane of intellect—we could argue about part-time or second-class Members, or suggest that Scottish Members should receive lower salaries. Those are all real issues, but they do not represent the fundamental problem. 817 The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm), among others, talked about asymmetry. It is true that there is already asymmetry in the systems of government in the United Kingdom. The House decided, in its wisdom, to devolve some responsibilities to unitary authorities in some areas, and to two-tier local government in other areas. However, the House itself is not asymmetrical. The Bill will introduce asymmetry to it, which is what I cannot in any way support.
Like other hon. Members, I have been reading the comments that have been made over the years. I was struck by what the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), said in 1992 as shadow Secretary of State for Health:
Once we have a Scottish Parliament handling Scottish home affairs in Scotland, it is not possible for me to act as Minister of Health, administering health in England and Wales.In this debate, no Labour Member—not even the Secretary of State for Scotland—has accepted the fundamental point that it would be wholly immoral for a Scottish Member of Parliament at Westminster to take a ministerial post with responsibilities for those affairs in England over which the House of Commons did not have control in Scotland. I had hoped that the Secretary of State would make at least a gesture to show that he had understood the merit of that argument.
§ Mr. Paice
No, I shall not waste the hon. Gentleman's time.
Like some of my hon. Friends, I have long believed in devolution. I know that that will be greeted with some mockery on the Labour Benches, which I can understand. However, Labour Members are gradually learning that, in government, there are things that one cannot say. They are learning the disciplines of being in the party of government—personal views have to take second place to the overall interests of the party. However, I can honestly say that I have always believed in the principle of devolution. It is an essentially Conservative principle to drive power down nearer to the people to whom it is applied. I have believed that for a long time.
The principle does not worry me, but I am angry that the Labour party has not allowed us to debate the fundamental issue about the imbalance of Members' responsibilities and consider how to address it. We cannot do that by playing with arithmetic and reducing the number of Scottish Members, or by playing with whether they should vote on English issues. Indeed, that exacerbates the problem, because every Member in a United Kingdom Parliament should have equal responsibilities.
The only way forward is to think of ways in which this Parliament can be adapted to incorporate the new arrangements for Scotland, Wales and, we hope, Northern Ireland. The only way forward is to move towards an English Parliament and a federal system. I believe that the Government are wholly wrong to reject the new clause and the amendment, for the simple reason that they are embarking on an agenda of constitutional change that they have no plans to complete.
818 The new clause is designed simply to require the Government to face the consequences of[...]their actions for the United Kingdom. That is why I shall support it. I wish to goodness that the Labour party would give the issue the attention it deserves, and come up with some strong arguments on how we can deal with the implications of the actions on which it is set.
§ Mr. Swinney
After five hours and 20-odd minutes of listening to the debate, it is difficult to come to it with any fresh, new, bouncing ideas to liven up the House at 9.41 pm, but I will do my level best.
The consequences of devolution will preoccupy much of our debate in the months to come. We have spent a great deal of time on one question, when there are important issues in other parts of the Bill that will not be given sufficient scrutiny. I complained to the Secretary of State about that, but I know that it is not his fault, but the wish of the Conservatives. The debate has in reality been more about the English dimension than the West Lothian question.
I was struck by the comments of the hon. Member for South—East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), of the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who expounded his belief in federalism, and of the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). They believed that some constitutional change was required—either federalism or devolution—but when they were in government there was no movement towards resolving any of the dilemmas in a way that would have advanced the argument logically and rationally. If there had been such movement, the Conservatives might have been driving the agenda of constitutional change rather than following it, as much of their rhetoric shows they are doing now.
I exempt some Conservative Members from this stricture, but some of the speeches have shown that those who uttered them had learnt nothing from the referendum, the general election or the arguments about constitutional change. Their rhetoric runs counter to that of the Scottish Conservative party, which is adjusting and beginning to advance its thinking on these questions.
It remains to be seen—this will be an issue for all political parties that fight elections in both the Scottish and the United Kingdom contexts—whether the Scottish Conservative party can disentangle itself from much of the rhetoric imposed upon it by Conservative Members of this House. I accept that many Scottish Conservatives have no liability or responsibility for that rhetoric. None the less, it will certainly cause them political difficulties back home if some of the things that have been said in the House tonight are repeated on the airwaves within the hearing of voters in Scotland.
What seems to be at the root of Conservative Members' concern is the prospect of Scottish Members of Parliament forcing their views on a reluctant population in England. Hon. Members have made much of the times when that has happened since the war—between 1964 and 1966, and in the brief period between the two elections in 1974, when Scottish Members effectively tipped the balance of those Labour Governments.
However, there has been somewhat selective recollection of the period between 1979 and 1997, when a 819 whole barrel-load of initiatives were taken by a Conservative Government who commanded minority—and a minority reducing at every election—support in Scotland. Measures were continually taken that were at odds with the views and the votes of a majority of Scottish Members of Parliament.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) went through a litany of the measures imposed on Scotland by the votes of English Conservative Members against the wishes of a majority of Members representing Scotland—Members from the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and my colleagues in the Scottish National party. The poll tax was the prime example.
The debate has highlighted the imbalance of the progress of the constitutional debate within the United Kingdom. The Conservatives' argument is that, because not all the issues have been resolved in a United Kingdom context, the people of Scotland should be held back from realising an ambition and an aspiration long held in Scottish society.
I recognise that today the Scottish people are not in accord with the constitutional option that I happen to prefer as the long-term stable solution for Scotland. None the less, I recognise, as my party recognised at the time of the referendum, that there is an unmistakable drive within Scotland for more control over our own affairs—a wish consistently expressed as support for the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats or the SNP during the years of the Conservative Administration.
The argument against that seems to be that, because the people of England have not come to their conclusions, the people of Scotland should be held back from advancing their own interests. That is a fatuous argument, because decisions taken by the House of Commons over the past 150 years have steadily devolved functions to a separate Scottish administration without applying separate Scottish democratic scrutiny to those aspects of administrative devolution.
We have been told that this measure, which will give democratic scrutiny and powers to the Scottish Parliament, will provoke an English backlash. I could not find the sources in time for the debate, but my recollection of the opinion polls before the general election is that, when people in England were asked what they thought about Scottish devolution, by and large they said that it was a matter for the Scottish people, and that the Scottish people should go ahead with it if they wanted to; it was up to them.
Scottish Members of Parliament and Scottish opinion take the same view about the debate in England. It is up to the people of England to resolve the dilemmas and difficulties that face them about the way in which they are to be governed and represented within a United Kingdom that I realise, as everyone in the House realises, will never again be the same as it was before 11 September 1997, or before the passage of this Bill.
Various other solutions have been suggested to the issues raised by the West Lothian question—or the English dimension, whatever we want to call it. They have ranged from federalism, with an English Parliament, to a souped-up English Grand Committee, and to the answer that my party advances, which is rather simple—independence, which would allow the people of England and the remainder of the United Kingdom to sort out their own business and the people of Scotland to sort out theirs.
820 I thought that the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) offered an interesting argument in suggesting that the constitutional debate was on a route, albeit one that differed slightly from the motorway carefully characterised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in earlier debates. The road had a fork, with one route leading to federalism and the other to independence within the European Union. His central argument was that devolution is not the end of the road, and I agree. There is still a distance to be travelled, and the destination is not absolutely certain, but my hon. Friends and I will certainly argue for the stability of independence and direct representation for Scotland in Europe.
Much has been made of the new clause moved by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), which speculates on the future role of Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies. I was glad that the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) brushed aside the froth of the debate and said that it was not about money or working hours, but about functions and powers; that was a welcome and refreshing point. There will be many substantial issues for Scottish Members of Parliament who remain in the House to deal with, and although I hope not to be one of those people after the next UK general election, my Scottish National party successor will be here, reminding the House of imbalances in funding and various other issues.
Let us go though some of the issues that will occupy Scottish Members of Parliament. We have heard several hon. Members refer to the alleged fact that Scotland benefits from higher per capita funding. We have been though that debate time and again, but, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East rightly said, until we have transparency in the national accounts of this country, we will not have a definitive answer to that question.
Every time my hon. Friends and I press to get a little more transparency in different aspects of the huge pots of public expenditure that Governments both past and present have told us is unidentified—it could not be split up, and it was not possible to see where it was spent—we find that higher and higher proportions of that unidentified expenditure are being spent—surprise, surprise—in the south of England, and that Scotland is getting a disproportionate share of unidentified expenditure. When we get that transparency—that will be a challenge for the Scottish Members of Parliament who remain here—we shall be making progress in the arguments about the way in which Scotland is funded, and closer to discovering whether my party's repeated contention that Scotland pays its way within the United Kingdom is true.
We might find that, by persistent questioning, Scottish Members of Parliament could explain to the House what the Barnett formula actually does. We have heard many times that the formula gives Scotland far more money, but it is a convergence formula, designed to bring down certain levels of identifiable public expenditure. The explanation offered by the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), suggested that he is not terribly au fait with some of the formula's characteristics.
Other issues of great interest to Scottish Members of Parliament will include social security, which affects all our constituents. If social security cases were removed 821 from my work load, there would be a substantial difference in the number of constituency cases with which I have to deal.
On macroeconomics and Europe, my hon. Friends and I are far from satisfied by the Government's provision in the Bill for representation of the Scottish Parliament within the European Union. We shall press that issue, to ensure that Scottish interests are properly and fully represented in the European Union. We skipped past the issue of defence, as if it was someone else's concern, but not far from the largest population centre in Scotland is one of the largest nuclear arsenals in western Europe, in the bases at Faslane and other parts of the Clyde. Those are big issues for Scottish Members of Parliament in future.
One of the arguments of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) was that Scotland wanted a Parliament because those of us who come here representing Scottish constituencies somehow feel oppressed. Our aspiration is to ensure that the major issues that affect our community are properly and democratically scrutinised by people within our community.
None of us can contemplate the way in which Scottish business is transacted in the House with any sense of pride that it has been done in the best and most effective way. The Secretary of State this evening strongly associated himself with the concern that the democratic scrutiny that our constituents expect us to be engaging in is not possible within the confines of the House.
This has been a long debate, and there is still a while to go. I shall soon resume my place to allow some final contributions to be made. The Scottish people have embarked on a move to regain democratic accountability. The move is not as extensive as I should like, but it is undoubtedly a step forward. It is a step to giving them more control over the issues that matter to them. I believe that, increasingly, their aspirations will grow. What is wrong is an amendment tabled by the Conservatives under the spurious definition of resolving anomalies, when it is simply an obstacle to the democratic progress of the Scottish people.
§ Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)
It is a pleasure to be able to take up the remarks by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney), whose articulateness—although I was bound to find some of it misplaced—was of a quality to have survived even an unusually long wait, as the hon. Gentleman testified.
The Secretary of State accused my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) of whipping up interest in the West Lothian question in his constituency. Though the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) never seems to believe me, I spend a fair amount of my time on public transport in my constituency. On the tubes, we do not talk much—that is one of the characteristics of the tubes in my constituency. On the buses, it is a different matter, though I must say that it is mainly black female constituents who greet me across a bus with cries of enthusiasm that I am actually on it. As votes are fairly spare and sparse, even in my constituency, I do not respond by asking them their opinion on the West Lothian question.
822 My contribution will be brief because I know that several of my hon. Friends wish also to contribute to the debate. I apologise because I did not hear any speeches in the debate till that by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). Until the hon. Gentleman's contribution I was in a Select Committee. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne) is in his place to provide me with an alibi. I gather that I missed a notable speech from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke).
The charge of Labour Members is that all the speeches by Opposition Members, with one or two exceptions, have been made by English nationalists. Three eighths of my blood comes from Ulster, defining that in the proper sense of that Province. Half of my blood comes from Wales and one eighth from Yorkshire. That was quite a useful admixture when I served as a Minister in Northern Ireland, for seven eighths of it was either Ulster or Celtic. I have no Scottish blood, which I regret. That is why I have not contributed to these matters so far, though I am honest enough to acknowledge that I was in Spain on 4 March with my preternaturally energetic and ubiquitous Select Committee, and therefore could not speak when the matters before us were previously raised. I doubt whether my blood makes me an English nationalist. Certainly English nationalism would not have done me any good in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) posed his famous question when I first entered the House—not in any way causally but it was at about the same time. One of the characteristics of the past two decades has been that the party that formed the present Government had really given up on trying to answer the question. However, I acknowledge that the Labour Government have tried to answer it. The Secretary of State, in his admirable speech—I hasten to compliment the right hon. Gentleman although he deflected the compliment from my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) about his sardonic wit—said that Conservative Members really had to accept the Bill, warts and all, and that we should effectively grin and bear it.
I thought that in asking us to do that, the Secretary of State rather passed over the fact that the West Lothian question addresses an English dimension rather than a Scottish one, which was otherwise the gravamen of the charge that we were against the Bill.
The Government do not wish to respond to the West Lothian question, and their problem is that if they acknowledge its seriousness and provide a solution, it will cause them further trouble. In the circumstances, I am not surprised that the Secretary of State asked us to accept the Bill, warts and all. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge), uniquely in the debate, believed that he had answered the West Lothian question: I envy him his self-confidence, especially as he is the first person in 20 years to have done so. His self-confidence owed a little more to ephemeral arithmetic than to constitutional integrity, but at least he, from the Labour Benches, addressed the question.
The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan), among others, accused Conservative Members of seeking to delay matters on the ground that we do not like the Bill. Our motivation is different. 823 We cherish the Union and wish to preserve it. I appreciate that that distances us from the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, but our support for the Union causes us to insist on a satisfactory answer to the famous question posed by the hon. Member for Linlithgow. The absence of an answer constitutes a fault line of exceptional potential peril for the Union.
I savour the old joke that whenever the British answer the Irish question, the Irish change the question, but the hon. Member for Linlithgow has never needed to change the question because no one has ever provided an answer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) pressed for a review so that the consequences of its not being answered could be addressed. In the history of the Union, a delay of a year would be but a hiccup.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk drew attention to the virtual absence of English Labour Members throughout the debate. I do not know their views on the Union, but it is surprising that they are universally without views on the West Lothian question.
I close by reminding the House of Chesterton's poem, "The Secret People":
Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.I hope that we never have cause to speak.
§ Mr. Robathan
It is a great pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) who, as always, made an erudite speech. I agree with it entirely. I shall not reiterate the points made in excellent speeches from the Conservative Benches and shall be brief to allow my hon. Friends to speak.
Sadly, the Secretary of State is not in the Chamber. I, too, pay him a compliment: we shall miss him when he departs the House, because he has great command and acerbic wit. After 18 years in opposition, I am surprised that he is prepared to go off to Edinburgh because it appears from the latest opinion polls that he may be about to resume his position in opposition.
New clause I represents the crux of the Bill and the crux of the matter. The Bill rests on the West Lothian question, which we should perhaps call the Linlithgow question because boundary changes have intervened. It is about the relationship between England and Scotland and the relationship between English Members and Scottish Members. I am a passionate Unionist. I am British and have always described myself as British. I regret that we shall have devolution, but it will happen. If the Bill is passed unamended, I regret that English nationalism, which I shall not support, will grow as night follows day.
We must consider the relationship between the two countries. For every five voters in my constituency of Blaby—indeed, for every five voters throughout England—Scottish Members represent but four Scots. We all know that that is not fair and no one would defend it. It is apparently to be addressed and amended by the boundary commission, but not before the next election—not until after 2003.
I would object if someone said that four white votes would be worth as much as five black votes, as would every other Member of Parliament, so how has this come about? English Members acquiesced in the 824 over-representation of Scotland because they believed in the Union, but all that is changing and we should alter the relationship whereby Scotland is over-represented in the House. The Scots wish to be doubly privileged, with over-representation and with their own Parliament. However, the main point is the West Lothian, or Linlithgow, question.
I assure Labour Members that my constituents care about this issue. They do not want Scots MPs to determine their laws if Scotland has its own Parliament and I, as their Member of Parliament, have no say on Scottish domestic matters. Why should Scottish representatives determine English domestic matters? The Secretary of State said that we should not be telling people about this question. We have a responsibility to ensure that our constituents understand this matter. It is as if the Secretary of State were saying in 1938, "The Prime Minister says that it is peace in our time, so don't you dare say that there are faults in this agreement." It is incumbent on MPs to point out the faults in legislation.
If the Bill is unamended, it will lead to resentment and jealousy. No Union can prosper in such an atmosphere. In families, friendships and marriages, people fall out over money, and that is even more likely to happen between nations in such unequal and anomalous circumstances. The Barnett formula can no longer be sustained. The Scots should not demand devolution and extra money, yet that is what they are demanding: they want to have their cake and eat it. That is unacceptable.
Scotland will get much from devolution, but will give up nothing. It will have its own powerful Parliament, its own MPs and devolved powers. It cannot logically have over-representation, control over English matters and more money. We should re-examine the relationship in the Bill, as the new clause allows, or it will have dire consequences for the Union and for its peoples.
Those are my fears. I believe passionately in the Union, but England has rights, too. This is not just about Scotland: it is about England and Scotland. I accept that Scottish devolution will happen, but I urge the Government to ensure that inequalities and iniquities are removed to provide a solid foundation. I do not want an English Parliament, but I fear that that may be the logical consequence of the Bill.
The English are not easily moved by constitutional principles, but there is enough to disturb them in the small print of the Bill and in what has been omitted altogether. The Bill's success and that of the Union hinges on the good will of the people of England, which demands that the Bill be amended. The English do not resent the Scots. Many Scots are active in my constituency association, but I find it strange that the Scots resent the English. [Intrruption.] I notice that an Englishman who represents a Scottish constituency is laughing, but I know that the Scots resent the English: their attitude is almost racist. The Bill reflects the small-minded, petty, almost racist attitude of Scottish Nationalist supporters. [Interruption.] If hon. Members do not think that their attitudes are small-minded they should go to Scotland. I find it mean and small-minded when people are served in pubs and are told, "Here you are, you Englishman."
§ Mr. Robathan
My Scottish colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), says that it 825 is much worse than that. The English are extremely tolerant, as the Secretary of State said. They want to be friends with their Scottish brothers. I am British—English and Welsh by birth—and I believe that if the Bill is enacted unchanged English tolerance will diminish. English nationalism, as petty and mean as Scottish nationalism, will rise. That will be to the detriment of all parts of the United Kingdom separately and as a whole.
§ Mr. Leigh
It has been a long wait, but I hope to say something distinctive from what has been said so far and thereby not be too wearing for my colleagues.
It has become almost a fashion in this debate for us to bare our souls and say that we were in favour of devolution all along. I am afraid that I was not in favour of it, and I was wrong. We tried to defy gravity in Scotland and we paid the price. The Conservative party is now sensibly coming to terms with that and accepts that devolution is inevitable. However, it raises serious problems, which we are honestly trying to address. My views on devolution are irrelevant, because we must deal with these problems.
In this debate, we have made the mistake of trying to answer the unanswerable. I refer to the question posed by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—although, in fact, it is not his question; it is the old Irish question, which was debated extensively over a number of weeks nearly a hundred years ago when Gladstone tried to introduce his Irish home rule Bill. Exactly the same arguments were discussed then. It is actually the Irish question, but it is, of course, an unanswerable question: that is why those debates were so lengthy and so difficult.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I flatter myself that, when I first posed the question, I did so in terms of Morley's life of Gladstone.
§ Mr. Leigh
It is typical of the hon. Gentleman's modesty that he does not claim credit for the important constitutional question that we are now debating. My hon. Friends, however, have—sensibly—posed that question, and have described the anomalies that will arise. I will not refer to them again, because they are well known and have been debated extensively. The solutions, however, have not been so widely debated, and I now want to convince the House that they are completely, or at least fairly, unworkable.
The first so-called solution is simply to reduce the number of Scottish Members of Parliament. As Enoch Powell famously observed during the debates of the 1970s, that is not a solution at all, although it may lessen the gravity of the problem. The Government are managing to reduce the number of Scottish Members of Parliament to a proportion similar to that in England, but the problem remains.
The second so-called solution is the federal solution, which exists in various guises. One is, in my view, inadequate: the creation of regional assemblies in various parts of the kingdom. There may well be a call for a northern regional assembly, but there is no such call in areas such as the east midlands or the south-east of England. That solution is also inadequate because such regional assemblies will have no law-making powers.
The third so-called solution is, perhaps, the worst of the lot. I refer to the in-and-out solution—which, again, was canvassed extensively more than a hundred years ago. 826 Contrary to what many of my hon. Friends have said, it would be utterly unworkable in a Cabinet system. As I said earlier, the government of the United Kingdom must be based on the totality of Members of Parliament. We cannot allow someone to run a Government and not manage to take business through Parliament because some of his supporters are not allowed to vote in the Lobbies. That system would be unworkable, and it will never operate.
Some of my hon. Friends have suggested another solution, which I consider very dangerous: the so-called English Parliament solution. My right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) suggested that we could be Members of both the English and the federal Parliaments. Apart from the problem that Scottish and Welsh Members apparently do not want that, it would not be a solution in any event, because of the disparate sizes of the various nations that comprise our union. As I have already pointed out—and it is obvious—the English Parliament will merely acquire more and more powers, and will become, in effect, supreme. Are my hon. Friends serious? Will they stand for an English Parliament, or for a United Kingdom Parliament? Where would an English Parliament sit, and what would be left of the United Kingdom Parliament?
In theory, the United Kingdom Parliament will debate foreign affairs and defence. We all know that a large part of our defence policy has already been surrendered to NATO. How independent are we, in terms of foreign affairs? How much will there be to discuss? Of course people will gravitate towards the English Parliament, because that is where the real power will be—and this United Kingdom Parliament will wither and die.
§ Mr. Letwin
I agree with much of what my hon. Friend is saying, but is there not a further problem? Are not the very matters that are reserved under the Bill—which would presumably fall to a federal Parliament—almost exactly coterminous with those that are being given over to Brussels under the various treaties?
§ Mr. Leigh
Much as I should like us to be as powerful as the United States, we are not. The reality that we face in the world and in Europe is that there is not a sufficient role left for a United Kingdom Parliament once health, education, housing and everything that is devolved to Scotland go down to an English Parliament, so I say this seriously to my hon. Friends: none of these so-called solutions is in fact a solution. They are all dangerous.
By all means, as a party, we are entitled to point out the anomalies and difficulties of this legislation. It is not good enough for the Government just to brush them aside, but, as a party, we have to be big hearted about this, too. We have to remember that, first and foremost, we are not just Conservatives, not just Englishmen and Englishwomen. We are Members of the United Kingdom Parliament. We are members of the Conservative and Unionist party.
If we play this card too heavily, if we approach the next general election suggesting an English Parliament, kicking Scottish Members out of certain aspects of this Parliament or having them as subsidiary Members, we will destroy the Union that we love and revere. We did not create this legislation. We did not create these problems. We are 827 right to point out that there will be anomalies, as there are in any constitutional framework, but we have to have the courage to reject solutions that will destroy this Union and drive our Scottish friends out of this Parliament for good.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate and I shall try to be brief.
In his characteristically courteous speech, the Secretary of State for Scotland accused those of us who have filled the Benches either of being driven by the Whips or of trying to create a problem that did not exist. As to the first, I assure him and reiterate that we have come here because we are concerned about this issue. As to the second, he has a compelling point.
It is easy for us to magnify our concerns and to articulate them in the House when the concerns may be fantasy—perhaps wishful thinking on our part that there is resentment against the proposals in England, which does not exist. From all my experience in my constituency, from what I listen to and ask people about, I am not persuaded by that argument. I am also not persuaded by it because of everything that goes in to make English nationhood.
During the debate on Scottish devolution, we have spoken much about the Scottish sense of identity. We have also spoken about the Welsh sense of identity, but, as I have listened to the debates and to the justified sentiments, which I have appreciated and understood, about a Scottish sense of nationhood, it has become apparent that we in England have been reduced to a sort of blob. I am no longer apparently to be the Member of Parliament representing an English constituency and a constituent part of the United Kingdom; I am to represent a left-over area that lacks its own identity and does not need any sort of separate representation for itself. That is a totally untenable argument.
Most of our country's institutions have an English origin; indeed, that is one of the reasons for some of our complaints during this debate. The concept even of parliamentary sovereignty, so rubbished by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), although it is adhered to by the Secretary of State, has its origins in English parliamentary practice. Our pluralistic democracy derives ultimately from English precedent. People may go into a public library and find much about English parliamentary history, but they will have to go deep into the recesses of the history section to find much about the history of the Scottish Parliament before 1707.
§ Mr. Grieve
That indicates to me that, unless the arrangements that are brought about for devolved government in Edinburgh are acceptable within the parliamentary context to people who live in England, they will not work.
The proposals in the Bill are fundamentally flawed. Although we have heard much in our debates about the possibility under the new system of insufficient comparability between hon. Members, I am troubled more about the lack of equality between electors. We will establish a system in which electors in one part of the United Kingdom will exercise power without responsibility by sending representatives to the House 828 who will not be affecting their daily lives, but who will have the capacity to affect the daily lives of others in the United Kingdom.
In my maiden speech, which I made almost one year ago, I made the point that, although the Government planned to incorporate the European convention on human rights—which I approve of, thereby, I suspect, placing me in a small minority within my party—they had yet to answer to my satisfaction the question of how article 3, dealing with the right to free elections, and, above all, with the right to ensure people's free expression in their choice of a legislature, squares with a system in which different groups of electors will have different powers in choosing hon. Members, as those legislators will have different abilities to affect different people once they are elected to the House. The question has not been answered, and it cannot be answered under the proposals in the Bill.
This country was created by the Union of two nation states, both of which have the capacity and the right to opt out of that Union. However, the proposed arrangements completely disregard the rights of the larger nation state—which has been the motor force behind the Union ever since it was created. Unless that issue is addressed, we are on the road towards a very sad and sorry end to something that, as an out-and-out Unionist, I value enormously.
The issue can be addressed. I have often said on many occasions in our debates on the Bill's passage that, although the Bill may sometimes appal me, my adherence to the Union is nevertheless such that I wish the Bill to succeed. The legislation's success may well require enormous changes in the House's practices, and may even require acceptance of the federalist option, which I find an extremely uninviting one.
I am at a loss to think how the West Lothian question cannot be answered by removing the voting rights of Scottish Members in matters that no longer concern them, because of the changes that have been made in the Union. The unwillingness to answer the question, for—I am sorry to have to say it to the Secretary of State—party political advantage does the Government little credit. Unless the matter is dealt with soon, it will simply come up behind us and sweep us along.
I accept that the devolution issue may not be continually discussed in the pubs in my constituency, but my mailbag and people's comments are quite sufficient to make me realise that it is a real issue and that we disregard it at our peril. Most Englishmen and Englishwomen are pretty pragmatic. However, when a situation arises in which the United Kingdom's established parliamentary system is put out of kilter by the presence at Westminster of Scottish Members voting on matters in which they have devolved rights at Edinburgh, that system will break down.
§ Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many letters on the issue he has received, and would he care to place them in the Library? As someone representing an English constituency, I am genuinely interested in the letters. In the previous Parliament, I legislated on Scottish affairs, and Scottish Members legislated on English affairs. However, I received no such letters. I do not deny the 829 sincerity of the points made by the hon. Gentleman, but will he put his letters in the Library, so that the rest of us can see the nature of the concerns?
§ Mr. Grieve
The issue has been raised with me in my constituency, both informally and at every single public meeting with which I have been involved—[Interruption.] Moreover, I have certainly had correspondence on it. One thing that has struck me—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Grieve
I always find it remarkable how few letters I receive on many topics, but I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman when I have checked to see how many letters I have had on this one. I cannot answer his question now.
My parting words are that I accept that my own concerns, genuine though they are, might not be matched by those of my constituents. However, over the past 12 months, my impression, which has derived from conversation, correspondence and all that I have seen, is that my concerns are matched. We disregard that fact at our peril.
§ Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)
I shall be brief, but, as a Labour Member representing an English constituency, I want to contribute to this major constitutional debate before it is concluded. I have tabled amendments to the Bill, but whole-heartedly support the measure for three reasons and will resist the new clause. My first reason for supporting the Bill is that Scotland is a nation, a fact which needs to be recognised.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
No, I shall not give way.
Secondly, the Bill reinforces the Union and gives it some prospect of continuing. It gives new life to a Union which is in jeopardy, especially following the traumatic 18 years of Conservative Government.
My third reason relates to the United Kingdom. We need to advance the proposals on the grounds of good governance. It is in this connection that I address the West Lothian question, which is very real not only to those who are opposed to devolution, but to those who, like me, advocate it. The position is sustainable, but only in the relatively short term. However, the hallmark of the Government—their agenda and their prospectus—is one of dynamic constitutional change. The problems raised by the West Lothian question can be dealt with provided that the Government continue to reform the constitution and devolve powers to other parts of the United Kingdom. I look to the Treasury Bench because there is a need for symmetry throughout the UK, and a need for a federal solution. That may include an English Parliament, and we should not shrink from considering that. I say that on the ground of good governance.
One matter with which few hon. Members have dealt, either today or at any other time, is that although we covet powers in this place, we do not provide for adequate 830 scrutiny and accountability. It is time that effective decisions were taken at the lowest possible level. Scrutiny of the ever-increasing role of government needs to be carried out much more effectively than is done in the House. Also, our scrutiny of legislation is a sham. It is time that we re-examined the whole UK constitution, which would overcome the West Lothian question.
This is an extremely important matter. The solution must ultimately be a modern, dynamic constitution based on a federal solution.
§ Dr. Fox
This has been an extremely good debate. Many of us believed that there was plenty of justification for having a debate of this length, and we have been shown to be correct.
The essential argument centres on the equilibrium of the Union. As has been pointed out by several hon. Members, we do not start from a point of symmetry within the Union. We have had an asymmetrical Union, which was perhaps required by the way that the Union came about and, not least, the fact that 85 per cent. of those within the Union live in one constituent part of the Union—England. The Union has always been weighted towards the periphery to maintain a balance within it.
However, the balance is fundamentally altered by the devolution Bill before us because it pretends that we can alter the constitutional relationship within one part of the United Kingdom without affecting the rest of the Union. That is not possible. We seek fairness, balance, stability and, above all, permanence in the new constitutional relationships. That was said at the outset by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) in his excellent speech.
The issues do not relate only to Scotland; they also affect Wales and Northern Ireland, although I am not at liberty to discuss them now. We need to consider the equivalent roles of Members of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) asked whether we, in the United Kingdom Parliament, will all be the same. Even the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who is not in his place, said that we must not have two categories of Members in the House, yet that is exactly what the Bill creates. Those elected to represent Scottish constituencies will be able to vote on English business, whereas those elected to represent English constituencies will not be able to vote on Scottish business. More bizarrely, those elected to represent Scottish constituencies will be unable to vote on certain aspects of Scottish business that affect their own constituents.
§ Dr. Fox
My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) said that asymmetry is being introduced into the House. Although we can accept asymmetry into the Union in order to make it work, we cannot have asymmetry in the House and still have a United Kingdom Parliament.
We need to look at the rights and functions of Members of Parliament. In reply to my earlier intervention, the Secretary of State said, technically correctly as he is 831 a lawyer, that all hon. Members will have the same rights. However, they will not have the same functions. He said that they will become specialists, not generalists, but they cannot become specialists in subjects that do not directly affect their constituents. They will not be able to be specialists in health, because they will not be answerable to their constituents on such matters.
The Secretary of State expressed what I considered to be a bizarre view of the role of Members of Parliament in answer to a question from my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor). My right hon. Friend said that his constituents were not yet concerned about the issue, but that they would be. He said that the more he explained it to them, the more concerned they became. The Secretary of State replied, "In that case, you should not explain it to them. They will be much happier if you leave them in the dark." What my right hon. Friend described is the role of a Member of Parliament. That is why we are here. When the Government are legislating, it is our constitutional duty to point out the flaws in their proposals and tell them where they are going wrong. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State laughs and says, "Ha! Constitutional duty." That is exactly the response that I would expect from a Secretary of State whose Government treat the House with utter contempt and who has no concept of the role of Members of Parliament.
We have discussed a range of potential solutions. We talked about reducing the number of Scottish Members, but that is not a solution; it is simply an acknowledgment of the problem. We talked about reducing the number of Scottish Members and having a convention of silence in the same way as Stormont. We talked about English regional government and the slight snag that the English do not want it. We discussed solutions within Westminster, the designation of business and an English Grand Committee. Each solution had its own flaws, which were pointed out by my hon. Friends. We debated setting up an English Parliament within a federal structure, which also has many drawbacks. None of the possibilities was without problems, but at least we accept that we need to consider them.
Why does the Secretary of State refuse to accept that the West Lothian question is a fundamental problem? The reason is that if he accepted that, he would have to come up with a solution. It is much easier to pretend that there is no problem and avoid having to produce difficult answers. That is why, in six and a half hours, we have had none. We have heard no acknowledgement that the problem exists and no solution.
As a consequence, we face three problems. The first is the danger of fanning the flames of nationalism. We all accept that there is a difference between national pride and nationalism. At the start of the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes said that we must reintroduce the idea of people taking pride in being Scottish and British, Welsh and British and Northern Irish and British. All nationalism is dangerous. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) talked about the slow-burning, smouldering candle of nationalism. English nationalism will be as destructive to the Union as is Scottish nationalism. There can be no place in the Conservative and Unionist party for narrow-minded English nationalism.
832 The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion)— who, like many Labour Members, is not in his place—gave us a great historical rant, saying that the 1688 settlement was an anti-Catholic, anti-Scottish conspiracy. He said that there was nothing unitary in our state, forgetting about the Crown, Parliament and the armed forces. He told us that English Labour Members had no problems with the Bill, which probably explains why the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), who has just spoken, was the first Labour Member from England to take part in our debates since Second Reading. I am glad that Millbank tower's pager system is still working. The hon. Member for Dundee, East gave us the Enid Blyton, subliminally anti-English view, which is strong in his brand of Scottish politics. He said that people in the south-east of England got all the money, had all the big houses, were paid all the high salaries and were living off the taxpayer. That is indicative of the language that has resulted in the growth of nationalism in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan) failed to understand the legitimate English concerns that have been expressed about the measure. He told us that we were spending too long on this aspect of the Bill, appearing to argue that it is unacceptable for the majority of Members of Parliament to discuss matters that relate directly to them. Deriding English interests is all right for them, but if we do not indulge every nationalist whim, we are being anti-Scottish.
§ Dr. Fox
No. I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman must realise that I am short of time.
I am glad that the hon. Member for East Lothian is now in his place. He said that there was a democratic deficit in Scotland if laws could be enforced there through the votes of English Members of Parliament. That is not an argument for the devolution in the Bill, but for separatism. Given the reserved powers in the Bill, it will still be possible for laws to be enacted in Scotland on the votes of English Members of Parliament. If that is the logic of his argument, it is closer to the position of the Scottish National party than that of his party.
There are two other problems with the Bill. One is the expectations being raised ahead of the introduction of the Scottish Parliament. However, the most dangerous is resentment. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) summed up the views of many Labour Members, who believe that because of the perception of a political injustice having been done to Scotland when laws were imposed on it by a Government of a different political colour, it is all right for them to perpetrate an injustice on the rest of the United Kingdom.
Therein lies the root of the resentment that may eventually manifest itself as English nationalism. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) raised another difficulty. He asked whether, if Scottish Members were unable to vote on English issues, they could sit in a Cabinet that decided policies for which they could not vote in the House of Commons. The Government are not facing up to those practical difficulties.
There is also the issue of scrutiny and accountability. All Members of Parliament of whatever party and from whatever part of the United Kingdom have a tax-raising 833 role. We are responsible for raising the revenues that the Treasury will spend. We must have a mechanism to enable those who raise the taxes to question those who spend the taxes. We can call to account those who spend money from the Treasury through the Department of Health or the Department for Education and Employment. There must be a mechanism to enable those who are responsible for raising taxes to scrutinise those who spend money on Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The alternative to such a mechanism, which is part of the ideas that we want to put forward in the review, is a fully federal structure in which all parts of the United Kingdom raise all their own taxes and scrutinise the spending of that money.
The Government cannot simply pretend that there is not a problem. There is a problem that must be addressed. We have a tale of two different Governments. In the House we have the Secretary of State—witty, if evasive, when he is not sleeping—who pretends that there are no problems and that all is well. The man who promised when we were debating the White Paper that there would be no increase in nationalism now promises no problems with the West Lothian question—or, as the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) correctly called it, the English dimension.
Outside the House, they are a different Government—a Government who are losing their way and losing their grip. It is a case of "Another spin doctor for the Secretary of State. Send for the Chancellor to help out the Secretary of State. Send for anyone except the Prime Minister, who does not want to get his hands dirty in case it all goes wrong." The Government's timetable on this measure is a shambles.
Although there are those who are not Unionists—many of them are frank about it—and do not share our concern about the future of the Union, many hon. Members on both sides of the House are Unionists and are proud of it. We are not the Union that we were 300 years ago. We are not a Union of paper. We are a Union of people who have travelled, settled and married in all parts of the United Kingdom. The new clause asks only that we stop and think before we proceed, before we do irreparable damage. For the sake of the House, but more importantly for the sake of Union, I urge the House to support the new clause.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 277.836
|Division No. 267]||[10.40pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Browning, Mrs Angela|
|Amess, David||Bruce, lan (S Dorset)|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Burns, Simon|
|Arbuthnot, James||Butterfill, John|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Cash, William|
|Baldry, Tony||Chapman, Sir Sydney|
|Bercow, John||(Chipping Barnet)|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Chope, Christopher|
|Blunt, Crispin||Clappison, James|
|Boswell, Tim||Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||(Rushcliffe)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey|
|Brazier, Julian||Collins, Tim|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Cormack, Sir Patrick|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemptice)||Madel, Sir David|
|Day, Stephen||Malins, Humfrey|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Maples, John|
|Duncan, Alan||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brain|
|Evans, Nigel||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Faber, David||Moss, Malcolm|
|Fabricant, Michael||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fallon, Michael||Norman, Archie|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Ottaway, Richard|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Page, Richard|
|Fraser, Christopher||Paice, James|
|Gale, Roger||Paterson, Owen|
|Garnier, Edward||Prior, David|
|Gibb, Nick||Randall, John|
|Gill, Christopher||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Robathan, Andrew|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Gray, James||Ruffley, David|
|Green, Damian||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Greenway, John||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Grieve, Dominic||Simpson, Keith (Mid—Norfolk)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Soames, Nicholas|
|Hague, Rt Hon William||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Hammond, Philip||Spring, Richard|
|Hawkins, Nick||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Hayes, John||Steen, Anthony|
|Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David||Swayne, Desmond|
|Horam, John||Syms, Robert|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Hunter, Andrew||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Townend, John|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Tredinnick, David|
|Johnson Smith,||Trend, Michael|
|Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Viggers, Peter|
|Key, Robert||Walter, Robert|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Wardle, Charles|
|Kirkbride, Miss Julie||Waterson, Nigel|
|Laing, Mrs Eleanor||Wells, Bowen|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Lansley, Andrew||Whittingdale, John|
|Leigh, Edward||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Letwin, Oliver||Wilkinson, John|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)||Willetts, David|
|Lidington, David||Wilshire, David|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Loughton, Tim||Woodward, Shaun|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McIntosh, Miss Anne||Mr. Oliver Heald and|
|MacKay, Andrew||Mr. James Cran.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Berry, Roger|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Best, Harold|
|Ainger, Nick||Betts, Clive|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Blackman, Liz|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Blears, Ms Hazel|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Boateng, Paul|
|Austin, John||Bradley, Keith (Withington)|
|Banks, Tony||Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)|
|Barnes, Harry||Breed, Colin|
|Beard, Nigel||Brinton, Mrs Helen|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)|
|Beggs, Roy||Brown, Russell (Dumfries)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Browne, Desmond|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Benton, Joe||Buck, Ms Karen|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Butler, Mrs Christine|
|Byers, Stephen||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Grocott, Bruce|
|Cann, Jamie||Grogan, John|
|Casale, Roger||Gunnell, John|
|Caton, Martin||Hain, Peter|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Church, Ms Judith||Hanson, David|
|Clapham, Michael||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Clark, Dr Lynda||Hepburn, Stephen|
|(Edinburgh Pentlands)||Heppell, John|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Hill, Keith|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Clelland, David||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Clwyd, Ann||Hoey, Kate|
|Coaker, Vernon||Home Robertson, John|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Hood, Jimmy|
|Coleman, Iain||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Colman, Tony||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Connarty, Michael||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Corbett, Robin||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hurst, Alan|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hutton, John|
|Cotter, Brian||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Cousins, Jim||Illsley, Eric|
|Cranston, Ross||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Crausby, David||Jamieson, David|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)|
|Cummings, John||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Cunningham, Ms Roseanna||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|(Perth)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Jowell, Ms Tessa|
|Darvill, Keith||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Davidson, Ian||Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kemp, Fraser|
|Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)||Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)|
|Dawson, Hilton||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||Khabra, Piara S|
|Denham, John||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Dewar, Rt Hon Donald||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Dismore, Andrew||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Doran, Frank||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Dowd, Jim||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Drown, Ms Julia||Laxton, Bob|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Lepper, David|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Levitt, Tom|
|Edwards, Huw||Liddell, Mrs Helen|
|Efford, Clive||Linton, Martin|
|Ennis, Jeff||Livingstone, Ken|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Livsey, Richard|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||McAllion, John|
|Fisher, Mark||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||McCabe, Steve|
|Flint, Caroline||McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Macdonald, Calum|
|Foulkes, George||McFall, John|
|Galbraith, Sam||McIsaac, Shona|
|Gapes, Mike||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||McNulty, Tony|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||MacShane, Denis|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Gorrie, Donald||McWalter, Tony|
|Grant, Bernie||Mandelson, Peter|
|Marek, Dr John||Salmond, Alex|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Salter, Martin|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Sanders, Adrian|
|Martlew, Eric||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Meale, Alan||Sheerman, Barry|
|Michael, Alun||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Milburn, Alan||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Mitchell, Austin||Smith, Llew (Elaenau Gwent)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Moore, Michael||Snape, Peter|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Soley, Clive|
|Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Spellar, John|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Morley, Elliot||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Mudie, George||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Mullin, Chris||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Stott, Roger|
|O'Hara, Eddie||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|Olner, Bill||Stringer, Graham|
|O'Neill, Martin||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Swinney, John|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Pickthall, Colin||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Pike, Peter L||Timms, Stephen|
|Plaskitt, James||Tipping, Paddy|
|Pond, Chris||Todd, Mark|
|Pope, Greg||Touhig, Don|
|Pound, Stephen||Trickett, Jon|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Tyler, Paul|
|Purchase, Ken||Vaz, Keith|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Wallace, James|
|Radice, Giles||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Rapson, Syd||Watts, David|
|Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Rendel, David||White, Brian|
|Robertson, Rt Hon George||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|(Hamilton S)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Wills, Michael|
|Rogers, Allan||Winnick, David|
|Rooney, Terry||Wise, Audrey|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Roy, Frank||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Ruane, Chris||Mr. Jon Owen Jones and|
|Ruddock, Ms Joan||Mr. Robert Ainsworth.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Bill, as amended (in the Committee), to be further considered tomorrow.