HC Deb 19 May 1998 vol 312 cc789-821
Mr. McLeish

I beg to move amendment No. 73, in page 59, line 6, leave out from beginning to end of line 7 and insert— '1. The following aspects of the constitution are reserved matters, that is—

  1. (a) the Crown, including succession to the Crown and a regency,
  2. (b) the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England,
  3. (c) the Parliament of the United Kingdom,
  4. (d) the continued existence of the High Court of Justiciary as a criminal court of first instance and of appeal,
  5. (e) the continued existence of the Court of Session as a civil court of first instance and of appeal.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 58, in page 59, line 31, at end insert— '5A. Paragraph 1 does not preclude the holding by the Scottish Executive of a referendum on any reserved matter, provided that the decision to hold such a referendum has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Mr. McLeish

Government amendment No. 73 is clarificatory and makes clear the matters reserved under the heading, "The Constitution". As hon. Members know, we do not have a written constitution in the United Kingdom and there is no clear definition of what the term includes. Comments made by a number of parties make it clear that there is doubt about what the reservation covers. It might have been argued that it included local government or the courts. For the avoidance of doubt, we have decided to specify the matters that are covered by the reservation. The other matters listed are a central feature of the constitution and are required to be reserved to preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom. I shall be brief, because we must debate the wider issues.

Mr. Ancram

The Minister has moved the amendment very swiftly. When I first read it, I was surprised, because it replaced a catch-all provision. At part 1 of schedule 5, the Bill states: The constitution, including…the succession to the Crown and a regency and the Parliament of the United Kingdom are reserved matters. The word "including" is important, because it suggests that other matters form part of the constitution. When I first read the Bill, I assumed that the question whether such matters were constitutional would be decided by the courts. Provision has been made in the Bill to decide what are devolved issues and what are not. The broad catch-all provision was sensible, and disputes would have been resolved, but I was surprised, because the amendment restricts what is to be regarded as constitutional to the five provisions that will be inserted into the Bill by amendment No. 73.

So surprised was I that on 7 May I wrote to the Secretary of State: In order to inform this Debate I would be grateful if before it you could let me know what the implications of the new amendment are as against the broader and more catch-all provision which it replaces. I was delighted to receive this morning a letter from the Minister referring to my letter and giving me notes on the amendments. I turned with excitement and anticipation to the note on amendment No. 73, which states that it is a Government amendment to clarify which aspects of the constitution are reserved. I am no further forward and, although the Minister has moved the amendment, still no clearer about what has been left out. What is left out is important, because a catch-all provision is being replaced by a specific provision which will weigh heavily in the minds of the courts, which may have to deal with the question of what are devolved matters and what are reserved matters.

I have read the amendment a number of times, and it is difficult to see what has been left out. The Minister said that local government is not included. I had presumed that it was not a constitutional issue and therefore would not arise. I make these inquiries because we must have a clear idea of what the provision will achieve. Although the Parliament of the United Kingdom is a reserved matter and defined as constitutional, are its actings, for example in terms of the exercise of the power under clause 27(7) to legislate for Scotland, regarded as constitutional? Are they included in the definition, or are they outside it and therefore not covered by the reservation of constitutional matters?

The matter concerns the sovereignty of Westminster over the Scottish Parliament, which we have debated at length. I hope that that is a constitutional matter, but whether it is covered by the definition's specific provisions is questionable. That leads to the question that we were debating a week ago, to which amendment No. 58 refers: the holding of referendums and whether that is regarded as constitutional and therefore reserved. I want to explore that issue further. I see nothing in Government amendment No. 73 that tells me that that is the case, so I hope that the Minister will deal with the matter specifically.

The question of referendums is relevant, because I understand from an early sedentary intervention that part of the Liberal Democrat party in Scotland has decided to press for a referendum on the independence question.

Mr. McLeish

Just for the record, I did not want to go into too much detail on the first part of your response, but you are speaking to the amendment. I am happy to expand on our views later.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister needs to be reminded that he is addressing the Chair.

Mr. Ancram

I appreciate that the Minister deliberately did not deal with those issues, but I want to put them firmly on the record as I want clear answers. Whether official or unofficial, there has been a Liberal Democrat call for a referendum on the independence question in Scotland. At the moment, it is within the purview of this House to arrange for such a referendum to be held. What is much more questionable is whether, consequent on devolution and the creation of a Scottish Parliament, the right to hold such a referendum would reside in this House only, or whether it would also be available to a Scottish Parliament. I want to secure assurances from the Minister on that matter.

Last week, we had an interesting debate during which the subject was raised with the Secretary of State, perhaps slightly in advance of its time on the amendment paper. I am sorry that he is not in his place, because I had hoped to question him further on language that was characteristically his. It is worth studying the exchanges, because they show a lack of clarity. I said to the Secretary of State: I hope that I am not pre-empting our debate on the issue, but the Secretary of State mentioned the Union of the United Kingdom being a reserved matter. That is part of the Government amendment. I asked: Does that mean that a referendum on the Union also will be a reserved matter and not available to the Scottish Parliament? The Secretary of State replied: It is clear that constitutional change—the political bones of the parliamentary system and any alteration to that system—is a reserved matter. That would obviously include any change or any preparations for change. Later in his reply, he referred to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) wanting a referendum. He said: It is clear that he cannot find a vehicle for doing that in the machinery laid down in this legislation. It seems from that reply that the ability of a Scottish Parliament to hold such a referendum was being ruled out. I asked: In very simple terms, does that mean that a referendum on Scotland's future in the United Kingdom is within the competence of the Scottish Parliament? 6.30 pm

The Secretary of State could have said yes or no to that question, depending on his view, but he said: If one assumes that that is a way of changing the constitution, no, it is not in the power of the Scottish Parliament to change the constitutional arrangements. Later in the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) sought to question the Secretary of State. He asked: Would the holding of a referendum be within the competence of the Scottish Parliament? The Secretary of State replied: A referendum that purported to pave the way for something that was ultra vires is itself ultra vires. That is a view that I take, and one to which I will hold. The Secretary of State qualified that by saying: But, as I said, the sovereignty of the Scottish people, which is often prayed in aid, is still there in the sense that, if they vote for a point of view, for change, and mean that they want that change by their vote, any elected politician in this country must very carefully take that into account. Rather than getting a straight answer, the jungle was becoming thicker by the moment. Characteristically, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) sought to cut away the foliage by asking: Can the Scottish Parliament of itself initiate a referendum on independence? It could not be put straighter than that. The Secretary of State said that he thought that he had answered that, but he went on to say: It is my view that matters relating to reserved matters are also reserved. It would not be competent for the Scottish Parliament to spend money on such a matter in those circumstances."—[Official Report, 12 May 1998; Vol. 312, c. 256–57.] I think that we made some progress because, in the words of the Secretary of State, it would not be possible for the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum the cost of which came from the financial provisions that will be made for that Parliament. However, the question about whether it is in the competence of that Parliament to hold a referendum was not answered.

I could be facetious and say that the Liberal Democrat party, or the section of it that wishes to have a referendum, could decide to sponsor one and put up the cash for it. As the Scottish Parliament would not have to find the wherewithal, would it be competent to initiate and conduct such a referendum? That is an important matter.

Our amendment is a probing one. The Scottish Parliament could decide to hold a referendum, but the amendment ensures that it could do that only with the consent of both Houses of this Parliament. It would allow the Scottish Parliament to apply to this Parliament as the custodian of the constitution, which is how I understand the Bill, for permission. I do not intend to press the amendment: it is intended only to tease out the situation. However, it is at the heart of the debate because it looks at the relationship between the Edinburgh and Westminster Parliaments.

I understood that it was agreed between the Government and the Opposition that the Westminster Parliament is supreme and could, under the Bill, legislate on all matters in Scotland if it so wished. It also decides on questions of constitutional change because of its supremacy and the sovereignty that is vested in it. The dialogue to which I have referred from last week's debate casts some doubt on that and the matter needs to be clarified.

When we started the debate on the Bill in January, the Government spoke about the creation of a Scottish Parliament in which there would be new politics. They said that there would be sweetness and light and that many questions about the legislation were irrelevant because everybody wanted to see the Parliament working. On that basis, many of our concerns were brushed aside, but now there is a somewhat different political situation. It was assumed that the Scottish Parliament would be a friendly one that was run by some combination of the Scottish Labour party and others and that it would deal in a friendly way with this Parliament. But that is questioned by opinion polls in Scotland and will not necessarily be the case. The idea that dialogue between Westminster and Edinburgh would always be friendly and co-operative is in doubt.

Today's debate and Scottish questions were undermined by the vitriol—that is the only word that I can use—of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan in addressing some of the issues that we raised about sovereignty. The Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office, was vitriolic in his responses to the hon. Gentleman at Scottish questions. The question whether sovereignty ultimately rests here or can be vested under certain conditions in the Scottish Parliament is not theoretical. It cannot be quietly be left on the shelf as if it does not matter. It could become important quickly.

Mr. Salmond

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that those exchanges were vitriolic, I can only say that he has led a sheltered existence. He said all that in the referendum campaign, but is repeating it as if it has only just been discovered. Perhaps I could refer to Lady Thatcher's celebrated remark. She said, "If the Scots were to determine on independence, no English politician, certainly not me, should gainsay that process." Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that that is still the view of the Conservative party?

Mr. Ancram

Yes, I do, and it was repeated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) when he was Prime Minister. He said that he would not hold any part of the United Kingdom within it against the wishes of the majority of the people in that part. I think that I quote him correctly. Obviously, that is relevant to the debate. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan says that I am saying nothing new. I know that: I am trying to avoid saying, "I told you so." I predicted all along that that issue would become crucial because of the fact that the extraordinarily sunny picture that was being painted by the Government was simply unreal.

In the referendum campaign, I said that devolution would create a focus for nationalism, which would grow on the back of it. I was told that I did not know what I was talking about, and the Secretary of State for Defence said that devolution would kill nationalism stone dead. We see now that our fears during that campaign were real. If anything, that strengthens my point that these matters need to be clarified before the Bill leaves the House. If matters are left uncertain, they will become the focus for further resentment and anger that will cause friction between the Edinburgh and Westminster Parliaments, and that can only feed the flames of nationalism. We want to avoid that.

As I said, ours is a probing amendment, but I have more than a hope that, before the Bill completes all its stages, there will be clear answers. I hope that the Minister will not think that I am insulting the Secretary of State when I say that I do not think that we got clear answers last week. I hope that he will take this opportunity to give such answers.

Mr. Dalyell

My view is simple and concise. Sooner rather than later there will inevitably be a referendum on the question of independence. Therefore, we should clear up the issue of who has the power to initiate it.

Mr. Salmond

I listened with interest to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). He rightly said that the Conservative party said last year in the referendum campaign that devolution would lead to independence. Some official spokesmen for the party said that the process would be inevitable. If they still believe it to be inevitable, I do not see the point of making these speeches. By definition, if something is inevitable, there is no point in trying to resist it, so if the right hon. Gentleman is now disputing the inevitability of the process, we have to conclude that the Conservative party has at least modified its position since the referendum campaign.

Surely the important point is that these arguments were ventilated before the people in the referendum campaign by the Conservative party, and the people gave their answer.

Mr. Ancram

indicated dissent.

Mr. Salmond

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I recall being on television programmes with him, and he made exactly those points. They were available to the people when they judged the matter, and they gave an answer. He implied that the reason for that was that they did not believe him. Another reason might be that they did not care particularly. The argument from the other side—both from me and the Secretary of State for Scotland—was that it was up to the people to decide the constitutional future of Scotland. When the right hon. Gentleman made those arguments in the referendum campaign, the united answer that he received from the yes forces was that these matters would be determined by the people of Scotland.

Mr. Garnier

I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that the referendum, which the yes campaign decisively won last summer, took place in ignorance of the Bill. Does that not have some bearing on this debate?

Mr. Salmond

The referendum was informed by a White Paper that gave a detailed explanation of what we could expect from the Bill. Certainly what would be a reserved matter in terms of the constitution was in the White Paper, but the answer given by the yes forces was very clear, and it was given on a number occasions.

I had a number of meetings with the Secretary of State in that period. I asked him a number of times in the House what his answer was. I particularly remember 24 July 1997, when I specifically asked him whether there would be any attempt to put up obstacles or roadblocks to stop the Scottish Parliament from developing, if the people so chose, into an independent Parliament. He gave a specific answer: If I did try to build such barriers, they would be futile and without effect. At the end of the day, in practical politics, what matters is what people want. If the hon. Gentleman is able to carry the people of Scotland, no doubt he will be able to advance his cause."—[Official Report, 24 July 1997; Vol. 298, c. 1049.] There was no doubt or dubiety whatever. The Secretary of State clarified that there was to be no glass ceiling in these proposals. They envisaged a devolved Parliament within the state of the United Kingdom, but the sovereign right of the Scottish people to choose to change that arrangement, if they so wished, was upheld.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that, on two occasions last year—first at the general election and then in the referendum—the population of Scotland voted for a Unionist position: first, for Unionist parties in the general election and then for devolution within a United Kingdom, for which he campaigned?

Mr. Salmond

I did not see the hon. Gentleman very much in the campaign. I was told that he was on holiday in America at one stage in the campaign. [Interruption.] If I am wrong, I gladly apologise.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Salmond

No, I will not give way to my old university friend.

I repeat the point that I did not see very much of the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) during the devolution campaign, but if he saw much of me during that campaign, he would know explicitly that the yes side argued that, although we had different objectives for Scotland's future, the thing that united us was that we accepted the right of the people of Scotland to decide their future.

The hon. Member has asked me about the last general election. I would have thought that the Conservative party, which ended up with zero seats in Scotland—nul point, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) is fond of pointing out—would be the last party to say that the last general election was a final determination of the state of Scottish politics. The hon. Gentleman prays in aid a victory for the Labour party as a victory for his position. I am sure that there are people in the Labour party who would be very upset about that argument. Clearly, the last general election decided the last general election. The Scottish election will decide the Scottish election. No doubt the next general election will make a decision.

Democracy does not stop at a point in time. The whole point about democracy is that if people lose an argument, they have the right and ability to re-present that argument. Scotland was an independent state for 1,000 years. It then made a decision not to be an independent state. If it chooses to reverse that decision, it has the absolute right to do so.

6.45 pm

Before the hon. Member for Woodspring diverted me, I was going through some of the quotations from the Secretary of State for Scotland. I come to one that specifically looks at how that sovereignty might be exercised: Although the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan is in favour of a multi-option referendum as a general principle, when it comes—if it ever does—to the point where he wishes to implement a specific constitutional scheme, he should put that to the people of Scotland in a single-question referendum to get it endorsed."—[Official Report, 4 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 433–34.] The Secretary of State advised me that that was the right and proper methodology to use if I wanted argue the case for independence and have it put before the people—I was to put it before the people in a single-question referendum. I find it a bit surprising that, less than a year later, the same Secretary of State is now, in pejorative terms, daily accusing me of doing exactly what he advised last June.

What has changed between last June and this May? The most significant change is that, last June, the Labour party was 30 points clear in the opinion polls and, this May, it is five points behind.

Mr. Dalyell

As the hon. Gentleman knows, not since Mephistopheles made a bargain with Dr. Faust has there been anything quite like him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland coming together. It was a Faustian bargain because they both knew that they wanted different things.

I ask the serious question: what is the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of my right hon. Friend's undertaking at that time in relation to a referendum? For the sake of clarity, what does he think was promised by the Secretary of State?

Mr. Salmond

The position is absolutely clear in the Hansard of 4 June last year. That was repeated to me at private meetings and in the press. On 16 May in The Herald, the Secretary of State made it clear that no "glass ceiling" would be built. He said: The only way in which we could move to independence would be if people voted for independence. That is clearly their right and I would not wish to deny them their right", ruling out any trick in the White Paper. When I specifically asked the Secretary of State about the reserved matter of the constitution in the Bill, he repeated that that was overridden by the Scottish people's sovereign right to express their wish for independence, if they so chose to do, that this was a point in time and that if the Scottish National party, the independence forces, won their argument, they would have their case resolved.

Mr. Swayne

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Salmond


The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is a fair-minded man. He knows that I have argued consistently for a position, as he has. He was with me on television programmes last year when both the Secretary of State and I answered his specific point by saying, "It is up to the people to decide." The arguments of the Conservative Front-Bench team have an air of total unreality. There is the apparent belief that it can find a mechanism, an amendment, a clause, a statement from the Government Front-Bench team, an expression of view by the Secretary of State, by the Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, or by a Labour Member, which could somehow stop the process of sovereignty in the Scottish people. It cannot be done in that fashion. No amendment or clause can erect the roadblock that the Secretary of State promised would not be there.

Mr. Swayne

I do not think that anyone is questioning the sovereign right of the Scottish people to opt for independence, should they so wish. We are discussing merely the proper means by which that process will arise.

Mr. Salmond

That is why I quoted—I know that the hon. Gentleman was listening carefully—the advice given to me, on 4 June 1997, by the Secretary of State for Scotland. He told me that if it comes to a point at which I wish to implement a constitutional scheme, I should put the scheme to the people of Scotland in a single-question referendum. I suggest to the House that I could put the matter to the people of Scotland only if I were in the majority party, or the leader of a coalition, in the Scottish Parliament. I cannot see myself as Prime Minister in this place, or commanding a majority in accepting such a scheme. The words of the Secretary of State for Scotland can be interpreted only in that way.

It is a bit rich, and a bit late, for that certainty—that democratic point of view—which was crystallised and repeated many times last year by the Secretary of State for Scotland, to have undergone a transition this year, because of a change in the nature of Scotland's opinion polls. What manner of politics is it that bases an argument on democracy on the latest position of a few public opinion polls?

Mr. Dalyell

This is a very important discussion indeed in terms of the British constitution. In the presence of the Whips—I do not care who knows it—I want to know, as a Labour Member of Parliament, why the Secretary of State for Scotland has something better to do than to be in the House of Commons at this point? This is a House of Commons point, and I am an old House of Commons traditionalist. On this particular issue, the place for the Secretary of State for Scotland—Cabinet Committee meeting or not—is on the Treasury Bench. I hope that the Whip registers that.

Mr. Salmond

That was an intervention for me, but an observation for the Labour party. I should tell the hon. Member that there are several crisis points in the Labour party in Scotland. Perhaps the Secretary of State is dealing with one of the other crises, rather than with us in the Chamber.

Despite the Secretary of State's absence, there is no shortage of quotations from him. I have another half dozen of them with me, which I shall not read out now. Nevertheless, Ministers should remember that those quotes, and the notes of various meetings that I have had with the Secretary of State, are on the record and can be prayed in aid.

It is ridiculous to try to block the democratic sovereign right of the Scottish people, and the parties that try to do so will not gain any benefit. For 20 years or more, the Tories tried to do it, and the result of that and other measures was that they were perceived—in the words of the previous Secretary of State for Scotland—as being "anti-Scottish". They were perceived as such not necessarily because of the views that they held but because of their attempt, in one way or another, to deny the Scottish people the right to decide their own destiny. Regardless of its views on other matters, any party that makes an argument that one can deprive people of that right will fall into the same trap as the Tory party did for so long.

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman is touching on an important point. Does he believe that the type of roadblock that he fears is or is not being created by Government amendment No. 73? I am trying to clarify that point. It is essential that we should have the answer to that question before the Bill is passed by this place.

Mr. Salmond

I do not think that such a roadblock would be created by the Government amendment, although one would be created by amendment No. 58, which was tabled by the right hon. Gentleman. That is why, if he had the courage to press it to the vote, I should take the greatest pleasure in voting against it.

We have to distinguish between the Parliament's legislative competence and its right to discuss, decide and consult on anything that it wishes. We have to distinguish between the Parliament's legislative competence and whether it can "pray in aid"—to use the Secretary of State for Scotland's own words—the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine their own future. I think that the right hon. Member for Devizes will find that that view is well supported by eminent Scottish lawyers and academics. It is certainly the view I take.

I do not mind that the settlement is a devolution one—I never have. The only question that I have asked the Secretary of State—and the Minister of State, as he can verify—is whether the Scottish people have the right to move on if they so wish. I am genuinely saddened that the confident democratic answer given last year by the Secretary of State for Scotland has been replaced this year by a much more equivocal and muddied one. It would be far better if all of us were to accept that sovereign right, stop trying to move the goalposts and let the Scottish people determine their own national destiny.

Mr. McAllion

Like the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), I cannot foresee his ever being the Prime Minister or commanding a Scottish National party majority in this place. As he well knows, it is not in the nature of the beast.

I tell my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that, although certainly he can tell the Secretary of State for Scotland what he thinks, through the Whips, I certainly would not—as I await an interview for the Scottish Parliament—dream of doing any such thing—[Interruption.] I am only, at the very outset, setting the tone of my speech.

I was relieved to hear that amendment No. 58 is only a probing amendment. I thought that the Tory party was trying to facilitate constitutional referendums in Scotland. As the Tories have spent 18 years frustrating such referendums, that really would have been one for the book.

I tell the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) that he cannot call in aid the state of current opinion polls in arguing that devolution will necessarily fan the flames of nationalism and lead to an independent Scotland. If he carefully examines opinion polls in Scotland, he will see that the SNP is ahead of Labour only in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Scottish voters realise very well that electing a large SNP contingent to the Scottish Parliament is not the same as voting for independence. Scottish voters are being very discriminating in how they are indicating their voting intentions in the next election.

I felt that I had to speak in this debate because of the attack by the right hon. Member for Devizes on an individual Liberal Democrat Member, for daring to come out in favour of a referendum. Today, I seem to have caused some controversy by saying that I, too, am in favour of an early referendum on whether Scotland should remain with a devolved Parliament inside the United Kingdom or move to independence in Europe. It seems that I am now—unintentionally—at odds with my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench.

I was merely stating what I believe to be the case. I make it clear that, in any such referendum, I would vote for Scotland to remain within the United Kingdom, and for the devolved Parliament to be the way forward for Scottish government. The differences between Ministers and me is only about tactics, and about what is in the Labour party's best interests. I believe that it is certainly in Labour's interests to hold an earlier rather than a later referendum, because the current mood in Scotland is very different from what it might be in five or 10 years' time. We will have to consider that fact.

I have several concerns about Government amendment No. 73, which I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will try to deal with in his reply. Paragraph 1(b) of the amendment would seem to exclude any matter of the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England from being dealt with by the Scottish Parliament, in a referendum or by any other device. The provision seems to be a type of blocking mechanism designed to stop the Scottish people, through their elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament, from ever reaching any decision on whether Scotland should remain inside or outside of the United Kingdom.

The Government amendment seems to require a vote in this place before a referendum could be held to discover the views of the Scottish people—thereby giving a veto to the majority of non-Scottish Members in this place, allowing them to prevent the Scottish people from ever having an opportunity to vote in such a referendum. If that were the case, I should be very concerned about the amendment. Many years ago, when many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and I signed the Claim of Right for Scotland, we were unequivocal in stating that sovereignty lay with the Scottish people, and only with the Scottish people. We signed up to the Claim of Right for Scotland, and we signed up to the sovereignty of the Scottish people. We should be standing by what we believed in 1989.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

Does the hon. Gentleman think that if action is taken that fundamentally alters the whole of the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom should be part of the decision-making process, at least through the United Kingdom Parliament?

Mr. McAllion

I might be prepared to take that argument a little more seriously if it were applied in Northern Ireland, for example. Friday's referendum does not involve the whole of the United Kingdom; nor should it. As I was saying, the Labour party is committed to the Claim of Right for Scotland and to the concept of the sovereignty of the Scottish people. If the Scottish people decide on independence, it would not matter whether 500 or 600 Tory Members in this place were opposed to the Scottish people breaking away from the United Kingdom. They would have no right to stop them from breaking away, if it was based on the democratic view of the Scottish people. Even Mrs. Thatcher was prepared to accept that much. I am surprised that the hon. Lady is at odds with her great heroine.

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that if the Scottish people demand independence, it is game, set and match to the Scottish National party. The question is whether it is right in the United Kingdom constitution for the Scottish Parliament to be able to facilitate that process. Does he think that there is any limit on the powers that the Scottish Parliament can demand, argue for, campaign for, spend money on campaigning for or hold referendums on? Is there anything on which it cannot spend money? If he thinks that there is not, we are establishing a sovereign Scottish Parliament and an a la carte United Kingdom, which I do not suppose he favours for the European Union, for example.

7 pm

Mr. McAllion

The hon. Gentleman paints a distorted picture of reality. I ask him in turn how this Parliament will stop a majority in the Scottish Parliament deciding that they should hold a referendum on the future constitutional position of Scotland? It is all very well for this Parliament to say that it is not in the competence of the Scottish Parliament to spend any taxpayers' money—even if it is raised by the Scottish Parliament's right to vary income tax—on holding a referendum, but how does it stop the Scottish Parliament? Is anyone seriously arguing for sending troops to prevent the holding of a referendum in Scotland and the Scottish people having a say on the future constitutional set-up under which they wish to live? Of course a referendum could not be stopped. If a majority in the Scottish Parliament ever decide that they want to hold a referendum, there will be very little that this Parliament can do.

One only has to look back to the previous Tory Government to realise that very little can be done. Strathclyde regional council decided that it would hold a referendum on the future structure of the water and sewerage industry in Scotland. The Government of the day did not want it to do that. They may even have decided that it was not competent to do so and that it should not be wasting local taxpayers' money on such a referendum, but the region went ahead with the referendum and it had an effect on the Government of the day. Even with a big majority in the House, the Tory Government had to back down because it was clear that the Scottish people thought that the water and sewerage industry should remain in the public sector. Even a Government who were committed to privatisation had to accept that. That is the reality with which we are dealing.

Mr. Salmond

The hon. Gentleman has done well to remind his Front-Bench team of the Claim of Right, which dealt with such issues explicitly. Does his memory of the referendum campaign accord with the quotations that I have cited? There was not a Faustian bargain, as the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) suggested; there was a very clear agreement which allowed the Scottish people to determine the future of our country.

Mr. McAllion

I understand that that is the policy of my party. It has been made clear on several occasions that the Labour party is a democratic party and would accept whatever democratic decision the Scottish people took. In fact, I think that every political party in the House holds that position. I know of no hon. Member who would seriously argue that if a majority of the Scottish people want to go down the road towards independence in Europe, this House should try to block their wishes. Surely nobody in a democracy would argue that.

Mr. Ancram

At the risk of ruining the hon. Gentleman's chances in his future selection contest, is he saying that he disagrees with the Secretary of State when he said last week to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) that he cannot find a vehicle for doing that"— holding a referendum— in the machinery laid down in this legislation"?—[Official Report, 12 May 1998; Vol. 312, c. 256.]

Mr. McAllion

I am not disagreeing—partly because I was not here. I had a constituency week last week; I was somewhere else. I was certainly not watching the proceedings of the House on cable television. I have far better things to do with my time.

I am trying to put across the point that we are not dealing with some inferior institution. We are dealing with a Parliament that will be elected under—in my view—a much fairer democratic system and will reflect the views of the Scottish people. It will be a democratically elected Parliament consisting of 129 Members who will be every bit as competent to decide on such issues as anyone in this House. It is not for us to instruct them on what they can or cannot do with the budget that has been devolved to them. If we continue to try to block what a Scottish Parliament wants or does not want to do, there will be constant friction and fighting between the two Parliaments, which will play into the hands of the Scottish National party. That is why we should not be trying to place such constraints on the Scottish Parliament in anticipation of what might happen many years down the road.

Trying to put in place such constraints betrays an acute lack of confidence in our position. I am in favour of an early referendum in Scotland because the Scottish people want a devolved Parliament in the United Kingdom and do not want to move to independence in Europe. When the new Parliament is up and running, most Scots will be wishing it well and hoping that it starts to improve the government of their country. The last thing that they will want is another constitutional upheaval.

I think that that is also the view of the Scottish National party—although its members would never admit it publicly. The last thing that they want is a referendum in the first or second year of the Scottish Parliament because they know what the result will be. If there were an overwhelming endorsement of Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom, the SNP's case for independence would be put back at least 10 years—and SNP Members know it. They hope that there is not an early referendum; they hope that they do not get a majority in the Scottish Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] It will he very difficult for any party to get a majority in the Scottish Parliament under proportional representation.

If the Westminster Parliament continues to block the Scottish Parliament's rights to do this or that, it will add to the sense of grievance in Scotland against the Westminster Parliament. Who benefits from any such grievance? None of the parties that argues for remaining in the UK will benefit; only the SNP will benefit. We should not be making it easier for the SNP. In arguing our corner, we should be making it more difficult for the SNP and showing confidence in our position.

It is tactically inept to put off the question of a referendum. If there are years of friction between the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments and if the view is maintained in Scotland that the Scottish Parliament has been held back from doing what it wants to do on behalf of the Scottish people due to politicians in Westminster, the case for independence in any future referendum will be boosted. It is in our interests to hold an early referendum, get the issue out of the way for at least 10 years and get down to governing Scotland properly.

Mr. Wallace

This is an important debate. I hope that it is common ground between the four parties that no one has ever suggested that the Scottish Parliament established by the Bill could claim independence for Scotland or become an independent Parliament. To that extent, many of us have always thought that, as amendment No. 73 states, the Union of the kingdoms of Scotland and England is a reserved matter. That should not come as any surprise. We run into difficulty on whether there can be a referendum on a reserved matter. The notorious—or famous—clause 28 states that an Act of the Scottish Parliament would not be law so far as the Act related to a reserved matter. The question is whether a reserved matter in this case is the Union between Scotland and England or—if it were an advisory referendum—the holding of referendums. If it is the latter, I do not see any problem. Clarification would be useful so that the principle of holding a referendum does not become contentious.

Amendment No. 58, tabled by the Conservative party, helps only to the extent that it is a clarification. It does not help that it would require an appeal to Westminster for orders to be granted.

Mr. Grieve

The hon. and learned Gentleman will recollect that, last week, with great difficulty, it was extracted from the Secretary of State that he was quite satisfied that it would be ultra vires for the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum.

Mr. Wallace

The Secretary of State has expressed that view, but, at the end of the day, that might be a matter for the courts to interpret. That is why it would be better if the matter were cleared up in the Bill.

Even the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) seems to accept that facilitating a referendum could not be achieved by legislation. An article that I happened to glance at in today's edition of The Scotsman says: Mr. Salmond said this could be done as long as the referendum was not set up by an act of the Scottish Parliament, which could be challenged as being outwith the competence of Holyrood. No doubt, if there were some other way—if a referendum were sponsored by Stagecoach, for example—a referendum could go ahead.

Mr. Salmond

The hon. and learned Gentleman can relax; I shall not refer to the rest of the article in The Scotsman. I was quoting Professor Colin Munro, professor of constitutional law at Edinburgh university, who said: You have to make the distinction between the reserved powers and what parliament can debate and discuss … there is nothing to stop the parliament arranging to hold a referendum, because that would not involve a change in the law. The actual separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK would be a Westminster decision, but Labour have already said they would regard a majority vote in favour … as a vote for independence".

Mr. Wallace

Arranging to hold a referendum might involve passing a law. The referendums on accession to the European Community in 1975, on the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments in 1979, in Wales and Scotland last year and in Northern Ireland later this week were all arranged by Acts of Parliament.

Mr. Salmond

And the Strathclyde water referendum.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. Gentleman mentions the Strathclyde water referendum, which I remember well and which my colleague, Councillor Christopher Mason, managed to persuade Strathclyde region to hold. Labour Members scoffed and told me in the Lobby that that was a terribly bad idea and that we should not hold it because we might get the wrong result, but the result was overwhelming and Labour Members were only too pleased to use it to twist the tail of the Conservative Government. Since that referendum was held, legislation has been passed that would not allow it to be repeated. Strathclyde region could never pass an Act of Parliament. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) may agree that it would help to clarify the point about the holding of a referendum.

There is a further question of the wisdom of having a referendum, which is a point on which I do not agree with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan.

Mr. Salmond

The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that he wants clarity, but he has not told us his view.

Mr. Garnier

He is a Liberal—he does not have views.

Mr. Salmond

That is not fair. Does the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) believe that the Scottish Parliament should have such a power, regardless of whether he thinks that to exercise it would be wise?

Mr. Wallace

It would be better if the power existed; whether it is exercised is another matter, which brings me to the hon. Gentleman's position. He suggested that democracy is standing still. I do not say this in a pejorative sense, but his party is a single-issue party. It exists for only one purpose—to get independence for Scotland. That is a perfectly legitimate aim.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth)

At least we have a purpose.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. Lady makes a silly remark, but, during the by-election in her constituency, the Conservative party made an outrageous attack on her party on the anniversary of VE-day, when it tried to compare the Scottish National party to the nationalism that existed in Europe—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must address the Chair.

Mr. Wallace

In Europe in 1939, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mrs. Laing

It is the same.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. Lady ought to withdraw that remark.

Mr. Garnier

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to return to the matter under discussion, rather than airing a private grief?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Wallace

The Scottish National party has always argued its case through the ballot box. At every election in Scotland—general elections and Scottish elections—we have a referendum on whether the people of Scotland want independence. At the most recent general election, the overwhelming majority rejected independence, and I believe that they will do so again. If the Scottish National party managed to get a majority of votes, it would have a mandate to hold a referendum and put the case for independence. Until that happens, Scottish nationalists must accept that the electorate has that opportunity at the ballot box.

No new Parliament—once it had been set up and was getting on with its task of discussing Scotland's jobs, housing, education and health service—would want to be distracted. It would inevitably be distracted if it had also to debate the constitutional issue that has distracted our intention from other issues for far too long.

Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

I want to focus not on whether the Parliament could have a referendum—a matter which I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will address—but on the topical question of whether it should do so, particularly in its early years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) said that it was in the interests of the Labour party to hold such a referendum. However, we should be acting, here and in the Scottish Parliament, in the interests not of the Labour party but of the Scottish people. That will be a key issue in the run-up to the Scottish parliamentary elections. Everything that we do must be directed towards making the Parliament work for Scotland. Our argument is that the SNP wants to make the Parliament work for the SNP, which is what the referendum policy is about, so Labour Members should not use a similar argument to say that the Parliament should work for the Labour party.

This is an exciting venture, to which all the people of Scotland are looking forward, and for which the vast majority of them voted. All our energies must be directed towards making the Parliament work for Scotland on the issues that concern its people, such as health, education, jobs and child care. I mention child care because the first-ever child care strategy was launched today.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) referred to a glass ceiling. No party in this House—here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East—has ever said that there is a glass ceiling. Even the previous Prime Minister said that the people of Scotland would get independence if they voted for it. As the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said, the people of Scotland have a continuing chance to vote for independence. It will be perfectly clear, through the votes cast for the SNP, whether the people of Scotland support independence. Notwithstanding the current protest votes in Scotland, people are not, at present, voting for independence.

7.15 pm
Mr. McLeish

Many people in my constituency will, like me, be astonished that, after the 55 weeks that it has taken to get to the point at which the Bill will have completed all its stages in the House, the 100 years for which this aspiration has existed in Scotland and the 20 years for which a movement for change has existed, we are now debating this matter. It has been graphically illustrated that the people of Scotland want a Parliament that will deal with the issues that they feel need to be addressed. They do not want the Parliament to be turned into a constitutional circus—that is not its aim.

We have worked for 55 weeks to ensure that we have a substantive legislative framework to move Scotland forward in the next century. We have done so around a consensus arrived at on 11 September and on 1 May last year. When we are talking about the will of the people and their votes, I am reminded that the Conservative party has no Members of Parliament in Scotland. I am reminded also that the Scottish National party has six Members out of a possible 72—

Ms Cunningham

Wait until next year.

Mr. McLeish

I look forward with relish to that contest. I am reminded also that one party, now represented in government, got 56 seats out of 72. Let us have a little pragmatism and perspective on an issue that is in danger of becoming abstract.

Mr. Garnier


Mr. McLeish

I am not giving way.

Mr. Garnier

Will the Minister give way on clause 29?

Mr. McLeish

I am not giving way at this stage.

In a curious way, when people talk about the sovereign right of the people, there is no debate, because people vote in a representative democracy, but another issue, which has been confused with that, is the rights and responsibilities of the Parliament that we have proposed over the past 55 weeks. A third tier has been brought into the problems—the constitutional underpinning and the logic inherent in the Scotland Bill. It is easy for right hon. and hon. Members to get the three issues mixed up, each for their own convenience. It is crucial to say that we are discussing a Bill which sets out matters clearly.

I take exception to the way in which quotes of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have been bandied about in the Chamber and the press. There is nothing unclear about my right hon. Friend's position on an issue that has been raised by Conservative Members in a so-called probing amendment.

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman can clear up the matter once and for all. I shall put to him the question that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) put to the Secretary of State: can the Scottish Parliament initiate a referendum on Scottish independence—yes or no?

Mr. McLeish

The right hon. Gentleman should give me time to get to the central point. On 12 May, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said: A referendum that purported to pave the way for something that was ultra vires is itself ultra vires. One does not need expert lawyers to consider that in detail and interpret its meaning. Am I wrong in thinking that what the Secretary of State has been saying is consistent not only on that point, but on the sovereignty of the people? In a similar vein, also on 12 May, the Secretary of State said: But, as I said, the sovereignty of the Scottish people, which is often prayed in aid, is still there in the sense that, if they vote for a point of view, for change, and mean that they want that change by their vote, any elected politician in this country must very carefully take that into account.—[Official Report, 12 May 1998; Vol. 312, c. 256.] In previous debates, my right hon. Friend has captured the essence of linking the sovereignty of the people to the constitutional underpinning that forms the core of the Bill.

The whimpering of the so-called official Opposition shows that they do not recognise the fact that 11 September meant that we should go forward. For the Government, that is what the Bill is about. This has been an extensive debate, and many right hon. and hon. Members have participated in it; far be it from a Minister to be criticised for trying to stifle such a debate. Clearly, the Government do not support amendment No. 58—

It being three hours and fifteen minutes after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order [13 January] and the Resolution [12 May], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. McLeish

I beg to move amendment No. 231, in page 59, line 16, leave out 'Crown Estate Commissioners' and insert 'management (in accordance with any enactment regulating the use of land) of the Crown Estate'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: Government amendment No. 232.

No. 96, in page 78, line 22, at end insert— 'The subject of land reform in Scotland is not a reserved matter, notwithstanding the reservation of the Crown Estate Commissioners in Part I of this Schedule and of business associations under Head 3 of Part II of this Schedule.'. No. 113, in schedule 7, page 85, line 8, at end insert—

`Crown Estate Act 1961— 6A.—(1) The Crown Estate Act 1961 is amended as follows— (2) In section 1(4)—

  1. (a) after each "Secretary of State" add "or the Scottish Executive"
  2. (b) after second "Scotland" omit "Secretary of State" and insert "Scottish Executive".
(3) In section 2(1) (Reports and accounts of Commissioners), at end add "and the Scottish Parliament.".'.

Mr. McLeish

May I stress at the outset that, under the Government's proposals, the Crown Estate will be subject to the Scottish Parliament's legislation on devolved matters, such as land law including land tenure reform, planning, environmental protection and fisheries, in the same way as all other land in Scotland?

Amendment No. 231 is a technical amendment intended to make the position of the Crown Estate Commissioners clear, and it may be helpful if I set out precisely what is intended in respect of the commissioners. The Crown is reserved and the Crown Estate Commissioners are included as part of that reservation. However, it is intended that, although the functions of the commissioners in managing the Crown Estate should be reserved, the property and interests that form the Crown Estate should not be reserved.

The Scottish Parliament would, for example, be able to legislate to implement the proposals announced by my noble Friend the Under-Secretary responsible for agriculture, fisheries and the environment, to extend the role of planning authorities to cover marine fish farming. The Under-Secretary responsible for local government and housing, my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), announced on 17 December that new statutory procedures for the control of the dredging of marine minerals in Scotland would be introduced to replace the existing non-statutory procedure. That, too, would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Garnier

The reserved matters are defined in schedule 5; we know that from clause 29, subsection (2) of which says: Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of that Schedule which She considers necessary or expedient. What modifications did the Government envisage in drafting that subsection? How would they affect not only the matters that we were discussing a moment ago but the matters that the Minister is trying to discuss now?

Mr. McLeish

Government amendments Nos. 231 and 232 deal with the issues surrounding the reservation of the Crown and the Crown Estate Commissioners. The essence of the discussion is to highlight, relative to the concerns that have been raised, the powers of the Scottish Parliament in that respect. There is some misunderstanding about the reservation of the Crown Estate and the Crown Estate Commissioners, and I am attempting to clear it up.

Mr. Garnier


Mr. McLeish

No, I do not want to give way, because we need to make some progress. It is important that we discuss some of the other amendments that the Opposition have tabled, and if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall want to talk about them at a later stage.

Amendment No. 232 makes it clear that the reservation of the hereditary revenues of the Crown does not include revenues from bona vacantia, ultimus haeres or treasure trove. That is a bit of a mouthful, but it means matters that the Crown can take over. Such matters are devolved as property belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown.

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that, as they are matters dealt with distinctly under Scots law, it is appropriate that ultimus haeres, bona vacantia and treasure trove should be devolved. The revenues from bona vacantia and ultimus haeres and the benefit from treasure trove will accrue to the Scottish Consolidated Fund. The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer, who is responsible for administering ultimus haeres, is also devolved.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham

I shall speak to amendments Nos. 96 and 113, which stand in my name and in those of my hon. Friends. With the present debate, we are returning to the issue of land reform—a subject which has exercised a great many people and been the subject of much political debate in Scotland. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) is not in his place now, after his claim that my party was a single-issue party. From that, I can only presume that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not think that land reform is an issue. I do. Land reform is an issue for the Scottish National party, and has been for a considerable time.

During the passage of the Bill, we have had several opportunities to explore what I see as the potential barriers that it could place in the path of radical land reform in Scotland. Amendment No. 96 identifies two of those—the reservations of business associations and of the Crown Estate Commissioners. It offers the Government the opportunity to confirm that the Parliament will be free to legislate in any way that it sees fit to move forward with land reform proposals.

Government amendment No. 231 goes part of the way to allay my concerns, and I was grateful to hear what the Minister said about it. It restates the actual nature of the reservation, which focuses on the management of the Crown Estate, and confirms that the Crown Estate will not escape from the general structure of land reform legislation.

However, the alterations do not go far enough. Indeed, they confirm the points that I sought to raise in Committee. Government amendment No. 232 devolves responsibility for certain elements of residual Crown finance. The Government have seen fit to devolve revenue in three areas. One is treasure trove, which in plain language means discovered treasure. Another is the Crown inheritance of certain types of property, such as when businesses are in dissolution and what, according to "The Oxford Companion to Law", are "waifs and estrays". Apparently, waifs and strays are classified as a form of income, although I am not sure how that would come about. That heading also includes beached whales and wrecks; I am not sure how many Members present tonight would come into that category.

However, it is clear that some issues critical to future land reform are not devolved. Those are the Crown Estate Commissioners' control of the foreshore, the sea bed, mineral rights and salmon, and of the revenues that accrue from those rights. The Government amendments are not enough. Any meaningful land reform will have to include the option of transferring control and revenues from the Crown's residual ownership of the foreshore, sea bed and mineral rights. Those are sources of income that could be used to revitalise our rural areas and enhance community involvement in the management of land—a subject which I have dealt with in detail in earlier debates.

Mr. Garnier

I tried to invite the Minister to clarify a certain point, but he seemed unable or unwilling to do so. I wonder whether the hon. Lady could help me. All the points raised by the amendments that she has tabled to schedule 5 could be rendered useless if an Order in Council were passed under clause 29(2), which says: Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of that Schedule which She considers necessary or expedient. Is the hon. Lady confident that the schedule that she seeks to amend could not simply be wiped out by an Order in Council passed in the House late at night?

Ms Cunningham

With all due respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I am not sure whether that is what we are debating now. We had an opportunity to debate that aspect at an earlier stage and, if he will forgive me, I do not want to be drawn down that avenue now.

To return to the matter in hand, let me say that amendment No. 113 focuses on a problem identified in Committee. As the law currently stands, the Secretary of State for Scotland has wide-ranging powers of direction over the Crown Estate Commissioners in relation to their activities in Scotland. That power is contained in the Crown Estate Act 1961.

That power confirms the overall democratic control of the Crown Estate land, and the distinctive needs of the Scottish estate are confirmed by the sole power of the Secretary of State to direct the commissioners in relation to Scotland.

Amendment No. 113 would have two effects. First, it would transfer those powers that are currently held by the Secretary of State to the Scottish Executive. I wonder whether the Minister trusts the Scottish Parliament to carry out the functions with which the Secretary of State is entrusted. What happened in the discussions between the Government and the Crown Estate Commissioners that led to the decision not to devolve the Secretary of State's responsibilities? In the answer that I received today to a written question that I had tabled, I was told that no meetings had taken place between the Secretary of State and the first Crown Estate Commissioner to discuss land reform in Scotland, but that officials were in touch with the Crown Estate on the matter. I want in particular to know about the devolution of powers relating to the commissioners.

7.30 pm
Dr. Fox

May I take the hon. Lady back to the debate on land reform that took place only a few weeks ago? She said then: The SNP seeks a people's land reform for Scotland. That means information, management, development, access and ultimate ownership of the land by and for the people of Scotland. Land reform must go beyond mere technical tinkering with the basic land law in Scotland."—[Official Report, 29 April 1998; Vol. 311, c. 247.] How will amendments Nos. 96 and 113 take that process forward? What will be the role of the Scottish Parliament in the transfer of Crown Estate land?

Ms Cunningham

I am not sure to which debate the hon. Gentleman refers—land reform has been discussed a number of times in our consideration of the Bill, and recently there was an Adjournment debate on the matter. We are now focusing on the ownership of foreshore, sea bed and mineral rights; the resolution of that issue is vital if we are to move forward land reform in Scotland.

It will come as no surprise that the consensus in Scotland is that land reform is a necessity—it is likely to be an early priority of the Scottish Parliament. We may differ slightly on what we want—some of us may want to go much further than others—but there is no doubt that land reform will be on the agenda. The amendments would make it absolutely clear that the Scottish Parliament will not face difficulties in coming up against the reserved power. I hope that the Minister will enlighten us on the discussions with the Crown Estate Commissioners on the devolution of the Secretary of State's powers over them.

Amendment No. 113 would ensure that, even in relation to the Crown Estate, there was no question that the Scottish Parliament would be prevented from taking the steps that it thought necessary to maximise economic and community access to all aspects of the land, which perhaps answers the question asked by the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). It would open up access to the resources that are currently under the commissioners' control—mineral rights, salmon rights, the sea bed and the foreshore. It would open the door to meaningful land reform.

In his pre-general-election manifestation—before he became a Minister—the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) made a radical call for control over those rights. I shall not quote his words verbatim, as I did so in the Adjournment debate that has been mentioned, but he was speaking in the House about legislation introduced by the previous Government. I do not understand why the Bill cannot go further on land reform, especially in relation to the Crown Estate Commissioners.

The second key effect of amendment No. 113 would be to introduce a requirement for the Crown Estate Commissioners to present reports not only to Westminster but to the Scottish Parliament. That would be a basic step. Even if the Minister does not accept the amendments in full, I hope that he will at least consider imposing that requirement and confirm that the Crown Estate Commissioners will be among the bodies that the Scottish Parliament can summon as witnesses. That will be essential when the Scottish Parliament discusses land reform.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)

The hon. Lady will find a ready echo of what she is saying among those of us who have had to deal with the Crown Estate Commissioners for years, with all the attendant frustrations—not least in the fish-farming sector in the highlands and islands. Does she share my frustration at the appointment system to the Crown Estate Commissioners, which is through the Chancellor of the Exchequer? When one asks questions on public policy of Scottish Office Ministers, those questions are often transferred to the Treasury, but Treasury Ministers, understandably, do not have the same knowledge of, or insight into, those matters as Scottish Office Ministers have. That problem may be overcome as a result of the new structure in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Cunningham

I certainly hope so. It would be a shame if our agreements on land reform were to be stymied by problems arising from the way in which the Crown Estate Commissioners are currently constituted. I do not know whether all hon. Members have experienced this, but it has been noticeable that, since the issue was first raised in our consideration of the Bill, the commissioners have been much more communicative. Perhaps it dawned on them that the secrecy and lack of transparency with which they had managed to conduct their affairs will not last much longer, and that they needed to get their act together, at least in public relations. They certainly seem to have extended their fax and mailing lists to include many more people than previously received information from them. I do not criticise that—I am glad that it has happened—but it shows that even minimal debate in the House engenders a response. How much greater the response would be if the Scottish Parliament were able to consider those issues even more closely.

The detail of the Scottish National party's concerns have often been misunderstood. We know that the Crown Estate will be subject to the technical reform of the feudal system—I think that I can say with some confidence that such reform will be introduced by the Scottish Parliament regardless of the result of next year's election. The Crown Estate will be subject to any changes in the law on the sale or purchase of land, the registration of land or access to grants for the development of land. It will not be exempt from the legal structures introduced by land reform legislation.

The Government amendments and the comments of the Crown Estate Commissioners in the press serve only to highlight the basic nature of my concern—the aspects of the Crown Estate over which the Parliament will not be empowered to legislate, such as the revenues and residual ownership rights. Those are not trivial matters; they are extremely important, and have a profound effect on many communities in Scotland. They should be within the scope of the Parliament.

Amendment No. 113 provides the Government with a solution. I hope that the Minister will explain why the Parliament cannot be trusted with powers that are currently exercised by the Secretary of State, and why it should be prevented from legislating to transfer ownership of, for example, the foreshore from the Crown Estate to local communities, which, I suspect, people may want to do in future. I await with interest the Minister's reply.

Mr. Dalyell

I want to thank the hon. Lady. I interrupted her on the previous occasion when she raised this subject, and she said that she would send me the documents. She was as good as her word, and sent me the background work that she and others had done. Having read it, I find that there is a great deal of meat in it.

I totally agree that these matters are not trivial, but I want to put it on the record that I have had both good and bad experiences with the Crown Estate Commissioners. They have done much of their work extremely imaginatively and competently, and I would not like the House to give the unfair impression that everything they have done is unimaginative and not for the good of Scotland.

Ms Cunningham

indicated assent.

Mr. Dalyell

I am glad that the hon. Lady recognises that the Crown Estate Commissioners have done many good things.

That said, vital issues concerning the sea bed are involved. Everything that flows from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is intimately concerned with this matter. Some estates are run extremely well, but awkward issues such as Knoydart remain. Those issues should certainly be discussed. I very much look forward to my hon. Friend's reply on this vital subject.

Dr. Fox

On 29 April, we had a substantial debate on land reform in Scotland. It was one of the most constructive debates that I have sat through in this Parliament, and there were wide areas of consensus among all the parties. We agreed that changes in land use must remove barriers to sustainable rural communities, and we discussed the contribution made in the past by private ownership and the cost of public ownership. There was consensus about the need for reform of the feudal system; an example given at the time was the maintenance of tenancies, but with reform along the lines of farm business tenancies. We also agreed about regulation of public access.

How do the Government amendments relate to what the Minister said on that occasion about the Government's broader view of land reform in Scotland, and especially the current review? When is that review expected to finish? What role do the Government envisage for the Scottish Parliament in broader issues of land reform? When he rejects—as he no doubt will—amendments Nos. 96 and 113, will the Minister consider those questions?

Mr. McLeish

I may have to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. There is a feeling in the House that land reform is the monopoly of one party, but that is not the case. All parties are concerned about the inequities that exist in Scotland, and we know that much needs to be done. The Government are moving on several fronts to tackle the problems.

I want to reassure the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham), whose comments I respect, that the Government are keen to move on land reform. We are talking about the Crown Estate Commissioners, but, on a wider front, we want to achieve consensus on land policies for Scotland. The Scottish Parliament is less than a year away, and we are keen to achieve a set of policies that it can discuss and legislate on.

The hon. Lady wants to know whether the Government trust the Scottish Parliament. The answer is yes. With first past the post and the additional member system, there will be a reinforced representation from many rural areas of Scotland, which will strengthen the Parliament's commitment to substantial land reform.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham

I did not ask whether the Government trusted the Scottish Parliament, but referred specifically to the Secretary of State's current powers in respect of the Crown Estate Commissioners and the fact that they will not be transferred in their totality to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. McLeish

I shall deal with that point later in my reply.

The hon. Lady asked about discussions with the Crown Estate Commissioners. There have been numerous discussions between the CEC and Scottish Office officials about the devolution of the Crown Estate and the Parliament's competence to legislate to take over the CEC's function in authorising marine fish farming, and about the reservation of the CEC's management functions, but I can confirm that there have been no discussions at ministerial level.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, people have different experiences of the CEC in different parts of Scotland, but it is always useful for local intelligence to be fed into the process. We want to build on the best that has happened and to tackle the worst, despite the improvements over recent months that the hon. Lady has reported.

7.45 pm

I understand the reasons behind amendment No. 96. I recognise the importance of this issue and share the hon. Lady's concern that the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate in this area should be clear. That said, the amendment is simply unnecessary. It is clearly within the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on land tenure reform as part of Scots private law. That is not changed by the fact that certain persons or bodies, who may happen to own land, are reserved.

The reservation of the Crown Estate Commissioners does not reserve the land and property of the Crown Estate. The reservation of business associations will not prevent the Scottish Parliament from enacting new laws on land owned by business associations, whether relating to the tenure of such land or to associated planning issues. Any provision that the Scottish Parliament chooses to make in respect of land reform or planning will simply form part of the framework in which all will have to operate.

The work of the land reform policy group, chaired by my noble Friend Lord Sewel, is intended to pave the way for early land reform legislation by the Scottish Parliament. I am not convinced that a land convention modelled on the Scottish Constitutional Convention would be an appropriate or practical approach to considering wider land reform issues.

The land reform policy group has recently undertaken a wide-ranging consultation, and aims to publish its final report in December, in good time to inform debate in the lead-up to the Scottish Parliament. The timing is useful.

We are well aware of the conflicts that can exist between those who own land and those who visit the countryside for recreational purposes. The Government have asked Scottish Natural Heritage to consider, in consultation, what changes are needed to provide equitable access arrangements.

On amendment No. 113, the reservation means that the current power of direction over the Crown Estate Commissioners shared by the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not pass to the Scottish Ministers. We believe that it is right that it should remain with the United Kingdom Government, in line with the reservation of the commissioners. As things stand, the power would continue to be exercised by the Secretary of State.

In the light of what I have said and, more importantly, of the tone in which I said it, I ask hon. Members not to press amendments Nos. 96 and 113 to a vote, but to support the Government amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 232, in page 59, line 23, at end insert `other than revenues from bona vacantia, ultimus haeres and treasure trove'.—[Mr. McLeish.]

Dr. Fox

I beg to move amendment No. 59, in page 60, line 43, at end insert `, provided that any power conferred on local authorities in relation to taxes on businesses shall be framed so as to be exercisable with the effect of either increasing or reducing the overall burden of local taxation in the area of a local authority.'. The amendment concerns the environment for business in the post-Scottish Parliament era. We are keen to ensure that, just as the tax-varying power for income tax is both upwards and downwards, any such power on business taxation should also be seen to be in both directions. We must not create a one-way valve through which the Scottish Parliament, via local authorities, can soak Scotland's business community.

At Scottish Questions today, the Minister for Education and Industry said that if equal taxation treatment in the United Kingdom for business—he was referring to corporation tax—was lost, businesses would flock out of Scotland. I am sure that he is right. He said that that was the justification for keeping corporation tax on a United Kingdom basis.

If the basis for keeping taxation the same is to ensure that businesses do not flock out of Scotland, it surely makes sense that any business tax-varying power can go in both directions. The Scottish Parliament should be able either to raise taxes on Scottish businesses—I cannot understand why it would want to—or reduce them. It is illogical for the Government to say that they want equal treatment for businesses in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom and then provide for the Scottish Parliament to be able to change taxation, but only upwards. That can give no satisfaction to anyone in business in Scotland. It raises many worries.

In previous debates, the Government failed to promise to maintain the uniform business rate, which led to some anxiety in business. This is a chance for them to reassure business that taxation will not go only upwards. If the Minister fails to give that reassurance, he will send a shudder down the back of business in Scotland, because it will believe that it will be soaked for the extra money that the Scottish Parliament will want to spend as a result of the expectations that will undoubtedly be raised during the election of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Dalyell

It is superfluous for me to tell the Minister that many people in Scottish business simply ask whether they will be operating on what we must call a level playing field. Some assurance on that point would be helpful. Because of time, I leave my question at that.

Mr. Gorrie

I should like the Minister to explain the position. I cannot see that the Bill says what the Conservative spokesman said that it says. He said that it can only increase taxes. I must be stupid, but I cannot see that in the Bill.

It is important that Scottish local government should have the maximum flexibility to deal with financial matters, and that the Scottish Parliament should help it. It is widely recognised that it would be helpful if a method of letting local government raise more of its own revenue could be found. There should be maximum flexibility for the Scottish Parliament and local authorities to do that. For example, the burden of commercial rates on small businesses could be reduced and the cost made up in some way out of income tax or whatever. There should be opportunities such as that for the Scottish Parliament and local authorities to be flexible. I do not see that the Bill prevents that. Perhaps the Minister can clarify whether I have missed something.

Dr. Fox

By way of clarification, is the hon. Gentleman's party's policy to maintain the uniform business rate?

Mr. Gorrie

It is my party's policy that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to determine such matters. Business taxation should not be hiked up separately from the council tax, but there might be some flexibility between the two. I hope that the Minister can clarify my points.

Mr. Swinney

I would hate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) to think that he was isolated in feeling stupid in his interpretation of the Bill. I share his concerns about the Conservative amendment. It is clear that the Scottish political parties, in offering their manifestos to the Scottish electorate next May, must decide for themselves about business taxation powers. None of us looks at the future of business in Scotland after the advent of the Scottish Parliament with anything but a responsible sense of trying to create the best business conditions in which companies can operate.

I spoke last night at a meeting of the Angus Federation of Small Businesses. I was under sustained pressure about the burden of business rates on small companies trading in small towns. Political parties have an obligation to address the difficult trading conditions, costs and overheads experienced by such firms in the present climate. Political parties must be able to reduce, for example, the business rates of small companies and examine how that can be funded by other businesses or by the public purse. That is possible within the legislation and is in no way assisted by amendment No. 59. It is an issue for political parties to address in the context of their manifestos. They must build a message that is sustainable and acceptable to the business community and can carry its confidence. The legislation allows them to do that, but the amendment does not help the process.

Mr. McLeish

It does not help to overstate an attack on what the Government are doing. I do not recognise the business environment described by the Conservatives. That is not to be complacent. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked whether we are providing a level playing field. I think we are. The constitutional settlement that we have tried to develop over the past 55 weeks is about a level playing field. We have sought through regulation to ensure that, at UK level, powers remain, whether on energy or on a wide range of other issues, to ensure that the existence of a level playing field remains a key factor.

There has been no attempt to take corporation tax, national insurance or social security related benefits that impinge on industry, whether by amount or collection.

The central aim is to ensure that the transition to a Scottish Parliament creates a business-friendly environment. I have spoken often to many groups in Scotland, and they have accepted 11 September. They have sought reassurances about a level playing field, and, in large measure, we have given them.

Dr. Fox

Does the Minister accept that, for many Scottish businesses, the most important step in the creation of the level playing field was the introduction of the uniform business rate, which ended the iniquitous treatment that Scottish businesses had suffered for a long time? Any suggestion that that might be removed would be seen by businesses in Scotland as potentially removing the level playing field.

Mr. McLeish

Change makes individuals and companies apprehensive. We have tried to deal with that in our meetings.

I ask the House to resist amendment No. 59, which provides an opportunity to explain the Government's position on local taxation and say why it is a devolved matter. It will swiftly become clear that there is no need for any restriction on the Scottish Parliament's competence of the sort proposed by the amendment. The White Paper made it clear that local government and its financing will be devolved matters. Local government is essentially that: local. It is right and proper that it should be within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Local government provides major public services in respect of matters such as education, social work and a great deal more that are firmly within the ambit of the Scottish Parliament. Local government's structure and constitution are likewise rightly matters for it. Just as local government's main services and structure are matter for the Parliament, so, too, is its financing. Local government will spend a substantial proportion of the Parliament's budget. Local taxation is also rightly devolved, as it is not possible to examine local government without considering its financial arrangements and the tax base that supports its services. I do not think that there is serious argument about that in the House.

What choices will be open to the Scottish Parliament on local taxation? It will be open to the Parliament to amend or change the system of local taxes, but there is a widespread consensus that property-based taxes are an essential element of the local tax system, as they always have been. The one disastrous experiment with a non-property based tax for local government was the poll tax, for which Conservative Members must accept full responsibility. That was an object lesson in how unwise it is to tinker with any local taxation system, particularly in a biased and blinkered way.

Similarly, local business rates are an essential part of the local government finance system and, although they have been stable and widely accepted in Scotland in recent years, the Parliament should be able to change them—for example, to update and modernise them as necessary.

The policy of the Government on that issue is clear—changes in such things have to be handled carefully, and, in relation to business rates in particular, can be made only after careful consultation with the business community. We recognise the benefits of stability and predictability that the unified business rate has brought, especially to businesses in Scotland. We will be consulting later this year on whether there should be some local discretion on the business rate, perhaps of the sort proposed by my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Housing. However, it seems likely that it will fall to the Scottish Parliament to introduce any legislative change that it may consider necessary in the light of the outcome of that consultation.

Of course, local taxes can go up or down. It is the essence of local taxation that tax rates are set by councils, and there are no legal requirements that they must always go up. We have to bear it in mind that property-based taxes are not inherently buoyant—particularly if revaluations at the property base are infrequent, as is inevitable—so headline rates of tax, such as the UBR poundage, tend to rise even if, in real terms, the tax taken may be increasing no faster than the retail prices index. Indeed, it is right and proper that local taxation, along with local government finance and other local government issues generally, should be firmly within the ambit of the Scottish Parliament. I am in no doubt that the Scottish Parliament will deal with those issues wisely, well and sensitively.

Amendment negatived.

8 pm

Mr. McLeish

I beg to move amendment No. 282, in page 65, line 5, leave out from first 'of' to end of line 6 and insert `Parts I and II of the Plant Varieties Act 1997 (plant varieties and the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal).'. I take some pride in moving this amendment—I think that this matter was raised by an Opposition Member. This is a technical amendment to the exception from the reservation of intellectual property, which is necessary to reflect the coming into force of the Plant Varieties Act 1997, which repealed and replaced the relevant provisions of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964. I commend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. McLeish

I beg to move amendment No. 269, in page 65, leave out line 33.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 270.

Mr. McLeish

These amendments refine the wording of the reservation of estate agency matters. They are fairly formal, and, given the time available, I beg to move.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 270, in page 65, line 41, at end insert— `( ) the Estate Agents Act 1979,'.—[Mr. McLeish.]

Ms Roseanna Cunningham

I beg to move amendment No. 267, in page 68, line 27, leave out from beginning to end of line 35.

I shall be brief, as there is little time left. The amendment would effectively exclude from reservation the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. I do not want to go into a great rehearsal of the issues of nuclear power in Scotland, other than to remind hon. Members, if they need reminding, that that is a hugely controversial issue, and, remarkably, one which has not been discussed in the context of the Bill as far as I am aware.

Recent events, which I shall not go into, demonstrate the important part in the political debate that nuclear power plays in Scotland. I shall not rehearse the debate about Dounreay, but people in Scotland have a passionate desire to have a say in that matter. The devolved powers as they relate to transport, the environment and planning will all have a capacity to impact on Dounreay. We should go that one step further, and I must insist on pressing the amendment.

Mr. Dalyell

I merely want to register a view diametrically opposed to that of the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham). Any unbundling of the United Kingdom nuclear set-up would be a disaster.

Mr. McLeish

Nuclear energy is reserved to ensure the continued existence of a single coherent regulatory framework in that extremely important industry. The balance between reserved and devolved matters in regard to nuclear energy is a sensible one. If accepted, the amendment could lead to fragmentation, confusion and weaker regulation—the opposite, I am sure, of what is desirable. I invite the hon. Lady to withdraw it.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham

No, I wish to press the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (seated and covered)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that, under these procedures, we had only 15 minutes for a debate on euthanasia—a very important debate, in which I wanted to take part. Now, because this Division has taken unusually long, we shall have no time at all to debate those matters of life and death. I wonder why this Division has taken so long, what is going on, and whether we can speed it up.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I deplore the length of time that has been taken over this Division. Normally I would have asked the Serjeant at Arms to go and investigate, but, because of the small amount of time involved, I have not done so on this occasion. However, I will certainly ensure that inquiries are made as to what has happened.

The House having divided: Ayes 6, Noes 289.

Division No. 281] [8.3 pm
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth) Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Dafis, Cynog
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Tellers for the Ayes:
Salmond, Alex Mr. Andrew Welsh and
Swinney, John Mr. Alasdair Morgan.
Ainger, Nick Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Alexander, Douglas Ashton, Joe
Allan, Richard Austin, John
Allen, Graham Banks, Tony
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Barnes, Harry
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Benton, Joe Fyfe, Maria
Berry, Roger Galbraith, Sam
Blackman, Liz Gardiner, Barry
Blears, Ms Hazel George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Blizzard, Bob Gerrard, Neil
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Gibson, Dr Ian
Borrow, David Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Godman, Dr Norman A
Bradshaw, Ben Godsiff, Roger
Breed, Colin Goggins, Paul
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Golding, Mrs Llin
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gorrie, Donald
Browne, Desmond Grant, Bernie
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Buck, Ms Karen Grogan, John
Burden, Richard Hain, Peter
Burgon, Colin Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Burstow, Paul Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Byers, Stephen Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Caborn, Richard Hanson, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Healey, John
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hepburn, Stephen
Campbell-Savours, Dale Heppell, John
Cann, Jamie Hesford, Stephen
Caplin, Ivor Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Casale, Roger Hill, Keith
Caton, Martin Hinchliffe, David
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Chidgey, David Home Robertson, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Hood, Jimmy
Clapham, Michael Hoon, Geoffrey
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hope, Phil
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clelland, David Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Clwyd, Ann Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Coaker, Vernon Howells, Dr Kim
Colman, Tony Hoyle, Lindsay
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cooper, Yvette Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbett, Robin Humble, Mrs Joan
Corston, Ms Jean Hutton, John
Cranston, Ross Iddon, Dr Brian
Crausby, David Illsley, Eric
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jamieson, David
Dalyell, Tam Jenkins, Brian
Darvill, Keith Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Denham, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald Jowell, Ms Tessa
Dismore, Andrew Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dobbin, Jim Keeble, Ms Sally
Doran, Frank Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Dowd, Jim Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Drew, David Khabra, Piara S
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kidney, David
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Edwards, Huw Kingham, Ms Tess
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kirkwood, Archy
Ennis, Jeff Kumar, Dr Ashok
Fearn, Ronnie Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Fitzpatrick, Jim Leslie, Christopher
Fitzsimons, Lorna Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Flint, Caroline Livingstone, Ken
Follett, Barbara Livsey, Richard
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Lock, David
Love, Andrew Rooney, Terry
McAllion, John Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAvoy, Thomas Rowlands, Ted
McCabe, Steve Roy, Frank
McCafferty, Ms Chris Ruddock, Ms Joan
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield) Russell, Bob (Colchester)
McDonagh, Siobhain Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Macdonald, Calum Ryan, Ms Joan
McDonnell, John Salter, Martin
McFall, John Sanders, Adrian
McGuire, Mrs Anne Savidge, Malcolm
McLeish, Henry Sawford, Phil
McNulty, Tony Sedgemore, Brian
McWilliam, John Sheerman, Barry
Mahon, Mrs Alice Singh, Marsha
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Snape, Peter
Martlew, Eric Soley, Clive
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Southworth, Ms Helen
Merron, Gillian Squire, Ms Rachel
Michael, Alun Steinberg, Gerry
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Miller, Andrew Stinchcombe, Paul
Mitchell, Austin Stoate, Dr Howard
Moffatt, Laura Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stuart, Ms Gisela
Moore, Michael Sutcliffe, Gerry
Moran, Ms Margaret Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Mudie, George Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Mullin, Chris Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Todd, Mark
Norris, Dan Touhig, Don
Oaten, Mark Trickett, Jon
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Neill Martin Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Organ, Mrs Diana Tyler Paul
Osborne, Ms Sandra Wallace, James
Pendry, Tom Walley, Ms Joan
Perham, Ms Linda Ward, Ms Claire
Pickthall, Colin White, Brian
Pike, Peter L Whitehead, Dr Alan
Plaskitt, James Wicks, Malcolm
Pond, Chris Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Powell, Sir Raymond Wills, Michael
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Wilson, Brian
Primarolo, Dawn Winnick, David
Purchase, Ken Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Quin, Ms Joyce Wise, Audrey
Quinn, Lawrie Wood, Mike
Radice, Giles Woolas, Phil
Rammell, Bill Worthington, Tony
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S) Tellers for the Noes:
Jane Kennedy and
Rogers, Allan Mr. Clive Betts.

Question accordingly negatived.

Dr. Fox

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether, given that this is one of the first occasions when we have had such a detailed timetable for a Bill, you might wish to report back to Madam Speaker the length of this Division—18 minutes. It is a clear attempt by the Government to avoid having to discuss what is for them an awkward ethical issue, and it is not only an act of blatant cowardice on their part, but contrary to the spirit in which we have hitherto conducted discussion of the Bill.

Mr. Leigh

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Setting aside the issue of the length of time, I thought that we had reached a civilised agreement that we would ensure that all matters were properly debated, despite there being a guillotine. I therefore hope that you can raise this matter with Madam Speaker, and if necessary allow Division time to be treated, as it were, as injury time.

This has been a very long Division; but even if it had been held promptly and had taken only 15 minutes, we should have been left with only five minutes in which to discuss whether euthanasia should be reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament. That is unsatisfactory, and I hope that you will—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have dealt in part with that point of order, and said that I deplore what has happened. Madam Speaker always takes a great interest in these matters, and no doubt she will have a view on this as well. Further discussion is simply taking time out of the next debate.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On a point of information, which I am sure you could supply, am I to understand that the Standing Orders relating to the conduct of business in this place were drawn up by the previous Administration?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair to deal with at this time.

It being more than four hours and fifteen minutes after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order [13 January] and the Resolution [12 May], put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour. Amendments made: No. 233, in page 78, line 14, at end insert—

  1. 'Scottish public authorities 71 words
  2. c821
  3. Interpretation'. 48 words