HL Deb 29 June 1978 vol 394 cc487-553

8.24 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that further proceedings on the Scotland Bill be now resumed.

Moved, That further proceedings on the Scotland Bill be now resumed.—(Lord Strabolgi.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, to a House which is surprisingly lacking in company at this moment, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. It is tempting to take advantage of the lull to embark upon a long speech, but as there is an Amendment to follow this Motion, I am content simply to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

8.25 p.m.

Lord WILSON of LANGSIDE rose to move as an Amendment to the Motion, "That the Bill do now pass", at end to insert—

"in order to avoid the constitutional conflict which rejection of the Bill might cause, but that this House alerts the people in Scotland to its contradictions and deficiencies, and to the financial, fiscal and constitutional problems which remain unresolved; advises them that it is likely to lead to the diminishing of the numbers and powers of Scotland's Members of Parliament at Westminster; and warns them most earnestly of the grave danger in which the Bill places the unity of the United Kingdom."

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I greatly regret that the Amendment should stand in my name alone. I had hoped to be able to arrange that the Amendment would carry the support of a number of noble Lords from different parts of the House, not excluding the Benches occupied by Labour Peers. That would have been arranged without difficulty but for the circumstance that I was advised by the authorities of the House that an Amendment of this nature could stand in the name of only one Peer; to that extent at least I am the reluctant Peer.

I wonder whether your Lordships would agree that this Amendment reflects quite accurately what has become over the last months of discussion and debate the predominant feeling of the House about the Bill; namely, that it is a bad Bill, likely to do more harm than good to the working of government in Scotland and indeed the rest of the Kingdom. If I am right in that, then what has been significant has been the support which this view has been given not only from the Conservative Benches but from the Cross-Benches, and, indeed, also from the Labour Benches.

From here, on the Cross-Benches, your Lordships had the view of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, an economist of some distinction in his own right, and he painted the intriguing picture of one of the consequences of the Bill's enactment being a kind of Boston tea party in reverse; representation without taxation. We had from the Cross-Benches, too, some relentless opposition from the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who was the first to remark on the skill of the Government Front Bench defence of the indefensible. I have been wondering whether it was my prejudiced ear which heard few voices, apart from those on the Government Front Bench, who praised the Bill without qualification.

There was of course the noble Earl, Lord Perth, whose notable contribution to the debates was consistent and unswerving, and we have great respect for his point of view. There was the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, who, at an early stage of our deliberations, spoke of the dedicated work of a team of civil servants, of whom perhaps more anon, who prepared the Bill. And there was the noble Lord, Lord Brown, who unfortunately seldom stayed for an answer, and I am sorry he is not in his place tonight. But beyond them, was there more than a handful of others who supported the Bill without reservation? Even the Liberal voice which supported the Bill was rather like that of the political correspondent of The Scotsman newspaper who said: Let us pass the Bill and clear up the constitutional mess afterwards". The Liberals expressly acknowledge that they see the Bill, as indeed do the Nationalists in Scotland, as a stepping stone to something else, in their case—the Liberal case—to a Federal State, and in the case of the Nationalists to a separate State; surely, to most of us, not the most sensible approach to the solution of constitutional problems.

What, my Lords, of the other voices, particularly those from the Labour Benches? There was Lord Taylor of Gryfe, who has told me that he is very sorry that he is not able to be here tonight. I told him what I was going to say about his comments on the Bill. He said that he did not mind if I did. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord spoke of the chaos which he saw as likely to flow from this measure in those fields about which he speaks from a wide knowledge and experience. There were others.

There was the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon. I am sorry that I do not see her here. She has, of course, spent a liftetime in the Labour Party. She is one of its stalwarts and is a former chairman of the Labour Party. She said that she did not think much of the Bill. In a most interesting speech. she put her finger on one fundamental flaw in the Government's approach. She appeared to express agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, and Professor Peacock in a view which they expressed on the Memorandum of Dissent to the Royal Commission's Report, which was the best thing—as I have said not once but at least twice before in this House—that emerged from the deliberations of the Royal Commission.

There was Lord Wigg. He will be here, he tells me, later. He said, among many other fascinating things, that he regarded the Bill as treason. The leader writer in The Scotsman dismissed this. I forget precisely what the words were but they suggested that it was more than a little absurd. I wonder whether they were right. Is there not something of a grain of truth in this? It has been so often suggested in the newspapers and in debates that those who say that the Bill is a threat to the unity of Britain are scaremongering. This is a considered, calculated, careful political judgment. Like all judgments on human affairs, it may be wrong. I do not claim infallibility for it. But it is not scaremongering. If there is any ground for this fear of a threat to the unity of Britain this will indeed bring comfort (will it not?) to the Queen's enemies. That is what treason is about, I think—or one of the things that it is about. It is, in this context, not wholly without significance that in the Labour Vote-No Campaign's ABC of Devolution, the letter "K" is for Kitson. Here, indeed, there is food for thought for those who know the Scottish political scene.

What other voices have we heard during our deliberations over these many weeks? Last, but of course by no means least, there was the voice of the noble Lord, Lord Shin well. The House is in his debt for his many stimulating reflections and hsi constructive comments. Ultimately, if I understood him aright, he seemed to suggest rather regretfully that we should make the best of a bad job: the other place had passed it. "Let it go to the referendum", he seemed to say, "and let the people choose". That is not an unreasonable approach, given the situation into which this Government has driven Parliament. I would not demur to that approach at all, provided that the people in Scotland know what the Government are trying to sell to them and why they are trying to sell it.

This brings me to why I think it is important that this Amendment should be accepted. In the 'course of our discussions, someone described it as a malediction. That, of course, is how it is intended. If it is not accepted, those who will urge upon us in Scotland, that we should answer "Yes" to the question in the referendum will say: "Parliament has approved this Bill in principle; not only the Commons with a Labour Government in power, but even the Lords with their built-in Conservative majority have passed it through all its stages. The Government support it. Why should you reject it?"

This Amendment, if your Lordships accept that it expresses the view of your Lordships' House, is the beginning of an answer to that question. If your Lordships do not accept it, this House will be represented to the people in Scotland as having approved a Bill which most of your Lordships—certainly most who have taken part in these debates—as indeed most of those who took part in the debates in the other place, and not only those who support the Conservative Party, recognise for the ill-conceived thing that it truly is, and which your Lordships' debates and the debates in the other place have demonstrated it to be.

There is just one last point I should like to make before I sit down. It has been suggested to me that this Amendment is undesirable, as something of a constitutional innovation—a rather undesirable innovation which might be a precedent on other occasions—as if every time the Lords do not like a Bill that the Commons send to them, someone is going to move a Third Reading Amendment in terms such as these. I can understand, at first thought, the reservations about that. Of course, it misses the point.

First, I do not think that your Lordships need worry about it being a precedent, because I find it difficult to believe that any British Government in the future, faced with a problem such as the Scottish problem today, will deal with it with such extraordinary folly as the present Government have dealt with this one. In any event, look at what has happened. There have been some queer constitutional manoeuvrings going on over the Bill. There was cheating in the Lobbies in the other place on one occasion—this was admitted—to try to get the Bill through. The guillotine would never have been accepted in the other place if the Lords had not introduced this alien conception into our Constitution—alien until the European situation, of course—and into the Bill. The other place would never have let this Bill go through but for the provision for the referendum. If we are to have a referendum, let us make sure—as the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, urged us to do—that the people in Scotland who had to answer the question would know what the question meant, what it involved, and what it was that this Government had decided to impose on Scotland. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, as an Amendment to the Motion, "That the Bill do now pass", at end to insert— ("in order to avoid the constitutional conflict which rejection of the Bill might cause, but that this House alerts the people in Scotland to its contradictions and deficiencies, and to the financial, fiscal and constitutional problems which remain unresolved; advises them that it is likely to lead to the diminishing of the numbers and powers of Scotland's Members of Parliament at Westminster; and warns them most earnestly of the grave danger in which the Bill places the unity of the United Kingdom.").—(Lord Wilson of Langside.)

8.39 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think many tears will be shed at the consideration of the Bill in this House drawing to a close. It has been an important Bill—and indeed a hugely important one, because it is altering the Constitution of the United Kingdom. Its real danger lies in the fact that it is altering the balance between the constituent members of the United Kingdom in a way in which we, because of our immediacy to the problem, are unable to determine. When the Bill came to us of its 83 clauses 60 had not been discussed in another place and of its 17 Schedules, 14 had not been discussed in another place. Whatever our views of the House of Lords may be, the stark fact is that were it not for the mere existence of this Second Chamber—irrespective of its composition or powers—the Bill would have been passed into law with vast areas of it not having received any consideration at all by Parliament. That would have been a shocking, and, I venture to suggest, unacceptable state of affairs.

However, your Lordships have considered the Bill—every single clause and every single Schedule of it. It is no secret that when the Bill came to your Lordships' House it did not have many friends, and it is no secret that it has even fewer now. We on this side of the House—and I believe that in this we are joined by most noble Lords—took the view that, much as we dislike the Bill, much as we may think that in the long term it will damage, rather than improve, the bonds of unity of the United Kingdom, our job was not to obstruct it or to wreck it. Our job was, as a Revising Chamber to seek information from the Government, to discover their intentions, to scrutinise the Bill, to improve it where possible; and to try to give to another place the opportunity of considering matters of substance, which up to now have, by their rules of procedure, been denied to another place.

In no way have we sought to wreck the Bill. That was not our role. The Bill had the approval of another place; the inhabitants of Scotland will have their chance of giving a view. Whatever our views on referenda or devolution in general may be, it would have been wrong had we sought to destroy the Bill. We have not done so. Not one of the Amendments which we have passed is a wrecking Amendment. Not one of the Amendments is such that it could not be accepted by another place. It is true that some Amendments may be controversial, in so far as they may not meet with the approval of everyone. But that is not surprising in a Bill which touches delicate sensitivities all around the clock.

Whenever your Lordships pass Amendments to a Bill, particularly if it is a controversial Bill, we are told that we have emasculated the wretched thing. We have not emasculated this Bill at all. All we have done is, by amendment, to make suggestions to another place, which they can accept or reject, or amend, as they will. Many of those are on matters—such as taxation, the West Lothian question, Party balances in committee, or problems confronting aerodromes, waterways or betting and gaming—which either another place had not discussed before, or, if they had, their rules of procedure had prevented them amending. This is no more and no less than our right and duty as a Second Chamber.

I beg of the Government to enable these issues to be at least discussed by another place. At a time when the confidence which the public reposes in Parliament and in its legislators in general is at a frighteningly low level, it would, I suggest, be an affront to the dignity of Parliament, and to the respect of the public in the institution of Parliamentary democracy, if the operation of a guillotime in another place were to deny to the Members there the opportunity of discussing large parts of a Bill which is to alter fundamentally—and, many will consider, for ever—the Constitution of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, if a second operation of the guillotine in another place were then to deny for a second time to the Members there the opportunity of discussing that which they have not discussed, but which your Lordships have discussed, and which your Lordships think that they ought to discuss, then we would have the situation that the Constitution of the country would be altered by the manner in which the Parliamentary draftsmen determined, but which had been consistently denied the approval of or, even consideration by, the elected Chamber. I believe that that course will command neither respect nor approbation—but that is for another place.

We have done our bit, for the moment, anyhow. I wish to say how much we have admired and appreciated the assiduity of the Members of the Government Front Bench in carrying out their task. It must have been a particularly difficult task for them, because its bounds were limitless, and they never knew what kind of missiles were to come at them, whether from in front or from behind. But, mercifully, Party politics entered our discussions little. I wish to thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who is in charge of the Bill, for the care and courtesy which was always shown in answering our questions and in giving us information. Naturally, we thought that some of the answers were rotten—but never the people who delivered them, nor the manner in which they were delivered. We admired the noble and learned Lord's ability—as he himself confessed—to delegate. That is always the sign of a successful man. We admired—indeed we could not help admiring—the length and content of his speech this evening on the Motion that the Bill do now pass. It was a masterpiece of brevity, and an example to all of us.

The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, were always courteous and thorough, and they had the difficult task of addressing their minds to a Bill which was not part of their normal ministerial responsibilities; and we did so appreciate it when they admitted that they had sometimes got it wrong.

The brunt of the Bill fell on to the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey. He displayed a competence and a mastery over the Bill which was remarkable. He knew—or so it appeared—every inch of the Bill, and actually seemed to like it! He could argue any point, good or bad, with equal conviction, and we admired his versatility. But the noble and learned Lord is by profession an advocate—a professional arguer—and my goodness! it did show.

I felt sorry for the Government that on a Bill which is such an important part of their programme, they had such little support from the Benches behind them. Perhaps noble Lords were advised that in the interests of brevity it would be more appropriate for them to make their interventions minimal; or perhaps in their heart of hearts they were not frantically enthusiastic about the Bill. May be that is why the Government could on one occasion muster, including their Front Bench, only 23 Members, or on another occasion 20, and on one occasion 19, to support them on such an important Bill. It was not an enthusiastic display of support, but I am bound to say that it looks as if they are to get more this evening.

My Lords, the intervention of the Liberal Party in this important and constitutional Bill was also telling. We witnessed the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, complaining whenever we sought just a little to curb the excessive liberties proposed for the Assembly, and he was quite satisfied to leave it to the Assembly—that all will be well. It was a remarkably enthusiastic, but somewhat unpragmatic approach.

Strangely enough, not one official Front Bench Amendment to the Bill was put by the Liberal Party. But they did have two Amendments, and their rarity made them important. One was on the estuarial limits for salmon fishing, and the other was to insert the word "audited" before "accounts". They felt so strongly about both those subjects that they considered it appropriate to withdraw their Amendments—and I am sure that the Government appreciated that.

I also want to thank my noble friends on the Front Bench and those behind for all the work which they did on the Bill. As noble Lords know only too well, in opposition one has remarkably little help—unlike when in government—and much of the work has to be done by means of one's own private ferreting and initiative. It is the duty of Opposition to question, sometimes to improve, sometimes to oppose, and it requires much hard work. I wish to thank my noble friends for what they have done. Indeed, that applies to all the Members of your Lordships' House who have endeavoured to improve the Bill. If the Bill has emerged as a better Bill—as I believe it has—then that is the duty and, indeed, the vindication of, and the raison d'etre for, your Lordships' House.

A better Bill it is, my Lords; a good Bill it is not. Nor can it ever be, because it accentuates the differences between people instead of cultivating the harmonies; because it mixes the unmixables, the federal system and the unitary system; because in the end it will lead to a drawing apart, and not to a drawing together. No one can believe that this Bill, once an Act and once in being, will provide a stable situation. Of course it will not. Inevitably, in the Assembly and elsewhere, there will be clamour for more powers, more rights; more of Scotland, less of Westminster; more of separation, less integration. This Bill signifies the unleashing of a roller coaster. It will not stand still; it will move and gather momentum, and no one knows the route that it will take, where it will go or where it will end up. That, my Lords, is the danger of this Bill, and this is the condemnation of it.

As the Bill has progressed through Parliament, the attitude of Members of both Houses has displayed no massive enthusiasm for it. Almost alone, the Government have tried to extol its virtues. The support, even from their own supporters, has been impressive by its absence. The one attitude and mood which has seeped out of this discourse in both Houses as the Bill has crept along its tortuous path, is anxiety—anxiety for the future, anxiety for what we are doing, anxiety that we do not know what it is that we are doing. It is this Bill, the cause of this anxiety, which the Government, in a novel fashion, intend to commend, not to the Scots but to the inhabitants of Scotland, whoever they may be, for their approval, and which approval they will overtly seek to capture.

My Lords, in a world of torment and distrust, when friends are hard to find and sometimes even harder to keep, this Bill will have, not a binding effect on the constituent parts of the United Kingdom but a fragmenting one. It sows the seeds of dissension and even, possibly, antagonism in the long run; and it omits to build upon our common heritage and upon our common history. It will not assuage the appetite which it purports to satisfy: rather will it feed it. The Scottish Nationalists will see to that. The reality of the Assembly, for which they have so vociferously clamoured, will be used by them, as they have promised, as a major and positive step to total independence. It is for this reason that many of us, on both sides of the Border, while recognising the understandable desire of the Scottish people to have a more immediate influence over the matters which affect them, view the passage of this Bill into law both with regret and with dismay.

That regret and dismay is crystallised for us in the Amendment to the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, which stands in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside. From all parts of the House we have admired the noble and learned Lord's constancy and integrity of approach to this Bill; and he has put down an Amendment which signifies and epitomises the thoughts which have been expressed time and time again on this Bill, both in this House and in another place, as well as in the country outside. If the noble and learned Lord's view was, "If we vote for this Amendment we will not be altering the detail of the Bill which constitutionally we shall pass, but we will be recording the opinion of your Lordships' House, upon which those in Scotland may reflect before the referendum", I am bound to say that I would have much sympathy for that.

This evening, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, was, as always, devastatingly persuasive, but I am bound to record this fact: that although the noble and learned Lord is not without precedent in moving this Amendment—I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, moved a similar Amendment on the European Communities Bill—there are a number of us who, while sharing the noble and learned Lord's views, feel what one can only call a gut reaction towards a reluctance to encourage a precedent of tagging on to what is in fact the last legislative step in the whole progress of a Bill through this House, an opinion of the House which has no legislative effect whatever. Had the noble and learned Lord framed his views in the form of a substantive Motion separate from the Bill, many of us would have felt persuaded to go with him, but may well feel reluctant to do so on this particular Amendment. The time to voice these substantial disquiets is during the passage of a Bill; and this we have done, as indeed, constantly and with distinction, has the noble and learned Lord.

Of course, the noble and learned Lord wishes the emphatic declaration of your Lordships to go out to the people of Scotland, warning them of the dangers of the Bill. But I hope that, before pressing his Amendment, the noble and learned Lord will take into consideration the fact that many of us who share his views will, for the reason that I have given him, be unable to support him, though I have no doubt that many will. And if he were to press his Amendment and lose it, the noble and learned Lord will have got the worst of all worlds. The Government and those campaigning for a "Yes" in the referendum will be able to say, "The House of Lords does not think that the Bill will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, or have any other deleterious effect; they had a vote on it, and they lost it; they gave it their approval". I venture to suggest that that is the last message those of us who share the noble and learned Lord's feelings would wish to go out, and I think that this is the last message which the noble and learned Lord himself would wish to see go out from this House.

The noble and learned Lord will use his wisdom, which mercifully he has in abundance, in deciding what course to take; and, while I personally, as I think we all have, have admired the noble and learned Lord's conduct over this Bill and the pristine clarity of opinion which he holds on it, I nevertheless hope that, on reflection, he may find that in the long term it will be better to have the debate, voice our misgivings, herald the warnings, record our anxiety, but in the end not press the Amendment.

8.57 p.m.


My Lords, it is astonishing how one can so often approve of speeches at the start and at the finish, and the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is no exception. His felicitations to everyone, apart from the Liberals, including his own Party and himself, were delicately put and delightfully expressed; and the good sense at the end of his speech, when he spoke about the Amendment, was outstanding. My Lords, I have to apologise to the House. I have to catch a sleeper to Scotland because I have a board meeting in Wick, which is some little way away from here, tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock, and I shall not be able to wait until the end of the debate. For this I apologise, but, as the House has seen me around for quite a bit during this debate, noble Lords will perhaps forgive me.

My Lords, in making a speech at the end of many long days of debate one does not really know what to say. One can only ask oneself what one is going to repeat. Indeed, when we talk about the Amendment, it is really simply repeating arguments which have gone on day by day throughout the passage of this Bill. I must say that the Bill itself is not perfect, but I do not know of any single Bill which is perfect. I do know that this is a major constitutional change, and I know that, due to the Lib-Lab agreement, the Government did as they said and consulted us. As a result, a great many of the improvements in the Bill were due to suggestions put by the Liberal Party and accepted by the Government.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us which ones they were?


My Lords, I have talked a great deal throughout the Bill, and if the noble Earl had listened he would have heard the ones which I was enthusiastic about and the ones which I supported because I had to. I do not think that the Bill is perfect. I do not think that it will go without improvement in the years to come. The noble Earl is quite right: it will develop. We have a developing situation. This is the first real constitutional change inside Great Britain—though not in the British Isles—for a couple of 100 years, and of course we want to get it completely right the first time. But what noble Lords must realise is that there is inside Scotland, although not in this House, a 60 per cent. support, according to every poll which I have seen taken, for a form of devolution within a united Great Britain.

There is in Scotland today a 30 per cent. support for a Party which believes in independence. I do not think every supporter believes in it, but that Party has collected a 30 per cent. support. They are not on the crest of the wave just now but 30 per cent. is a fair amount. This feeling in Scotland is extremely strong. It may move up and down a bit, but it will not go away. The Conservative Party's answer to this feeling and to this constitutional danger is to hold yet another conference. They rejected the initial approach put forward and now they want another conference. I am sorry, but I prefer a Bill which is not perfect to further delay and to further ammunition to the separatist movement.

The Bill as it stands gives to the people of Scotland an opportunity to influence in great measure their own future, and my view—and I have expressed it often—is that they will take it with goodwill and common sense and a great deal of goodwill towards their ancient and long-term partners, the English on the other side of the Border—a Border which unites us and does not divide us. Despite its imperfections—and I do not think I should say much more—this Bill will go a long way towards preserving the unity of the British Isles and Great Britain, and a long way towards letting the people of Scotland feel a part of the whole, not a feeling of an outlying part on the perimeter.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, that in a shrinking world where we have large institutions like the Common Market, the European Community, NATO and enormous super-Powers dominating the world, more and more do small communities need to have a sense of belonging. I think this Bill is a start to this movement. I think it can be and will be improved. I welcome it and trust that the Amendment will not be pressed and that it will be left to the people of Scotland through the referendum to decide whether or not to accept the Bill.

9.3 p.m.

The Marquess of ABERDEEN and TEMAIR

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is making errors in referring to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, as a kind of ghost. In any case, he has already explained that he is going to have to exorcise himself shortly for reasons which I was going to say more about; that is the, to me, preposterous provision that most of tonight's Third Reading debate has been devoted to taking up Committee points. Had we been able to devote our time to a full Third Reading debate with my noble and learned friend's Amendment attached to it, we might have been able to have the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, for the whole debate. I shall not say anything more about that.

The Amendment moved by my noble and learned friend Lord Wilson of Langside is almost irresistibly ingenious, but to me not quite irresistible because, as he expressed it himself, it is a malediction. It is not only a malediction because it is a bad Bill; I suspect it is a malediction because devolution is a bad idea. To me devolution is a good idea, but I believe that the Bill may have grave imperfections and may be very difficult to work. For personal reasons, I have not been very assiduous in attending your Lordships' House throughout the passage of this Bill, but I have been here when I could. I feel quite clear from my studies and from listening to the debates that there should be an Assembly elected by proportional representation with wide functions and powers, subject to the sort of safeguards which are written into the Bill. And of course it should have powers of raising money.

My noble and learned friend referred to the characterisation of the Bill by my noble friend Lord Vaizey as a kind of upside down Boston Tea-Party, in which he referred to the Assembly as being a body to have representation without taxation. This is a representation without command of supply. In fact, it is likely to be at the mercy of Westminster, on the one hand, and of the money-raising local authorities of Scotland, on the other. I lean strongly, in the eventual outcome to the idea of a federal solution to these constitutional problems. I pick up a remark made by my noble friend Lord Perth during an earlier stage of the Bill: "I can see no other solution". Unfortunately, this involves constitutional reform at Westminster which is little more than a gleam in the eye or a threat of the abolution of this House.

As for referenda/referendums, I do not approve under our present constitution of a referendum as part of our normal proceedings whether it be about the Scotland Bill or any other alleged constitutional position. One reason is that—I shall not go into it any more deeply; I think I have mentioned this before—as it will have to be done on the present electoral register, it will undoubtedly disfranchise a lot of Scots men and women living and working in other parts of the United Kingdom who have every intention of going back when their stay elsewhere is over, and it will give the vote to a lot of people from other parts of the United Kingdom who are not particularly interested in Scotland and have every intention of clearing out when their job there has finished. But, undoubtedly a referendum is on the way.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, made a mistake when he said that the media—whoever they may be—could take care of informing the electorate in Scotland who take part in the referendum of the issues. The media feed and thrive on controversy. I believe that it is the Government's business to make adequate explanation and to give information. It is quite a different thing from issuing propaganda.

My Lords, in conclusion, I get the impression that there are many adherents of both major Parties in the State who wish the Bill dead and who wish that the idea of devolution would somehow go away. I am afraid that it will not. The decision, therefore, must be whether an imperfect Bill is better than none at all. I know that there are some who fear that an arrangement with faults in it may be difficult to put right and that it might be better to start again. But this fear must be balanced against the possibility that, if this Bill falls, starting again will be indefinitely postponed. That, in my view, would be a more likely cause of danger to the unity of the United Kingdom than to reject the Amendment and pass the Bill.

9.10 p.m.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, may I concentrate a little more on what really lies in front of us tonight? I think that we are in a peculiar position. We do not generally vote on the Question, "That the Bill do now pass". There is to be a referendum following the enactment of the Bill, provision for which is made in the Bill. This is something that has never happened before in the history of this country. It affects every man and woman in Scotland. We are in the unique position of probably being the best-informed people in the world as to what this Bill contains. The people of Scotland hardly understand it at all. What then is our duty? What should we do? Surely, if we can help people to understand a little of what is involved in their public actions we should not be too reluctant to do so. There is here a considerable element of illusion. The Government in effect have said: "Wide powers to a Scottish Assembly!" But to the English they say: "Ah! but Parliamentary sovereignty remains unchanged!" There is a certain variation in those terms and they could be spelt out to mean different things in different parts of the country.

How many people in Scotland know that this is a representative Assembly with no sinews of action? No representative Assembly which had not got power for its own actions has ever succeeded in the history of democracy in this country. How many people know that? Ought we not to draw attention to it? How many realise that there is no taxation, no law and order, no agriculture, no industry. The real things that matter in Scotland, employment and opportunity, will be completely untouched by this. It will have no effect on them whatever. How many people realise the danger of confusion, not to say chaos, that may come along?

I find myself in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair. I think that if we put through this Bill, it is going to be very much more difficult to put through a proper reorganisation. I was not quite certain what the noble Lord said on that. Once this gets into operation, we are starting at a more difficult level to get the Government of Scotland on to a good footing. There is a lot of be done and it will have to be done in due course. What are our responsibilities? Do we think that Scotsmen will be happier, will be living in a more comfortable and graceful way, if this Bill is passed? Do we really think that or do we think that it is a simple political manoeuvre of a short-term character?

I must say that I think that we should be fair to warn people in Scotland that this is a very double-edged weapon. It has been said that this is an elected Assembly and so on. But people have not understood the form it has taken. I do not like the form. I myself believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, has said, that if this Bill falls not a dog will bark.

9.14 p.m.


My Lords, without disregarding anything that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said—and, indeed, totally agreeing with him—I should like to take up a couple of points which were made by the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair. It is a position that is often adopted by supporters of the Bill. They say that they appreciate that it will be difficult to work and, "perhaps we should have a Federal system." I think it was my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby who a week or two ago pointed out to the House that no federal system has ever worked where the component parts of it were centrifugal, were trying to pull apart. We tried with the Central African Federation; that did not stick. We tried it with Caribbean Federation; that did not stick. We imposed the Federation on the West Germans. That has stuck, but I am not sure whether they do not feel that they would rather be one united country again. I do not see how one is going to use a federal system as glue to hold together people who want to pull apart. That, I believe, is what is happening in Scotland and Wales—at least, led by a certain faction.

If the Bill which we have been discussing in such detail and for so long is enacted, how will its provisions be enforced? The noble Marquess talked about there being safeguards in the Bill; but what will be the method of enforcement if the Assembly chooses to ignore the provisions laid down in the Bill? How does one deal with an Assembly which looks upon itself as a Scottish Parliament acting in the name of the Scottish people and which chooses not to follow the guidelines which have so meticulously been laid down for it? I wonder how it will be done. If the Assembly kicks over the traces, will the rules be enforced? Will we have to turn a blind eye to it when the Assembly wants to take responsibility for something which the Bill does not devolve to it or does something different to the way the Bill says it should be done? I do not see what is to stop them if they have no reverence for the law, except perhaps economic sanctions when the oil runs out.

It does not seem to me that any account has been taken of the group chauvinism which is bound to be created in this Assembly, and which I am sure would affect me if I were to be a Member of it. It seems that under the Bill the Westminster Government has only a tenuous link with the Scottish Government in domestic matters, and that is through the Secretary of State. He will be in a very uncomfortable position: he will be in a similar position to that of a governor general of a colony which has been deemed to be an emergent nation.

This leads me to the main matter which I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention: the question of the future if the inhabitants of Scotland vote against the Bill on a referendum. Very naturally, we have been discussing only the Bill and the referendum. But if the Bill is defeated on a referendum—which it well may be—I suggest that it is extremely important that thought be given to the constitutional position of Scotland as it is at the moment within the United Kingdom. It seems to me that it is a very odd one. It is a halfway house to independence and not at all a static status quo. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie is right in saying that the Bill would bring the first constitutional change for a couple of hundred years. In fact, in the past 93 years the Scottish Office has grown steadily until it is now a very large Department of Government on its own. I believe that it employs more civil servants than the Commission at Brussels. The Secretary of State—poor fellow!—has to he a Pooh Bah in charge of nine Ministries which in England merits the attention of specialist Departments and the highest flying Ministers.

I wonder whether Scotland will get the best available Government from this arrangement. Also I wonder—and this point is relevant to some of the opposition which has been raised to this Bill—whether other areas in the United Kingdom are dealt with fairly vis-à-vis the present arrangements for Scotland. I understand that there is great store set by some, by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, upon the Secretary of State's ability to "get more for Scotland". There are parts of England, like the North-West, and of course the North-East, which suffer the same—and sometimes worse—relative deprivations, as does Scotland but which have no Secretary of State to get more for them. In a political and economic union, one of whose purposes is fair shares for all, that is not a very equitable situation.

This Bill reduces the importance of the Secretary of State considerably—a fact which has drawn complaints from some quarters. I would ask: ought we not to be considering not only the constitutional position and the constitutional propriety of the post of Secretary of State, but whether it is really necessary? I have asked that question of Scottish friends, and often their first reaction is one of shock and horror. That shock and horror become considerably diminished after some quiet discussion. It is indeed a very interesting subject, but somehow it does not come out into the open very much; at first people are not very keen to talk about it.

I would make only two observations on that subject this evening. The first is that the fact of there being a Secretary of State and a Scottish Office adds nothing whatsoever to the esteem in which I hold Scotland and the people of Scotland—nothing at all. In a way, I feel—I referred to this on the Second Reading of the Wales Bill and I shall not do it here—it reduces the status of Scotland and, politically, the status of the Scottish people. Secondly, it is my belief that the very existence of the Secretary and his office is the seed from which this Bill has grown, or, let us say, it is the kernel around which a constitutional separation has formed, which has become explicit in this Bill and which, as my noble and learned friend Lord Wilson says, must put our unity in the greatest danger, to say the least. I think that it is the greatest tragedy to put that unity at risk. It matters to all of us and it affects us all. The life of every part of this Island, including Scotland, will, I believe, be diminished by the effects of this Bill, let alone what would happen on secession.

Noble Lords and others who support this Bill tend to be romantic about it. Perhaps I might permit myself to say—because there is enough of the British nationalist in me to believe that the joining of England and Scotland (and I am not likely to forget Wales) was, through good fortune and the accident of history, one of the better things to have happened in this world—that if we continue on this diverging course which we have been travelling along for almost one hundred years, I believe that we shall throw away more good than can possibly be gained. I believe that we should cease to diverge and that we should begin to come together again. I believe there must be a reconciliation.

If my noble friend's Amendment will help towards this, then, as it may, I will support him if he presses it; but I think that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made a strong point when he said that this Amendment was just a matter of opinion. As the Government themselves were criticised in the other place for putting what was deemed to be a mere expression of opinion at the beginning of the Scotland Bill, I suggest that perhaps we should not lay ourselves open to the charge of doing the same.

9.25 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps, I may go straight on from the point that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, made. He asked squarely the question: is the Secretary of State necessary? It is a fact that in Scotland's greatest period, when Scotland, relative to England, was more prosperous than at any other time, we did not have a Secretary for Scotland, let alone a Secretary of State for Scotland. The basic trouble about this Bill is the confusion that exists between the two sides, and I do not think I am putting it too high by saying that never since Kenneth MacAlpine will Scotland have been so divided.

The Secretary of State retains the reserved powers. So long as the Secretary of State is of the same Party as the Socttish Secretariat, the Scottish Executive, I suppose that, with all the hesitations that one will get through personal differences, differences of status, the system that is proposed in this Bill will work fairly well. But as soon as there is a Secretary of State who is of a different Party from the Party in power in Scotland, the whole system will shudder along and may shudder to a halt. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will have his own team of Ministers, and there will be the Scottish Executive as well. One has only to ask oneself why one has a Secretary of State at all to realise how difficult it will be to do without one, in present days.

What would happen if there were no Secretary of State at all? Obviously, some member of the Scottish Executive, or someone of that kind, would have to represent the Scottish interest in the Cabinet. In the old days, in years gone by, the Lord Advocate was, I believe, called to the Cabinet when nobody else was available. Obviously, that would not serve. Therefore, we should begin to get the position where we had to have a representative of a different Party to represent Scotland in the Cabinet. There would be no alternative to that. I do not believe that that would work. I do not believe that the Bill as a whole will work. As I said at the start, it will work reasonably well so long as there are the same Parties in power in both countries. But this will not be anything like a permanent solution.

I should like to work my way around to why I think that this is so. We said at the outset that we would improve the Bill. We have certainly done so, but we have not done enough to make it workable. We have introduced proportional representation in the form of the additional Member system. That improves the Bill. It at least gives to a much wider range of people in Scotland a fair chance of being represented. It could encourage a higher proportion of the public to take an interest in the Assembly. But it still does not make the Bill good enough. If the Assembly had to deal only with matters devolved to it, with perhaps the addition of law and order—and I agree that the Scottish Ministry, the Scottish Administration, will be a very inadequate affair—the Bill might have worked, though one would be forgiven for thinking that the same result could have been obtained much more economically.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, who is no longer here, said that there was 60 per cent. support for a form of devolution. The noble Lord is in favour of this Bill, and also favours a federal solution. But I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, really believes that a federal solution could arise out of this beginning. What we all have to face up to is the fact that, to some extent, Scotland will always be different from the rest, because of the differences in Scottish law from the law prevailing in the rest of the country. Therefore, Scotland will always have to receive some form of special representation of Scotland at the centre of Government.

What are the chief defects in the solution that has been arrived at in the Bill, if it is a solution at all? First, it is the failure to resolve satisfactorily the position of the Secretary of State. Secondly, it is the concept of devolving functions to Scottish Secretaries who will then have a divided loyalty to the Secretary of State on the one hand and the Scottish Assembly on the other. Thirdly, it is the failure to put finance on a sound basis. This is the core of the failures of the Bill. As has already been said, this is not a good start; it is not a good way to move forward to the future. When there is a change of Government, there will have to be an attempt to overcome these failures. One may have to start from more modest beginnings. I am quite certain that this Bill will not work in its present form.

9.32 p.m.


My Lords, despite the weariness of the debates on this Bill, I remain as firm a devolutionist as when it was first introduced at Second Reading. I find myself much in sympathy with the view of the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that the Bill is clumsy and that it does not go far enough. I hold towards a federal solution of this problem, but I also hold that half a loaf is better than no bread. That is why I support the Bill. I base my reason chiefly on the ground that, with the tremendous increase in legislation and the extension of administrative powers, it is essential that, so far as possible, decision-making should be devolved. The Scottish Assembly may or may not do better than Westminster. That is a secondary matter. The important point is that when things go wrong, the Scots will then know whom to blame, not the Mr. Jorkins of the English Treasury.

I am even less enamoured of this Bill as it leaves your Lordships than when it was first introduced. It is true that there have been some useful and fundamentally important Amendments. I particularly welcome the Amendment on the method of election to the Assembly by a system of proportional representation. In any elected body, when it comes to the question of a change in the method of their election there is a natural and innate tendency towards the conservation of the status quo. However antiquated and out-of-date may be the method adopted in another place, it is not for your Lordships to tell it what to do; but that in no way precludes your Lordships from ensuring, as we have done, a more equitable and up-to-date system for the proposed Assembly. But many of the Amendments which have been made to the Bill have the effect of limiting the powers of the Assembly; and in making these Amendments this House, in my opinion, has done its reputation no good at all. Should the referendum result be "Yes", and should the Assembly be set up, these Amendments—if they remain in the Bill—will be a cause of friction; and that will be at a time when, for the sake of the unity of this Kingdom, harmony is essential.

What will disturb harmony is a lot of subsequent tinkering with the Act. In establishing a new constitution immediate and frequent changes can be most disruptive. That is why I should have liked the Bill to go much further than it has done towards a federal solution, and that is why I deplore—and I use the word advisedly—the Amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside. I admire the ingenuity of the opponents of this Bill. I admire their ingenuity every bit as much as I admire their manifest sincerity, but I hope that most of the Amendments which clip the wings of the Assembly will not find favour in another place. In a Bill such as this, my Lords, it is wise to be magnanimous.

9.36 p.m.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, I go along with the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, in what he has just said. I should like to start by considering what we have done as a revising Chamber. The Bill came to us imperfectly considered and imperfect in its construction. I do not say that it is perfect now, but there are certain aspects of it of which I think we should be proud and hope that the other place will consider them and accept them. If I were asked what was the first of our achievements I would say that it is the method by which the Assembly should be chosen; that is to say, by proportional representation. I think that is of immense importance for Scotland. If it is opposed in another place, particularly by the Government, it will be a sorry tale because what will happen on the Scotland Bill will no doubt happen on the Wales Bill and that would be a clear example of the most vicious form of gerrymandering.

If we take Wales, over the last many years it has been a Labour country and if we do not allow proportional representation one can see that situation continuing for a long time ahead. If we take Scotland, I suppose they may feel that there is the same opportunity in Scotland, but in Scotland it is a hazardous affair. There are three Parties of roughly the same voting power and the Liberal Party, which in certain areas is very strong. If that is the case, there is not a system of proportional representation but the whole thing is thrown open to chance—and chance is not a good way of choosing a responsible Government. So on that one point, if by any chance the other place does not go along with this House I hope your Lordships will stand firm, because after all this was a decision, not of the Opposition, not of the Cross-Benches, not of the Liberals but of all sides and with the overwhelming support of over two to one in favour of these changes.

Looking at the other changes which were made and which I think are important, there was one Amendment which your Lordships carried and which I think is of great value. It is that the Assembly should, if they wished, put forward to Parliament in Westminster their ideas of how to tax themselves by either a plus or a minus. I am sure that must be right, given the circumstances of what the Assembly is about. Then your Lordships introduced an Amendment to deal with the West Lothian question, but in introducing and passing that Amendment your Lordships made very clear that the important thing was that the other place should consider it. We were not saying that it was right or wrong but we wanted to give them an opportunity to consider it. There again I think we showed great widsom.

I could continue with quite a long list of similar items which we have achieved. Some of them I have been in favour of, some of them I have not. Like the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, I have been disappointed in some of the powers taken from us; that is to say, from the Assembly—such things as forestry, which is essentially, it seems to me, a Scottish question, and the limiting of the Scottish Development Agency. One gets the plusses and minuses, but broadly I am quite clear that the Bill is better than it was when it started.

Having said that, we then come to the reasoned Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside. Your Lordships will not be surprised if I say I cannot go along with the Amendment in any way. I recall how at Second Reading the noble Lord was proposing to move an Amendment that the Second Reading should not be given, and we see in the Amendment he is moving now the reasons which were behind that. I understand why he is doing it, because he sincerely believes—and others have spoken in the same way—that this measure leads to the risk of the breaking up of the United Kingdom. I will come back to that, but I would say this first of all. He made the point that he felt that the Bill was not perfect, that it was a hotch-potch, and other noble Lords have said the same thing. I think we all understand that. At a great moment of change like this you do not get things absolutely right the first time; what you have to do is to make a start, and that is what this Bill is about.

I, as I think your Lordships know, prefer a federal solution. Many other noble Lords have said the same thing. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who said that it does not often succeed if it comes about in the way that it does. But I wonder if he is right. The examples he gave, in almost every case, were federal solutions imposed from above, whereas if in the end this federal solution comes about it will not be imposed from above; it will come from the unity of the United Kingdom or from the people of the country.

However, I want to turn back to the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, and in particular the last phrase: and warns them most earnestly of the grave danger in which the Bill places the unity of the United Kingdom". I take exactly the opposite view. I believe that if we do not have an Assembly then there is a real risk, not today but in a few years' time, of a breakup. It is precisely for that reason, because I believe in the unity of the United Kingdom, that I want to see an Assembly. It is not a perfect one, but it is one which over the years may evolve into a federal system, and for a very good reason; namely, that certain areas of England will say, "We rather like this". The North-East, for example (where Lady Ward is so active and has so often preached their cause), may say, "We want a similar thing"; so might the South-West, and so might other areas. Then we shall get a situation which many of us have said is the right one.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, very rightly said that the Amendment as moved is an Amendment of an opinion, and that is not what I think should go out from this House, because it is certainly not an opinion which is balanced on one side or the other. If this Bill goes through, we are going to have a referendum. As I think the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said, that is the time at which you can express opinions. So I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, will not press his Amendment but rather leave it to the time when we have the referendum. Then it will be a Yes or No decision by the Scottish people.

9.45 p.m.

The Marquess of TWEEDDALE

My Lords, I seem to be fated always to follow the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and, as usual, he and I seem to have little in common. I should like to approach the Amendment from a slightly different angle from that which has been used so far. I should like to approach it from the angle of sentiment, because possibly like other noble Lords, one of my ancestors drew up the Act of Union. I believe that this Bill, if it goes through and if there is a referendum—and I have no doubt that if there is a referendum the answer will be, "Yes"—will shortly be followed by a total break-up of the United Kingdom.

Next week in Edinburgh there will be a march down Princes Street and up to the Castle of a regiment which is now known as the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. It is very appropriate that that regiment takes in both Wales and Scotland. It is formed from the Third Carbineers which is a Welsh regiment and from the Scots Greys. I have no doubt that it will be carrying its regimental colours and the flag of the Union. I should look at both, but particularly at the flag of the Union because we may not see it for much longer.

It is rather ironic that the Royal Scots Greys is a socialist regiment. It was set up and formed under Cromwell, and I am sure that if Scotland separates from England and the United Kingdom is broken up the regiment that is now the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards will be broken up as well. The ironic aspect is that one of the strongest opponents of the Scotland Bill in another place is Mr. Tam Dalyell, yet it was his ancestor who formed the Royal Scots Greys.

The break-up of the United Kingdom and the loss of the flag of the Union will denigrate not only the memory of people who have been in this regiment, but the memory of those who have been in the Navy, the Commandoes, the rest of the Army and the RAF.

There will be other minor but sentimental things which will go with the break-up of the United Kingdom—things which may not worry people in this House particularly, but which I am certain will worry the public. What shall we be left with? We shall be left with the stench of a stinking Bill. I cannot agree with the Front Bench when it says that we should not do something if we are frightened of losing it. That does not sound like a Welshman speaking, indeed, it does not sound like a Scot—it sounds very English to me. Therefore, I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, will divide the House and I shall go into the Division Lobby with him.

9.48 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend the Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair is not in his seat because he said something which I wanted to take up with him. He said that we thought that devolution was a bad idea. That is not so. We are in favour of devolution. Indeed, I am in favour of devolution, but the trouble is that the word "devolution" is being entirely wrongly used in connection with the Bill. Devolution has been proceeding for years and years, and if we would only leave it alone and get on with the devolution we could proceed without the word "Assembly". It is the word "Assembly" and the word "devolution" that are wrong. We do not want an Assembly.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said that 60 per cent. of the Scottish people were for devolution, but he was quite wrong; about 90 per cent. are for it. What he means is that a type of straw poll showed that some 60 per cent. were prepared to vote for an Assembly. Like other noble Lords, I take the view that the word "Assembly" is quite wrong and to be Scottish it should be "Convention" if we want it at all.

Several noble Lords have spoken of the need for a federal solution. So be it. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, were of that opinion. However, the Bill is not, with due respect, in my view a stepping-stone to a federal system. My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn did not hesitate to refer to the Bill, even in its present form, as a bad one. It is for that reason that I support the Amendment. I agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Tweeddale, that if we do not like the Bill we should introduce the proposal put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Lang-side. I support the Amendment.

I spoke against the Bill on Second Reading, and despite the skill, patience and endurance of my noble friend Lord Ferrers—and I wonder whether we have given sufficient praise to him for all that he has done, culminating in a most masterly speech today, although it ended with, as the noble Marquess said, a rather English conclusion—the Bill is not viable. It was introduced not because the people of Scotland wanted it, but as a Party political gambit—we all know that. To get it to this stage—and this point was made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside—Parliament has been bludgeoned and diddled, and all the tarnished weaponry of an arrogant electoral dictatorship is being refurbished in order to trim it to suit when it leaves this place. The first few words of the Amendment indicate why it must go on its miserable way, without having its throat cut. In my view, it follows that the least we can do is to tie the label of the noble and learned Lord's Amendment round its wretched neck so that all may know what some of us think of it and so that Scotland is thereby alerted to the dangers which now lie ahead.

9.52 p.m.


My Lords, it is no time of night to embark on a lot of quotations, but last week I was reading Cockburn's Memorials of His Own Times, and in his last paragraph he said this: We have come upon a public stage in a splendid but perilous scene. I trust that we shall do our duty. If we do, we cannot fail to do some good to Scotland". The problem that faced him and which faces us is that we must recognise what our duty is and how we do the best for Scotland.

We have all been "fair deaved", if I may lapse into the vernacular, by noble Lords and others telling us what the people of Scotland think. My old friend Lord Balerno is one offender, and there have been several more. Nobody knows what the people of Scotland think; nor will they until we have held the referendum. Whether the referendum is a good or a bad idea, whether it is a surrender of the powers of Parliament, as some say, I do not know. But thank goodness that we are heading for a referendum, because only a referendum will clear the air and tell us what the people of Scotland think.

I know what I think. I also think that the people of Scotland have suddenly woken up to the fact that the referendum is about to burst over them. Up to now the voting, the public opinion polls, and so on, have been conducted in an almost frivolous manner. Suddenly everybody is realising that this is a major event: the moment of truth which is about to come upon us. I think that we will see them take it much more seriously than they have in the past.

I do not want to wander too far from the actual Amendment which we are supposed to be discussing, which I think some noble Lords have done, but I cannot help putting, briefly, my own credo. I do not want to see Scotland becoming a little tiddler of a country, identified chiefly with tourism, haggis, tossing the caber, selling picture post cards and so on. I want to see it continue to play its part, providing more than its share of the sinews, the guts, and the brains of Britain, as it has done for close on 300 years. Our association with England has benefited not only both our countries but the whole world. I would be ashamed to see any diminution of that dynamism which has marked our association in, I think, the last 271 years, which I think will inevitably happen if we break up into small splinter groups.

I make no apology—all right, I will make an apology—for quoting something I wrote in The Times last week. I quoted from a Maori proberb: The tree that is split is food for the axe". I believe that that is the best word on unity, or disunity, that I have ever heard. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, may say, or other noble Lords, or the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, "my heart leapt when I beheld" this label which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Lang-side, attached to this Bill. I thought that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made a mountain out of a molehill when he said that if this Amendment were to fail it would do the cause which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, has at heart more harm than good. I can see no harm in reassuring the world when it reads its Hansard—if only it did it a bit more—to see that there is some sanity in your Lordships' House.

That label may be thought to convey the same message as unkind people say was attached by the Royal Engineers in the First World War to a box containing high explosives. They are alleged to have labelled it: This dynamite is dangerous, and must be stored bottom up. The top has therefore been labelled 'bottom' and the bottom 'top', to avoid confusion". Lord Wilson's label is more explicit, but, make no mistake, this Bill is dynamite. I do not agree with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, when he says, "Let us have a shot at it, and see if it goes all right." You do not do that with dynamite if you have any sense. I believe it is of the utmost importance that this debate should end with Lord Wilson of Langside's label fully attached to it, and with your Lordships' collective blessing on his Amendment.

We can claim—we are all claiming—that we have done our best to render a trifle more savoury a Bill which was originally a dog's breakfast, but it is still a breakfast which nobody in their senses would want to devour. It is because I want to attach a safety label to the Bill before it leaves this House, that I commend this Amendment to your Lordships and declare my intention of voting for it with my noble kinsman the Marquess of Tweeddale, in the hope that the good sense of the Scottish people will eventually respond to the referendum, when it comes, with a resounding, No.

9.58 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the last remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ballantrae. Before I wax contentious, I should like to acknowledge the kindliness and help that I have received from the Front Bench opposite when I have pursued the various points that I have upon this Bill, and also the care that has been taken by the officials to answer them. I should like to acknowlege also the help that I have received from my own Front Bench and other noble Lords who have been good enough to advise me.

I shall try to tailor my speech to the lateness of the hour. The depth of feeling aroused in anyone whose heart is with the preservation of the Union makes this a difficult occasion. If, in addition, you are a Scot who defers to no man in his feelings of love and pride for the land of his birth and forbears, the difficulties are infinitely greater. I am sure that many Scots in this House, whether they are for or against the Bill, would admit to being schizophrenic to a degree on the question of devolution in general. The words of the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, encapsulate much that I might otherwise have dwelt on, and I am in total agreement with the words the Amendment contains. As other noble Lords have said, the closer one's acquaintance with this measure the more one has come to dislike and distrust it. My reactions are a mix of dislike, distrust and despair—dislike for what the Bill contains; distrust for where the Bill is silent, and it frequently is; and, last but far from least, despair at the prospect of the strife, acrimony and the ultimate threat which it poses to Great Britain, as I see it.

The Bill surely represents a gesture of appeasement, and to say that such gestures are always dangerous is to make the ultimate in understatement. You will never appease the membership of the Scottish National Party, who are hell bent on separation. Whether the Bill will please those who are not dedicated to separation but, for multifarious reasons, including protest, have cast electoral votes for that Party, only the referendum will tell. I can only hope and pray that we will be able to convey the truth about this very complicated measure and the complicated scheme it proposes to that electorate because, if we can do that then I am hopeful that they will reject it.

I do not reject the Bill only for what it contains or does not contain; I believe it to be unconstitutional in certain respects. I believe that it flies in the face of accepted principles of sovereignty, certainly anyway in a practical sense; but I shall not elaborate on those points tonight. Let us face it. We are not setting out to cure what we have for long acknowledged may be wrong with the system by which we currently govern ourselves; the weight of bureaucracy, the relationship between the Executive and Parliament. Rather, we are attempting to stitch some very strange new cloth on to our old constitutional garment, and that threatens the consequences which that simile suggests. As for the Amendment now before the House, I have considered it carefully and what has been said about it. On this issue, I must be true to myself, and if it is pressed I shall support it.

10.4 p.m.


My Lords, I am relieved, as I am sure many of your Lordships are, that we are nearing the end of what has been a long and somewhat dreary journey on which we should never have been asked to set out. It started 11 years ago, in November 1967, when there was an by-election in Hamilton, a Labour stronghold, held by Labour since 1945 with majorities of between 13,000 and 17,000; but in 1967 it was lost to the Scottish National candidate by 1,800 votes. That was a startling result and it seriously upset both the Labour and Conservative Parties; that is, despite the fact that on the two previous occasions when a Nationalist candidate had won, each at a by-election, they had been decisively defeated at the following General Election, a fate Mrs. Ewing also suffered when she was defeated by no fewer than 8,500 votes in 1970.

In May 1968, some six months after the Hamilton by-election, the leader of the Conservative Party was due to address the annual conference of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association at Perth. In that connection he learned that following the Hamilton result the Scottish Association had appointed a sub-committee to consider Scottish nationalism and had in the course of its investigations studied, among other things, whether any further measures of devolution were practical and, if so, whether devolved matters could be handed over to some kind of an Assembly sitting in Scotland. When the leader addressed the conference on 10th May 1976, he included these matters in his speech. That was the first time that many, if not all, of us had ever heard about an Assembly.

So far as the conference was concerned, the suggestion of an Assembly was received with that well-mannered applause which, on such occasions, the conference invariably accords to its leader. The Press gave the Assembly a warm welcome. After all, it was something new. They referred to it as the "Declaration of Perth", in imitation of a much more famous declaration, that of Arbroath in 1320, which dealt with Scottish independence and which remains one of Scotland's most famous and cherished historical documents.

There is no doubt that in this way the Press captured the imagination of at least a section of the Scottish people. But any political capital gained was speedily eroded when the Labour Party announced that they also believed in an Assembly. The Assembly had in fact become a political plaything. And so it has remained and continued ever since.

Devolution was first debated in your Lordships' House on a Motion by the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, in December 1974 and again, after a rest, it was debated in January 1976. Since the Bill arrived in your Lordships' House it has been debated on no fewer than 21 days. In relation to these 21 days spent on the Bill in this House, I cannot help wondering how many days, weeks or, perhaps more likely, months it took highly-qualified civil servants and Parliamentary draftsmen to produce it, and how many were involved in that work. It was a highly complicated business.

Your Lordships and the public have been informed by a number of White Papers and other Government publications, and also by Ministers, what devolution, which was presumed to be the purpose of the Bill, was about. According to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd: It is about better democratic Government bringing power nearer the people. Then the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack told us, I think I am right in saying, on a more recent occasion, practically the same thing, though in other words: Devolution is the means of bringing decision-making closer to the people most affected by these decisions. Those are fine words, but probably the great majority of the British people, and myself, would like to know how, except physically, that can be done. In fact, it seems to me the only time people get close to decision-making is when they record their vote at a General Election.

My Lords, I have stated more than once in this House that decisions in relation to Scottish affairs are taken by the Secretary of State. Perhaps for clarity I should add that where legislation is concerned, the Speaker has to certify that the Bill is exclusively a Scottish Bill. It then goes to the Scottish Grand Committee, which in a way is the Scottish Parliament, and finally is laid before Parliament for approval on Third Reading. This Bill does not bring either decision-making or power nearer to the people. It transfers the legislative and other functions now performed by Scottish Members of Parliament in the House of Commons to an Assembly sitting in Edinburgh. It transfers to a large extent the duties entrusted to the 71 Members of Parliament to 150 Members of the Assembly. By doing so, I claim, it greatly reduces the status of the Secretary of State, which may lead to his exclusion from future Cabinets.

Whether the Bill also abolishes the offices of Minister of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State, I do not know. However, I have no doubt that these various moves must tend to weaken Scotland's position not only in United Kingdom affairs, but in European and world affairs, and may ultimately lead to the dissolution of the Union, as so many of our British citizens—Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish—fear. I should like to know why 150 Members are necessary in the Assembly, when it is called upon to take over only a proportion of the work previously done by 71 Members of Parliament.

There is another point on which I should like further information. In 1977 there were no fewer than 745,600 civil servants. Is it not possible to provide from that number the 750 required for the Assembly? Furthermore, that apart, is it really necessary to have five civil servants for each of the 150 Members of the Assembly? Those who man the Civil Service—particularly the administrative class—are of the very highest quality, while as a whole the Service, and the service it gives, are possibly unrivalled elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, too large a service, lacking a sufficient outlet for its legitimate activities, could become a danger to democracy; in fact, bureaucracy could kill it. No doubt your Lordships will remember that in addition to the civil servants, a staff of another 240 will also be needed to serve the Assembly.

I should like to look for a few moments at the money position. The capital required to house the Assembly will be very considerable. The Royal High School is to cost £3¼ million, and another £1 million is to be spent on altering the Scottish Office; I presume that that is the Scottish Office in Edinburgh. So much for the anticipated capital costs, which will probably be considerably higher than those anticipated in 1977. In any case, Government estimates are generally much lower than the final cost. To the capital cost I think we can add the cost of the referendum, which is another £2 million, making a total capital outlay of £6¼ million.

With regard to the running costs, in respect of salaries there is an estimate of £6¾ million, with another £6¼ million for the civil servants. So when the Assembly comes into being somebody will have to meet a bill of £19¼ million; and every year thereafter the annual cost of running the Assembly—estimated at present at £13 million, which I suggest will turn out to be considerably more—has to be found. What I want to know is, who is going to pay these costs? Will they fall to be paid by the Assembly, or will they perhaps be taken into account in the block grant? Scotland has been most generously treated for very many years past, in that she has received out of the common purse a sum per head of population considerably greater than that received per head of population in England.

With the establishment of the Assembly, is this generosity to continue? If so, presumably it will also be taken into consideration in calculating the amount of the block grant. I find it very difficult to find anything worthwhile that Scotland will receive under this Bill; anything of any material value. I cannot see it providing a higher standard of living; I cannot see the Assembly leading to reduced taxation, to a fall in the rate of inflation, to increased employment or to higher production and increased trading opportunities. I cannot see it bringing better government to Scotland; neither can I see that matters of any importance whatsoever remain to be devolved.

I wonder whether your Lordships would bear with me for a moment while I inform the House what is already devolved to the Secretary of State. I think it is important that your Lordships should be reminded of exactly what has been devolved so far, and that is why I offer a quotation in support of my previous statement that decisions were made by the Secretary of State. In this White Paper it states: The Secretary of State, as a member of the United Kingdom Government, now has major responsibility in Scotland, both for the formation of policy and for its execution". Then it goes on: His major responsibilities are as follows: agriculture and fisheries, criminal law, crofting, education, electricity, environmental services, health, Highlands and Islands development, housing, legal services, local government, police, prison and fire services, roads, certain aspects of shipping and road transport services, social work, sport, recreation, the arts, tourism, town and country planning and youth and community services". One would have thought that that was enough for him to be getting on with, but, He also has a major role in the planning and development of the Scottish economy". My Lords, this Bill does not deal with devolution but with the transfer to the Assembly of legislative and other functions now dealt with by Scottish Members of Parliament, and I claim that that must weaken the sovereignty of Parliament in the United Kingdom and also the continued unity of the United Kingdom. I wish to do everything I possibly can to kill what I regard as a quite iniquitous Bill, indeed an abominable Bill, which will do no good but a lot of harm to Scotland and to the United Kingdom. I firmly intend to voice my dissatisfaction by voting for the Amendment, if it is pressed. But before I close I should like to refer to the wonderful speeches from many quarters to which we have listened today, particularly that from the official spokesman for the Opposition, who sits below me now, and also that from the mover of the Amendment. Many others, too, have made notable contributions, for which we should all be glad and of which we can all be proud.

10.20 p.m.

The Marquess of LINLITHGOW

My Lords, we have had a feast of eloquence and, so far as I am concerned, we are down to the savoury. I might even call myself the Scotch woodcock, if not the migratory trout—the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, will understand that reference. I support the Amendment and in a very few words I am going to say why. I think that the Amendment has given the House a chance to look at this Bill for the first time since Second Reading, at a distance and in its broad outlines. The object of the Amendment is to ring alarm bells, and I believe that these alarm bells should be rung. Before I say anything else, I know that a number of noble Lords on my own Front Bench and friends of mine regard this as unconstitutional, an Amendment without precedence. I think there is a precedent but I shall not go into that; I shall say only that we are debating on Third Reading a Bill which is not just going to become an Act; it is going to be presented for a referendum. The EEC was a different matter and I believe that to be a unique occasion; but we have to take into account that what is said in this House and in another place will be extremely important in term, of what the Scots learn about the Bill they are being asked to decide upon.

This Amendment is of vital importance and I have no feeling of shame because it may well not have a precedent. The precedent has been set by the Bill, and it is almost unique. To any noble Lords who agree with this Amendment hut, with their long experience, feel it is unconstitutional to proceed with it, I can only say that it is an unconstitutional Bill, a unique Bill, and I do not believe that constitutional conventions should be allowed to stand in the way of those who believe that they should stand up for this Amendment but are fearful of doing so because of political conventions. This is a unique situation. I support the Amendment because I think that the alarm bells have to ring. It is an abrasive Bill, and I believe that there is no noble Lord on any side of the House who does not realise how abrasive it is. It is an inevitable part of trying to split sovereignty. These matters have been debated again and again on Report and I wish to say only this. I believe the Bill to be abrasive enough, and its edges sharp enough to cut into the ancient and rather delicate fabric of our Union.

I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to one particular aspect which has hardly been touched on at all. It has not been debated because it is not in the Bill; it is part of the reserved subjects. I wish to refer for a few minutes to the overriding powers which are reserved by silence. The Scots are being asked to vote on something; they are being asked to vote on the Bill. There is no sign in the Bill of the heart of the Bill—which is the overriding powers. They were mentioned specifically in the eloquent and, if I may say so to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, elegant address introducing the Bill: Parliament still reserves the right to legislate upon any subject within the United Kingdom including the devolved subjects.

The first task is to isolate that. Legislation upon devolved subjects must be seen in total isolation from the reserved subjects and from the devolved subjects. It has nothing to do with them whatsoever. It is permanent. Irrespective of how many powers are devolved on the Assembly it is there in isolation. It is quite meaningless. It is a convention. I believe that there is a precedent in the Irish Act. Nevertheless, it is a convention, apparently; but it means nothing. That is because if there is one absolute certainty it is that if this Bill becomes an Act it is inconceivable—a word used so often by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, when defending Amendments, a word he used in relation to things which he thought were unlikely to happen; and if anything is inconceivable, it is this—that Parliament will ever at any time legislate on the devolved subjects. That is inconceivable.

So, my Lords, we have the right to ask ourselves, why it is there? What is it doing there, this (may I so call it to save repeating a long sentence) "special provision"? What is it doing there? It is quite meaningless except in one context. Here, I must say to noble Lords opposite that I have enjoyed this debate. I think they know me well enough to know that I am not an aggressive political animal; but here I must introduce politics. When I say "politics", I am not talking about just the Party of noble Lords opposite, but about all Parties. The explanation of this extraordinary, unique clause is this. All Parties have, up to a point, a vested interest in the unity of the Kingdom. All of us, in our hearts and heads, have a loyalty to the United Kingdom; but, uniquely to the Socialist Party, they have a powerful vested interest in what one might call the political unity of the Kingdom in terms of the total sovereignty of Parliament.

I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, knows what I am going to say next, but I suspect that he does. It is this. That without the historic —and it is not the fault of the Government, it is an inheritance—and enormous value of the Scottish representation at Westminster (which effects all Parties) it is almost a matter of survival to the Party of the Government. I do not blame them for this. In fact, their backs are against the wall, I would imagine, on a three-year or four-year view. I personally take my hat off to them for being able to produce a Bill like this to surrender sovereignty, on the one hand, and to pull it back on the other. The pulling back is simply this meaningless phrase that Parliament has the right to legislate on the devolved subjects. I do not blame them for this. It is a political manoeuvre and a perfectly fair one, considering the dilemma which they are up against. That is the last political point that I will make.


My Lords, will the noble Marquess agree that if what he says is true—and I believe it is—then there is no devolution in the Bill?

The Marquess of LINLITHGOW

My Lords, I am very glad for the noble Lord's intervention. That is precisely what I am trying to say. There is no devolution in the Bill. What there is is a minor surrender of a certain amount of sovereignty and behind a curtain of "reserved by silence" there is a formula which says, "We take it back again". That is what I am saying.

So far as I am concerned, I have nearly finished my speech and I hope that I will not be accused of exacerbating a debate which has been so good mannered. Nevertheless, what matters is that when this Bill goes to Scotland for the referendum it should be truthful. I believe that the Scottish people should know what the Bill is about. Undoubtedly—and with the authority of the Kilbrandon Report behind me—to me there is bound to be, and must be, a considerable alteration in the political relationships between Edinburgh and London, between the Assembly, if it is formed, and Westminster. What in fact this particular mysterious extra provision does is that it puts into a box a formula which is pulled out and dusted over when it is required. Other than in the address of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, it has been produced on two Amendments: by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on one Amendment, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, on another. That is the only time that this power has been mentioned. Each Amendment concerned the numerical representation of the Scots in the Westminster Parliament.

I am quite certain that it is going to be pulled out from its box, and the great thing is that it is a reserved subject so one does not hear much about it. It will be pulled out of its box in the debate on the referendum. I do not say that this is dishonest; it is not, it is a fair manoeuvre, but it is a conjuring trick. It is an intellectual fig leaf; it is supposed to hide the inescapable fact and remain invisible at the same time. It is absolutely essential that this particular trick should be exposed now so that it can be read in Hansard. I think that if we are dealing with truth—which we must do—in the referendum, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, has done a great service to Scotland and he has done a great service to the House. The main dangers of the Bill must be exposed and I support the Amendment for that reason. I hope and believe that your Lordships will also support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, and in large numbers.

10.35 p.m.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, no one listened to Cassandra when she forecast the fall of Troy. In this Amendment your Lordships' House is trying to forewarn the Scots that the Bill before us will—not could, but will—endanger the Union. That Union has brought great benefits to us all. This Bill has come about because of the Labour Party's desire to keep itself in office. This has led to over-representation of Scotland at Westminster, to the over-power of its Members at Westminster over the English, and to power being given to the Assembly to spend but not to tax. That is a disastrous mixture. The Conservatives have not been much better. Mr. Heath made proposals for Scottish devolution in Opposition, and then forgot them when in power. Since then the Party has dithered wetly. The Liberals, after a hunt for fences upon which to sit, are now making great claims of having influenced the Government over this Bill. When the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, is pressed upon this point and asked which factor they have actually changed, he is reduced to uncharacteristic silence. No Party has emerged from this performance with any credit. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in an excellent speech in support of the Amendment, destroyed any doubt I might have had in voting for it. The only trouble was that his concluding paragraph, advising us to abstain, or possibly to keep quiet, fell below his normal Periclean standard of oratory.

The Union of Great Britain has grown upon the graft of English institutions—Parliamentary checks and balances and the judicial, executive and legislative separation are English inventions. Incidentally, the Welsh constitutional differences were destroyed by Henry VIII. The Scottish ones were preserved by Queen Anne's Government. That Union has brought benefits to England, benefits to Scotland, and benefits to Wales. Above all, it has made Britain special. That specialness must be kept: it must be guarded and treasured. Your Lordships' House is a House whose composition is, as we all know, indefensible, but whose wisdom is very great and very much respected. And your Lordships have a duty to warn—as Cassandra did—that the Union is in danger, and to hope that they will be listened to and not cast out before the final collapse of Troy, as was Cassandra.

10.38 p.m.


My Lords, I have spoken once in this very lengthy debate, and then only briefly. I have been left with the impression that the Government Front Bench was less than enraptured by my contribution on that occasion. So I hasten now to say that I intend to support the Bill and, should I be asked to do so tonight, to vote against the Amendment. I shall also give the Government some very brief advice and perhaps express some regret.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, in his Amendment, and again in opening the debate, drew attention to the threats to the unity of the United Kingdom; and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has just repeated these, linking them with Troy. No doubt there are dangers in this kind of thing, but surely the noble Earl, Lord Perth, was right when he said that there were greater threats to unity in not passing the Bill. The Scots are an interesting people: there is an underlying "Scottishness" about them which could very readily express itself in the form of rather extreme and disagreeable nationalism, going so far as separatism. There are clear signs of that, and it is to meet those signs that this Bill has been devised.

People talk about this as a bad Bill; but does anybody imagine that the Treaty of Union was a good Bill? Does anybody believe that the Treaty of Union was greeted with cries of approbation in Scotland, and that there was dancing in the streets of Edinburgh? There was not. On the day on which the Treaty of Union came into effect, the bells of St. Giles pealed out the song, "Why am I sad on my wedding day?" The Scots recognised what was happening, and they recognised it with great regret.

Let us face it: that regret about the Union has remained among Scots ever since. They were Scots rather than British before the Union, and they remained Scots first and British second after the Union, and so they are today. The point about a devolution Bill now is that they can remain both Scots and British and not be forced into a condition where they become Scots, and Scots only. If anything, this Bill retains the Union. It makes possible a different, but a continuing Union. That is why it should be supported.

I said that there was no dancing in the streets of Edinburgh when the Treaty of Union passed, and that was so. Within a year of the Treaty there was an abortive uprising, and a year after that a Treason Act had to be passed in Parliament here, for, it was said, "improving the Union of the two Kingdoms". It was born in difficulty, and it has gone on in difficulty. Let us hope that it ends better, not as a rupture but as a recognition by the Government that there is a nationalist problem which could be serious, which they have, for once, met in time.

The British way has always been to recognise nationalist problems too late and then, with a great flurry to botch up a Constitution of some kind, they shoot a few people, step back and see the Constitution collapse. For once, they have the opportunity to grapple with what is admittedly a different problem, but a nationalist problem just the same, and deal with it in time, and this is being done by the Government in this Bill.

Let me advise the Government, if I might make so bold. In one of the Amendments to the Bill, if I understand it aright, there is a proposal that the Scottish Assembly should be elected on the basis of proportional representation. I know that true Party politicians do not really care for that kind of thing, but I believe that the Government should accept that proposal, and I believe that for this reason. Scotland is not divided politically into two obvious groups; it is divided into at least three. Any attempt to force it through constitutional means into a two-Party system will be doomed to failure; so do not try it. As the Government have faced the nationalist problem by devolution, why not face that problem by accepting proportional representation?

Let me turn, lastly, to my regret which concerns the referendum, as some noble Lords may realise. I support the idea of a referendum. I do not think that, because politicians in this House and in another place have greater expertise than the common people—which they have—they also have more common sense. In fact, the reverse is often true, and General Elections and referenda are decided not on the basis of great expertise but on the basis of common sense. If you look into history, you will find that the common sense of the people is as often right as is the expertise of the legislators, great as that may be. So we should trust the people and give them the referendum happily, not grudgingly, and maybe more in the future.

My regret refers to the electorate involved in that referendum. I think that the Government are in error in confining the electorate to people who live in Scotland, regardless of whether or not they are Scots. Their error is that they see this as a regional matter, when it is a national matter. which relates not to a nation but to a scattered people. I am not claiming that the Scots in New Zealand or all over the world should be included, but certainly those in the United Kingdom should be included in the referendum. It is too late to make that change now, but my regret is that the Government did not accept the excellent opportunity provided earlier by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, to include in the referendum electorate Scots living in England or Ireland.

I shall finish there. I could go on, but the hour is late. Although I supported the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, during the Committee stage, I shall not support him tonight. He has over-egged the pudding. No Bill could be so bad as he has made out. It would be quite beyond the wit of man to invent a Bill so bad as he has claimed, and the Government certainly have not done that. Imperfect their Bill may be, but it is better than the Treaty of Union, and I support it.

10.46 p.m.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, in moving this Amendment, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, has claimed that the Bill is a threat to the unity of the United Kingdom. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, and many other noble Lords who have spoken during this debate, we on these Benches do not believe it to be a threat to the unity of the United Kingdom. We believe that it is a way of keeping the United Kingdom thoroughly united and of keeping the consent and strengthening the consent of the Scots to this Union. Therefore, we do not believe that we have to add any labels to the Bill, saying that it is in any way divisive. On the contrary; we believe it to be the opposite.

In proposing this Amendment, the noble and learned Lord also said that he thought it was a bad Bill. I am afraid that we on these Benches believe that it is wrongly conceived—or perhaps, if one uses a medical term, that it is being wrongly presented at birth. To my way of thinking, the Bill is a breech presentation, but if one has a breech presentation one may well hope that the gynaecologist or the obstetrician does not say, "Let's kill this baby; go away and try to conceive another". What he does is to try to get the baby through a difficult birth and then to make sure that it is guarded and watched so that it is allowed to recover from the trauma of that birth, with any defects which may have arisen as a result being suitably treated later on.

This, I believe, is what we have to do with the Bill. We do not have to treat it as it has been treated by certain noble Lords—not least by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers—who to my mind have behaved like a lot of dirty fingered Mrs. Gamps: protesting that they were helping in the delivery of the baby but at the same time harming its health. I think that they have been two-faced, since many of the Amendments which they have introduced have damaged the concept of the Bill as it stood.

I do not believe that it is the job of your Lordships' House to damage the concept of a Bill. Improve, along the lines of the concept, yes; correct mistakes in the drafting, in the way in which it has been changed during its passage through another place, yes; but this House should not try to alter the concept of a Bill, or add Amendments, or take away powers contained in it so as to make it unworkable according to the manner in which it was conceived. Yet I believe that many Amendments have been moved and carried in your Lordships' House which have had this thought behind them. They may not have been exactly wrecking Amendments in that they clearly wrecked the Bill there and then, but they have so weakened the Bill that, if it passes into law without the other place restoring those powers which have been taken away or removing the Amendments which have been added, the subsequent Act may be very difficult to work and may indeed bring the Assembly into disrepute because of the lack of powers that are necessary, or the addition of impediments which cause the work of the Assembly not to go forward as it should.

We in your Lordships' House have done two things which I think are most beneficial to this Bill and which I hope have been heard far and wide through the breadth of the land and I hope will be carefully attended to, and perhaps one of them may even be listened to in another place when this Bill goes back to them. These two things are, first, to attach to the concept of devolution the importance of proportional representation in the first place. There is a wide measure of support which was evidenced by the over two to one free vote in your Lordships' House. There is also a continuing wide measure of support from people who wish to see this Bill become an Act; who wish to see it work and be successful when it becomes law. There is a wide measure of opinion that proportional representation would be invaluable to the success of an Assembly in Scotland, and I hope there will yet be time for people in another place to listen to this plea, and that there will yet be time to have it kept within the Bill and passed into law.

The other point I have little hope for but I think it was quite clear, not only from the debate on this particular Amendment but throughout the discussions on this Bill, that there are many who, like ourselves on these Benches, wish that the original concept of the Bill had been a federal one. In this connection I think we should take heart and believe, along with the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, that it is possible to keep the federal concept, and indeed at a later stage to change to the federal concept. I believe that this could be done if, at a later stage—perhaps even years after the Assembly has been set up, or some time after—the Assembly were given real taxation powers. The way in which a federal concept would work is that Scotland would raise the revenue and transmit a share to the United Kingdom, and not that the United Kingdom would raise the revenue and transmit a share back to Scotland. There is a fundamental difference in the way in which it is done, but in fact the taxes raised need not be so fundamentally different. I believe it would be possible to make that alteration at a later stage and I hope it will eventually he done, because I hope there will indeed he an Assembly which can receive those powers.

I must make one remark about some of the gibes which have been made about the Liberal Party. It was said that when we introduced Amendments all we did was to withdraw them. That remark was hardly worthy of the noble Earl who made it. He knows perfectly well that the Amendment which I, for instance, put before your Lordships' House I withdrew in order to give the Government time to consider it, and he knows perfectly well that the Government considered it and put it in, and that they very kindly and generously gave me the credit for having reminded them of that particular point. There were other occasions when we pressed the Government on one or two points and where they listened, I feel, to some of the advice that we gave. I like to think that they listened to our pleas on tourism. I think we can claim that on two occasions the Liberal vote actually brought support for the Government view and preserved at least two clauses in the Bill which were threatened by the Opposition.

Finally, I must deal with the question of the label which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, wishes to attach to the Bill "Government health warnings; this Bill may damage your health." That is more or less what he is saying. The noble Lord, Lord Ballantrae, in supporting this, described the Bill as a "dog's breakfast". If we add this label to the Bill, we shall merely be adding Kit-e-Kat to the dog's breakfast, because this label, to my way of thinking, has an extremely fishy smell. I join with those noble Lords who wish this Bill well. I think we have in many parts of your Lordships' House tried to help it, and I for one will do all I can to help it by urging my colleagues on these Benches to resits this Amendment, if it is pressed.

10.57 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think there is any escape for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, but fairly soon the country will know that this House has passed this Bill in all its stages, either with or without his Amendment, but I hope that he will not be too dismayed at that. The country may also take note of the course, first, of this debate. After all, in the speeches that have been made, there have been only three noble Lords—until his peroration I was going to say two and a half because of the way the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, approached it—who have been in favour of the measure. Otherwise the faint praise has at best been deafening.

It is a strange tribute to the amount of time and trouble that has been put into this measure by an enormous number of officials, the Parliamentary draftsmen and Ministers of the highest capability, if I may say so, that we have reached this stage with so little enthusiasm. Your Lordships might have thought that with all that talent we would have been able to improve on Lord Perth's admission that we have not really got it right this time, or the rather pathetic little "baby" of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. The trouble is that, whether you call it a malediction or not, what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, has put down by way of his Amendment really does reflect the feelings of a great number of us about this Bill, and that, I believe, the people of Scotland in particular should take into account. I certainly believe it is a view supported by very many of my noble friends on these Benches; indeed a number of them have said so expressly for themselves.

We have had the difficulty—we had it, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, was constrained by it on Second Reading—that our constitutional conventions do not allow us to throw out a Bill of this kind at Second Reading, nor indeed again at Third Reading stage. What this says to some of us who chafe at an unreformed Chamber I would perhaps not dilate upon this evening. But there it is. I should like to draw to the attention of those who will, in due course, be coming to consider the Bill in Scotland some of the other things that we have done at some of the earlier stages of the Bill—for example, some of the very full and proper discussions that we have had of all of its provisions, and I stress "all" of its provisions.

My noble friend Lord Ferrers said that we had not sought to obstruct nor to wreck, and I genuinely believe that that is so. After all, even the Liberal Party has succeeded in making some improvements with the consent of the Government, and so have we, and I do not wish to be churlish in my gratitude to noble Lords opposite who have been happy to accept them.

So, when we come to this Amendment we on this side of the House have two views. I hope that it is perfectly clear from what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said that we do not wish to restrain any of my noble friends from voting for the Amendment if they so wish. However, some of us feel that this is a constitutional innovation made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on the European Communities Act which we would not wish to see perpetuated, and if we cannot vote against the Third Reading of the Bill, perhaps we would not wish to put our names to what is, after all, a rather pale substitute for that. However, that does not mean to say that I want to detain or restrain any of my noble friends, if they should so wish, from going into the Lobby with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside.

It will be interesting to see which way the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack goes. After all, he must remember that there is now convention in this Bill that silence means restraint and therefore we are in no way sure which way he will be able to vote—perhaps we shall never know.


My Lords, I find that a very remarkable observation. Bearing in mind that I opened the debate on the Bill on Second Reading and have taken part in support of it, I should have thought that the noble Viscount would he grateful for my restraint in not embarking with great eloquence in support of the Bill, which I firmly and fully support.


My Lords, that makes three and a half, but it all comes from too many heady drafts of Schedule 10 which have turned my head!

Ever since I have been in this House I have been told that the approach to legislation is to try to be constructive, and so, at least I believe, have all my other noble friends sought to be. If we had been able to find a formula which would have been able to provide a solution to what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said was one of the small communities of Europe, so that it could develop in its own way in comity with the rest of us and with the rest of Europe and in accordance with its own inclinations, and without doing any harm to the structure of the United Kingdom or to our system of laws or constitution, I am sure that there would have been nobody on this side of the House or anywhere else in the building who would have wished to object. It is simply a matter of regret that our judgment, along with that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, is that the measure that we have been discussing has not had this effect. I just wish that I could see it with the simplicity of view of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. I do not know whether he listened to all the detailed debates—


My Lords, clarity of view.


My Lords, that is another matter of judgment. I do not know whether he listened to all the debates. He is, of course, a new Member of the House and he cannot be blamed for not having taken part in them. However, I should have thought that he would see that there were difficulties put forward in the various arguments that were ventilated which cannot be, even with clarity, seen through at this stage. I do not want to go into these again in detail, but there seem to me to be two which might be drawn to your Lordships' attention again.

First, the financial and economic provisions, which surely are a crucial point of the Bill and have been rightly mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson, and highlighted in his Amendment. We must send out to the Scottish people the message that has been spelt out, among others by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, that hitherto they have been receiving per head, against the rest of the population of this Kingdom, favourable economic treatment in reflection of the needs of Scotland. They will have to realise that by virtue of the publicity that will follow the Bill, both in the Parliament of Westminster and in the Assembly in Edinburgh, that favourable treatment will be much more greatly publicised and scrutinised than it has been before. I hope that the needs will not thereby be overriden, but there is a danger that jealousies or envy may occur.

They should also realise quite plainly that apart from a small amount of internally-generated revenue, they will have no power to supplement the block fund from London. This is a paradox, because everybody, including the Government, has been constrained to try to find a way in which some such powers could be given to the Scottish Assembly. The whole issue has failed and has sunk upon the rock of the insistence upon an economic unity within the United Kingdom.

There then comes a confident forecast, among others, from the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, that within a very few years amendments will be brought forward to give the Scottish Assembly tax-raising or revenue-raising powers of its own. What, then, does logic say of the economic unity that will be left in the United Kingdom, if that hitherto has been the stumbling block? We have been reminded of the frustration and the irritation that is likely to occur between the two organisations in London and Edinburgh, about the yearly arguments over the amount of the block fund and the possibility that whatever is built or done in Edinburgh will accrue to the credit of the Assembly, and whatever is left unbuilt or undone will redound to the discredit of Westminster. Can we believe that irritations and frustrations, divisions and friction will not arise from that? That must be a cardinal issue for the consideration of the people of Scotland.

There is one other issue in the field with which I have been concerned in the detail of the Bill, and that is the override powers. There are, of course, plain matters which have been devolved upon the Executive and upon the Assembly in Scotland. One would have thought, when one looked at the way in which the Bill is arranged, that these were comparatively clear-cut. There are very few matters in the Schedules where concurrence or consent from Westminster is required. Yet there is built into those key clauses of the Bill the power of the Parliament or the Executive at Westminster to override actions and decisions made in Scotland, even within the areas that are clearly devolved; and it can be done if those actions and decisions, directly or indirectly, affect matters that are still within the powers of the Westminster Government and Parliament.

I only say that, although I do not suppose that at the moment the Government have worked out any intentions of an undue amount of intervention, the role is there and ingenuity will find—if it needs to be found in the view of Westminster—a way of interfering in what goes on even on the matters that are clearly devolved. This is inherent in the Bill; it is built in, and there is no escape from it.

The reason for these conflicts is what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said. As a concept, the Bill indeed mixes the unmixable. It is neither a Federal, nor is it a unitary Assembly and Constitution that we set up. It is neither one thing nor another. We have tried to pinpoint the sources of conflict in our debates and, indeed, we have tried, so far as we can, to remove them. We have dealt with the economic problems; we have tried to give powers to resolve those, in so far as another place wishes to take advantage of them. We have tried—and I think that we have largely succeeded—to resolve some of the legal problems that were in the Bill when it arrived here. I do not think we have made any progress with the functional and political problems which the whole system is absolutely bound to throw up.

These are the things that I hope will be discussed, whatever happens to Lord Wilson of Langside's Motion, in the debates that are to come on the referendum. It would not be right for me to say what is the value of the debates in another place. I am sure that they are wholly admirable. But if one wants a full discussion of every part and every point in the Bill, your Lordships' debates are a rich and well fertilised seedbed for further debate. But as for the Bill itself, out of that I fear will grow from a small seed a stunted and rather graceless growth which will do no credit to two sets of people: the distinguished and, as I said before, talented authors who have brought it before Parliament but, more importantly, the people of Scotland.

11.11 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to my feet may I first of all point out that so far only one Government spokesman has made a speech apart from the brief intervention of my noble and learned friend when he was provoked to his feet a moment ago. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will forgive me if I take at least as long as the noble Viscount has just taken to attempt to reply to this debate. Before I turn specifically to the matters that are raised by the terms of this Amendment, may I make one or two general remarks in response to the general remarks that have been made.

First of all, it is my belief that in certain respects this noble House has indeed improved the form of this Bill and in certain other and, I believe, more important respects, it has seriously damaged the content of the Bill and the content of the devolution which it is proper that this Bill should contain. I believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, put it, we have not been magnanimous enough. We should have been more magnanimous. We should not have been as patronising to the people of Scotland as has been a whole series of Amendments moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

I do not wish at this stage to resume all the detailed arguments about the decisions that have been taken here in relation to such matters as forestry, aerodromes, inland waterways, Community obligations, proportional representation, tax powers, and the like, but I should like to say a word or two about the manner in which the House has approached its task. I believe that those who ho have participated in these long debates over some 21 days approached the Bill in a way that in several respects does them and the House great credit. I think there are several reasons for this, first of all, because the Bill is a kind of cornucopia of the whole machinery of Government and the whole range of the activity of Government.

Of course this House is nothing if it is not a blouse containing many distinguished and able people who bring to it great expertise. Whether we have been discussing fishery limits, or estuarial limits, or art galleries, or abortion, or the prerogative powers of Her Majesty, or whatever, each debate has called forth a very considerable degree of expertise. I should not have omitted to mention, of course, betting, gaming and horse racing and lotteries where the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, the Jockey Club, and numerous amateurs in the Sport of Kings have thundered and chipped away at the relevant provisions of the Bill until they converted a narrow Government victory by the nose of the Lord Chairman at the Committee stage into victory by a street at Report.

Apart from the subjects on which we have had the benefit of the advice of distinguished doctors, Law Lords, fishermen, foresters, farmers, economists and gamblers, in so far as one can distinguish the one category from the other, nearly everyone is an expert, or thinks himself an expert, on three matters: transport, the machinery of Government, and the drafting of statutes. Therefore, many distinguished noble Lords have sought the opportunity they have found here of a peg on which to hang their particular knowledge, and they have in turn delighted, dismayed, and educated us all as to the contents of the Bill and the true nature of Parliamentary scrutiny.

Secondly, for reasons that may be purely technical, or wholly altruistic—and I will give no indication of my judgment between them, except to say that I do not think they are in the least altruistic—in point of time the official Opposition have exercised considerable restraint in relation to the progress of this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, from the Front Bench opposite, set us all an example of amiability, brevity and relevance which those beside and behind him largely followed, some with more reluctance than others. I know how it happened, because from time to time on a Thursday at lunchtime I pass the closed doors of the room in which the Party opposite hold their weekly meeting. I could hear issuing forth the excruciating sound of arms being twisted and the dull thud of restraining hands being laid on excited shoulders. However that may be, the result was that none of our debates was disfigured by prolixity, obduracy or unnecessary repetition.

Thirdly—perhaps this is the important and serious point—I believe that noble Lords have largely recognised that the Bill stems from a serious threat to the unity of the United Kingdom. It stems from the conclusions of a Royal Commission which considered the Constitution against the growing background of that threat, and its tems from commitments which the Labour Party undertook to the electorate in 1974 and which it has pledged itself repeatedly to honour. Not only the Labour Party, because all Parties in Scotland offered in 1974 an Assembly to the people of Scotland. Therefore, I think the House, at least dimly, has recognised that, having regard to its composition and character, it cannot properly defy the elected Chamber in relation to a Bill which, among other of its provisions, contains a referendum clause which enables the people living in Scotland to be directly consulted.

Apart from these general considerations, our debates have been given their high quality by the calibre and hard work of those who have played a leading part in them, and I want, because people have been very kind to me and my colleagues, to pay particular tribute to the contributions made to these debates by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, who has worked extremely hard on the Bill, and with great desire to improve it. I pay the same tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who has burned the midnight oil in relation to the many problems on which he addressed us.

Let me also say something about the Law Lords. Lesser, or at any rate different, mortals have sat around even at late hours amazed at the dexterity, urbanity and refined cruelty with which one noble and learned Lord has followed another remorselessly laying bare the illogicalities, the non sequiturs and the follies of his noble and learned friends. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said there would be a special part of hell in which theologians could go on discussing the question as to whether God existed. I suspect that elsewhere in the hereafter Law Lords will be allocated a chamber in which to discuss, although I hope without heat, judicial review. At least in eternity they will not have to come to any conclusion.

To my noble friends behind me I wish to express my particular thanks for their restraint. I know that some at least regard parts of the Bill as being less than perfect, but loyalty, at least if it is not carried to excess, is the essential basis of democratic government, even if its form, at the insistence of the business managers, sometimes has to be silence. I express my appreciation of the considerable contributions made from the Liberal Benches, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, who brought immense commonsense, and a great deal of faith in the people of Scotland, to all our debates. I mention also, from the Opposition Front Bench, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, who has worked extremely hard and, on most occasions, very helpfully; the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy; and of course, I want to pay particular tribute to all my colleagues who have worked very hard, as I have myself, in order to explain, and indeed to defend, the Bill.

I turn to the matter with which we are precisely concerned. It is very important to realise—and this was well recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen—that you cannot have, as I sought to say on Second Reading, devolution in principle. We can only have a scheme of devolution, warts and all. We either have no devolution or we have a scheme. We may not like all features of the scheme, but if we want devolution it must take a concrete form.

What has been absent from all these debates is any indication from the Members of the Party opposite of what it is that they would propose. They have made it plain that they have run away from the offers that they made to the electorate in 1974. They have run away from the Declaration of Perth. They have run away from the scheme proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel. They have left us with nothing but a kind of vacuum. Do they not realise—does the House not realise—that the dangers which are pointed out by this Amendment are not nearly as great as the dangers of doing nothing? That is the essential and serious point.

May I deal with some matters of detail. It is right that I should put them on the record. I shall seek to do so as briefly as I can. A great many Amendments have been made in this House. They fall into three categories. There are Amendments which were moved by the Government because of representations made by noble Lords from different parts of the House. In fact, we made nine Amendments of that character, and I would mention that the finality of Judicial Committee decisions has been one of them, and the possibility of referring to the Judicial Committee in cases of doubt was another. These were not in the Bill when it came here. They were Amendments that were put in because the Government accepted that the arguments were strong enough, and the Government therefore made these Amendments. There were nine Amendments of that character. Another eight were Amendments which the Government themselves accepted in Committee—and indeed there have been others accepted today, the Government having indicated in Committee their readiness to accept them. For example, one of them was the deletion of the explicit reference to the prerogative in what was then Clause 20, and there were certain other Amendments about standing orders, the Amendment about hybridity, and other matters of that kind.

It is not easy to agree upon a precise figure as to the other Amendments. However, some 30 Amendments have been moved in Committee against the wishes of the Government and carried into the Bill as a result of the composition of this House and the voting in the Lobbies. In relation to those Amendments, let me say this. Some of these Amendments will be accepted in another place. Some of them will be put to a free vote in another place, and some of these Amendments will be fought in another place. No doubt your Lordships will then have a chance to reconsider some of these matters and to consider what your attitude may be. I am certain that, having regard to the time that we spent upon these matters, the other place will have plenty of time to give them at least as much consideration as we gave them. I should say something about this.


My Lords, does one understand from the noble and learned Lord's remarks that all of the Amendments are going to be subject to one of those alternatives that he mentioned?


My Lords, if the noble Earl is talking about the third category of Amendments, the ones carried into the Bill by vote, these will be either accepted by the Government—of course it is for the other place to decide how it deals with them—or they will be put to a free vote, or they will be resisted by the Government, and the House will be invited—


Or guillotined?


Let me deal with the word "guillotine". This is a monstrous libel that is repeated at great length in this House. For example, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that we debated every clause of this Bill in this House. We failed to debate 27 clauses of the Bill in this House. The simple reason is that these clauses are standard form clauses and did not require debate and did not require Amendments. That is some indication of the kind of error into which the noble Earl fell.

Secondly, in relation to the guillotine, may I remind the noble Earl of what was said by Mr. Francis Pym just before we received the Bill for its First Reading. He said that one could not get a measure of this kind through Parliament at the present time without a guillotine—that a guillotine is essential. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned the guillotine, and I should like to remind him that during Committee stage in another place 14 days were allocated under the guillotine for discussion of the Bill. We, with no guillotine, with no possibility of a guillotine, and with no restraint at all—any noble Lord can speak for as long as he likes; as your Lordships know, we have no Speaker in the same way as in the other place—took 13 days to debate every Amendment that was put on the Marshalled List and not withdrawn—

Several Noble Lords: Hear! hear!


My Lords, that fact demonstrates a number of points. I notice that a lot of "hear, hears" welcome the compliment that I am apparently paying to the House of Lords. Well, be that as it may. What I have just said demonstrates that the guillotine did not prevent discussion of these matters. It is the opponents of the Bill who, by abusing the time allowed, prevent discussion.

Let me illustrate further, by means of other figures. In a period of 14 days in Committee, the Commons discussed, sometimes in groups, sometimes singly, a total of 140 Amendments—10 per day. We, in 13 days, discussed 297 Amendments. At Report stage our productivity rate was 52 Amendments per day, while during Report stage in the Commons the rate was—


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble and learned Lord, because he is making a splendid speech, which we are all enjoying. However, I understood him to say that the Amendments passed by your Lordships' House were either going to be accepted, or discussed, by another place. Will he give us an undertaking that all the Amendments we have passed will be discussed by another place?


My Lords, that is not for me to say. The Government will provide time, which I am indicating is perfectly adequate. We could finish well within the time that the Government will allocate in another place. If opponents of the Bill chose to spend their time discussing—I will not use the word "filibustering"—Amendments at enormous and inordinate length, and making Second Reading speeches during consideration of Lords' Amendments, then of course it may not be possible for them to discuss these other matters. That is not a matter for me to decide; it is a matter for Members of the other House.

Let me turn to the Amendment itself. I hope that the people, the country, and your Lordships, will bear in mind that the kind of wisdom that has been offered from the Conservative Front Bench is the kind of wisdom that they brought, in their own period of Government, to industrial relations, to local government reform, and to the reorganisation of the National Health Service. Those were major measures which they undertook in Government on which they were profoundly wrong. I hope that the country, when offered that kind of advice from that quarter, will recall the history of noble Lords who offer the advice.

With regard to the Amendment itself, we have been told that there is one precedent for making an Amendment of this kind. Of course, the House rejected that Amendment when it was proposed by my noble friend Lord Shackleton—


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord, but of course that was an Amendment on Third Reading, not during consideration of the Motion that the Bill do now pass.


My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for making that clear.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, in his Amendment is saying that this is a bad Bill. He is saying that it is full of contradictions and deficiencies; it is full of unresolved problems. He is saying that it places the unity of the United Kingdom in grave danger. He is saying all these things of it. He is saying that in his judgment it is a bad Bill, but let it go through. There is an extraordinary lack of logic about that. There is also a lack of courage about that. The noble and learned Lord should have the courage of his convictions and attempt to throw the Bill out. Does the noble and learned Lord really see no benefits at all in the Bill? I repeat the question that was asked by my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon: Is the cloud wholly black? Is there no silver lining at all?

Let me say this—and here I repeat what others have said. I should be perfectly happy—as I think all the people of Scotland would be—if noble Lords were to come to Scotland and, in the course of the referendum campaign, stand on the hustings and tell the people of Scotland the kind of points that they have asserted tonight. They would be welcome. They would at the same time learn much about Scotland. Let them come. Let them issue their warnings. But do not—I say to them—sit here doing it, in our air-conditioned Chamber, on our leather Benches.

A noble Lord: Some of us live in Scotland.


My Lords, I urge the rejection of the Amendment. It is a bad Amendment. It ignores the dangers of doing nothing. It is ineffective. It is simply a malediction, as the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, described it. It enshrines a highly disputable series of propositions. It lacks the courage of its assertions. It is impotent. It is biased, and it is a partial gesture. I believe that the House would lose much dignity if it accepted the Amendment, and I urge your Lordships to reject it.

11.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Somehow or other, your Lordships have contrived to put a new slant on these many old songs which we have been singing these last several weeks and months. Your Lordships would not wish me, nor have I any intention, to pursue the wide range of matters which have been raised in the debate. I should like to join in the tributes which have been paid to the the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues on the Government Front Bench. The superb advocacy of the noble and learned Lord himself has been commented on frequently. I have known him for longer than most of your Lordships, and of course I have always known that; and to that he adds a ready wit. I am astonished that the burden of this Bill has not at all weakened his wit, but rather has sharpened it. Of course, if the cynical say, as they sometimes do of my profession, that the art of advocacy is the art of deceiving people without actually telling lies, we need not worry about that; and if we remind ourselves that even in the courts of justice suberb advocacy occasionally wins bad cases, we need not worry about that here, because I am happy to think that this usually happens in the lower courts.

Of what has been said in the debate, I want to touch on just one matter which the noble and learned Lord raised. He complained of my logic in not attempting to have the Bill rejected. If I had thought that your Lordships could have been convinced on Second Reading that it should be rejected, I should not have withdrawn my Motion then; and if I had thought that your Lordships would support a Motion to reject the Bill at this stage, I would have moved it, because I think it is a bad Bill for the reasons I have stated, and I will not repeat them. But there is nothing illogical in my action, whatever else there is to be said.

The only other point raised in the debate upon which I wish to touch is that of, I think I am right in saying, the only Member of the Government Party Back-Benches who spoke in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. He said, "Trust the people." I am all for trusting the people, my Lords. I agree with much of what he said—that you get more common sense out of them. I agree with a trial by a Scots jury. I think you can trust them, and I think they will come up with the right answer provided the judge does not misdirect them, as judges sometimes do, and provided they are not confused by superb advocacy, as superb advocates sometimes confuse juries. What I am saying, in effect, is that we should tell the jury, and that is what this Amendment says.

I do not say, "This is a thoroughly bad Bill with nothing good to be said about it". I think there are one or two wee things which are not too bad. The gravamen of the case which I thought I opened (though I am not always as clear as I should like to be) was that when you read the debates in the other place you are conscious of the other place being greatly concerned with the Bill, dissatisfied with it, and being ready to throw it out, ready to reject the guillotine, but for the offer of the referendum—very uneasy about the whole thing.

Of course, I have many friends still in Parliament, and I have talked to them about it. Without the guillotine—and someone talked about arm-twisting in a room in this building; without a lot of that, too—the Bill would never have gone through. There was this uneasiness, but I cannot speculate about the

Abinger, L. Greenway, L. Raglan, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Rankeillour, L.
Atholl, D. Kinross, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Lauderdale, E. [Teller.] Redesdale, L.
Ballantrae, L. [Teller.] Linlithgow, M. Selkirk, E.
Bridgeman, V. Long, V. Stamp, L.
Cathcart, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strathclyde, L.
Craigavon, V. Lyell, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Torphichen, L.
Ellenborough, L. Minto, E. Tweeddale, M.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Monson, L. Vaizey, L.
Elton, L. Morris, L. Vivian, L.
Faithfull, B. Mottistone, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Ferrier, L. Mountgarret, V. Westbury, L.
Fortescue, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Wigg, L.
Gainford, L. Newall, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Gisborough, L. Onslow, E. Wise, L.
Gray, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Aberdeen and Temair, M. de Clifford, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Ardwick, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Hood, V.
Balerno, L. Dowding, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Birk, B. Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Howie of Troon, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Fisher of Camden, L. Kinnoull, E.
Boyle of Handsworth, L. Gaitskell, B. Kirkhill, L.
Brockway, L. Gardiner, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]
Collison, L. Gregson, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Harris of Greenwich, L. Lockwood, B.

other place. I was trying to sum up my impression in your Lordships' House by reference not only to what was said from the Conservative Benches but what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon. It was they who said that this is a bad Bill.

The noble Baroness, the ex-chairman of the Labour Party, did not think much of the Bill. Where was the enthusiasm? The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, who has had a long and distinguished career in the Labour Party said, "It is treason", and I tried to explain why I agreed with him. The noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, suggested that all this is coming from the Conservative Party. I wish I had the Conservative Party with me on this. I hope I will have them tonight, because I am going to stand by this Amendment and ask your Lordships to support me.

11.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 53; Not-Contents, 55.

Lovell-Davis, L. Ritchie-Calder, L. Thurso, V.
McCluskey, L. Sainsbury, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
McGregor of Durris, L. Seear, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Shackleton, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L. Shepherd, L. Whaddon, L.
Northfield, L. Stedman, B. Wigoder, L.
Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.) Stewart of Alvechurch, B. Winstanley, L.
Perth, E. Stone, L. Winterbottom, L.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.] Wynne-Jones, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Swaythling, L.

On Question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons.