HL Deb 09 March 1993 vol 543 cc955-68

5.31 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to repeat a Statement about Scottish constitutional issues which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has made today in another place. The Statement is as follows: "As the House will know, since the general election the Government have been conducting a wide-ranging examination of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom and the way our Westminster Parliament works for Scotland. I am today placing before the House a White Paper setting out our conclusions—Scotland in the Union: A Partnership for Good.

"The Act of Union of 1707 secured for the Scottish people a strong and special place within the United Kingdom. It guaranteed the continu-ance of Scotland's separate legal, educational and local government systems. The more recent establishment of the Scottish Office itself, as a department responsible for administering much of Scotland's government, is another illustration of the capacity of the Union to accommodate—indeed to encourage—diversity. Equally, the Union has enabled Scotland to participate fully in the affairs of the United Kingdom, and Scots have done so to considerable effect. The United Kingdom is a partnership of peoples that has achieved great things and from which all its constituent parts have benefited.

"The initiative known as "taking stock" has led us to come forward with a range of proposals aimed at reinforcing the Union and Scotland's place within it. First, recognising Scotland's separate legal system and its other legislative needs, the Government propose a number of initiatives to improve the existing parliamentary arrangements for handling Scottish business. The Scottish Grand Committee at present has powers to debate Scottish matters and the Scottish Estimates and to take the Second Reading debates of Scottish legislation. It is also empowered to meet in Edinburgh. We propose to build on these arrangements, providing for up to 12 general debates each Session, with the opposition parties selecting the subject for debate on a set number of occasions though, of course Scottish matters, like Scottish legislation, will, where appropriate, continue to be debatable on the Floor. We also propose a new procedure allowing for debates on affirmative resolutions and on prayers against negative resolutions to be referred when appropriate to the Scottish Grand Committee. The arrangements enabling the committee to handle Scottish legislation will remain unchanged, with any Second Reading vote being taken formally on the Floor of the House. The Report stage and Third Reading debate will also continue to be taken on the Floor of the House in the usual way.

"We further believe that the Secretary of State's responsibilities have become sufficiently wide to justify augmenting these arrangements by proposing that from time to time sessions of Questions to Scottish Office Ministers be held in the Scottish Grand Committee in addition to those that take place every four weeks in this House. These sessions could be held either at Westminster or in Scotland. We also propose that at the end of each meeting of the committee there should be an opportunity for an adjournment debate specifically on matters of concern to Scotland. It may occasionally be appropriate also for statements to be made by Scottish Office Ministers to the Scottish Grand Committee. In addition, we propose to establish a new procedure, to enable the Scottish Grand Committee to invite the Scottish Office Minister in another place and also the Lord Advocate to give evidence before it on matters within their fields of responsibility.

"Some of these changes will require amendments to the Standing Orders of both Houses and we shall bring these forward for debate in due course, having first consulted with opposition parties in the usual way.

"Standing Orders of the House already contain a provision that enables Bills to be referred after Second Reading to a Special Standing Committee. We consider that this provision can provide a particularly appropriate mechanism for scrutinis-ing some Scottish Bills and we propose its wider use for some Scottish legislation in future, with provision for the evidence-taking sessions to be held where appropriate in Scotland.

"Taken together, I believe these measures will lead to a significant improvement in the handling of parliamentary business relating to Scotland, in a way which is less remote, is more responsive to Scottish priorities and concerns and which may relieve some of the pressure on the Floor of the House. I stress, however, that in all these procedural changes Scottish Ministers will remain fully accountable to this House and the Scottish Grand Committee will remain wholly a committee of this House. The integrity of Parliament will and must remain intact.

"We also propose changes in the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office. Recognising the important role of Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the local enterprise companies and their capacity to meet local needs in the delivery of the Government's training schemes, from April next year the responsibility for training policy in Scotland will be transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland, within the framework of the Government's overall strategic priorities, initiatives and policies.

"Responsibility for the Scottish Arts Council will be transferred to the Scottish Office from the Department of National Heritage, also with effect from April 1994. We also propose to transfer the ownership of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited from the Civil Aviation Authority to the Scottish Office. And, in the context of the policies emerging from the forthcoming White Paper on Science and Technology, we shall review the scope for transferring to the Scottish Office responsibility for schemes for encouraging industrial innovation.

"These proposals represent a worthwhile integration of decision-making power in the areas I have mentioned, with the other activities for which the Scottish Office already has responsibility.

"Madam Speaker, I am also pleased to be able to confirm to the House that my honourable friend the Minister for Energy is today announcing that his department will open a major new oil and gas office in Aberdeen to serve the off shore industry.

"I also wish to ensure that the Scottish Office is more visible in Scotland and more accessible to the general public. I propose to publish in future a concise and accessible annual report on the activities of the Scottish Office and the non-departmental public bodies and next steps agencies for which I am responsible. The annual report may be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee for scrutiny and debate.

"Although my department already has offices throughout Scotland, we shall seek opportunities for further dispersal within Scotland. This will apply both to parts of the Scottish Office and to non-departmental public bodies for which I am responsible. In addition, in accordance with the principles of the Citizen's Charter, we shall establish a central inquiry unit accessible from all parts of Scotland for the cost of a local telephone call. This unit will be backed up by the designation of many of the existing departmental offices as Scottish Office information points. We shall examine the case for supplementing this facility with other information points in smaller towns around Scotland, operated on an agency basis. The White Paper also sets out other plans I have to further the goal of the Citizen's Charter by making my department more responsive to the needs of the people of Scotland.

"Last December the leaders of the European Community met in Scotland for the successful Edinburgh Summit that marked the climax of the United Kingdom's presidency of the Community. We shall seek to hold further such events in Scotland in the future. In that context I am pleased to announce that the European Community will hold a Europartenariat conference of small businesses in Glasgow in December. Further details of this major event will be published shortly.

"Madam Speaker, the partners to the Union need to work at bringing the reality of the Union alive for all the people of the United Kingdom. This White Paper outlines how Scotland's status as a nation within the Union can be more effectively recognised. The Union was and still is good for Scotland and good for the United Kingdom, but that does not mean it cannot be made better; and we stand ready to consider other measures to this end which may emerge over time, to the benefit of all its partners.

"The White Paper I am publishing today does not mark the end of the 'taking stock' process but the start of a renewed emphasis by the Government on the importance to the United Kingdom of all its component parts. We will continue to seek further ways of strengthening the Union and Scotland's place in it.

"We reject utterly the arguments of those who want Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom, either through the direct means of separation or by way of the slippery slope of a separate parliament. Our firm commitment is to the future integrity of the United Kingdom, secured through this House and this Parliament. The United Kingdom is a partnership of nations that has endured. We believe strongly that it is a partnership for good. In that spirit I commend the White Paper to the House."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.40 p.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. He will be aware that because of the length of the last debate the White Paper is released and we have had an opportunity to glance through it. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to give us some idea as to whether time will be found for a debate on the White Paper.

I believe that everyone on this side of the House, and possibly people in Scotland generally, will be pleased that the Government have now very slowly become aware of the genuine movement in Scotland for more control and for a distinct voice in its own affairs. I am aware that the noble and learned Lord has burned the midnight oil and has probably agonised with his fellow Ministers in producing the Statement and the White Paper.

I am sure that he will not be too surprised to hear, from what we have had time to read, that in our opinion, his labours have really brought forth a mouse. It is a mouse which I am prepared to forecast will be found inadequate by the people of Scotland. It will certainly not persuade them that this Government are serious about giving Scotland any real national control of its own affairs.

Of course we cannot but welcome much of the Statement. But we cannot be expected to be widely enthusiastic about something which falls so short of addressing the real aspirations of the Scottish people. More meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh or perhaps in other parts of Scotland can do no harm and would probably be helpful. Specific Scottish Question sessions held in Edinburgh are also a tiny step in the right direction as is the idea of having adjournment debates on Scottish matters at a reasonable time of day. That perhaps means that the Scottish media will be able to relay reports on them to the Scottish people instead of what happens in the other place where adjournment debates are held at midnight or sometimes long afterwards. At those times few people are concerned.

We welcome also the fact that the Secretary of State will be taking control from the CAA of the Highlands and Islands airports: so the Secretary of State will have a direct interest. I hope that that means maintaining or, better still, improving communications with the islands. We are not quite so happy about what has been said regarding the transfer of oil and gas offices to Aberdeen. We need to look very carefully at that. I believe that Aberdeen will be very disappointed if all that results is the arrival of medium to low-grade executives. The feeling in many parts of Scotland—I have heard this also from Americans—is that because of the way Aberdeen has become a real centre for deep sea oil extraction and drilling, the head office for all gas and oil exploration should be located in Aberdeen. Perhaps we shall have a chance to discuss that later.

The Statement was able to refer only briefly to the Citizen's Charter. That is something we shall read about, and no doubt it will be raised by other Members. We shall discuss it carefully when the White Paper has been circulated. There is very little flesh on the bones of the Citizen's Charter, whether it is the Scottish one or the national one put forward by the Prime Minister. I believe that the Statement and the White Paper, far from stemming the desire in Scotland for real, devolved government within the United Kingdom—my party has always been quite clear on that point—will whet the Scottish appetite for more national control. However, if the proposals are a 10-day wonder, which I believe to be more likely, they may well prove to have been a waste of very valuable time and a worthless exercise as far as the ordinary people of Scotland are concerned.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, I too would like to thank very much the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, for having repeated the Statement. There are a great many administrative and procedural proposals, some of which may be useful. Most of them, I believe, will make very little difference at all. No doubt they will have to be discussed but not, I think, now.

However, there are one or two questions I would like to ask, partly because they are general questions and partly out of pure curiosity. First, I hope that the noble and learned Lord can assure us that the devolution of the Scottish Office and the spreading of responsibility from the centre will lead to a reduction in staff and not an increase. I hope that there will not be simply an increase in staff and buildings all over Scotland.

Secondly, I notice that Second Readings will be taken formally on the Floor of the House. I take it that that is merely a polite way of saying what happens now, which is that, whatever happens in the Scottish Grand Committee, if the Government wish to press a Bill they simply produce it on the Floor of the House and use their majority to get it through.

Thirdly, I am interested in the telephone calls. As I understand it, anyone, anywhere in Scotland, can, for 10p or whatever it is, ring the Scottish Office and indulge in whatever questions they wish to raise. It is true that one cannot ask a Minister. I shall not be able to ring the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, and say, "I would like to have a chat with you about the new Bill". Who will I be able to telephone? What kind of people will be responsible? Is there any limit on that facility? I can visualise certain people spending hours over months raising interesting questions with impunity.

Lastly, I understand that this is the start of a process and that this is not the last word. With rather waning hopes, I hope that the process may eventually deal with the crux of the matter. That is contained right at the end of the Statement where it says: The United Kingdom is a partnership of nations". That admits that the Scots are a nation. If they are a nation then surely they have the right to say that they want to run their own government, at least for some purposes. They have shown that time and again. They have some rights that should be taken notice of. If one continues to disregard the crux of the matter, which is not administrative or procedural, but democratic, then I believe that ultimately we shall run into considerable dangers, not least for the Union. The real thing which may be endangered by ignoring the Scots' desire for better democratic procedures is the Union. Let us remember that it was the intransigent Tories who ultimately forced Ireland out of the union with the United Kingdom. Do not let that happen to Scotland.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am grateful to the two noble Lords on the Front Benches for the welcome they gave to what is contained in the Statement to the extent which they did. The noble Lord, Lord Grimond, indicated in a ringing conclusion that he was anxious that our Union should be maintained. It is the very purpose behind the paper that we should do what we can to secure that, within the context of the United Kingdom, there should be some arrangements made as to the diversity that occurs in our respective component parts. If Scotland were inclined to go its own way as a separate nation, against what would seem to me sensible political judgment, that would have to be recognised if it was clear and unequivocally expressed.

However, we must appreciate that we cannot build into the arrangements unilateral devolutionary changes which put England or other parts of the United Kingdom at a disadvantage in any respect. I appreciate the policy of the party which the noble Lord represents that there should be a federal system, but I am bound to say that in the time that I have spoken about this matter in England, I have yet to find anyone who wants to break up England into individual federal units.

The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, indicated in his general way that the Statement was inadequate. I rather suspect, however, that there is some relief within the Labour Party that we should have dealt with the matter just to this extent. It is perfectly obvious to me, as I am sure it is to him, that there are now four clearly identifiable component parts within the Labour Party in Scotland in relation to what should be done about constitutional affairs. Like the distinguished honourable Member for West Lothian, there are those who are unequivocally unionist and would not like to see any degree of change. There are still some who espouse an ill-digested devolutionary pattern which has within it unresolved issues. There are also some who are federalists in a liberal sort of fashion. Then there are some who are crypto-nationalists. I do not think that the noble Lord can conceal that there are those difficulties within his own party.

The noble Lord asked whether there would be an opportunity for debate. That is a matter for the usual channels although, as I indicated in the Statement, there will necessarily be some debate on Standing Orders and particular changes. I am grateful to the noble Lord for indicating that a number of the changes to the Scottish Grand Committee —I suppose, not least, questioning myself—will be useful. I cannot say that I look forward to it particularly, but I hope that a constructive model will be adopted in the style of questioning. Indeed, perhaps I may say to the other place that there might be some lessons to be learned from this House about the way in which questions are addressed to Ministers.

I was a little surprised that the noble Lord was so grudging about the transfer of oil and gas jobs to Aberdeen. The White Paper states that initially some 60 jobs will be transferred. I understand that that has been warmly welcomed. It should help to secure Aberdeen pre-eminence as an oil centre in Europe.

I was also asked a number of questions relating to the Citizen's Charter. The reason that we have suggested that it would be worthwhile setting up a network of points of contact and communication around Scotland is, first, that it fits in with the idea of the Citizen's Charter. If anything has emerged as part of the process of taking stock, it is that there is still a surprising degree of ignorance about the range and activity of the work of the Scottish Office. I hope that that misunderstanding will be avoided in future and that the way in which the Scottish Office works will be better understood by people in Scotland. I do not envisage that Scots the length and breadth of Scotland will be spending their time and 10p to telephone to ask silly questions, but I hope that in areas relating to health, industry, education, fishing and agriculture, people will be genuinely anxious to ascertain the appropriate point to which they should go to secure advice. I do not believe that that will increase the staff of the Scottish Office to any significant extent although clearly if some jobs are to be moved from south of the Border into the domain of the Scottish Office, there will be some increase.

5.54 p.m.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, as I think that your Lordships will know, I remain in favour—I have always been in favour—of the Union. Having said that, equally, I have campaigned very forcefully for the Scottish people to have more say in running their own affairs.

I have not had the opportunity to read the White Paper, so I shall not expand on it at any length. However, one or two points have struck me. I think that it is most important that the Scottish Grand Committee should meet frequently in Edinburgh, and I should like to consider that point further. I also understood (but I am not very clear about it), that people would be called on to give evidence before the committee. If that is so, it would save the telephone calls that have been mentioned—and the 10 pence pieces. If, however, that is not the case, it is critical that there should be an ability for certain representatives from Scotland, from outside the Houses of Parliament, to be able to say something in Edinburgh or otherwise. If that is given force in the White Paper, all well and good. If not, we must look to see whether we can find something that improves the provisions to that extent.

Finally, I fully support the desirability of a debate. It is all very well to say, "This is a matter for the usual channels", but I feel sure that all Scottish peers would want to have a debate on this subject.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, during the time of my noble friend Lord Younger of Prestwick, arrangements were put in place that the Scottish Grand Committee should be able to meet in Edinburgh. If there is an extension to that proposal now, it is that there should be the opportunity for it to meet not only in Edinburgh, but potentially elsewhere in Scotland. It is not difficult to envisage that in relation to, say, a fisheries matter or a Highlands and Islands matter, it might be appropriate for the committee to meet in Aberdeen or Inverness.

I believe that the point about giving evidence is covered in two respects. As a Minister in this House I am, of course, primarily accountable to it, as is my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate. What is envisaged is that in certain circumstances (in a way, by extension from the process that occurs before a Select Committee), we might give evidence to the whole of the Scottish Grand Committee regarding a particular aspect of our respective responsibilities. A further aspect which we think could be useful is that, by extending the idea of the Special Standing Committee, those who might want to give evidence, such as either professional or voluntary Scottish organisations, might welcome the opportunity to give their evidence in Edinburgh instead of being subjected to the difficulty and the expense of having to come to Westminster.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, since my family have been involved in working for and defending the Union since the time of King James VI, perhaps I may congratulate the Government on eschewing the fragmentation syndrome of separatism. Perhaps I may ask the Minister to explain a little more about this evidence business? Is it that the Scottish Grand Committee will, on occasions, be able to resolve itself into a kind of Select Committee to take evidence from those outside Parliament as well as inside it?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, no. As far as taking evidence before the Scottish Grand Committee is concerned, the present proposal is obviously a matter on which we are prepared to consult with the Opposition parties and, indeed, others. At present, it should be restricted to the giving of evidence by either myself or my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate. There is already power for the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs to take evidence not only from Ministers either in this House or in another place, but also from the public in Scotland. Since its establishment it has, to my certain knowledge, regularly taken evidence from individuals in Scotland.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, can the Minister say who was consulted before the White Paper was composed? Is the noble Lord aware that my noble friend Lord Carmichael said that this is the result of the Minister burning the midnight oil? All I can say is that it must have been a fairly short wick. Is the Minister further aware that this White Paper is not even original? The historical part of it is a direct lift from John Gibson's book The History of the Scottish Office, and the explanation of the ministerial functions at the Scottish Office are easily obtained from the Library of either House of Parliament.

Is the Minister further aware that I agree with him on the point that we are all determined to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom? All my work as co-chairman of the Scottish Constitutional Convention has been designed to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom.

The debate taking place in Scotland, which seems to have gone over the Government's head, is directed towards devising a system that will preserve the unity of the United Kingdom. It is not tinkering in the way that the White Paper proposes that we should tinker: 12 general debates in the Scottish Grand Committee. We cannot meet the eight days that are presently laid down, because they are always squeezed into the last two weeks of July. How on earth shall we be able to meet 12 days if we cannot meet eight at the minute?

In relation to Questions to Ministers in the Scottish Grand Committee, where does that place the Secretary of State who has a United Kingdom responsibility for forestry matters? Does that mean that UK Members of Parliament will be able to table Questions on forestry matters to Ministers in the Scottish Grand Committee? Those are matters for which the Secretary of State has United Kingdom responsibility. Nowhere does the White Paper address that question. Does the Minister appreciate that, while I accept that he has done his best—I was interested to see him yesterday climb into one side of the bed with the nationalists and today fall out the other side while making it clear that he had no interest in nationalism —it is not good enough. To produce a lasting permanent solution we shall have to go further than the proposals contained in the White Paper.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, indeed I did burn the midnight oil. I burnt most of it considering the report of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, trying to make some sense of it and trying to understand what we can do about the vexed question which the noble Lord, with his long experience of political matters in Scotland, knows remains wholly unresolved since the first time such matters were debated with any intensity in the middle of the 1970s. It is that Scottish Members of Parliament come to the other place and have the opportunity to vote on matters relating to England and Wales whereas English Members of Parliament would not be able to vote on Scottish matters. As the noble Lord is aware, that matter is not addressed in the paper over which he claims some authorship.

I make no apology if the noble Lord has noted that we have found sources for what he describes as the historical chapters in the document. What I sought to indicate to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, which was disappointing, I confess, is that as at 1993 there are still those in Scotland who have not yet appreciated—the noble Lord may believe that it should be a legislative devolution—the extent of the administrative devolution which is already in the hands of the Scottish Office. It was thought worth while to explain that again.

This set of proposals is not prescriptive. The proposals are permissive. If Scottish Members of Parliament want to take advantage of being able to make a greater contribution within Scotland and to ask questions, that is for them to decide. I believe that they can take advantage of those opportunities. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we do not want, as has been the case in the past, to crush everything into the last weeks of a hot July. I hope that it might be spread more carefully throughout the year now that we have a clearer framework of what might be done.

I would advise the noble Lord to look again at the White Paper because he has misunderstood it. The idea is not that Scottish Questions should be considered exclusively within the Scottish Grand Committee. Those proposals are additional. Where, for example, English Members of Parliament wish to ask Questions of the Secretary of State for Scotland, they would still have the opportunity to do so once a month. They would still have that opportunity in respect of those matters, such as forestry, for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is lead Minister.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that the proposals will he warmly welcomed by those people who want Scotland to remain firmly a part of the United Kingdom? In particular is he aware that the proposal to bring a European conference to Glasgow this December will be as welcome as was the Euro-summit that went to Edinburgh last December? That indicates clearly that Scotland is firmly part of the United Kingdom.

Perhaps I can ask him about the Scottish Grand Committee and the legislative programme in Scotland. Does he envisage that the proposals he has outlined will help with the passage of legislation suggested by, for example, the Scottish Law Commission, which is needed if the law of Scotland is to be kept up to date? That is an important aspect which I hope the proposals will resolve.

Lastly, does my noble and learned friend agree that he and his right honourable friend have taken stock, in contrast to the parties opposite which wish to have assemblies and parliaments which would cause fractures in the body politic of the United Kingdom? For all the midnight oil burnt by people who propose assemblies, they have never succeeded in addressing what Mr. Tam Dalyell christened the West Lothian question.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the welcome that he has given to the proposals in the White Paper. I am sure that he is right to welcome the announcement of the Europartenariat conference in Glasgow. If Glasgow and Scotland take advantage of it, it could be of considerable value to them. It will help secure Glasgow a prominence in Europe.

On the Law Commission proposals, we believe that, if the Scottish Grand Committee is used effectively, it should enable those law reform Bills which are essentially uncontroversial to pass through Parliament more efficiently than has sometimes been the case. If my noble friend has an opportunity to read the White Paper in detail he will see that reference is made to that matter.

I am sure that my noble friend is not accusing Members on the Benches opposite of wishing to bring the union of our countries to a conclusion. However, there are those in Scotland who would. We believe —we say this with some regret—that they still do not seem to appreciate that their proposals for assemblies can only hasten us towards an undesirable conclusion.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, much of what I was going to say has already been said. Perhaps I may remind the Minister that the Statement does not involve the break-up of England. That has nothing to do with the matters before the House. The title of the White Paper is Scotland in the Union. The real question is the preservation of the fabric of Scotland, because it is in serious danger of disintegrating. The Statement and the White Paper have been produced after one year's deliberation by the Prime Minister and his Ministers. Despite that length of time, the White Paper fails miserably to meet the expectations of the people of Scotland who wish to have an efficient and nationally recognisable form of government which recognises the unique position of Scotland as a nation within the Union, which is what the White Paper is said to be all about.

There is another phrase used in Scotland which is the equivalent of "tinkering". It is "footering about". That is what the Government are doing. They do not know which way they are going. They are just footering about at the edges of legislation. To Scotland, what has been produced is the equivalent of the poor man having the scraps from the rich man's table. The White Paper clearly reflects the Government's obsession that any degree of legislative devolution to Scotland—not a Scottish parliament —is the first step on the slippery slope towards the break-up of the United Kingdom. No one on this side of the House seeks that. We seek to preserve it.

What is needed is the establishment of a positive and efficient legislative machine to deal positively and quickly with Scotland's problems in health, education, industry, law and order, business and so forth, all of which have their own Scottish dimensions requiring Scottish solutions, and quick solutions in many cases. This package will not deal with the agitation North of the Border, not merely by the Scottish National Party —I just mention it in passing, because it is passing —but by people who want genuinely to preserve the United Kingdom, but who are affronted by the way in which Scottish legislation is dealt with and who look for a fair deal in Scottish legislation.

Debates and Question Time in Edinburgh are welcome. However, that amounts only to political window dressing and has nothing to do with positive legislation, which the people of Scotland are seeking.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, if the White Paper fails miserably to meet the separatist aspirations of the Scottish Nationalists I am delighted. I hope that they will find nothing in it which gives them any comfort. It is intended to strengthen the Union. They can vote for us in the Lobbies as often as they wish; but in that they will find no satisfaction in securing their separatist aims.

The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, is a lawyer. However, he is only one of many members of the party opposite which has looked at the issue for years and years and has come nowhere near trying to address a solution to the West Lothian question. If the noble Lord wants an assembly to deal with the matters which he mentioned, he must honestly face up to the problem of providing a solution to what is to be done about Scottish Members of Parliament coming to Westminster and voting here.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, I wish to deal with a point which was raised by my noble friend Lord Mackay. I recall a speech made in this House by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel in a debate on devolution. He said that he had become a firm devolutionist because during his early days as Minister of State at the Scottish Office he spent time examining 200 Bills which had been passed during the previous 20 years and he considered that only seven should have gone near Westminster. Will the proposed Grand Committee be able to take some of the legislation? I was fiercely involved in the Bull Licensing (Scotland) Act which caused great controversy. Will the Grand Committee be able to deal with similar legislation in order to take the load off London?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, yes. My noble friend makes an important point. One of the features of the package which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland considers to be of value is that if our proposals work, not only will they allow for a more efficient dispatch of Scottish business, but they will relieve the pressure on the business on the Floor of the House of Commons. That should be welcomed by our English colleagues in another place. That is desirable and the kind of measure referred to by my noble friend could constructively be dealt with by the Scottish Grand Committee.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I know that time is running out, but I believe that questions are in order. First, the Minister said that under the new legislative arrangements for Scotland and the Scottish Grand Committee, Standing Orders in this House and in the other place will be amended. Are there any implications in the Statement for the procedures of this House and its treatment of Scottish legislation?

Secondly, in undertaking the background work and preparing the Statement, has the Minister taken into account the fact that he is in the middle of a similar exercise as regards local government in Scotland? Does the Statement relating to the devolution of Scottish legislation have any implications for the new structure of local government which he envisages?

Thirdly, while we emphasise the importance of being part of the Union, there is no reference in the Statement about the responsibilities of the Union to Scotland in an economic sense in so far as there is no reference to regional government or the distribution of government offices and so forth, which should be part of the spin-off of being a member of the Union.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, perhaps I may respond quickly. I do not envisage that there will be any alteration to the powers of this House. Some aspects of our Standing Orders might be applied to allow for a more efficient dispatch of Scottish business. Some alterations may be required as far as my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate and I are concerned.

The Statement does not address the issue of local government because, as I indicated to your Lordships' House on a previous occasion, it forms no part of the intentions of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland that there should be a movement of the powers of local government into the centre and into his authority. For that reason, the issue is not addressed. Not only is it intended that there should be a movement of jobs away from the centres of Edinburgh or Glasgow to other parts of Scotland, but also, as happened in the case of jobs in oil and gas, that there should be a movement of jobs out of London into Scotland. That has been our policy for some time.