HL Deb 07 July 1997 vol 581 cc489-526

House to be again in Committee.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 52:

After Clause 4, insert the following new clause—



(" .—(1) The Secretary of State for Scotland shall publish a White Paper detailing his proposals for the establishment and powers of a Scottish Parliament and indicating the potential constitutional implications of the establishment of such a Parliament.

(2) The Secretary of State for Scotland shall publish a summary of the White Paper.

(3) No referendum on the establishment of a Scottish Parliament shall be held less than two weeks after the summary has been published and distributed to every elector in Scotland.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 which seek to incorporate some new clauses into the Bill. They follow largely the same track, although with some differences.

The amendments can best be described as being in three parts. The first part insists that the Secretary of State shall publish a White Paper detailing his proposals for the establishment and powers of a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly in the case of Amendments Nos. 53 and 54.

We have been along this road before. I do not suppose that I shall be told this evening when the White Papers are to be published. I understand—and it would be nice if government Ministers could confirm or deny this— that the Welsh White Paper was ready and could be published. In the interests of open government, I am quite sure that the Minister will tell me whether or not that is true. Obviously, it is either true or it is not true that the Welsh White Paper is ready. I can understand that because it is a simpler proposition.

The Scottish White Paper is not ready but I have been assured that the date on which it is to be published will be announced on Report. As Report stage will be a fortnight today, I wonder whether that means that we shall not receive the White Paper until after a fortnight today; or are we to receive it a little earlier? Monday seems an odd day on which to launch a White Paper and I wonder whether Friday, 18th July, might be a better day. Perhaps I may tempt the Minister to tell me on which of those days the White Paper is to be produced. Perhaps I may be told also whether it is intended to produce the Welsh and Scottish White Papers on the same day. If the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, as regards the referendum dates is compelling, I should have thought that the Welsh White Paper should be published a week before the Scottish one so that the Welsh people will have a whole week before the Scots in order to consider the matter untrammelled by the Scottish situation. The media will be able to give their whole attention to that issue. Indeed, if I had thought about the matter earlier, I might have tabled an amendment to that effect. If the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is to answer this debate, he may wish to turn his attention to that proposition; namely, that the Welsh White Paper should be published next week to give the Welsh people an opportunity to have a week free from the distractions of the Scottish White Paper. If that were to happen, I should find the noble Lord's argument about the referendum dates just a little—and only "just a little"—more convincing.

Amendment No. 52 wants the White Paper to indicate the potential constitutional implications. I am not sure whether it will do that, but I hope it will. The Welsh amendment, to which my noble friend Lord Lucas will speak, invites the Government to tell the Welsh people why they are not to have tax-varying powers which the Scots are to have. The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell invites the Welsh White Paper to indicate the functions and responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Wales, the Welsh Office, Welsh Members of Parliament and Welsh local government. That is fairly straightforward.

The second paragraph of all three amendments—that is, Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 54—suggests that the Secretaries of State should publish a summary of the White Papers. I believe that there is considerable merit in that suggestion. Indeed, it actually links back to the amendment that we discussed before the dinner break, when we discussed how we collectively can get over the message about the referendum, and the pluses and minuses, to the public in Scotland and Wales. For example, do we send out a paper or a leaflet within which both sides would advance their arguments?

I was going to say that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, gave me some assurances in that respect, but I do not believe that he even did that. Nevertheless, he said that he would think about it on a very "maybe" basis. It was on that basis that I withdrew the amendment. However, that does not actually address the question of a summary of the White Paper. That seems to me to be reasonably politically neutral in the sense that it neither advocates the "Yes" campaign or the "No" campaign. I do not know what the White Paper will be like, but I have not yet seen one which would not have merited a summary. I believe that the same will apply to these White Papers. I would never go as far as someone who suggested that everyone in Scotland and Wales should receive a White Paper. I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said that it was not on anyone's summer reading list. That certainly is true. It may have to be on mine, but I would not inflict that upon the majority of my fellow countrymen or Welshmen. I believe that a summary is important and I seriously wonder whether the Government propose to produce a summary of the White Papers for Scotland and Wales.

My third point is that that summary ought to be published and distributed to every elector at least two weeks before the referendum date. I believe that to be self-evident. Interestingly enough—and I alluded to this earlier—in 1975 there was a popular version of the White Paper. In fact, I am not sure quite how "popular" it was because that was what it was called—the popular version of the White Paper. That related to the continuing membership of the United Kingdom in the European Community. However, at the same time, "Yes" and "No.' leaflets were produced and distributed at public expense. So, if I can put it in shorthand fashion, the public received in the Freepost a popular version of the White Paper, together with a "Yes" and a "No" leaflet. Although it harks back to a previous amendment, I would submit that that is a fair way to present the arguments to the electorate. I hope that we may be able to consider doing just that at this time.

In 1979 none of those things happened, partly because the campaign groups could not agree and partly because the Government, under the Prime Ministership of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, could not agree. Their own Back-Benchers could not agree on the proposition that it should be a popular version because, clearly, who writes the popular version becomes quite important as, indeed, does who writes the accompanying commentary. Therefore, if we have to look back at 1975 and 1979, the precedents are pretty inconclusive: one points in one direction while the other points in another. That is why I wonder what direction we are to follow this time.

In summary, what we are asking for in the proposed new clause is, first, that the White Paper should be produced in plenty of time. Of course, I accept that we have now had the commitment from the Government that it will be announced or else be available by the time we reach Report stage. Secondly, we will have six weeks, plus or minus a week or two, in order to debate the White Papers before we vote. Thirdly, the second part of the amendments asks for a summary of the White Papers so that the electorate can actually have a brief look at the position, and the third part of the amendments asks that the summary should be, published and distributed to every elector", in Scotland and Wales at least two weeks before the referendum. As I said, I have been speaking to Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 54. I believe that they are all important and sensible amendments which I am sure the Government will accept. I beg to move.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

Perhaps I may deal with one of the points which is consistently made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. He complains about our referring to the differences in the campaigns in Wales and Scotland in 1979. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who I am pleased to see is now in his place, described such references as "patronising" during the last Committee stage.

In a Report, An Assembly for Wales, published by The Constitution Unit, which is an independent inquiry into the implementation of constitutional reform under the auspices of the Faculty of Laws, University College London, published in 1996, the following was said: The Government's policy [in 1979] on devolution, as transmitted by the media and as perceived by the general public, was largely that concerned with Scotland. The issues of the Welsh devolution debate were given very little coverage outside Wales (despite the differences, the two debates appeared repetitive so the second was deemed not newsworthy). Furthermore, even within Wales, the dominance of the London press with total morning daily sales of 700,000 compared with less than 150,000 for the Welsh morning dailies meant that the Welsh debate failed to reach most Welsh electors. Nor was this deficiency overcome by the broadcasting media. While both BBC Wales and HTV Wales scheduled a wide range of devolution and referendum programmes, the national news programmes reflected the dominance of Scottish devolution in the referendum debate. The different provisions for Welsh devolution, including its limited character compared to Scotland were not fully explained or appreciated". The references that refer to that research were from a publication by Messrs. Foulkes, Jones and Wilford, the Welsh Veto, in 1983.

When the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, deals with the issue with some hilarity and suggests that perhaps the Welsh White Paper should be published first, he totally ignores what is really a very serious issue; namely, that there is a difference between what is happening in Scotland and Wales and there is a need for it to be fully explained. It is with that in mind that I support the tenor of what the noble Lord said—that is, that the White Paper should be published and distributed before the referendums take place—but the terms in which he expresses it reflect, as I said, some hilarity as regards the Welsh situation and are not something that I can accept.

Lord Lucas

I think perhaps that the need to treat the matter with some hilarity comes from the Government's position which is so obviously unbending on the issue. As my noble friend Lord Mackay has accurately pointed out, if the Government were really interested in giving the Welsh time to think about the issues on their own, they would publish the Welsh White Paper now and that would indeed give them the full attention of the media for a period of some weeks.

I do not want to repeat anything said by my noble friend but I do want to pick up the difference between Amendments Nos. 52 and 53; namely, that we seek to ensure that the White Paper satisfies the reasonable curiosity of the Welsh as to why they are being offered less than the Scots. If I were to invite the noble Lords, Lord Sewel and Lord Williams, to supper and tempt them by publishing the menus in advance, I should think that that was a reasonable thing to do. However, if my proposals were to offer the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, a slap-up meal and to stop the noble Lord, Lord Williams, short of the soup course, they might find that a little surprising.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Lord's last remark is not funny at all, as I spent the dinner hour on other business and did not even have the opportunity to take soup.

Lord Lucas

I believe that it would be a reasonable question for the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to ask as to why I would wish him to stop short of the soup course. I am sure that I would be able to convince him that there was good reason for it. I could not think of it at present but, if I were to do such a thing, I would have a good reason. I think it right that the Welsh should be told.

Lord Sewel

Sooner or later—I suspect it will be sooner—I shall have to deprive the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, of a great deal of harmless fun and tell him when the White Paper will be published. However, that will not happen just yet; he will have to wait a little longer.

The effect of the new clauses as proposed by Members of the Committee opposite would be to require the publication of White Papers which would specifically refer to the, potential constitutional implications of the establishment of a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly. The new clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who is not in his place at present, specifies in more detail the subjects which should be covered in the White Paper.

By virtue of these amendments the White Papers would have to be published before this. Bill receives Royal Assent. Indeed there is a ticklish technical question here. These are not so much wrecking amendments as impossible amendments. If they were accepted, they would create a duty by statute which could be fulfilled only before the statute came into force. That is quite a nice logical somersault. There is a little difficulty there. We await no doubt the algebraic formula that springs us from that trap. However, my principal difficulties with the noble Lords' proposals are more than simply technical.

The new clauses would also require the Secretary of State to publish summaries of the White Papers for Scotland and Wales which would be distributed to every elector in Scotland and Wales respectively. The referendums would be held no fewer than two weeks after such distribution. That just goes to show that we try to understand the amendments.

The Government are committed to setting out in the White Paper, to be published shortly, their detailed proposals for the establishment of a Scottish parliament. There is no need to require this in statute; it will happen. It is absolutely clear that that will happen. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, accepts that. There has never been any doubt about our intentions which were set out in our manifesto. I am therefore a little surprised that that aspect has been focused upon in the new clauses. The Government are as concerned as Members of the Committee opposite to ensure that electors are adequately informed about the Government's proposals before they are asked to vote on them. I am sure that when the people of Scotland and Wales vote they will be well aware of what they are being asked to express their views on. I do not think there is the slightest possibility of an uninformed electorate.

The new clauses also propose the publication of summary versions of the Scottish and Welsh White Papers, to be distributed to every elector in Scotland and Wales respectively. There is little between us on this. I assure the Committee that the Government are giving serious consideration to the question of whether and how further information about their proposals should be made available. I give a full and complete assurance that I am happy to express to my ministerial colleagues the view of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that a summary of the White Paper should be distributed.

We shall publish the White Paper shortly. As we made clear earlier, the date of publication will be made clear by or at Report. We shall ensure that there is an opportunity to debate it in this Chamber and we shall ensure that there is ample opportunity for public debate in advance of the referendums. We shall carefully consider what further information should be provided to voters. In the light of those assurances I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw the amendments.

The Earl of Onslow

Before the noble Lord sits down, he gently skirted the subject of the constitutional implications of devolution. Will they be mentioned in the White Paper?

Lord Sewel

I find it difficult to see how two White Papers dealing with the future government of Scotland and Wales will not deal with constitutional issues.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for adding to what his noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said before dinner as regards a similar but slightly different amendment. I welcome the assurance that the Government are considering producing a summary of the White Paper and perhaps providing further information, I hope along the lines of a yes and a no leaflet to be distributed to every elector. I hope they will decide to do that because I believe that will achieve the bigger turnout that they want and it will give us a clear view of what the Scottish and Welsh people want.

It is clear that I shall have some more fun about the date of the White Paper. I am grateful for what I thought was the support of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. If the Welsh White Paper is ready, why not publish it and let it be debated by the UK national newspapers now, in advance of a Scottish White Paper being issued? He and the Government fear that if they are issued together the Welsh White Paper will be subsumed in the Scottish argument. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. The Government might consider that. I notice that they managed to avoid saying whether the Welsh White Paper was ready for publication. However, I suggest that if it is ready for publication they could hold a press conference in Cardiff this Friday. That would give all the weekend papers the necessary Mandelsonian briefing and all of us would be able to read about the Welsh proposals separately from the Scottish proposals. I suspect the latter proposals—as I have not been told anything to the contrary—might be issued the following Friday so that that weekend's papers will be full of the details of the Scottish White Paper. Seriously, there is much to be said for that. It would be a sensible way to deal with this issue.

As regards the proposed new Subsections (2) and (3) of the amendment, I am grateful for the assurances that the noble Lord has given. I am grateful that the Government are considering this matter seriously. I am sure he takes my point that the average Government White Paper is not something that everyone wishes to get hold of, read, mark and inwardly digest. They would prefer a summary. The precedents of 1975 are there for us to follow. While the situation in 1979 did not work like that, we should look at the position in 1975. I hope that the Government will be able to tell us at Report stage what they intend to do about these matters. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 not moved.]

Clause 5 [Expenditure]:

[Amendments Nos. 55 to 57 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Section 1(2)]:

[Amendments Nos. 58 to 60 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 61: Page 4, line 9, at end insert ("AS DETAILED IN THE WHITE PAPER").

The noble Lord said: In some ways this amendment takes us back to the issue of whether we should have a pre or a post-legislative referendum. The terms of the post-legislative referendum which was held in 1979 were clear. It asked whether the electorate agreed that the proposals in the Act should be implemented. That seems straightforward and uncomplicated. People knew what the Act contained. It had been debated long and earnestly both in this place and in the other place and was well reported in the Scottish newspapers. There was plenty of detail; nobody was in any doubt. A White Paper does not have quite the same authority. It has no legislative authority, for example. As I have said on a number of occasions, there will not be much opportunity to comment on the White Paper in the course of the month of August, a point drawn to the attention of Members of the Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, and made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, earlier today with regard to an education White Paper which the Government have just announced. There will thus be little chance of comment in the Autumn while the Bill is being prepared. The comments on the White Paper will therefore largely be after the referendum during the progress of the Bill through this House and through the other place and there could be changes.

The point of the amendment is to hear what the Government have to say about this matter. As I understand it, Scottish people will be asked to make a generalised decision about whether or not they want an assembly or parliament. We are told by the Government that details of the assembly or parliament, its powers and the way it will operate, will be set out in a White Paper which we have not seen and that the people will be asked to vote on that White Paper. If that is the case and people in Scotland and Wales are to be asked to vote on the White Paper, why not say so? Why not say. "as detailed in the White Paper"? One wonders whether there might be a bit of sleight of hand and that what we read in the White Paper, if the Scottish and Welsh people decide that that is what they want, might not be what appears at the end of the legislative process.

It is not that Members here or in the other place will make life difficult for the Government, I suspect, but that the Government may, in the light of consultation and observations, decide that they have to change some of the things they said in the White Paper that they would do. It seems to me quite difficult, and perhaps the Minister will say that it is difficult, to decide what is a major amendment and what is a minor amendment to the White Paper between the White Paper and legislation. I believe that that underlines the fact that we would be far better with a post-legislative referendum. I do not myself approve of referendums but, if we have to have them, they ought to take place after the legislation has passed through this House or, let us say, in the case of the single European currency, after the decision has been taken in Parliament.

I assume that the Government will resist this amendment. I am interested to know why they resist it and how closely they will feel themselves bound to the White Paper if they obtain a majority in either or both of these referendums. I believe that the Committee and the world outside might be very interested to know the answer to that question. I beg to move.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

I should like to add one point to what the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said. We are being asked to consider this White Paper in the month of August. As I understand it, people will probably be invited to vote in a referendum in September. I believe that it is worth putting on record that between the years 1900 and 1992 there has never been a general election in the months of August or September. The earliest one that I know of took place in the second half of October.

The months of August and September are traditionally months in which a great many people are on holiday, particularly professional people who would be of assistance in helping the people of Scotland to understand the implications of a White Paper. It is important to bear that point in mind and that a longer time should be given to the people of Scotland to understand the implications of what they are being asked to vote on.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I do resist the amendments on the basis that they are not necessary. The questions spell out, Parliament has decided to consult people in Scotland on the Government's proposals for a Scottish Parliament", and similarly, Parliament has decided to consult people in Wales on the Government's proposals for a Welsh Assembly". Those proposals will be contained in the White Papers. My noble friend Lord Sewel and I have undertaken until it is perhaps becoming tediously repetitive that those proposals will be published and Members will have an opportunity to discuss them before the Recess. There is no point having reference to the White Paper, particularly when one remembers that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said with regard to the previous amendment that he did not suggest that everyone in Scotland and Wales should have a copy of the White Paper.

As regards the question about timing, I hear what the noble Lady says, but we have made plain on a number of occasions what the hoped-for timetable is. I do not think I can usefully repeat the arguments except to say finally, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that it has been made plain on a number of occasions that it is the Government's position that the referendums are to be advisory and for guidance. The Government's proposals will have been published in the White Papers and, I hope, fully discussed by the people of Scotland and Wales.

If the original purpose of these amendments was to obtain the undertaking that the White Papers will be published before the Recess, I do not think I can say any more often that that will be the case.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I think perhaps the noble Lord is keen to get to his supper, having conducted the dinner-hour business, something I remember doing myself, so I have some sympathy with him.

I hear what he says about not needing to put the White Paper point into the question because he believes that the preamble is sufficient. If he is putting on record that "on the Government's proposals" means "the White Paper", that is certainly progress and we have achieved a little. I would still like to see the White Paper referred to in the Bill.

I did suggest that people would not want to read a White Paper but I also suggested that they might want to read a summary, and I believe they should be given the opportunity of doing so. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is not dismissing out of hand the possibility of a summary of the Welsh and Scottish White Papers going to the Welsh and Scottish people. I think it is important that a summary should go to them. As I said earlier, in 1975 a summary was sent out. I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of man, woman or officials to produce a summary. In many White Papers produced by government—I can certainly speak for the previous Government—an attempt is made to produce a summary because we realise that not everyone will have the time, the interest or indeed the funds to purchase and read the original White Papers, but a summary is important.

However, with the noble Lord's assurance that the question means "a Scottish Parliament along the lines of the White Paper", I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 61A to 65 not moved.]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 65A: Page 4, leave out lines 18 and 19 and insert ("I AGREE THAT A SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT SHOULD HAVE FULL POWERS OVER ALL AFFAIRS AFFECTING SCOTLAND").

The noble and learned Lord said: I agree with the Liberal Democrats that this referendum, and therefore this Bill, is entirely unnecessary. I, no more than the Liberal Democrats, am impressed by the specious argument put forward in favour of the referendum immediately after the election. Indeed, I go a step further and ask, if the reasons do not stand up to examination, what are the true reasons?

I support devolution and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, on the question of thresholds. Despite that, I am bound to ask why we are having this referendum and, therefore, this Bill. The only answer I can find is that the Government believe that it is in their short-term and narrow political interest. Indeed, as the Bill has progressed, I have been increasingly feeling with great unease that the Government are playing politics with the constitution.

If we are to have a referendum, we might as well use it to ask useful questions and find out what the people really think and want. That is the purpose of Amendments Nos. 65A and 69A which put the same question, one way positively and the other way negatively. They have to be considered with an earlier amendment; namely, the one that conflated the two questions of a parliament and the powers of a parliament and the revenue raising powers. In effect, the suggested question was: do you want a parliament with powers limited to specifically Scottish affairs and with revenue powers for that purpose? To that, this amendment adds the question: do you alternatively want a Scottish parliament with plenary powers—in other words, plenary legislative powers over every matter that may affect Scotland? I know that the Government do not want that. But, equally, I know, because the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, told me so, that that is precisely what the Scottish National Party wants. The Committee will, I think, want to know the strength and whereabouts of that party. Until then we cannot judge how dangerous to the Union are the Government's proposals; nor can we proceed to a devolution Bill if the two issues are jammed and confused together so that an "I agree" vote embraces both the Scottish unionists, who are represented in this Chamber and whose voice carries great weight, and the Scottish National Party, which is anti-Union.

So this amendment asks two questions. Do you want the kind of parliament that the Government propose? Or do you want to go further? We shall only then know whether a truly significant force will try to drive home the wedge whose thin end is being inserted. Only then will we know the danger to the Union.

If those two questions are both answered in the negative, it is an indication that the electorate prefers the status quo. But the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, want that question put specifically. Indeed, there seems to be a great deal to be said for it. As I said, I shall not press any of my amendments to a Division. They are all probing amendments. The Committee will want to hear whether that third question should be specifically answered. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

I should remind the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to, Amendments Nos. 65B to 69 cannot be moved.

9 p.m.

Lord Sempill

With the leave of the Committee, I wonder whether my Amendment No. 74B may be brought forward to be discussed at this point? The subject matter is remarkably similar. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has already, if I may say so, opened the batting on the issue.

The Earl of Onslow

I should like guidance from the Committee. The grouping is of Amendments Nos. 65A, 69A and 74. I do not know whether we should stick to that grouping or take the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, together with it. I agree with whatever the Committee wishes to do.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

I am afraid that it is partly my suggestion that we should take the amendments together. It seems to me that they are concerned with exactly the same subject. It may, therefore, be for the convenience of the Committee and save a little time.

The Earl of Onslow

So perhaps we can come to Amendment No. 74, which is very simple. It says: I want an independent Scotland".

Lord Sempill

I want to clarify the situation while I feel so strongly about the multi-option referendum. Perhaps I may take a few minutes of the Committee's time to make an overall observation about the proceedings in the past three sessions. Those who are cricket fans will be aware today that the Third Test ended in a win for Australia and it was mainly due to the collapse of England's batting. I cannot help but feel that, if the noble Lords, Lord Sewel and Lord Williams of Mostyn, had been opening the batting, England would still be at the crease. Their performance over the past three sessions has been reminiscent of Geoffrey Boycott at his best.

Earl Russell

Is it England that would still be at the crease?

Lord Sempill

A well taken point. If we follow the British Lions' performance, the more of us who play under the same shirt the better. The point is well made by the noble Earl.

As I said, their performance was reminiscent of Geoffrey Boycott at his best. Questions were either blocked or casually flicked through the covers. More importantly, many were not played at all. I refer especially to the maiden overs bowled by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas—who unfortunately had to go back to Cardiff—in which he addressed preferential voting. I do not believe that his balls were well played and I now wish to try my spin against the Committee.

This spin comes in the form of the multi-option referendum. I was remarkably unsuccessful in tempting either noble Lords in the Second Reading, so I beg the Committee's patience while I try again. In the summation of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, in the Second Reading debate he said that the independence question had been so completely rejected at the election that it would be fatuous to include it in a referendum. But I believe that most of us are aware that if we had a multi-option referendum, between 25 and 30 per cent. of Scots would be likely to vote "Yes" to an independence option. That is a significant number even to those of us with the most basic mathematics.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, in opening the debate on the same day, said that the Government seek a broadly-based consensus for change. I have no disagreement with that. He said that the aim is to receive a population-based mandate for the proposals—I still have no disagreement—but then he added the word, "and", to test the settled will of the people of Scotland and Wales. I do not believe that the current referendum does that.

As Mr. Ancrum pointed out in another place, there is a dichotomy in the first question. It is right that a substantial amount of Scots will vote "Yes", but for two different reasons. Some will vote "Yes" to buttress the Union and others will vote "Yes" to break up the Union. He said, There are thus two completely different and opposite reasons for voting for the same option. That is a dangerous basis on which to say that there is a mandate to take this matter forward and then to take legislation forward".—[Official Report, Commons, 4/6/97; col. 436.] It provides a broadly-based consensus, but does not test the settled will.

Opinion polls consistently highlight that support for independence is higher than support for the Scottish Nationalist Party. A recent poll in the Sunday Times for Scotland showed that support for devolution and independence was equal at 35 per cent. and that the status quo was 24 per cent. That varied significantly from the electoral support for the parties associated with each of those constitutional positions and therefore suggests that, in the general election of 1st May, different factors influenced supporters of every party.

Either the election settled the constitutional issue or it did not. The Government cannot have it both ways. If they consider it necessary to hold any referendum, especially an advisory referendum which is supposed to guide future legislation, then in the interests of democracy that referendum should place all the options before the people.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

The amendments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, seem to belong to a referendum asking about the setting up of a federal union or an independent state. That is not what is expected to be on offer in the White Paper, which I expect to be a distinctly unionist measure.

The Committee were not impressed with my amendment seeking to change the word "establish" to "re-establish" in connection with the Scottish parliament. The Committee chose to believe that "re-establishment" meant the reconstitution of the independent parliament of Scotland. It was clearly established in Committee that the proposed Scottish parliament will not have any Scottish powers. We are therefore left with a new conundrum: when is a Scottish parliament not a Scottish parliament? The answer of course is when it has executive rather than sovereign powers.

I have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill. The trouble, as I see it, is that more than three options are being thought about. Those include continuing the status quo, various degrees of devolution, various degrees of federal union, and an independent state. All of those should be thought of in terms of the relationship with the European Union. Clearly, this is becoming more complicated and will be beyond most citizens, with the exception of those whose hobby is constitutional variations.

Earlier, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, spoke about the stance that those seeking independence would take with regard to a yes, yes vote. I presume that most of those will vote yes, yes as a stepping stone. Perhaps the fundamentalists will not. After all, it is their dissatisfaction with the status quo which causes them to come up with independence as an answer in the same way as it causes others to see devolution as the answer to the unsatisfactory status quo.

9.15 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

As my amendment, which seeks to insert the words "I want an independent Scotland", is being discussed at the moment, perhaps I may say a few words. What this whole issue shows is how unsatisfactory it is when we start producing advisory referenda. The Government start saying, "We shall only take advice on this issue, not that". That shows how referenda can be rigged to get the answer that is required.

I find that the issue of Scotland is in a funny way more simple than what is proposed by the Government. In 1707 the Scottish people, in effect, joined an English union. They joined the club. If they do not want to be in that club, I have no difficulty with that. The Scottish people did join an English union. They joined and they subsumed their powers in the British Parliament and it became the UK Parliament. That is an historical fact. It is no use the Minister arguing because that is self-evidently what happened.

Lord Sewel

I thank the noble Earl for giving way. I think he would cause less anguish on these and some other Benches if he recognised the distinction between the United Kingdom and England.

The Earl of Onslow

That is exactly the point I am making. The English union became the United Kingdom. The English make up 87 per cent. of the United Kingdom. The whole difficulty of this is that a very small minority of the United Kingdom want special rules for themselves. The Irish solved this problem by going their own way. That is easy to accept. If the Scots do not want to be part of the United Kingdom, that is easy. We do not have to send the XX Vintrix Legion back to Hadrian's Wall. Unless this option is on offer we shall get ourselves into a terrible and ghastly muddle because without doubt the English will feel aggrieved. Therefore, it would be easier to have an independent Scotland outside the union than to have an unhappy and nationalist England.

That will arise because the West Lothian question is not answerable. If tax is put up the Scots will say that it has to be put up because the Parliament at Westminster is not giving Scotland enough. If tax goes down the English will then say, "If the Scots think they can take the tax down we shall not give them such a large subsidy". We know perfectly well that the block grant for the National Health Service is 12.5 per cent. higher per head of population in Scotland than it is in England.

All of those threats are on the horizon. All of those threats will make the union more and more difficult. Surely it would be better to point this out, have it said and have it in the open. We could do that by asking, "Do I want Scots independence?" Scots independence is much easier to understand than a devolved Scotland with all the hassle that is bound to bring. If I, with five O-levels—the same number as the Princess of Wales—can understand the hassle, surely the Government can understand it.

Earl Russell

I promise not to take up more than a little of the Committee's time, but the noble Earl is profoundly mistaken in describing what happened in 1707 as the English union. I grant his point that England is a much larger country numerically. However, the distinction that has to be made is between the numerical and economic balance on the one hand and the legal relationship on the other. The legal relationship is exactly like the treaty which formed the European Union. It is a relationship between sovereign and equal powers. If the noble Earl cares to read the Act of Union, which is in the Library, he will see that very clearly indeed.

The concern of the Scots has been entirely about the English difficulty in recognising that legal equality. Because they foresaw the difficulty about the inequality of size to which the noble Earl has drawn attention, from the very beginning of the 1707 negotiations they had a preference for a much more federal pattern of union. What we have discovered now is that the Scots in 1707 who wanted that were showing very good political judgment.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

The West Lothian question is very important: it is crucial to the working of any form of devolution. It can be resolved only in a federal context. My noble kinsman Lord Mar and Kellie mentioned the word "federal" a few minutes ago in the context of what is proposed. But what is proposed is not a federal solution. If it were I would not be nearly as unhappy as I am.

I go back to the amendments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, the noble Lord, Lord Sempill and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. As I understand it, the Scottish National Party has indicated to its members that in a referendum they would be expected to vote for devolution and for a devolved parliament, as the Government are proposing, with a view to it being a stepping stone to Scottish independence. That is what I understand.

Lord Rowallan

I am sorry to take up so much time at this hour of the night. The noble Lords, Lord Williams of Mostyn and Lord Sewel, have told us time and again that they look upon the referendum as advisory and for guidance purposes only. Yet the questions they are asking will produce very little advice and very little guidance. As a pro-devolutionist Tory I find it almost impossible to answer the two questions they ask if they do not fit anything that I want.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, was of interest to me, but I do not believe that he has gone far enough. As he correctly said, one option is that there should be no change to the government of Scotland, which I believe is a non-starter because the Scottish people will simply not stand for it. A grand committee having legislative power is the second option. I agree that there should be a devolved Scottish parliament, which is the third option. I agree that we should have a federal system, the fourth option, and I agree that there should be an independent Scottish parliament, the fifth option.

Those are the five options before us. Surely, if you want to find out what the Scots or the Welsh want, they should be asked all those questions and then a White Paper should be produced which answers the questions which the Scots people have provided. It strikes me that we have the worst of both worlds. We are looking for advice, but we are not asking the right questions. We are producing a White Paper before we have the advice we are looking for. I cannot see that we are going to gain a great deal from the referendum. We could end up being in an even bigger muddle than we are to start with.

I hope that the Government will look seriously at this because otherwise we could get into a great muddle. As I said at Second Reading, there is no going back once we have made the decisions, even if they are wrong. This is a vital matter not just for Scotland and for Wales, but for England and Northern Ireland also because we are a "United Kingdom" and long may we be so. However, I believe that there must be some form of devolution and the only way forward that I can see is the federal system which the Liberal Democrats have proposed but which, for some reason, they are not proposing now. I am frightened that, given the questions that we are posing at the moment, we could end up with a hotchpotch that causes more and more problems and leads to the break-up of the United Kingdom. I do not believe that that is what the Government want, but that is what we could end up with if we are not careful.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

Before the noble Lord sits down, we do not have a White Paper; we are not producing a White Paper; we are still waiting for it.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Perhaps I may advise the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, and others that if you ask the way somewhere, it is better to ask a simple question such as, "Which is the way?" rather than to ask, "How many ways can I take to get there?"

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

May I ask the Government to confirm that they regard the Union as similar to a marriage which can be renegotiated?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

If the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, wants a simple question, I invite him, as I have done on a number of occasions, to table the same amendment as was tabled by his honourable friend Mr. James Wallace in another place because that was a simple question. Indeed, there is a lot to be said for that simple question. Your Lordships know that I am not greatly in favour of referendums. I have made that clear all along. I am less in favour of pre-legislative referendums and, if I can do this by degrees, I am even less in favour of referendums which ask multiple questions where the answer to one may be entirely dependent on the result of another. That is why I would be very much in favour of considering an amendment such as that tabled in another place by Mr. Wallace. Such an amendment could coalesce the two questions into one question asking the Scots whether they agreed or disagreed with a tax-raising Parliament for Scotland. I am paraphrasing, but the honourable Member for Orkney & Shetland felt strongly enough to put the matter to a vote. Obviously, the Liberal Democrats in this House are not intending to table such an amendment. They are going to leave it—

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My honourable friend tabled his amendment, got his answer but then did not labour the point, as would some Members of this House.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Ah! The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, being a countryman, should know that you have to keep at these issues if you want to win in the end. It is a little like fishing, as his noble friend Lord Steel, who is sitting beside him, will tell him. There is no point in presenting the fly to the fish only once; you must keep on presenting it to the fish or else you will never succeed.

We are being invited to look not at one question, but at three options. I hear what my noble friend Lord Rowallan says about there being more than three options, but one needs to be careful about how one expands this. I believe that there are three principal options.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, does not mind if I say that I think that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, better encapsulates the issue than either his amendment or that tabled by my noble friend Lord Onslow because it gives a three-way option.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

They are not incompatible. On the contrary, what the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, has done is to express what was implied by my two amendments.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I agree absolutely with the noble and learned Lord but, as far as the ballot paper is concerned, if we are to go down the road which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, invites us to tread, we would be better to present a three-way option—a little like that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill—to the Scottish people on 4th September or whenever the referendum is to be. We could even tighten it a little by adding to the middle question the words, "I agree that there should be a devolved Parliament along the lines of the White Paper" although I admit that that may be a previous argument.

I do not want at this time of night to have some sport about last year's Labour Party pantomime. I had my sport at Second Reading and I do not think that the joke will improve any at the second time of telling.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am pleased to hear that your Lordships' agree with that proposition.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

Perhaps the noble Lord would move a little down the pool.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am tempted to do that, but the tail of the pool is always a place where it is worth pausing for a little while. One never knows whether one might find a resting fish—or a Minister.

We are all aware of the confusion of the party opposite last year on this question. It has put itself into a position where it must ask these two questions in Scotland and one in Wales. Interestingly enough, five years ago it said that there should be a three-way referendum. I pointed out at Second Reading that Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, in addressing the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Dundee in 1992, said that support for such a three-way referendum should be shouted from the rooftops. He was reported in the Daily Telegraph of 13th April to have said that the party's 49 Scottish MPs would campaign for a multi-option referendum on the country's political future. Scotland United, which was formed in 1992, certainly made that very clear. It said that one of the big problems with the 1979 referendum was the absence from the ballot paper of the independence option, which meant that a significant section of the Scottish population was denied the opportunity to vote for its preferred option.

I read with some interest the speech by Mr. John McAllion, Member of Parliament for Dundee—I can never remember whether he represents East or West—in the other place at Committee stage of this Bill when he addressed these issues that had been raised in the other place by the Leader of the Scottish National Party, Mr. Alex Salmond. Mr. McAllion made it perfectly clear that the "yes; yes" vote would depend on Scottish National Party supporters. I asked the Minister who is to reply—I did not get a reply then and it would be nice to have one now—whether the Government welcomed the support in this referendum of those people who wanted an independent Scotland; that is, people who would far rather vote for the third option in the three-way option of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, or for the proposition put by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. Do they really welcome the support of the Scottish National Party which I understand will organise a campaign on the basis of "yes; yes" as the first step to independence? That simple question was not answered previously. I should like to have an answer to it now.

I accept the point made by my noble friend Lord Rowallan that the majority, but not all, of the Liberal Democrat Party and the majority of the Labour Party in Scotland, although I do not believe all of them, favour a continuation of the Union. I accept what my friends in the Labour Party tell me that they are just as good unionists as I am but they view the way forward slightly differently. But are they happy that at the end of this referendum if they have (in football terms) a result, the Scottish National Party will be able to say—and they will—"You have only got a result because we supported you. Without the support of the people who wanted independence, you would not have achieved this majority"? That would be a very unstable position for Scotland to be in following the referendum. The only way round that is to have a three-way option.

I believe that the majority of my fellow countrymen, whether or not they want devolution, are firmly unionist. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, the Secretary of State for Scotland, whom I know well, and I agree with that absolutely. I want the referendum to isolate the people in my country—and the people in Wales if it comes to it—who want independence. I believe that that is the best way to proceed. If they are found to be more than half of the "yes; yes" potential vote I fear that my country may move towards independence, but I would rather have that than huge instability for the next 10 years because there was no proper answer to the settled will of the Scottish people. I believe that there is a compelling argument to try to ensure that the very small minority of my fellow countrymen, as I believe they are, who want to break apart from England and destroy the 300-year-old Union are isolated and shown to be the minority that they are. If they are now shown to be the minority that they are, then inevitably the chorus in a couple of years' time will be, "You only got this assembly because the majority who voted yes wanted independence".

I do not have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, that some people in the Labour Party in Scotland are probably more in that category than not. It is a small minority, but they are there. Every poll shows it. There is a small minority in the Labour Party who would prefer independence. In fact, the 1992 group that I mentioned previously got pretty close to it in Scotland United, but those people wanted it to be clear that there was a proper three-way option.

There is a good argument for a three-way option. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, will have to address these questions. Do the Government welcome the support of the SNP in their "Yes, yes" campaign as a first step to Scottish independence? Do they really want the settled will of the Scottish people? If they do, should they not be asking something along the lines proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill? Otherwise how will we all deal with the situation some months or years ahead when the SNP says that we have only had this as the first step to independence, and that is why people voted "Yes, yes" in the referendum—if, in fact, they do.

I am not in favour of having a referendum. I am firmly in the Unionist camp. Everyone knows that. Having read the speech of Donald Dewar, the shadow Secretary of State in 1992, saying that he backed a multi-option referendum, I wonder why the Labour Party, now the Government, has changed. If it was good enough in 1992, surely it is good enough now. I should be a great deal happier if I knew that I was going to be campaigning on a referendum which would settle the issue and show which of the three propositions had the biggest support in Scotland. Frankly, I doubt whether any has a majority if we are talking about over 50 per cent. Of course that is what worries the Government.

I should like to know on 5th September how many of my fellow Scots want to carry on in the Union largely as it is constituted, with one Parliament; how many want to go down the devolutionary road with tax raising powers; and how many want to have a divorce settlement, as the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, said, and end the Union. I would rather look forward to my early old age and my later old age knowing that this matter is settled once and for all. I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments. I look forward to hearing the Government's answer.

Lord Sewel

We all know that this group of amendments seeks to put the independence option on the ballot paper. It is dressed up in slightly different words in the various amendments but, in essence, that is what the grouping is all about. The simple, fundamental point is that independence for Scotland and Wales is not Her Majesty's Government's policy. The referendum is about testing support for the Government's policy on devolution—no more, no less. It is not an opinion poll.

Let us again go over the facts. All government spokesmen have made it abundantly clear that government policy is devolution within the Union. That is the road down which we are going. That is the policy we feel confident in putting to the people of Scotland. We have no confidence in putting the option of independence to the people of Scotland. It would be a misguided policy. It would be irresponsible to have the question of independence on a ballot paper—a ballot paper which would be structured in the context of the debate on devolution. Independence would just be something tagged on at the end. That is not a sane and responsible way of tackling the problem.

As we have made clear, our position is that it is devolution within the Union. That is the way we shall go and that is the proposal that we shall put before the people. We will put our proposals to the people of Scotland on the basis of them being spelt out in the White Paper, which we all know will be published well ahead of the referendum. We do not see the referendum as being about holding an opinion poll; it is about seeking endorsement of a specific policy.

Holding an opinion poll will tell us nothing that we do not know already. We know exactly the views of the people of Scotland on independence. They spoke most recently in the general election; the independence option was rejected and the devolution option was supported. In the run up to that election, the leading spokesmen of the party opposite made the point that we as an opposition were somehow frightened to put our proposals on devolution in front of the Scottish people because, as the then Secretary of State for Scotland claimed, we feared that we did not have the support of the people. The referendum is about nailing the argument that the people of Scotland do not support the policy of devolution.

It would be absolutely clear what advice and guidance the Government would receive if, as I expect, the outcome of the referendum is, "Yes, yes". The advice and guidance is simple; the people of Scotland want the scheme and they will get the scheme that we propose—

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I do not speak for the Scottish National Party, but what advice does the noble Lord give to a member who wants independence?

Lord Sewel

It is not my job to give advice to members of another party. It is up to members of all political parties to see our proposals and decide whether they wish to support them. There will be some members of the Conservative Party who support them—that is, some recently departed members and perhaps more—and there may be some members of my party who will reject them.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am grateful. I shall not ask the noble Lord what his advice to Conservatives would be because he has already given it. However, he is unwilling to give it to the Scottish Nationalists. Is he therefore advising Scottish Nationalists to vote, "Yes, yes"?

Lord Sewel

I am advising the electorate of Scotland to read the White Paper. If it contains a set of proposals which they can support they should vote for it, whether they belong to the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democratic Party or the Scottish National Party. I shall certainly not say to a member of any party, "Don't vote yes in the referendum if you happen to belong to a particular party". It is up to everyone to reach a judgment on the merits of the case laid out in the White Paper. When, on that basis, the people of Scotland have decided, we will have the advice and guidance that we seek. We will have a clear endorsement from the people of Scotland for the proposals that we are advocating. We are not advocating independence. We are not having independence on the ballot paper because the people of Scotland have spoken already on the issue of independence and have rejected it decisively.

9.45 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

If they have rejected it decisively, why cannot it be on the ballot paper? This matter is terribly important. The Government are proposing a limited choice on a constitutional issue. It is a choice which has terrible downsides to it which the Government are determined not to recognise. Therefore, the people should be asked also on the ballot paper whether they want independence. Of course we shall not press this matter to a vote but I do not understand why the Government cannot take this point.

Lord Rowallan

I accept totally what has been said about the last election. At that time, we discovered how many votes the Labour Party, the SNP, the Conservative Party and the Scottish Liberals received. But we did not discover from that how many people within each of those parties voted for them for reasons other than devolution and how many voted for them because of the devolution proposal. That is the difference and that is why we need to have those answers.

Lord Sewel

That is exactly why we are having a referendum—to deal with that argument about the extent of support for devolution. We are not having independence on the ballot paper because that is not government policy. The reason for the referendum is to test popular support for the Government's policy.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I do not wish to prolong this discussion but this issue is extremely important. It may be that the people of Scotland vote "Yes" in the referendum and it is known that a majority has been obtained only because of the votes of those who wish to use a Scottish parliament in order to break up the Union. Are the Government happy that they may achieve a majority through an SNP vote?

Lord Sewel

I am not a great advocate of psychological counselling so I shall not go down the path of looking into the minds, motives and inner workings of whether people have voted "yes" because they wanted independence or not. It is a very simple proposition: do you or do you not agree with the proposals contained in the White Paper? Nothing could be simpler.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

The Minister has dug himself into a hole which is even deeper than the one into which I might have been able to dig him if I had been trying. I have read the Scottish press over the past few weeks. The Labour Party has been extremely keen to try to recruit the Scottish National Party to this particular cause and it has even been keen to try to recruit the Conservative Party to it. It is almost as though it does not matter what you think. It is now the conventional wisdom; the establishment has decreed it; and forget about democracy—we should all be on the same side. It seems a bit daft to hold a referendum and to try to get everybody on the same side so that there is no opposition.

But be that as it may, it is definitely true that the Labour Party has been attempting either directly or through its front organisation—the Constitutional Convention—to persuade the Scottish National Party to join in the campaign. I do not blame the Labour Party for that at all. But the fact is that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, seemed to be badly briefed by the Labour Party—and I am sure that it is not the government machine because that takes no part in such matters—about what it has been trying to do over the past many weeks. It has been trying to recruit the Scottish National Party to the "Yes, yes" campaign. I have no argument with that and it can do that if it likes. But you cannot differentiate between those people who vote "Yes, yes" and who are firmly Unionist, like the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Dewar, and those who vote "Yes, yes" like Mr. Alex Salmond—to pluck a name out of the air—who wish to use this as the way to independence and who do not believe in devolution for a single second.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I have seen a couple of polls which show that when the Scottish National Party was asked whether it preferred devolution or independence, about 30 per cent. voted for devolution.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

That is right. So why not let them vote? The Scottish National Party voting by intention on the referendum question is very significantly in favour of the "Yeses". In fact, 94 per cent. of SNP voters will vote "Yes". That is bigger than any other party's vote for the "Yes". So the bulk of SNP voters will quite clearly vote "Yes". They will not do so for devolution; they will do so for independence. Interestingly enough, only 59 per cent. of Liberal Democrats will vote "Yes" and 34 per cent. of them will actually vote "No". Does that not make the representation in this Chamber a little skewed when one considers the speeches that one has heard? Even the Labour Party has 79 per cent. voting "Yes" and 16 per cent. voting "No". Just before any Member of the Committee jumps up to quote it, 26 per cent. of the Conservative vote will vote "Yes" and 64 per cent. will vote "No". So there is some cross-party disagreement when it comes to the question.

I have to say that the Liberal Democrats are the most split of them all. When it comes to the second question— namely, the tax-raising question—the poor old Liberal Democrats are in their normal position of facing both ways. According to the ICM poll of The Scotsman, 46 per cent. will vote in favour of a tax-raising assembly and 46 will vote against a tax-raising assembly. That seems to be a perfect result for the Liberal Democrat Party. However, that is a little aside into which they tempted me, although with not too much trouble.

I return now to the main point; namely, that we have this amazing disagreement. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, seems to be totally unprepared to give Scottish nationals any advice on how they should vote, yet everyone who reads the Scottish press knows that both the Labour Party and its front organisation the Scottish Constitutional Convention, are very keen to recruit the SNP to the "Yes, yes" campaign.

The second point to which I wish to return is the dismissive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, dealt with the question of a three-way referendum. I should have taken note of what he said, but I believe he more or less told us that no one in his right mind could ever propose a three-way referendum. I have to tell him that I have with me a report by Mr. Ian Bruce, a correspondent of the Glasgow Herald, dated 23rd April 1992 reporting on the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Perth. In that report, someone called Donald Dewar—and it may well be a different Donald Dewar for all I know—was actually advocating a "multi-option referendum". Indeed, he said quite clearly that he wanted such a referendum. I do not have to answer any of the questions; indeed, I now find myself in a new position. The question is quite simple: was Donald Dewar wrong then or is he wrong now?

Lord Sewel

Very simply, the advice that I would give to the people of Scotland, no matter which party they belong to—and, indeed, even if they do not belong to any party—and regardless of whether or not they have voted before, is to vote "Yes, yes" in the referendum. That is the advice I would give them because I have confidence in the scheme that we will be proposing to the people of Scotland. As I said, it does not matter which party they come from. I would give the same advice to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, although I do not believe that he will take it on this occasion. I should add that I do not have to give such advice to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

There is something that I would really like to know, although I do not suppose that I will get an answer. If the independence option was put on the ballot paper, as a matter of pure speculation is it expected that the argument about independence should be contained within the White Paper?

Lord Sempill

As I spoke to one of the amendments, the answer to my noble friend Lord Sewel is, no. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay pointed out, it would make sense for us to put in a second option that it is a devolved assembly as laid down by Her Majesty's Government. I believe that that gets round the problem.

Perhaps I may take the attention of my noble friend the Minister for a moment longer to ask a further question. One of the advantages of a multi-option referendum is that the Government have obviously been given a substantial mandate by the people of Scotland to give the Scots a form of government where they can have larger control over their own affairs. It must be of some interest to the Government therefore to understand exactly where the Scots are coming from. If, in a multi-option referendum, nearly 40 per cent. vote for some form of independence, would that not influence the legislation that is likely to be produced in a devolution Bill?

Lord Thomas of Gresford

I hope I may venture into the Scottish scene from a Welsh perspective. It seems to me that the official Opposition regard voters as members of armies who are in some way controlled or owned by political leaders. They talk about voters as Scottish nationalists, Labour supporters and so on, as if they were always within one grouping and always wore the same tabard. What we are talking about are people in Scotland and people in Wales. In Wales the nationalists achieved rather less than 10 per cent. of the vote in the previous election. That was of course less than the Liberal Democrats, and even less than the Conservatives. The vote in Scotland for independence, as expressed in that way, was small. However, one does not regard those who vote for the Welsh nationalists as seeking independence 100 per cent.; there are all sorts of views expressed within that party.

In this referendum one must be as inclusive as possible and draw together as many people as possible behind a "Yes" vote. That is what we are seeking to do in Wales. We do not care how people have voted in the past—even if they have voted for the Conservatives and have now seen the light—so long as they support the principle that the status quo cannot remain and that there must be change. We do not seek the distant scene; one step is enough for us.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I am most grateful to all who have taken part in the debate. I say with respect that I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, most effective and indeed most moving. I entirely agree that there are three main options ahead: status quo, devolution within the Union, and devolution outside the Union. The only difference between my amendment and my position and that of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and my noble friend Lord Sempill, is whether the third question should be expressed or implied. I am inclined to think that they are right and that it should be expressed. Having said that, naturally I shall want to consider the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan. Perhaps there are more options which ought to be put before the electorate.

We are going through a severe phase of gesture politics and the gestures are almost always to distract attention from a fudge. The matters we are discussing at the moment embody two of the biggest fudges—the two questions that are being put—because what the Government want is to have a vote approaching the size of that which Hitler achieved in his plebiscite. Therefore they ask two questions that will attract the vote both of the devolutionists who are Unionists and the devolutionists who are anti-Unionist.

The first question is, "Do you want a Scottish parliament?". The answer of the government supporters will be, "Yes, we want a Scottish parliament on the lines that are defined", or, if the noble Lord prefers it, on the lines that the Government will put forward in their White Paper. But they will also receive the support of the Scottish nationalists, who will say, "Yes, we want a parliament but a parliament with plenary powers over all matters affecting Scotland". It is a fudge in order to get a maximum figure in the plebiscite.

The second question is also a fudge: "Do you want to vary taxation?". The Government's case is, "Yes, we want powers to vary the basic rate of income tax", although I think they are having second thoughts about the phrase "basic rate". At any rate, it is income tax. But that is not the way that the Scottish nationalists will interpret it. They say: "Yes, we want to vary customs and excise duties and VAT; we want a customs barrier on the Border". That is the great danger.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, who has answered this debate, as so many, with enormous skill, says: "We are having a referendum"—I nearly said "plebiscite" because that is really what it is—"because the Conservatives opposed devolution at the general election and we want to show that they were wrong. We do not find it necessary to put the question of independence on the ballot paper because that was rejected at the general election by the electorate in Scotland". Yet in the very same breath he says: "But so were the Conservatives".

When we find an extremely able Minister arguing in that way we must be filled with suspicion as to the real motive. The real motive is for political advantage, to obtain the maximum government vote on both questions.

However, I said that I would not pursue any of my amendments to a division and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 65B: Page 4, line 18, leave out ("AGREE THAT") and insert ("WANT").

The noble Lord said: I shall be very brief. In the 1979 referendum the question was, "Do you want the provisions of the Scotland Act 1978 to be put into effect?". It is interesting that the questions in this referendum will be, "Do you agree?". I wonder if there is any significant difference. I can see that some people may want the proposition; I can see that others may have been bullied by all the pressure in the media and elsewhere into feeling that they must agree to it. I was going to use this opportunity to point out the ICM poll for The Scotsman and the interesting dilemma that the Liberal Democrats were in, but I have already had that opportunity so I can be even briefer than I had intended to be.

The Government ought to explain why they have changed the word from "want", as it was in 1979, to "agree". If they say that it is because of the difference between a pre-legislative referendum and a post-legislative referendum, I must say to them that I would prefer the post-legislative referendum and the simple question "Do you want?". That seems to me a much more active question than "Do you agree to?", which is the kind of thing that a salesman asks you when he tries to sell you something that you do not really want but perhaps you do not really not want; whereas to ask, "Do you want this?" is a much more positive statement, which, I suspect, would probably get a slightly different answer than the softer question, "Do you agree?". Maybe I am too suspicious about the Government's use of terminology. However, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, can explain the change. I beg to move.

Lord Sewel

I wonder whether a post-legislative referendum would have the independence option as well—but that is another matter. As indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, the amendment would change the wording from "I agree" to "I want". I have to admit that we puzzled and worried over this point for some time. We wondered what it was all about. The noble Lord's intentions are usually admirably clear, even though I rarely find myself agreeing with them. Clarity is one of his great strengths. On this occasion, we were completely bemused by the argument of why "agree" should go out and "want" should come in.

I take the amendment at face value and assume that the noble Lord seeks quite legitimately to probe the reasoning behind the way in which the ballot papers are constructed. I feel that that is what is behind the amendment. Therefore, it may help if I explain why we settled on the wording on the ballot paper.

Let me say at the outset that this is an important point. The wording of all questions is very important. I spent well over 20 years of my life devising opinion questionnaires on all kinds of social and political issues. I am very well aware of how changing a few words can easily help, if not determine, the outcome. It helps to determine the outcome. It is important to take expert advice on the wording of questions, and we did so. We took it from the returning officers, the Association of Electoral Administrators, specifically on how to make the questions fair, clear and unambiguous. I am pleased to say that the general reaction to the ballot papers suggests that we have it right, although I accept that, at the end of the day, one has to reach one's own judgment on these matters.

We firmly believe our judgment to be right. All reputable polling firms devising opinion questions adopt the construction "I agree" and not "I want" because it has been found over the years that "I agree" is a much better way of getting the underlying opinion construct. We took advice, knowing this to be an important matter, and we have the support of independent practitioners that our proposal is the right way forward.

As I said when we debated earlier the tax varying question, it is important that the proposition is put at the level of principle. I accept that the amendment is consistent with that notion. I also made clear that it is the combination of the proposition on the ballot paper and the details set out in the White Paper which together produce the clarity that we seek. That is a very important factor because all the questions on the ballot paper are phrased in terms of agreeing to the Government's proposals contained in the White Papers. That would be lost under the rather crude "I want" construction. It would not refer back and embed the answer in the Government's proposals in the White Paper. On the basis of that clarification, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I think I am grateful for that explanation. I am not sure whether it convinced me of the case for changing the wording from the 1979 referendum. But there we are. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, tried to explain it. In fact, I suspect that the people who occasionally send me or my wife a form with about 60 questions on various issues, in order to try to ascertain my opinions, and who usually offer me a free holiday in some draw which chances are nobody will ever win, frame the answers in exactly that way in order to attempt to get you to agree with the proposition they are putting. It is a proposition which can vary all the way from things like smoking to what kind of whisky one drinks and all sorts of other things.

Lord Sewel

We all accept that the decision is a vitally important one for the people of Scotland, and we all make important decisions in our lives. Can I ask the noble Lord what words he used when he got married? Were they, "I agree" or "I want"?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I said, "Yes, of course dear"! That was a good try by the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and is the best argument he has advanced for the word "agree" rather than "want".

Leaving that aside, the practitioners he consulted are no doubt the same practitioners that send out those copious forms. I was about to say that I accept his explanation, but I do not. I understand his explanation; I do not accept it. I find it interesting that the 1979 referendum, which was quite clearly "want"—a much firmer word—has now been superseded by "agree". That shows the wobbliness of the Labour Party in relation to putting this question to a referendum for the second time.

With that little bit of interesting discussion, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 66 to 74 not moved.]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 74A:

Page 4, line 22, at end insert—



Parliament has decided to consult the people in Scotland on the Government's proposals for a Scottish Parliament:

Put a cross (X) in the appropriate box

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment, together with Amendment No. 77A, invites the people of Scotland and Wales particularly to express their views on the important West Lothian question. That phrase was invented by an extremely able and independent-minded Scottish Member of the other place. He said, "How can I possibly justify refusing to let an English Parliament participate in matters that are purely Scottish when I assert my right as a Scottish Member of Parliament at Westminster to participate in matters that are purely English?" It is an extremely difficult question to answer; as a devolutionist and as an opponent of the threshold, I find it impossible.

The question that is proposed to be included in the ballot paper is at the bottom of page 6 of the Marshalled List and reads: I agree that, if there is a Scottish parliament, Members of Parliament at Westminster for Scottish constituencies should take no part there in proceedings which do not extend to Scotland".

The second amendment puts that question the other way round, in the negative.

I hope the Minister will not say, "That is not our policy". Whether or not it is—I suspect that it is not—I am not asking him to say tonight because I fear that I should get the "South Sea Bubble" answer again. All I am asking is for an exercise in democratic participation and popular consent, and that it should be the people of Scotland who answer that question. I do not know how they would answer it but I do know that it will be extremely important to our final deliberations to know what they think. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I approve of this proposed referendum question. For me it supplies the best and most satisfactory answer to the West Lothian question. The alternative, which would be reducing Scottish representation at Westminster, would be far less satisfactory. Although it would have been drawn from experience of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, a reduction would not be an improvement of the British union. Scotland would need to retain its influence over the powers reserved to Westminster. Somehow I do not think that that would be accepted. However, it would be a better second question— disposing of the question of taxation powers.

Lord Rowallan

I like the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, except that I think it is addressed to the wrong people. The Scots will not be affected by it one way or the other. If they can get representation in Scotland and down here in the Mother of Parliaments, they will think that this is wonderful. The question should be addressed to the people of England, who, under the system being proposed, will, when and if we have a Scottish parliament and when and if we have a Welsh assembly, be the only people not to have one. They will be desperately under-represented. That is where the independence problem will arise. That is why the federal system is the only way out.

Everyone must have the same. Each country should have either nothing or a parliament. Everyone will then be quite happy. What we have at the moment is a hotch-potch. A parliament with certain powers in Ireland, a parliament with tax-raising powers in Scotland, a talking shop or a parish council in Wales—and in England, nothing.

Lord Lucas

Perhaps I may be allowed to cast one last fly over the Dispatch Box opposite. It is late at night and we have not had much success so far. However, I suspect that one of the Ministers lurking behind it may be hungry and may be tempted to have at least a swirl at it.

I wonder whether the Minister can enlighten me as to whether this question also affects Wales. It very much depends on how the Government are thinking as to whether the powers they intend to grant the new assembly amount to depriving MPs at Westminster of control over substantial parts of legislation, thereby effectively making it Welsh legislation, or whether things will be structured in such a way that, as they would be at the moment with the continuation of the Welsh Office, the ultimate authority and responsibility continues to rest with the Westminster Parliament. Can the noble Lord enlighten me on that point?

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

What the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, has just said is absolutely right. This is a far wider question than just a question of whether Scottish MPs should vote on English domestic matters. I support him on that point.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

In the three days of Committee I have resisted moving ahead of ourselves, so to speak, into a devolution Bill (if that is what we eventually end up with) and have kept pretty tightly to discussing the referendum. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, would agree with that. However, I have been tempted slightly wider by the amendment. As it is one of the last amendments, I do not see the point of resisting temptation for ever. I might get the reputation of being very boring if I did that.

This is a difficult question and it is one to which we shall return if and when we come to the devolution Bill. I refer to what Scottish Members of Parliament will do here at Westminster. One can argue that perhaps we ought to have slightly fewer of them. I have no doubt that we shall go into that when we come to the Bill. I have a pretty firm view that in the Union Scotland ought to have more MPs than England pro rata, but I am not entirely convinced that there should be quite as many more as we have now. There could have been a good argument in favour of Scotland having many more when travel was not what it is today. People usually pray in aid the scattered nature of much of Scotland, but a closer look will show that, apart from two or three constituencies, the small constituencies in Scotland are in the City of Glasgow. As I now live there, I have to tell the Committee that getting from Glasgow to Westminster is extremely easy. I imagine that it is a good deal easier than it is getting to Westminster from many constituencies in England. Therefore, I believe that these arguments are out of date. When devolution arrives there is no doubt that the number and role of the Scottish Members will have to be questioned.

Perhaps I may explain the West Lothian question like this. Today we had a Statement on education. I sat open-mouthed and wide-eyed. Members of the Committee who followed the Committee stage today will realise that in a former life I taught mathematics; that was about 20 years ago. Then I had an uphill battle—indeed, a last-ditch struggle—to prevent mixed ability classes. That was considered the thing to do. The whole left-wing progressive education establishment was ranged against me. I had to concede the principle of mixed ability classes for the first year. I fought a rear-guard action and stopped it going any further in the school where I taught. Thereafter, I believe, mixed ability classes increased up the school and across subjects. It always seemed to me to be a fairly daft idea and I am amazed to learn now that the party opposite believes that it was a daft idea. Frankly, some penitence would come nicely from the party opposite and the left-wing education establishment, every training college, every lecturer and inspector.

A noble Lord

What has all this to do with this amendment?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I shall be coming to that in a moment.

Let us consider this proposition. Let us assume for a minute that in Scotland the power of the educational institutes of Scotland and the progressive establishment were still to be considerable after devolution and that in Scotland they were not going to make this policy change, but were to stick resolutely to mixed ability classes. Here, however, the Government decided that for England and Wales there should be change. What role does a Scottish Member of Parliament take? Does he agree to a change, which in his view is detrimental to pupils, otherwise it would be happening in Scotland? Does he just go along with the fact that he is down here, voting on an English matter, and therefore he should go along with the majority of English Members? Or does he vote with his convictions and against the change being proposed in England, keeping mixed ability classes in England?

That is the West Lothian question. I thought today when listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that this education point puts the matter in stark reality. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, makes the very valid point that we ought to know. If we are going to know where we are with tax raising powers— the Government have left themselves open on this matter—after the referendum, why should we not know where we are with the West Lothian question? Indeed, why should we not know about a lot of other matters after the referendum?

The West Lothian question is very important. It is well encapsulated in education, health and so on. Scottish Members of Parliament could come to Westminster and influence decisions affecting England which they would not be able to influence in Scotland. Often the West Lothian question is portrayed wrongly. It is looked at from the point of view of English Members. It is nothing to do with them but with Scottish Members and, if it comes to it, Welsh Members. It affects more particularly Scottish Members because the Scottish parliament will have much more power than the Welsh assembly. Will those Scottish Members be able to take decisions for English people that they cannot take for their own constituents? If so, the responsibility link between a Member and his constituency will be broken.

We shall return to this when we get the devolution Bill—if it comes to a Bill—but, for the moment, I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has posed an interesting and valid question. The Government ought to consider taking it on board and posing to the Scottish people the question of what they, the Scottish people, want to do about their MPs' continuing role at Westminster.

Lord Desai

I find this doctrine rather strange. I had always thought that, irrespective of where MPs come from, they will make up their minds on an issue according to its merits. Therefore, Welsh and Scottish MPs can speak on English topics while English MPs can speak on Welsh or Scottish topics. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree with the Burkean aphorism that an MP is there to give his or her views on any question. However, that is no longer the case. We now have regional representatives. Perhaps I should say that we have "national" representatives in view of the sensitivities of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, with regard to calling Scotland a "region". The noble Earl gets quite excited about that. I can see that if there were so many MPs from Scotland that they could overwhelm or out-vote the English MPs on an English topic, that might be cause for a sleepless night or two. We shall return again and again to that question.

I have always felt that the West Lothian question is put in a very peculiar way. It is as if Scottish MPs could have nothing to say about England just because they do not represent an English constituency. English MPs have had a lot to say about Scottish matters for a long time. In some matters I believe that we should still think of this United Kingdom as a single entity about which, wherever they come from, people have a right to speak on different matters.

To follow the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, perhaps I may say that had the noble Lord been a Scottish MP, he may well have felt oppressed by fellow Scottish MPs in Scotland, given his views towards mixed ability teaching, but he could have come down here to vote against it. Wouldn't that have been nice for him? We should think about this matter not in terms of regional representation, but in terms of what we are asking our MPs to do. Is it not their job to speak about matters in general? If mere numbers were all that was important and if English MPs felt oppressed because Scottish MPs were against them, could we not consider having qualified majority voting? Those days may well come.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

As this is a Committee stage, perhaps I may join in some discussion of this point with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, in order to clarify the position for the Minister who will have to reply. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, and I normally cross swords on weightier matters, if I may put it that way, relating to economics. I am only sorry that in the past few days the Government have not given us the opportunity to discuss the Budget and, among other matters, the penal taxation policies that are being imposed on important Scottish and English pension funds. However, I gather that towards the end of the month we shall have an opportunity to discuss such matters when the Second Reading of the Finance Bill will be brought to your Lordships' House. I am sure that the noble Lord and I are greatly looking forward to that. Certainly, I am looking forward to it because I want to know whether the noble Lord will manage to support his own Government. The noble Lord is what I might call a radical and free thinker. He is not usually bound by the Whips or by anybody else.

The noble Lord rightly said that we should continue to be one United Kingdom. I absolutely and wholeheartedly agree. That is why I think that all the propositions that are before us are fundamentally flawed. I believe that one United Kingdom should be governed from one Parliament. However, if it is not, the question really is: does a Scottish Member of Parliament fall within the Burkean view that a Member's constituents are owed his judgment, if I recall it correctly? The answer is: yes, if at the general election his judgment will make any difference to his constituents. However, if the kind of scenario that is painted in this amendment comes about and there is devolution along the lines proposed that MP will not have any responsibility to his constituents. Therefore, his judgment will be of no interest to them, because in the case to which I referred he will have no say in the United Kingdom Parliament in mixed ability classes as far as concerns his constituents' children. That decision will have been taken by the Scottish parliament. It will have decided whether education in Scotland should continue to be run in this entirely loopy way of mixed ability or whether it should change to whole class teaching. They appear to be quite straightforward options.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Can the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, explain to the Committee how it is that a Member of Parliament for a Scottish constituency, for example that of the former Secretary of State, in a country where by agreement between the employers, the local authorities and teachers there is a maximum class size, can come down to Westminster and vote on proposals affecting the funding of education in England and Wales and deliberately thwart the desire of people in England and Wales to have maximum class sizes? This has occurred in the past 18 years. I believe that the Scottish term is "the red book". There has been an agreement on maximum class size. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us a little more about why in Scotland the maximum class size is a good thing, but in England and Wales it is not.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

The only red book of which I am aware, along with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is that which is published at the time of the Budget, except that it now seems to have changed to the white book— perhaps because the colour red has connotations for the Labour Party that it now wishes to put behind it. The point made by the noble Baroness is an interesting one. The reason why it has been perfectly reasonable in the past to do it is that the Scottish Member on issues like education, which are different north and south of the Border, has along with his English colleague had a say in education both north and south of the Border. Therefore, if Parliament decided, as it did, to impose certain class sizes in Scotland—

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My understanding—perhaps the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—is that the English Member of Parliament has had no say. It has been a Scottish Secretary of State who has given approval to an agreement internal to Scotland.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Up until 1st May and even today the Scottish Secretary of State holds that office by virtue of the majority in the United Kingdom Parliament where all Members are the same. Therefore, if one goes to the other place which is considering a piece of Scottish legislation at Second Read or Report stage—not Third Reading, because the other place does not have a Third Reading as we do—all Members of Parliament can vote. Therefore, the Scottish Member of Parliament can vote on English education matters and the English Member can vote on Scottish education matters. If we go down this road that will change. That is the point that I seek to make. The Scottish Member of Parliament will come down to England and will be able to vote on English matters. Let us suppose that he can vote to ensure that classes in England will not be mixed ability. He will have no say over such issues as far as concern his own constituents. It is that break of responsibility between a Member and his constituents that forms the West Lothian question.

Lord Monkswell

I believe that we are in danger of departing from the Bill before the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, makes a very interesting case about what may or may not he in the devolution proposals. We have before us a Bill to determine a very simple referendum asking the Scottish and Welsh people whether or not they want some form of devolution as yet unspecified. We have heard from the Government that there will be a White Paper to determine the form of that devolution once we have finished dealing with the Bill. People will then be able to make up their minds.

I raise two points. I take issue with the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. To be quite honest, they are very complicated. If one reads the amendment, by and large—

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

Does not the noble Lord underestimate the intelligence and expertise of the Scottish electorate?

Lord Monkswell

I do not underestimate the intelligence and experience of the Scottish electorate, but we must recognise that within the electors there is a vast range of experience and expertise in terms of judging public affairs.

One of the difficulties with the amendments is that they prejudge what will be suggested in the White Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, introduced the West Lothian question in a rather convoluted way. There are two plausible mechanisms for dealing with it. The first is to ensure that the people elected to the Scottish parliament are MPs for Scotland, in which case there would be no question that MPs for Scotland should not determine Scottish affairs. As representatives of UK constituencies they would be fully entitled to determine UK affairs. That is one solution to the West Lothian question.

Another solution to the West Lothian question is that the proposals put forward for Scotland and Wales (and, I believe in a different context, for Northern Ireland) should be made available also to the English regions and London. Although the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is an astute and capable debater in this place, I suspect that he has mislaid his direction when considering the substance of the matter before us, which is the referendum Bill.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention. We are debating the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on Scottish MPs. I have probably said as much as I needed to say about education and the education question posed this afternoon, at least to me, by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, when she announced that mixed ability classes had been a massive mistake. I wonder whether all those people who told me that I was wrong and they were right, and that I should have mixed ability classes, are all crawling on their hands and knees, or whatever you do if you have to do penance for a serious educational mistake you have made in the past.

The point is still a real one, because education is one of the devolved subjects. It could cause difficulty. It will cause difficulty for Scottish MPs in a way I shall come to in just a second. It could also cause difficulty in a Parliament where, as has happened, the majority of English MPs represent one party, but that is changed by the representation from Scotland and Wales. I know that it has not happened yet. We have to look at what happens if it does.

The other point I make in conclusion is the point made by Mr. Robin Cook in 1992 when he was Shadow spokesman on health. He said that if devolution came about he, as a Scottish MP, could not be the Health Secretary in England and Wales, because he would have no responsibility for the health service in his own constituency of Livingston. That is a telling point. I wonder how many members of the Government currently who are Scottish MPs—it almost looks like a Scottish mafia—will have to make the same decision. That is why the question is so serious. I am not sure that the noble and learned Lord is right that it should be addressed in the referendum, but it most assuredly must be dealt with in any substantive Bill.

Lord Sewel

This has been an interesting and, if I may say so, finely timed debate. It takes me back to the first amendment we discussed in Committee; that the ballot paper should be limited to one sheet of paper. I am grateful that we did not lose that amendment because the questions contained in this amendment would result in ballot papers almost the length of those experienced in the United States.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

This is my amendment. I did not vote in favour of the amendment that there should be only one piece of paper.

Lord Sewel

I appreciate the point that the noble and learned Lord makes. The length of the propositions contained in the ballot paper, which read: I agree that, if there is a Scottish parliament, Members of Parliament at Westminster for Scottish constituencies should take no part there in proceedings which do not extend to Scotland", and, I do not agree that, if there is a Scottish parliament, Members of Parliament at Westminster for Scottish constituencies should take no part there in proceedings which do not extend to Scotland", present a danger that we might be moving away from questions into essays. I do not know whether the electorate are supposed to vote with a cross or give a mark out of 10.

There is a serious issue, which I recognise, called the West Lothian question. I shall not go into its wider details at this stage; I shall focus purely and simply on the terms of the amendment. It is important to remember that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has firmly and historically set its face against the concept of a two-tier parliament; the so-called "in and out solution". It is the idea that some Members of Parliament should not vote on some matters but others should vote on all of them. That proposition has found no favour in the way in which our constitution has developed. Indeed, the precedent which exists is the period of the Stormont government when there was a devolved parliament in Stormont but Ulster MPs were fully free and able to vote on all matters coming before the House of Commons, whether or not they affected Ulster. If we went down that route it would represent a major constitutional departure from accepted practice.

Furthermore, it would create some incredible practical political problems for the management of the business of government. In such a situation we could easily see a government with a majority in the House of Commons, and therefore enjoying the confidence of the House, but being totally unable to secure their legislative programme over a large number of areas. Of course, that would be an extremely difficult matter to resolve in the longer term.

There is one other point which arises from the wording of the question. The wording is: should take no part there in proceedings which do not extend to Scotland". What I ask Members of the Committee and in particular, given his background, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, to consider is a situation in which, for the sake of argument, and only for the sake of argument, social security were not a devolved subject. But social security would clearly be a matter which would affect Scotland. Who would vote? Would Scottish MPs vote on social security in a Westminster Parliament, despite the fact that social security had not been devolved and had been reserved to the UK Parliament? According to this amendment, they would not. I hope that in those circumstances, at this stage, the noble and learned Lord would feel able to withdraw the amendment.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

Again, I am grateful for the debate. I believe that I detected that it is not government policy to satisfy the West Lothian question.

It was a Scotsman who taught us that it is demeaning to ascribe to others motives less generous than one's own. But I have made it plain for some time now that in spite of my having been—and in fact still being—in favour of devolution, I have been increasingly concerned that a noble theme is being besmirched by the very lowest of an immediate political consideration. Therefore, I am bound to ask why the Government should oppose something which is so obviously as fair as the solution to the West Lothian question. The answer appears to me to be obvious. How attractive it is to have a Labour majority in the Scottish Parliament and at the same time being able to use those constituencies' votes in Westminster on purely English matters.

The noble Lord postulated social security not being devolved. If it is not devolved, it is not an exclusively Scottish matter; and quite obviously nor is it an exclusively English matter; and quite obviously Scottish MPs can participate and make their influence felt.

And then the noble Lord said, "What about a government who have a majority in Westminster? Think of the practical difficulties". But a majority in Westminster sustains a government because it grants supply to the government and nobody has proposed that supply should be a devolved subject. So there is nothing in that.

I am not asking for a solution to the West Lothian question, although I think it has appeared this evening. I am merely asking for an exercise in democratic participation, in popular consultation. When the West Lothian question comes before us, I want to know what the Scottish people think about it and what the Welsh people think about it. That is all I am asking. However, as I promised not to press any amendments, I beg leave to withdraw this one.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 74B and 74BA not moved.]

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Section 2(2).]

[Amendments Nos. 74C to 78 not moved.]

Schedule 2 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 79 to 83 not moved.]

In the Title:

[Amendments Nos. 84 to 90 not moved.]

House resumed: Bill reported with an amendment.

House adjourned at seven minutes before eleven o'clock.