HL Deb 18 December 2002 vol 642 cc696-707

5.46 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on the size of the Scottish Parliament. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on the future size of the Scottish Parliament.

"In the White Paper, Scotland's Parliament, published in July 1997, the Government acknowledged that the special statutory provisions which stipulated a minimum number of Scottish seats in this House would no longer apply.

"The average Scottish constituency represented here comprises around 55,000 electors, while the average for English constituencies is around 70,000.

"One factor in this increased representation has been the need to recognise the additional requirement for Scottish MPs to scrutinise separate legislation unique to the Scottish system.

"The Scotland Act 1998 provides that any reduction in the number of MPs representing Scottish constituencies at Westminster will cause a reduction in the number of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

"The Boundary Commission for Scotland published in March this year provisional recommendations that would lead to a reduction in the current number of Scottish Westminster constituencies from 72 to 59. The consequence for Holyrood would be a fall in the number of MSPs from 129 to around 104.

"During the passage of the Scotland Act the Government made clear that if Parliament took the view that its workings would be undermined by a reduction in numbers, then representations could be made to the government of the day to amend that section of the Act.

"My right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Scotland, the right honourable Member for Hamilton North and Bellshill, reiterated that view in September 2000; I have made similar public Statements to this effect.

"Honouring this commitment, I launched last year a consultation to seek views on retaining or adjusting the current statutory link between Westminster and Holyrood parliamentary constituencies.

"The consultation paper, in particular, sought views on three issues: the consequence of the reduction required by the Scotland Act on the operation of the Scottish Parliament; the practical effect and issues which might arise between MPs, MSPs and councillors if boundaries were not coterminous for Westminster and Holyrood constituencies; and, the implications of non-coterminous boundaries for electoral administrators and local authorities in relation to the registration of voters and the conduct of elections, and also for the structure and operation of political parties.

"Almost 800 copies of the consultation documents were issued, and the Scotland Office website page recorded 1,300 hits. More than 230 replies were received from civic bodies, individuals, electoral administrators and councils, the Scottish Executive, MPs, MSPs and political parties.

"The purpose of the consultation was to seek to proceed on the basis of the kind of consensus born out of the Scottish Constitutional Convention's scheme for the Scottish Parliament. That broad-based convention was made up of political parties including the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, as well as trade unions, local authorities, churches, the voluntary sector, business groups and civic Scotland. I made clear that, if the Government were ever to consider amending the Scotland Act, any proposal should seek the same kind of consensus as emerged through the convention.

"Two strands emerge from the consultation. First, the need for stability. Among the civic and representative bodies responding, the overwhelming view was that the Scottish Parliament should continue to operate with the present number of MSPs. The argument was put that it would cause difficulties, especially to the committee system, and that it would be unwise to de-stabilise the Parliament so early in its life by a reduction in its numbers.

"They stated that a reduction would adversely affect the Parliament's scrutiny of legislation and the Executive's capacity to conduct inquiries or initiate legislation. They claimed that any reduction in the numbers of list MSPs would reduce proportionality and that the current structure should be maintained to give a proper balance of representation.

"Secondly, it was acknowledged, not least from electoral administrators, that difficulties could arise if the boundaries for Westminster and Holyrood were not coterminous. Confusion could be caused to voters and there would be problems for political parties in relation to their organisation.

"A summary of these responses has been placed in the Library of both Houses.

"I have weighed up carefully all the responses, and, in view of the overwhelming body of opinion in favour of maintaining the current number of MSPs, in the interests of stability, I propose to seek to amend the Scotland Act accordingly. However, I also take very seriously the concerns about the operation of different boundaries for Westminster and for Holyrood. I propose therefore that an independent commission should be established to examine and make recommendations on issues caused by having different boundaries for Westminster and Holyrood constituencies.

"I expect that, subject to parliamentary approval, any order giving effect to revised Westminster boundaries should be in place for the next election, no later than June 2006. Consequently, this commission, which has the approval of the Scottish Executive and is referred to in its submission, would sit after the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. Any changes it might propose for the Scotland Act would be a matter for this Parliament.

"Retaining the present number of 129 MSPs requires an amendment to the Scotland Act by way of primary legislation. It will also be necessary to provide for the routine review of Scottish Parliament constituency boundaries. I will be seeking agreement to introduce legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

"Let me make it clear that any change to the Scotland Act will be narrowly drawn. The Government believe the spirit of the constitutional convention must guide any changes to the legislation.

"This announcement acknowledges the fact that, as it approaches the end of its first term, the Scottish Parliament is a hard-working and effective institution, which is committed to serving the needs of the Scottish people; it underpins the stability and success of the constitutional settlement in Scotland, which has strengthened the United Kingdom.

"I commend this Statement to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.54 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, for having repeated the Statement made earlier in another place. I gather that it is the first time that the noble Lord has made a Statement from the Dispatch Box, so I congratulate him on having done so. I must say, however, that he could have picked a better one. It is an extraordinary Statement.

Of course, I have sympathy for the noble Lord. After all, he was not in the House at the time of the passage of the Scotland Act 1998. Is he aware of the statements of Government policy made from the Dispatch Box at which he stands in July 1998? I quote: After thinking long and hard"— long and hard, my Lords— the Government have concluded that the balance of advantage lies with maintaining the link between Westminster and Scottish parliament constituencies … believed that the integrity of the Union would be strengthened by having common constituencies for the Scottish parliament and UK Parliament". I quote again: different parliamentary constituencies for the Scottish parliament and the UK Parliament with overlapping boundaries could lead to, confusion among the electorate". I quote once more: I am confident that once the Scottish parliament is established and its working practices are in place, it could operate perfectly effectively with fewer MSPs".—[Official Report, 8/7/98; col. 1336] Those were the words uttered at the Dispatch Box by the noble Lord's predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel. They were echoed by Mr Dewar, who said in anolher place: if there were a larger … number of Members, efficiency would be … sacrificed".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/11/98; col. 384] The Secretary of State, Mrs Liddell, led her colleagues into the Lobby in another place to vote down an amendment to the effect that the number of seats in the Scottish Parliament should remain the same.

To call it a U-turn is to undersell; it is a backtrack. Will the noble Lord explain what has changed since 1998 that means that Mrs Liddell will tell him and others to vote for the policies that they voted against in 1998? Could it be something to do with the narrow political advantage of the Labour Party and their Liberal Democrat errand-boys in Holyrood? It is a ghastly, grubby political deal, and praying-in-aid the Labour-dominated Constitutional Convention simply proves that.

Can the noble Lord answer some specific questions? Given that, during the passage of the Scotland Act, Mr Henry McLeish said: we also believe that the Parliament could operate effectively with fewer Members".—[Official Report, Commons, 12/5/98; col. 223.], what is the Government's reasoning for taking that sensible view at the time and what factors have led them to change their mind? Is the noble Lord aware that, under the management of the Government and, more lately, the Presiding Officer, the construction costs of the new parliament building have mushroomed to the degree that they are a major scandal for Scotland? What is the latest estimate of the cost of construction? What will be the annual revenue cost of continuing with the existing number of MSPs and their officers, rather than reducing it, as envisaged in 1998?

What will be the additional cost to local authorities of having to organise for elections based on non-coterminous boundaries? Will councils be reimbursed for that cost or will it fall, once again, to the local council tax payers? Will electors be confused by differing boundaries, as the Government previously believed? If not, why not? Did they not mean what they said then? Do they mean it now?

What hard evidence is there that the Scottish Parliament needs its current complement of MSPs, committees and Ministers to discharge its functions effectively? Why, for instance, are over 20 Ministers required to do the job that five did pre-devolution? Does the announcement mean that the number of Ministers will remain and that no cap will be placed on the mushrooming of ministerial aides?

Finally, will the noble Lord explain the timetable for the implementation of the new arrangements for Holyrood and Westminster? Can we expect to see new Westminster boundaries in place for a general election in 2005–06 and new Scottish parliamentary constituencies for the 2007 Scottish Parliament poll? When will the new independent commission be set up? How will it be set up, and who will sit on it?

Our party, at least, has a consistent view: the country needs fewer politicians. That is true for this Parliament and for the Scottish Parliament. Even if we reduced the number of MSPs as planned in 1998, Scotland would have more politicians per elector than Quebec, Catalonia or Bavaria. If they can manage, why cannot we?

Everyone knows that this astonishing U-turn has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with short-term political advantage. Yet again, it is an act that defines the very nature of this Government.

6 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Evans, for repeating the Statement and welcome him to the discussions on Scotland. In addition, I welcome the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, back to his place and back to our Scottish discussions. In view of my complaint during the debate that Scottish and British politics are probably fairly colourless because no one really disagrees, I welcome the apoplectic views of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to our Scottish discussions.

The Statement ends the anxiety. We now know the outcome. It was a battle of principle between the committee system and the slightly awkwardly described "coterminousity" of constituency boundaries. The committee system has won and the difficulties which "coterminousity" will bring about are to be ironed out by an independent commission. I suspect that administrators will have some difficulty with that. However, I do not believe that the public will.

On these Benches we have no problem with the principle of the reduction of Scottish Westminster MPs. However, we are anxious to ensure that the rural constituencies will not be too large. Perhaps the 6,000 elector format should be discarded in the remoter areas.

The 17 committees of the Scottish Parliament are vital and make up for the fact that there is no revising chamber. To have reduced them would have meant lack of scrutiny and, particularly, pre-legislative scrutiny. It would have created a greater legislative backlog; it would have created even more Sewel Motions; and it would have lost the number of constituency days that MSPs have. Proportionality would also have suffered. There would be less diversity in the Scottish Parliament. Fortunately, independents, greens and Scottish socialists add some colour to the generalist social democrat views of the main Scottish parties. Similarly, the rural and remote areas, which enjoy a slight over-representation, would have suffered, too. The Scottish Parliament could do without central belt domination.

Scotland is a resurgent political entity. In the 18th century the complaint was that when we had a parliament of our own we could "aye peeble" it. Now we can throw stones at it again, but we want it to be an effective Parliament. Reducing the numbers would not achieve that.

I have five questions for the Minister. Will the Government guarantee to use ward boundaries as building blocks for constituencies? Exactly which elections will these changes be in place for? Have the Government given any consideration to using the single transferable vote and abandoning the additional Member system? When will the Bill amending the Scotland Act be introduced? Finally—and, no doubt, coming to the aid of the SNP which rather foolishly seems to have declined places in this House—will the amendment Bill deal with the Dorothy-Grace Elder situation? As predicted, a regional list MP from Glasgow—Dorothy-Grace Elder—has resigned from the SNP and now sits as an independent. The SNP would like her to resign the seat, but legislation does not require her to do so. What does the Minister think will happen in that situation and will it be mentioned in the future amendment Bill?

6.5 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, for their welcome and their comments. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, finished his remarks saying that we have a consistent view. The noble Lord certainly has. He has opposed devolution from the beginning and continues to oppose it. Any obstacle or point that can be made in an attempt to damage devolution is made by the noble Lord and his party.

It is simple to trade quotations. I could read two pages of Government Ministers' quotations about the need for flexibility. The noble Lord's shadow Minister, Liam Fox, said that the first thing that would be required to make the Scottish Parliament work properly was stability. That is precisely the point my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made in her Statement.

What are the factors that have led to this? The first factor is consultation. We consulted the public on the size of the Scottish Parliament, seeking, in the light of the way the parliaments worked, their views on the number of MSPs. Word came back clearly from that consultation that the number of Members required remained 129. The reason for that is that there are 17 committees. They are effective committees and 129 MSPs are needed to ensure that the Scottish Parliament works effectively. All the evidence is that in these early days it is a highly effective Parliament. The crucial point is that, if it is to work, the Scottish Parliament must have what it requires. It is coming up—as are many other people—with compelling reasons for keeping 129 Members. Moreover, the construction of the Scottish Parliament, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, knows, is a devolved matter. It is not a matter that I can comment on.

The cost of any changes in the electoral boundaries will, of course, be met nationally, not locally.

As far as concerns the timetable for the consultation, the commission will be appointed by the UK Government in consultation with the First Minister. It will be a non-statutory body. It is too early to be precise about the scope of its remit but it is expected to cover any issues arising from the operation of the non-coterminous boundaries.

As the Secretary of State said in her Statement, the reason for establishing the commission is that concern has been expressed about moving away from coterminous boundaries. She is anxious that that should be looked at by an independent commission, given their importance of the issue.

I believe that I have answered all the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked. If I have left anything out, I shall be more than happy to write to him.

I turn to the questions asked by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. The point about rural constituencies and their size is a matter that I shall draw to the attention of the Secretary of State. When will the change happen? That will happen at the general election in 2006 at the latest. We do not expect the commission to be prevented from looking at wider election issues. The Bill will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows and we expect it to be narrowly drawn. The noble Earl asked whether the Government will use ward boundaries. That is not a matter for the Government; it is a matter for the Boundary Commission.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Hughes of Woodside

My Lords, I, too, welcome my noble friend Lord Evans to the Front Bench. However, I am afraid that the welcome I give him to the hot house of Scottish politics is not matched by my welcome for the Statement. It is most unwelcome.

The figure of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament was a pragmatic one arrived at by compromise in the Scottish convention and elsewhere. It has now been elevated into the principle that the Scottish Parliament cannot possibly survive unless it has 129 Members. The Secretary of State for Scotland may say that the commission will look only at coterminous constituencies, but I do not believe that my noble friend realises the Pandora's Box which has been opened.

If there is to be a review of the operation of the Scottish Parliament—and I accept that it is different from the Westminster Parliament; I accept that perhaps 129 is the right number; I accept that it may be too many; and I accept that it may be too few—we should have a proper root and branch review. We should examine whether the committee system is working and whether we need the list MPs who have no constituency duties and who constantly interfere with constituency Members. The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament would be able to report the number of occasions on which he has to criticise the list MPs for interfering in matters which were not of their concern.

The review must be a proper one and I do not see the reason for the rush. The change to the size of the Scottish Parliament will not happen before June next year. The Parliament can sit with the same number of Members. Does my noble friend understand and accept that a deal was done for the reduction in the number of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons? That deal was signed freely by every single party representative in the Scottish Parliament. I believe that that deal should be honoured because the excuse put forward sounds very much like, "We're going to try to save our own jobs".

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside for his questions. He appears to be asking us to rewrite the Act, whereas the Statement deals with significant changes to it in the light of the successful first three years of the Parliament. The deal referred to was done not for Members of the Scottish Parliament but for Members of the Westminster Parliament. I am fully aware of that deal and it was very transparent.

We have gone out to consultation; we have been transparent in the way in which we have approached the matter; and I recognise that we have done something which has not pleased my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside. However, these are early days and the Parliament is working well. Give it a few more years before passing the kind of judgment that is being passed today.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I am completely astonished by the Statement. It is amazing. Had the noble Lord been here when the Act passed through this House, he would know that we spent many hours pointing out to the Government precisely what would happen if they linked the number of Members of the Scots Parliament to the Westminster and Euro constituencies. That is what the Act does: by implication, it ties the numbers in the Scots Parliament to those constituencies in Scotland.

We warned the Government that that would happen and my late noble friend, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, was extremely amusing on the subject. He castigated the Government about what they were about to bring upon themselves and they have now done just that.

I do not believe that the Minister has been involved in fighting parliamentary elections, nor has the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, who thought that it was quite all right to consider altering the coterminous boundaries. Does the Minister appreciate that it is most confusing to fight elections on the ground—I do it every time—when boundaries are changed by the Boundary Commission? When the boundaries are changed for the next Westminster elections—and at the next election we may have non-coterminous ones for the Scots Parliament—the situation will be even worse. The Government are bringing upon those who fight the elections a very big problem indeed. The general population may not appreciate that, but they will.

What are the Government allocating in cost for the commission, which will be doing what the Government should be doing themselves, if I may say so, and which they have known since 1998 would be necessary? How long will it take? There has been the most extraordinary collapse of business-like arrangements in the introduction of legislation.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, for the questions she has asked. She appears to be saying that the Government should be chastised for accepting points made during the debate by Her Majesty's Opposition. I believe that this is an example of how pragmatic and flexible the Government are.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I am chastising the Government for not accepting what we said—not for accepting it.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, we do not yet know what the cost of the commission will be. It is a matter for discussion. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, expressed concern about changes to the boundaries for the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments. That is why the Secretary of State said in her Statement: I take very seriously the concerns about the operation of different boundaries for Westminster and for Holyrood". and that is one of the main reasons why the commission is being set up.

As regards the cost allocation for the new commission, as it is not due to be set up until 200'7 it is too early to say.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement and I have to say that I welcome it very much. I am particularly pleased to receive the assurance from the Government that they proceeded with the consultation on the future size of the Scottish Parliament in the spirit or the Scottish Constitutional Convention, seeking the kind of consensus which was achieved by that convention.

I speak as the last co-chair of that convention, along with the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. So I welcome the further assurance that any changes to the Scotland Act will be guided by the spirit of the convention, which in some eight years of careful deliberation provided the blueprint for the Scottish Parliament. And I have to say that that was without the benefit of the participation of the Scottish Conservative Party, which perhaps explains the somewhat jaundiced view of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when he speaks of the convention. His party, which he boasted was always consistent at that time, was very much against the idea of a Scottish Parliament—so much so that it did not even participate in the convention. In the referendum campaign his party was part of the "No/No" campaign, which I have to say—and I hope I ant not being too unkind—was led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, whom I am very pleased to see in his place. I am sorry to have to say that it was a spectacularly unsuccessful campaign.

I am glad that the decision from the consultation is not to decrease the number of MSPs. As one of the three Front Bench spokespersons who took the Scotland Bill through its very, very long passage through this House, I know that we were always clear that if it emerged that the work of the Scottish Parliament would be adversely affected by a reduction in the number of MSPs then a change could be made. It is therefore absolutely right that after such a careful and broad consultation across Scotland, very much in the spirit of the convention—which I do not expect the Benches opposite to understand—the Government should take the necessary steps to bring about the desired change.

I also congratulate the Government on showing the foresight to announce now how they propose to deal with the consideration of any problems which may well arise from different boundaries for Westminster and Holyrood constituencies, and which will appear more clearly after the Holyrood 2007 elections. I think today's Statement will be widely welcomed in Scotland, where the requirement for the efficient functioning of the Parliament will be paramount, and any administrative difficulties will have to be addressed and overcome. I would also like, in concluding, to say that I very much echo the praise for the Scottish Parliament with which the Statement concluded.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Ramsay for her support. She was one of the most significant people involved in setting up the Scottish Parliament. The extremely positive way in which she endorses the Scottish Parliament and where it is in its development is significant. We should all acknowledge that.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their stand. It is extraordinary that our Conservative friends cannot understand that the consultation over the whole country showing a clear lead needs to be taken into account. The numbers in the Scottish Parliament are important; you need 129 MSPs because they have no House of Lords. We do more than half the work in Parliament, because we do all the intricate work, and the committees have been working well. I hope that the Government will keep it up.

I have no quarrel with anything that the Minister said, except when he said that the Government had nothing to do with the cost of Holyrood. They had everything to do with it. I had great respect for the late Donald Dewar, but it was an impossible site. It was chosen and built on and the Scottish Parliament have had to put up with it. Will the Minister agree that the Government should supply the cash for the mess that they made to start with?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, makes an important point: the Scottish Parliament is a unicameral Chamber, which is another justification for its number of Members. I was asked a direct question about the costs of the Assembly building and I said that it was a devolved matter. That is a perfectly reasonable answer to that question. However, I will take back to the Secretary of State the noble Lord's suggestion that Westminster should finance Holyrood. He should not hold his breath waiting for an answer.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, will the Minister be clear on dates? Why is there such urgency? Nothing can happen until May 2007. Why are the Government not waiting until the Boundary Commission reports, either in 2003 or 2004, on the Westminster constituencies and then see whether some will be coterminous? The Government are racing ahead of the all-important Boundary Commission. Will the Minister assure us that, if the Boundary Commission reports in 2003 or 2004, its recommendations will be in place for the next general election? We do not want to happen what happened in 1978, when the Boundary Commission presented its case to Parliament and the then Labour Government voted it down, which was a disgraceful scandal.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, we cannot determine when the Boundary Commission will report. I argue with the noble Lord, Lord Monro, when he says that we are rushing ahead to set up a consultation in the year 2007, which is five years away. I fully anticipated the question of why we were not setting it up sooner. The reason for the timescale is that if we start the process now it will be a paper consultation. We must wait for elections to obtain facts and evidence so that the commission can deliberate and come up with pragmatic, sensible conclusions rather than academic conclusions based on theory.

Lord Elder

My Lords, I welcome the Minister to this rather fraught subject. I also greatly welcome the Statement. Perhaps he shares my surprise at the expressions coming from the Opposition when the Government are doing two things: first, accepting 129 MSPs, which was the number the Opposition argued for during the Bill's passage; and secondly, doing exactly what they said they would do in terms of listening to the Scottish Parliament once it was set up and therefore acting—as my noble friend Lord Sewel said they would—as a listening Government and responding to these thoughts from Holyrood.

Does the Minister agree that there is a case for taking a broader view with regard to the commission? There is a case relating to the good governance of Scotland for looking at the series of boundaries we now have: health boards; tourist boards; local authorities; Westminster; and Holyrood. It might be a sensible opportunity to extend slightly the commission's remit. We have an opportunity to give some thought to setting a structure for the better governance of Scotland.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, we wonder who has made the U-turn. The Opposition have argued that the Government have made a U-turn. Depending on which papers and ministerial Statements you have predating the setting-up of the Scottish Parliament it is easy to argue that a U-turn has been made by the other side.

I take my noble friend Lord Elder's important point about the commission's remit. This has not been set as it is early days, but I shall pass on to the Secretary of State his view that it should have a slightly broader perspective than that currently imagined.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am sorry if I misunderstood that the purpose of these occasions was to make speeches and not to ask questions of the Minister about the Statement.

When he concluded the repeated Statement the Minister said that the Scottish Parliament was an effective institution. In preparing for repeating the Statement, is the Minister aware that the Scottish Executive, on its own figures, has acknowledged that since it was set up poverty in Scotland has increased; homelessness has increased; waiting lists have lengthened; and Scottish education has been sadly debased? Are they to get these extra numbers from this Westminster Government as a reward for that incompetence, or is it just for the nine members of the Labour Back-Benches who have yet to enjoy ministerial office—to give them a last opportunity to achieve that?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, for asking me a series of questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the Statement. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord missed the report of the Electoral Commission in today's Guardian which states: Nevertheless, the research says that Scots 'continue to attach relatively high importance to the parliament'. The study again indicates strong support for extra powers". The noble and learned Lord referred to certain areas where he feels that progress has not been made. Coming from the cultural sector, I have knowledge of and can point to huge successes in the cultural matters that have developed in Scotland over the past three years. It is a tremendous tribute to the Scottish Parliament that the treatment it has given to cultural matters, which have been put centre stage, has been a huge success.

Forward to