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Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) : It is a pleasure to speak following the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) but, given the short time available to me, I shall not go into many of the matters which he raised.
Today's Budget was trailed for some time as a Budget for the low paid. It was said that the Chancellor would try to rectify the disequilibrium in his fiscal system by correcting the mistakes he made last year, when he gave massive tax reductions to the top 5 per cent. of taxpayers.
I agree that the Conservatives had given a manifesto pledge to reduce taxation to 25 per cent. as soon as prudently possible, but it was rash of the Chancellor to effect that commitment so early in the Parliament and at the same time to reduce the higher rates of taxation from 60 to 40 per cent. The consequences were that he was reducing taxation in an expanding economy. The economy was forecast last year to rise by 3 per cent. It actually rose by 5 per cent. That, combined with the tax deductions, produced a massive import bill of £15 billion.
Column 333The hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) foresaw that in his Budget contribution last year, when he expressed fear that, when the tax deductions had worked their way through the system, they would come out in consumer goods, that those goods would come from imports and that the result would be a massive increase in our balance of payments deficit. All that has come about, and the Chancellor has been required to raise interest rates nine times within a few months to finance that deficit.
The Chancellor has done that at the expense of mortgagors and business people wishing to expand. Everyone needing credit is having to pay more-- all because of the actions of the Chancellor last year--and virtually everybody is suffering. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said that the Chancellor had been reckless last year. He was more than reckless--he put forward a catastrophic Budget. Therefore it is appropriate that this year he should seek to bring in a cautious Budget that is lacking in imagination.
If the Chancellor really wanted to help the low paid in our society he should have increased child benefit from £8.35 to make good the cuts in its value. He should also have announced a further increase to £10.75 to reflect the real cost of bringing up children. We all welcome the national insurance contribution rate of 2 per cent. for the low paid, which the Chancellor introduced today. As the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes) said, that will cost the Chancellor a lot of money--£1 billion in 1989-90 and £2.8 billion for 1990-91. In our view, that does not go far enough to rectify the imbalances in last year's Budget tax cuts for the low paid.
If the Chancellor wanted to bring in a Budget for the low paid, he should have raised the income tax threshold for those low-paid workers by 16 per cent. As we know, the Chancellor of the Exchequer actually raised the threshold only in line with the Rooker-Wise amendment. Not taking account of fiscal drag, means that more tax will be collected by the Revenue and this will be of no great benefit to the taxpayer over the next year. The Budget is a status quo Budget, which may be in the interests of the British people but does not serve the interests of the low-paid.
It was clear that the Chancellor wanted last year's Budget to be a tax reforming Budget, and he described it as such. In an article that he wrote entitled "Tax Reform, the Government's Record", published by the Conservative Policy Centre, the Chancellor declared that his main objective in reforming taxes was to improve economic performance. Judged by his own standards, last year's Budget could only be described as a catastrophic failure.
As a direct consequence of that Budget we have had inflation running at 8 per cent. and I noticed that, in his Budget statement today, the Chancellor was careful not to say that the inflation rate would come down in the last quarter of this year. In fact, there is a clear indication that high inflation of 8 per cent. will continue into the 1990s--that is twice the rate of inflation in the United States of America, which must worry the Government.
As we know, the balance of payments deficit is now £15 billion and interest rates are 13 per cent. Personal savings must also worry the Government because they are at their lowest for 40 years--lower than any other major industrial country. In the three-tier Europe that is rapidly developing, we find ourselves--in terms of inflation--in the third tier, with Greece and Portugal.
Column 334All those unhappy events need not have happened had the Chancellor not chosen a fiscal boost at the time of an expanding economy. In his modest way, the Chancellor last year congratulated himself on having achieved what he described as sustained growth with low inflation. He did not realise that his Budget would give us reduced growth and increased inflation. Today he said that the growth rate for the present year will be 2 per cent. In his Budget speech last year he said that he expected the year to be one of healthy growth and low inflation. He said that an inflation rate of 4 per cent. would be too high, and forecast a £4 billion deficit--less than 1 per cent. of GDP. He described that as temporary and said :
"The medium term financial strategy, now entering its ninth year, will continue to provide the framework for reducing the growth of money GDP, and hence inflation, over the medium term."--[ Official Report, 15 March 1988 ; Vol. 129, c. 995.]
As we know, none of that has happened--for which the Chancellor must bear the responsibility.
As I said earlier, the Chancellor raised personal tax allowances only in line with inflation as it stood at the end of last year. He did not raise them sufficiently to take into account fiscal drag and did not raise them enough to help the lower paid. Had he done so and raised the allowances by 16 per cent. he would have ensured that the tax burden of a couple earning half the average wage would be restored to 1978-79 levels.
The Government have announced their intention to abolish Britain's minimum wage system. While the Chancellor today offered some tax cuts to the low- paid by way of allowances and changes in national insurance contributions, he also threatened them with wage cuts. If he really wanted to help the low paid, the best news that he could have announced today would be that the Government were scrapping their plans to leave Britain the only nation in Europe without minimum wage protection for its poorest workers.
I received a letter from one of my constituents who is a senior shop steward in the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, asking for my support in the fight to keep the wages councils. He wrote :
"the clothing trade does not want to go back to the sweat shops of the past. As you are aware many low-paid workers in your constituency need the protection of the wages councils."
That letter was written on behalf of 600 union members who live in my constituency and who are most concerned about what will happen if the wages councils are abolished.
Earlier in the year, the Social Security Advisory Committee, in its paper "Credit Debt and Poverty", showed that the amount of money borrowed by people in Britain had doubled in seven years. The number of mortgage repossessions rose nearly eightfold over the same period and more than half of unemployed families with children are in debt. According to the Department of Social Security, 5 million people have a standard of living that is less than half the national average. Nearly 11 million people-- about one fifth of the population--have a standard of living that is less than 60 per cent. of the national average.
Last week, two of my constituents, a blind man and his wife, told me that the man received £74 a week in benefit. They received income support and the man received severe disablement allowance. He tried to put £30 a week in the bank in order to cover gas and electricity bills which, he
Column 335said, were onerous at this time of the year. He had also tried gas and electricity-saving schemes but without much success. Therefore, the couple also drew money from the man's bank account for their personal clothing. They also had to pay 20 per cent. of their rates. They had almost nothing in the house and lived out of tins every day. As the man said, it was all too much. I wonder what that couple thought that the Budget provided for them as they listened to it on the radio.
If the Chancellor really wanted to help those on low pay and at the poorer end of our society, he should have increased child benefit from £8.35 to make good the cuts in its value and he should also have announced a further increase to £10.75 to reflect the real cost of bringing up children.
We heard a novel way of handling the economy--to repay the national debt. I remember, many years ago, reading "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens-- a book written over 100 years ago--in which it was said that paying off the national debt was a barmy concept. It has taken 100 years to meet a Chancellor who believes in paying off the national debt.
The Chancellor said today that the national debt would be reduced by one sixth as a consequence of the Budget, but the national debt is just a figure. It does not take into account the £530 billion that is owed to people contributing to pensions ; if it did take that into account, it would be out of the question to pay off the national debt. The right hon. Gentleman is paying off the national debt because he does not know what else to do with the money. Even so, he is putting money into the economy by allowing Treasury paper to be taken back by the banks and institutions that bought it in the first place. The Chancellor is giving them about £14,000 million. That will be used in the City for more fancy and far- fetched takeover bids, and for exporting abroad, which will not help our economy.
The Chancellor has given us a cautious Budget. I am glad that he did not reduce income tax by 1p. He had no manifesto commitment to do that. If he had done so, he would have been trying to fulfil a pledge that he gave at the Dispatch Box last year. It was better to reduce the national insurance contribution by the low paid to 2 per cent., giving them a badly needed boost.
The Chancellor has still not rectified the great disequilibrium that he put into last year's Budget. We have all heard of fool's gold : it is actually iron pyrites. We have heard of a fool's paradise--a paradise of economic and financial structures in which there is a reduced manufacturing base, a massive increase of imports to maintain our standards of living, and reduced investment--with the result that the country's infrastructure is going to rack and ruin. In this fool's paradise oil tax revenues and the receipts of asset sales are squandered to repay the national debt of past generations, instead of being used to build up the future for generations yet to come. That is the fool's paradise of this Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is the one in which he wants us to live, and it is one which I am sure the British people will shortly reject.
Column 336Budget for the low-paid. A welcome change in the national insurance rules means between £1 and £3 a week for families on lower incomes, buttressed by the fairly generous increase in thresholds necessitated by the relatively high rate of inflation, which provides another £1 a week.
This is also a Budget for the pensioner. The whole House welcomes the decision at last to abolish the earnings rule which has stopped pensioners taking those extra jobs and benefiting in full from them. The House should also welcome the changes in the age allowance which give a useful boost to pensioner incomes in the 75 to 79 year-old range. Those changes complement the reforms and improvements in previous years that helped the over-80s, both on the benefit side and on the tax side.
This is a Budget for the small company. Many Conservative Members will welcome the improved tax regime on profits and the increase in VAT threshold for smaller businesses. My only regret is that the Chancellor and his colleagues have not been able to persuade the EEC that the threshold for small businesses should rise still further. A threshold of about £50,000 would be much better than one of about £23,000.
This is a Budget for wider ownership, continuing the progress that the Government have made through their privatisation programme and tax measures. I welcome the profit-related pay ideas, and the ideas about ownership of shares for employees in the companies for which they work. I hope that these measures will provide a major boost to the ownership of shares in their companies by employees, and I hope that the idea of profit- related pay will make more rapid progress in the coming year as a result of the more generous treatment afforded it in the Budget. Both these proposals cannot but strengthen the response of the economy to the present high level of demand ; they cannot but improve relationships between managers and employees, boost productivity output and earnings, and a sense of participation in the economy.
Last but not least, there is a welcome green tinge to the Budget, with the widened differential for unleaded fuel, giving it a 14p advantage over ordinary petrol.
What should we make of the balance of this Budget? It is clearly designed to make fighting inflation the main priority, and that must be right. Conservative Members do not wish inflation to rise to 8 per cent. and stay there. We have every wish to see it fall to well below 5 per cent. The main intention of the Budget is to deliver a shock to the incipient inflationary psychology, so that inflation will again fall to low single figures. I believe that the Budget is fierce enough, as a complement to the tight money policy that is now being pursued, to achieve the aim of reducing inflation after its peak in a few months time.
The Government's stance has now moved to being tight on money. I would therefore expect sterling to perform reasonably well on the exchanges as a result of that policy. As the Chancellor explained, the main object of monetary policy is to curb inflation ; fiscal policy need not carry that burden indefinitely.
I welcome the idea that over the next few years the Government can return the economy to a zero public sector surplus or deficit. That means that there is plenty of scope for tax reductions and for the improved public services which have been the hallmark of the Government in recent years and which will continue to be so in the strategy mapped out in the Red Book.
Column 337The balance of payments deficit has excited interest among Opposition Members. It is one of the few things to which they can point which looks less than ideal. I hope that the Treasury will pursue its inquiries into the £15,000 million black hole that has appeared in the balance of payments statistics. The actual deficit on trade must be running below the deficit being reported to the House and the nation. The problem is that no statistician seems able to tell us exactly how much of the deficit can be accounted for by the missing items not recorded in the figures and how much of it is genuinely a trade deficit.
I hope that the Chancellor will not intervene too much in the exchanges, and will let tight money policy do the job. I think that the whole European Community has one problem with exchange rates--the large undervaluation of the deutschmark against all other leading European currencies. That is a result of a managed exchange rate system in Europe, and it means that 10 out of 11 member states of the Community are running substantial trade deficits with Germany. I hope that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will examine that in their discussions with Finance Ministers of the other member nations of the EEC
The Opposition have been fairly muted in their criticisms of Government economic policy on the issues that matter to people, such as the large increase in the number of jobs and the much more satisfactory record on inflation than that before 1979. They have concentrated on the items that they want to accent at any given time and which they think are going wrong. I do not blame them for that. They are also succeeding by that device in avoiding telling the House and the nation what they would do and what their economic policy might be. I hope that in the course of the debates in the next few days a little more light will be thrown on that mildly interesting subject.
Today, we learned from the Leader of the Opposition that Labour would not run a great big surplus such as this
Column 338one. How true that is : it would not have generated a big surplus like the one that the Government enjoy because its policies would not have generated the growth and it would not have been prudent enough with the public accounts to have generated a surplus in the first place--
Mr. Bell rose --
There has been some comment that, were the Opposition in control, the money would be spent on a variety of schemes in the public sector--from water works to rail projects and other infrastructure investment. Where were these gentlemen when the Government came to the House in the autumn and announced major increases in infrastructure investment in all the major spending programmes of concern to them?
How can the Opposition argue that such an expenditure programme would have no inflationary conequences, when the construction industry is already operating at full capacity and any major surge in demand on top of the generous levels of capital spending projected by the Government and coming from the private sector would immediately lead to an inflationary force within the economy, which would in turn lead to the bidding up of wage rates, which in turn would be spent in the shops? It is a complete myth that, if the money is spent in the public sector, there will be no inflationary consequences. I hope that we will get elucidation of these important matters of Opposition policy.
I have great pleasure in recommending the Budget to the House. Debate adjourned.-- [Mr. Gerald Howarth.]
To be resumed tomorrow .
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn) : Regretfully I have to report from the First Scottish Standing Committee that, having drawn the attention of the Committee to the disorderly conduct of the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) and for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh), I have been directed to report those hon. Members to the House.
The Members referred to in my report were not nominated to serve on the Committee appointed to consider the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill, but they were present in the body of the Committee room when the Committee met today at 10.30 am. I called upon them to withdraw, but they refused to comply with my request. In these circumstances, the Committee agreed to the motion that I have reported. As the House will know, neither a Standing Committee nor its Chairman has power to discipline Members, and it is for the House to decide what action, if any, it wishes to take.
That the Chairman of the First Scottish Standing Committee in respect of the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill shall have power to order any Member who is not a member of the Committee to withdraw immediately from the Committee room ; and the Serjeant at Arms shall act on such orders as he may receive from the Chairman in pursuance of this order.
I very much regret, as I have no doubt do most right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House, that the hon. Members for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) should have thought it right to defy the authority of the Chair by refusing to withdraw from the Standing Committee on the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill when called on to do so by the Chairman of the Committee. It is a long-standing and inviolable tradition of this House that the authority of the Chair is invariably accepted. The hon. Members have challenged that authority by refusing to comply with the request from the Chairman of the Standing Committee to withdraw.
Whatever their views about the size and composition of the Standing Committee, it is totally wrong that they should attempt to express their views in this way. I fully accept that they may hold their views quite strongly, as is shown by the enforced absence of one of their number from the Chamber at the moment, but they were wrong to act in this way. By doing so they have infringed one of the most fundamental privileges of this House --the position of the Chair.
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood) : Will my right hon. Friend, in the light of what he has said, take it from me that many hon. Members take the view that the motion that he has moved is extremely moderate, bearing in mind the gross disorder this morning? Does he agree that if there is further disruption from those hon. Members, the House should consider imposing the severest penalties upon them?
Subject to your views, Mr. Speaker, the size of the Committee and its composition are not a matter for discussion today. It is a matter entrusted to the Committee of Selection, and it is not the issue now facing us. It may be asked why I am taking the step of moving this motion now, before it can be printed on the Order Paper. I remind the House that it is over 16 years since we last had to consider such a step, and I think I am right in saying that on that occasion my predecessor suggested that there had been no earlier precedents. Fortunately, he was corrected by Mr. Speaker, who drew attention to a ruling of some 46 years previously by the Speaker that this was a matter of privilege which could be raised without prior notice. I am sure that hon. Members would consider it remarkable for the House not to have an opportunity to take action in time to prevent the disruption of the next meeting of the Committee, which takes place on Thursday.
As I have said, we are not debating the merits of the decision taken by the Committee of Selection, which, I may say, was in accordance with established procedure, or, indeed, the substance of the Bill before the Committee. This is a narrower debate about a very important aspect of the privileges of the House and the powers of the Chair. This, too, is entirely in accordance with the terms of the debate held on a similar occasion 16 years ago--in respect, by coincidence, of similar actions taken to disrupt a Scottish Standing Committee then considering the Local Government (Scotland) Bill. The House now has to make up its mind whether it should allow hon. Members who have been unable to get their way through the proper procedures to attempt to obtain what they want by refusing to obey the request of the Chair and by disrupting the proper consideration of the business before the Standing Committee. I have absolutely no doubt that, if such conduct were to be accepted, and were repeated, the standing and authority of this House and the orderly conduct of our debates would be seriously threatened.
In my view there is only one decision the House can take : the Chairman of the Standing Committee on the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill must be given the power to require hon. Members who are not members of the Committee not to attend to sit as members of it and thus seek to disrupt its proceedings.
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : I want to speak briefly in support of the motion. The Standing Committee on the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill is supposed to be considering the detail of the Bill. The measure, as most of us know, is objectionable to most of the people of Scotland, but the Committee stage will give Scottish Members of Parliament who are opposed to it an opportunity to mount cogent arguments against it and to marshal further opposition to it. In these circumstances it behoves every Member of the House--and I mean every Member--to sustain the authority of the Chair of that Committee so that those debates may take place, and the people of Scotland may make their judgment on the basis of the arguments that are mounted.
Column 341As I said on another occasion, when we were talking about discipline in this House, Members of Parliament deal in words, and we want our words to have influence. But before our words can have influence, they must be heeded ; before they can be heeded, they must be heard ; and if they are to be heard, we must have order. For those reasons, we must sustain the authority of the Chair in this Committee.
The fact is that many of us--perhaps all of us at one time or another--do stupid and slightly, or even substantially, disorderly things on the spur of the moment. Most other Members are willing to forgive us because they recognise that they may themselves do something similar in the near future, or have done something similar in the not-so-distant past. But in this case the obvious object from the start was to disrupt the Committee's proceedings and to make it impossible for the Chairman to ensure that the Committee was able to discharge the business that it was supposed to be discharging. I do not want to say any more about that side of the matter, but I should like to point out that my understanding of the Bill is that, before schools may opt out, even under this legislation, it will be necessary for those in favour of that course to convince a majority of the parents involved that it would be a good thing. It is therefore vital that the arguments against opting out be properly heard and properly conveyed to the people of Scotland.
I urge on all Scottish Members of Parliament solidarity in this matter. Only if all the people in Scotland who are opposed to this ridiculous proposition stick together and argue against it will there be a likelihood- -indeed, if we all stick together, a certainty--of the parents of Scotland rejecting it as soon as they have the opportunity to do so.
Hon. Members opposed to Tory party policy in Scotland and the Bill should stick together. One way of doing so is to stick by the authority of the Chair, by allowing debate and argument to be mounted and the people of Scotland to hear, appreciate, understand and agree with the overwhelming arguments against opting out.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : I rise to respond to and comment on the report put before the House by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) and the motion moved by the Lord President of the Council.
I found the speech by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) strange. He seemed to be saying that all we have to do is to collude and let the system work. It did not seem to matter whether the political opinions of the people of Scotland, as expressed at the election, will be lost in the process of such collusion. I suggest that Labour Members should cross the Floor and join Conservative Members, because that is what they have done today.
Mrs. Ewing : I have just begun my remarks. I shall give way generously if the House allows me to address the issues involved. The Government have today taken an unusual step. Rightly, the Lord President of the Council quoted the precedent that occurred on Burns night in 1973 during
Column 342consideration of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. A similar step had to be taken against various Scottish hon. Members, who included the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), the hon. Member for Inverness Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian, Mr. Mackintosh, the hon. Member for Paisley, Mr. Robertson, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, Mr. Oswald and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, Mr. Grimond. There was no precedent, but it showed how much opposition there was to the Local Government (Scotland) Act, and reflected the views of the Scottish public. Hon. Members tried to make a strong point on behalf of their constituents and national opinion in Scotland.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Before the hon. Lady leaves the subject of collusion, may I put it to her that the ultimate act of treachery was committed in 1979 by her hon. Friends and Welsh nationalists when they brought down the Labour Government and let this rabble into office?
Mrs. Ewing : I thought that it might be as well to allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene at this stage because I should remind Labour Members that they refused to put the Local Government (Scotland) Act to a vote of confidence, thereby destroying the Government's ability to continue. The hon. Gentleman should not include Welsh nationalists in his remarks because of the circumstances at that time. I wish to explain to hon. Members who will be asked to vote on this issue the reason for my hon. Friends' action this morning. It is important that people understand the rationale for our activities.
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : The hon. Lady mentioned the incident that occurred in 1973. Does she accept that when my right hon. and learned Friends sat in on that Committee there was no Liberal representation on it? Some of the Labour Members who sat in were protesting that there was no geographical representation. Does she see a distinction between that and the present position, because the Scottish National party is represented on the Committee dealing with the Self-Governing Schools Etc. Bill?
Mrs. Ewing : The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the circumstances in 1973. We argue that Scottish legislation should be dealt with by Scotish hon. Members, and I think that Social and Liberal Democratic Members appreciate that. Indeed, they have said so publicly in Scotland, but they may take a different attitude in the House.
In the 1987 election, the Conservative party made a sudden announcement about the possibility of opting out being included in education legislation. It was sprung on a surprised electorate. I shall refer to some remarks made on Second Reading by the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchannan-Smith). He remembers being
"totally surprised by the idea".
I asked whether opting out would apply in Scotland and we were immediately assured that it would not and that it was introduced to meet special circumstances in England and Wales. The Secretary of State intervened to try to insist that this was not the case. The right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside said :
Column 343"It is a pity that my right hon. Friend did not speak to me personally during the general election campaign. Fighting as a candidate in my part of Scotland, when I consulted on the matter I was quite clearly told that it did not apply to Scotland."--[ Official Report, 6 March 1989 ; Vol. 148, c. 649:]
The Conservative party did not include opting out in its election manifesto for Scotland. Indeed, it did not win any support for its general manifesto.
The issue was first mooted by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) during consideration in Committee of the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988- -from which the Scottish National party was excluded--and was officially included in the Gracious Speech last autumn.
Suddenly, the self-governing Schools Bill was produced in February and is now in Committee. All educational organisations in Scotland are deeply concerned about the speed with which this legislation has been brought forward. My hon. Friends and I are concerned about the education system in Scotland. All four of us volunteered to serve on the Committee.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are debating a procedural motion. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) has been making substantive points about the Bill, which may or may or not be relevant. The substance of the matter with which we are dealing is disorder. Those guilty of creating disorder should not use this opportunity further to forward arguments that hon. Members may wish to deploy in the proper place at the proper time.
Mrs. Ewing : I was trying to explain my hon. Friends' action this morning and why the motion has been moved. Hon. Members who will be asked to vote on the motion should understand the reason behind our action.
I say to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), that I find it strange that Scottish Members who attend a Scottish Committee dealing with Scottish matters to voice the opinion of their constituents should be described as disorderly. I should not define that as disorderly. My hon. Friends attended because six Conservative Members who represent English constituencies and have no interest in Scottish education have been appointed to the Committee. The Select Committee on Selection and the Whips have deliberately tried to fill the Committee with hon. Members who will agree with the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Their sole purpose, as was apparent when they arrived this morning, is to sit in the Committee, deal with their constituency mail and vote with the hon. Member for Stirling. They are present not to listen to the arguments and the debate but as Lobby fodder, which is legislative imperialism by the establishment to ensure that Scottish opinion is ignored and defined full explanation.
There is anger and frustration in Scotland about the way in which Scottish legislation is being conducted through the House. The Leader of the House has said that we are trying to prevent debate from taking place, and perhaps that is true, but it is interesting to read some of the comments made on Second Reading by hon. Members now serving on the--
Mrs. Ewing : As you know, Mr. Speaker, I am a respectful person and I try hard to observe your rulings in this House. As one who attends regularly I am conscious of the difficulties that you face and I also know that you understand the difficulties that we in the so-called "minority" parties face.
Today we have seen an attempt by the establishment on the two Front Benches to collude to stop Scottish opinion being voiced accurately. As I said when we first discussed the Bill, I believe that the Bill should be referred to a Committee of Scottish Members. I still believe that that is the answer and, that instead of this procedural motion, the Leader of the House should have moved a motion to enable us to look at our procedures so that Scottish legislation, which deals with a distinct policy such as education, could be considered solely by hon. Members who are elected from Scottish constituencies. [Interruption.] That would best solve the problem facing us, but I gather from the noise coming from the Back Benchers of the establishment parties of the House that they do not agree. Those hon. Members are ignoring Scottish political opinion and to do so is extremely dangerous. They should not treat Scottish political opinion with contempt. I believe that we should now remit the Bill to a Standing Committee consisting solely of Scottish Members.
Hon. Members do not understand what the House is doing to Scotland. Major Scottish institutions and fundamental matters affecting Scottish society are being railroaded by an English majority that neither cares nor understands and which is callously used by the Government to get their majority through. [Interruption.] That noise illustrates my argument.
At the heart of this matter is what to do in a democracy when the wishes of the Scottish electorate are not only disregarded but flouted in the House-- in other words : "What do you do in a democracy when minority means you?"
It is clear that the Government have no mandate in Scotland and that is why they are forced to draft English Members on to a Committee to make up numbers. The Government do not have a majority in Scotland.
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninhgame, North) rose--