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Column 222Leader of the House tabled said that other Select Committees would consider Scottish affairs. The Sunday Times report states : "Scotland could become a dumping ground for the whole of Britain if tough new safeguards and waste disposal proposals for England and Wales are not adopted here."
Long may it be that wherever one lives in the United Kingdom the same laws apply. The article continues :
"Pollution controls north of the border have been described as a shambles and the problem has been made worse by the closure of Scotland's largest waste tip near Coatbridge in Lanarkshire which handles 300,000 tonnes of waste a year."
The report goes on to say that David Boyd, the industrial director of the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, warned that, unless the Government took immediate action, disaster was looming. A person called J. M. Bright wants the Scottish Office to adopt the recommendations included in the report on toxic waste published last Wednesday by the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment chaired by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). The article states :
"Rossi recommended far-reaching changes for England and Wales including a beefed-up inspectorate and a radical reorganisation of the system of dump licensing. It will be much, much tougher if our recommendations are adopted, and the Government seems to be taking our report very seriously', said Rossi."
The folk of Glasgow, Central, listening to the hon. Gentleman, would think that the Environment Committee should be looking after Scottish interests.
The article continues :
"The report was severely critical of the Department of the Environment and the local authorities. No evidence was taken from Scotland. Rossi explained, Scotland is a foreign country as far as our recommendations are concerned. It is up to the Secretary of State what action he takes on the environment.' "
The Government told the people of Scotland that there would be a Select Committee system and that, although they could not set up a Scottish Select Committee, they assured us that Scotland's interests would be looked after. However, one of the major Select Committees dealing with one of the major issues affecting our part of the country as much as anywhere else has said that it regards us as a foreign country.
Many academic institutions dealing with environmental problems are situated in Glasgow, Central. We have experts who know about the subject and who are electors there. They will want an early opportunity to cross-examine the Leader of the House. I hope that he will assure me that he will come up to Glasgow, Central because it is important that there is such an opportunity at an early date. The poll tax is another important issue and, although I shall not go into its merits or otherwise, I advise the House that a major concern in Glasgow, Central is whether warrant sales will operate against poor people. It is important that that matter is examined carefully and closely in the arena of an election that matters and that people have an opportunity to make a decision that matters. There are basically three ways in which non-payment of the poll tax could be enforced. The first is wage arrestment, the second is bank arrestment and the third is warrant sales. I know what I am talking about because I have gone into this matter extensively in Glasgow, Central. As many people in that constituency do not have a wage or a bank account and perhaps own only
Column 223half of what is in their house, whether or not Strathclyde region will implement warrant sales has become a major issue.
I am happy to report that I have received a letter from Charlie Gray, the leader of the Strathclyde Regional Labour Group, with whom I am friendly enough personally, although we differ politically and we accept the cut and thrust as one must do. Although the letter is not the friendliest that I have ever received--
Mr. Sillars : I will tell you the relevance, Mr. Speaker. I wrote to Charlie Gray as a Member of Parliament for a Glasgow constituency, which has exactly the same problems as the Glasgow, Central constituency, which is next door. I am sure that the constituencies of other hon. Members have the same problems. The regional council is the levying authority, and it is the representations that we as Members of Parliament make to the regional council and the pressure that we bring to bear on it on behalf of the community that will determine whether people who do not pay the poll tax are chased up through bank arrestment, wage arrestment or warrant sales. Another reason why the letter is relevant is that the Tories will want to contest what Charlie Gray has said. It is a bone of contention and bones of contention are what politics are all about. Charlie Gray wrote :
"I am unable to reply on the specific question that you asked as my council has yet to discuss and decide the matter."
Nobody can deny that this will be a big issue and that because the council has not decided on the warrant sale issue, pressure will have to be brought to bear. The letter continues :
"However, I would remind you that our proud record is that in our whole existence we have never carried out a warrant sale in a dwelling in which people were living."
That looks good, but the matter has yet to be clarified by a decision of the regional council. Perhaps it will be possible to take deputations to the regional council and to argue the case against warrant sales. Perhaps there will be a public statement and perhaps the Conservative Government will want to argue against the regional council taking that action. That is the relevance of this issue to the by-election in Glasgow, Central.
There is also a constitutional crisis. I said earlier that few by-elections raise the opportunity to address a range of major issues and I cannot think of any by-election except this which has had the opportunity to address a major constitutional crisis such as the one developing between the judiciary and the Executive in this country. We cannot under-estimate the importance of this issue, because acres of newsprint have been devoted to it. I am sure that your good self, Mr. Speaker, must have read about it extensively in The Times and The Daily Telegraph and elsewhere.
Judges in England and Wales have threatened what some people have described as a "one-day strike". Others have described it as a "one-day stoppage" or a "one-day meeting". That has relevance to the people of Glasgow, Central for the very reason that you, Mr. Speaker, mentioned. It is also relevant because part of the judicial system south of the border is part of the superior court system of the House of Lords. Although on criminal matters there can be no appeal from Scotland to the House of Lords, on civil matters the House of Lords is the final
Column 224court of appeal. In Scotland a case would go to the Outer House, and then to the Inner House, of the Court of Session, and the appeal is then to the House of Lords. Therefore, there is an organic link as well as simply a community interest in what happens in the constitutional crisis that is developing between the judicial system and the Executive.
Some people have said that the House of Lords might strike down Government legislation that has been passed by the House of Commons. That raises a multitude of important issues. The people of Glasgow, Central will be fortunate in being able to address that issue. How often in this country do we have a major debate at a by-election or even at a general election on constitutional matters such as the separation of the powers? We have an unwritten constitution and in such a country it is important for our democratic machinery that we have such debates. Glasgow, Central will probably become the national platform for that debate
The Government are fortunate with their Lord Chancellor of England. He is often called simply the Lord Chancellor, but he is actually the Lord Chancellor of England. He is a Scotsman. He was the Lord Advocate who became a Court of Session judge and then a House of Lords judge. He then joined the Government as their Lord Chancellor. He is Lord MacKay of Clashfern. He is in trouble on other matters that I cannot mention at present. Lord MacKay is likely to take part in the Glasgow, Central by- election, because I cannot imagine Lord MacKay, who wants to push through everything he can, not seizing the opportunity that will be offered by the platform of a by-election in Glasgow, Central if I persuade the House about the moving of the writ.
Although that is a major issue, I realise that I might have to persuade one or two folk of its importance. Some people might have been upset by the fact that the judges threatened to go on strike and to lock their minds away. In The Times of 7 March, Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone, the former Lord Chancellor, predicted that the legal reforms proposed by the Government would lead to the creation of a Ministry of Justice. The Times reported :
"He warned the conference that such a Ministry would see judicial independence go out of the window. The three Green Papers setting out the reforms had been cooked up without evidence and consultation." Mr. Desmond Fennell, QC, the chairman of the Bar, is reported as saying :
"Seeing justice as a consumer durable would undermine the integrity of the English justice system the underlying approach of the proposals which supported competition and market forces was flawed." Lord MacKay has also had his say. What a wonderful thing it will be to have the city hall of Glasgow at the centre of this great constitutional debate among the judiciary whose members are now all speaking out. I was taught in politics that judges do not say anything political. Like many other people, I am beginning to change my mind about that because major statements are now being made by judges.
This issue will also affect the small man and Glasgow, Central because the Scottish law reforms are also on their way. There are many solicitors' firms in Glasgow, Central. I know many of them and some are highly prestigious. There has been report after report on that. I have the press cuttings with me, but I shall not read them all because that
Column 225would be tedious, repetitious and out of order. However, I should like to quote the words of Lord William Rees-Mogg in The Independent :
"The general tone of the debate was, however, carefully considered and tightly argued. Some newspapers have represented the lawyers' contribution as merely self-interest."
I believe that this issue should be widely debated in Glasgow, Central. We should consider whether the legal interests south of the border that are opposed to the Government's reform measures are acting out of self-interest alone, as was suggested by Lord Rees-Mogg. Despite your views about the United Kingdom, Mr. Speaker, you might think that the Scottish electors will have a stand-off attitude to law reforms south of the border. They might consider that it is much ado about nothing because, to be fair to them, the senators of the College of Justice in Edinburgh and the Court of Session have made no statements about the reforms. They have not suggested any outlandish action and no doubt they are operating as they usually do-- privately, behind the scenes ; in a sense, behind the Chair.
There is an organisation in Scotland, however, that is deeply concerned about the law reforms inside Scotland. I do not believe that anyone, even the hon. Member for Hamilton, would disagree that this matter deserves an early decision at the Glasgow, Central by-election. The electorate will have an opportunity to make a decision on the attitude taken by the Government, the Labour party, the Scottish National party and the Social and Liberal Democratic party as well as by representatives of the Scottish legal profession, especially solicitors.
What is of great interest and of relevance is that the leader of the Law Society of Scotland is Professor Ross Harper. The House may not be aware that Professor Ross Harper is also the president of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association. I cannot imagine for one moment that he would not want to seize the opportunity of getting on the platform during the by-election at Glasgow, Central. After all, that constituency is home to the High Court, the sheriff court and firm after firm of solicitors.
Professor Harper has already issued major statements that demonstrate his passion and that of the Law Society of Scotland about law reforms in Scotland. He is the president of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association, but the headline of the Scottish Law Council report reads "We Must Be Independent". In that report of his speech he mentions independence 25 times and in one paragraph he mentions it four times. His comments are important as they set the background against which the debate in Glasgow, Central should take place. He said :
"The independence of Scottish law and the distinctive Scottish legal system are important cornerstones of the preservation of a Scottish identity."
He goes on to talk about the independence of the profession and speaks of
"exemption from external control, influence, pressure and support"
Column 226I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) will take note of that, as it will be referred to in another context. Professor Harper also said :
"Independent solicitors give independent advice. That must be our watchword. Perhaps in a few years it will only be independent solicitors who will be available to give independent advice." He went on to talk about the protection of the public, and I am sure that the House will agree that that issue warrants an early resolution at the Glasgow, Central by- election. About the argument that one does not need to be a solicitor to do conveyancing, he said :
"While it is odd to answer a question with a question we could perhaps ask ourselves why should lawyers not practise brain surgery."
Perhaps the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) might like to argue with Ross Harper about that. Both men are leading lights in Scottish politics and one can imagine them clashing in the city hall of Glasgow, Central. Ross Harper also quoted Adam Smith and went on to say :
"Regulation is not for the protection of the interests of the profession, but for the protection of the interest of the public." That is an important matter. He then discussed
MDPs--multidisciplinary practices--a matter that the people of Glasgow, Central will want to resolve. That major issue, which affects the Scottish legal profession, can be resolved only by the political process ; there is no other way.
I shall not quote any further from the report of the president of the Law Society of Scotland, but it is important to remember that the sheriff court is based in Glasgow, Central. Several members of the Law Society of Scotland have put forward what they have described as "thought-provoking suggestions" on the appointment of sheriffs, which include formal training and psychological assessment. Make no mistake, that will be an issue at the Glasgow, Central by-election. A lot of folk in that constituency know a lot about sheriffs and they have an opinion about whether they are properly trained and, more importantly, whether they should be subject to psychological assessment. Even the "Doomsday scenario" is mentioned and is relevant to the by-election. You will not be familiar with that phraseology, Mr. Speaker, but it rings bells everywhere in Scotland.
The Lord Advocate and the Law Society of Scotland have fallen out on the question of who should become judges. I shall not go into that, but what the Lord Advocate has said is relevant to why the Scottish legal system should be part of the debate during the by-election campaign. He said :
"In 1980 there were 394 High Court cases and in 1988 there were 889. It is projected that that will rise to 1,120 in 1991." That demonstates how crime has risen in the past 10 years. There are two levels at which cases are heard in Scotland--either in the sheriff court or in the High Court. For a case to be heard in the High Court one has had to be involved in something guy bad. Our sheriffs have considerable powers, but beyond them lies the High Court. The random quotes I have given demonstrate that the question of legal reform, the constitutional crisis and the separation of powers are relevant and should be decided by the people of Glasgow, Central as soon as possible.
I have studied the newspapers down here and I know that the Government get upset with the Church of England about social issues. Scotland, therefore, is not unique, even
Column 227though a special Church and state debate is currently taking place. In Glasgow, Central there is a large churchgoing public of all denominations--the mosque is also found in that constituency. The Church's view on how things should go was put clearly by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. I am sure that no one will mind me quoting the Moderator--I believe that you have met him, Mr. Speaker--as his remarks illustrate the difference of opinion between the Church and state about the values that govern our society north of the border. I am sure that every hon. Member who represents Scotland, including those on the Tory Benches--even the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth)- -would agree that the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church's views on moral values as they affect political judgment and social policy are a red hot issue that should be put before the people of Glasgow, Central so that they can speak on behalf of the Scottish people.
An article in the Glasgow Herald , under the heading,
"Moderator tells of the struggle for the soul of Scotland", stated :
"The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland said they" --
the Scottish people--
"are not prepared to make money their God, to regard greed as the only motive for economic activity or individualism as the highest form of human life. They stubbornly believe that we are responsible for one another and they are stubbornly loyal to the communities in which they live whether it is a mining village where the pit has been closed, a city"--
this demonstrates its relevance to Glasgow, Central--
"struggling to maintain its services to help the poor, the frail and the handicapped or the struggling confused reality which is Scotland itself, a nation with a history and perhaps a future. We should now perhaps thank God for the thrawnness of the Scottish soul."
That Scottish thrawnness and the stubborn determination of the right hon. Lady who leads the Government will be central features of the by-election. They were in Govan, and they will be in Glasgow, Central. That is why I quote the Moderator. I cannot think of anyone in recent times who has put the point so clearly and so eloquently. Of course, there are European issues. Although I do not want the by-election to be involved in the affairs of 15 June, on the domestic side there are questions about the European monetary system and about economic monetary union which are for this Parliament to resolve. There are big divisions between the Government and the Opposition and between ourselves and various other people. Those are matters that should be debated. There is the question whether we should legislate in this House for social Europe. The Leader of the House will accept that that is a point of division in the House. That will be reflected in the debates in Glasgow, Central.
There is also the alleged corruption within the European Community. One of the saddest features of Scottish politics, which the Glasgow, Central by- election will remove for a while, is the absence from Scotland of the hon. Member for Southend, East, (Mr. Taylor). He will be back among us for the by-election. We have missed him. He used to sit for Glasgow, Cathcart. I say in all sincerity that it is sad that he is not involved in Scottish political life now. I miss the debates that I had with him, a sharp wee fellow, wee Teddy, as we knew him in the west of Scotland. He has got a bee in his bonnet, as we say, about corruption in the European Community and about how the Community operates.
Column 228I do not want to weary the House with that, but I have no doubt that when the hon. Gentleman comes back--they are bound to send up people who know something about Scotland to act as guides for the "no turning back" English Tories who will be coming up--he will be in his element talking to the folk in various parts of the city. One of the great things about the hon. Gentleman is that he has always managed to talk to the people of Scotland in their own language. No toffee-nosed Tory snob is wee Teddy. I will not go on about it, but it will be one of the nicer features of the by-election when he is back home and we bump into each other in the street. I think that he is unhappy where he is. Even for a short time it will be like home for him. I might even persuade him to look for a seat north of the border next time. Perhaps I could persuade him to stand against me in Govan. However, I will be straying out of order if I go further into that.
Another important issue is universities. Strathclyde university lies right in the heart of Glasgow, Central constituency. It has a law facility and it is a technological university. Its principal is Sir Graham Hills. He is an issue in Glasgow, Central. Let me put it on the record that I have a lot of time for Sir Graham. Some of his ideas about reaching out technologically into the international community are right. Last year I found myself in south-east Asia only a week behind the principal. Strathclyde university has set up former graduate clubs all over the world. The university maintains close technical and commercial contact with them. Sir Graham Hills goes out and meets the clubs. That is good, because there is always the possibility of Scottish companies in Glasgow, Central getting work in south-east Asia and places like that.
Sir Graham has other points of view that are highly contentious in the constituency. His views on how universities should be funded veer to the side of the Government. I am being polite in saying that. I think hon. Members will agree that it is unusual that the opinions of a principal of a great university should be an issue in a by-election, but they will be. There are important issues such as student funding, student loans and morale inside the university.
I mentioned that the university has a law faculty. One great problem in universities is that law faculties are being starved of resources. That is happening not just in Scottish universities. The law faculty at Cambridge was complaining about that only last week. That issue should be debated in Glasgow, Central. If we do not put enough resources into the law faculty, it will not produce the legal minds necessary to take us into a more technical society governed by a framework of law.
Local government reform is another important matter. It may surprise some members of the Government to learn that in Ayrshire the Secretary of State for Defence has been in a cabal that is trying to break up Strathclyde region, reform it and create Ayrshire as a region on its own. Hon. Members may ask what that has to do with Glasgow, Central. Strathclyde region cannot be carved up without it having an effect upon the status of Glasgow district council, whose headquarters are right in the middle of George square. It will no doubt come out in the debate that, while the Labour group in Strathclyde is not happy about the Ayrshire initiative of the Secretary of State for Defence in his capacity as the local Member of Parliament, the Labour group on the city council is not unhappy about it because it would make it, as it were, a one-purpose local
Column 229government unit. It will be a big question whether the Government will be steered by the former Secretary of State for Scotland, now the Secretary of State for Defence, hanging on by 182 votes, who is very concerned to bring about reform of local government. I make no apology for raising another matter that has arisen within the last 48 hours --the decision of the Scottish Rugby Union to sanction people going to South Africa. A constituency that has Nelson Mandela square right in its heart is bound to regard that as a major issue in the by-election.
We are very proud of Nelson Mandela square. We had to take on the Tories to have the name changed. We did it to embarrass the South African consul general in Mandela square and also to show solidarity with black people in South Africa. Now the Scottish Rugby Union is saying that it will be an individual matter whether people go to South Africa. It has said that it will see whether the Scottish squad would be available. It is facilitating contacts with South Africa and it will give players permission to go there. That will be a major issue in the by-election. I do not know whether you read The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald , Mr. Speaker. I have found in debate with English Members that they do not read The Scotsman , the Glasgow Herald , the Daily Record , the Glasgow Evening Times --
Mr. Sillars : One English Labour Member reads the Glasgow Herald every Monday. That is always something. If he reads Murray Ritchie on the back page, he will learn a great deal about Scottish politics and Scottish life.
The decision of the Scottish Rugby Union should be an important debating point in the Glasgow, Central by-election. With the exception of the Tory party, there will be great unanimity to bring pressure to bear upon the Scottish Rugby Union to reverse its scandalous decision.
I have talked of national issues, but there are others. The hon. Member for Hamilton earlier wanted to bring my remarks to a conclusion. He is one of the Opposition foreign affairs spokesmen. If we extract the Glasgow, Central by-election from 15 June and subject it to scrutiny on its own, we see that there is no way that Labour's defence policy will not be examined closely. I have known the hon. Gentleman since he was a student at Dundee. I know his point of view on nuclear disarmament. He is what is called a multilateralist. I can well understand the desire to slip it past the folk in Glasgow, Central. The Labour party managed to slip it past the folk in the Vale of Glamorgan. We are approaching the day when it must be open and should be looked at.
In Glasgow, Central, right in the heart of Clydeside, where we have lived with Polaris and are to be told to live with Trident, there are umpteen experts on the nuclear issue. There are organisations all over the place, located in Glasgow, Central, that send
representatives to every meeting of the Labour party to ask where it stands. One of the questions would be, "Would you press the trigger?" It is not for me to say in this debate whether we should or should not, although I personally would not. That is the sort of question that will be raised and I can understand the Labour party wanting to slip it past us.
Column 230If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, read The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald, you will know how important Scottish sovereignty was. The Scottish Constitutional Convention is sitting and there are differences of opinion on the issue. There are great debates taking place in Scotland about our constitutional future. It is an intriguing situation. That may be another reason why the hon. Member for Hamilton wanted to curtail the debate.
What we in Scotland call a fankle has developed and it must be unravelled. Sovereignty will be a big issue and we should have an early resolution of it. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know, the conventional view, which has never been wholly accepted in Scotland, is that Parliament is sovereign. Having read The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald in recent weeks, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be aware that Labour Members of Parliament went to Edinburgh for the week of the convention and signed a solemn declaration that the Scottish people were sovereign.
The Scottish people cannot be sovereign if Parliament is sovereign. That is a contradiction in terms. Those Labour Members may well believe that that is the case, but does that represent the official Labour party policy? That issue should be debated in Glasgow, Central and that fankle should be examined.
The deputy leader of the Labour party has travelled the country attacking Charter '88, which calls for a written constitution and a Bill of Rights. The right hon. Gentleman has attacked them because he supports the sovereignty of Parliament. The quicker we get the deputy leader of the Labour party on to a platform in Glasgow, Central, along with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who leads the Labour party in Scotland, the quicker--subject to press conferences and interrogation--we will know whether Labour Members believe in the sovereignty of the Scottish people or of Parliament. The dual mandate is discussed at Labour party conferences. One of the national newspapers says that honours are even. The dual mandate is even more intriguing than the hon. Member for Garscadden signing the declaration of sovereignty while the deputy leader of the Labour party attacks any idea other than the sovereignty of Parliament. An element in the Labour party is putting forward the idea of a dual mandate. At the next general election, or possibly at the by-election, the Labour party may ask for a dual mandate. It is important to resolve this matter.
I am an objective neutral, but the matter seems to be a contradiction in terms. Labour party members cannot say, "Send us down to Westminster where we are sovereign, but if somebody votes against us, we can be sovereign in our own country." I could be wrong, but these matters must be debated during the by-election campaign. Glasgow is an area of long-time working- class activity and organisation. All Opposition Members know that, as do one or two Conservative Members. In Glasgow, we are particularly proud of Glasgow Green. I mentioned that earlier and shall not be tedious and repetitious. Glasgow Green is the meeting ground of many a great working class rally.
I understand why the hon. Member for Hamilton did not want this debate to continue or to debate secondary picketing at the Glasgow, Central by- election. However, it is important and I want it debated at the by- election. I suspect that some Conservative Members will want the
Column 231matter to be debated at the by-election. If we have a by-election at an early date, it will clear up the dubiety. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) is the Front Bench Labour party spokesman on employment. I have two press cuttings, one from the Financial Times, which says :
"Meacher call to restore union rights disowned."
I thought that he must be being disowned by the Government. However, it seems that he is being disowned by his own party at a senior, shadow Cabinet level. The fact that that appeared in the Financial Times is important because people in the business community read it.
Many trade unionists read the Glasgow Herald and many of them live in Glasgow, Central. The Glasgow Herald said :
"Labour disowns Meacher views on secondary picketing."
We should note the difference between the two newspapers. In the Financial Times, it said merely that the hon. Gentleman was disowned, but there was much more accurate reporting in the Glasgow Herald, which said that Labour had disowned its own spokesman's views on secondary picketing. That will be an important issue.
There are many working-class people in Glasgow, Central, and they are well organised. They should have an early opportunity to ask the Labour candidate and the Labour party where they stand on secondary picketing. That is extremely important to the trade union movement because, due to the outlawing of secondary picketing, men have been defeated in strike after strike. I know the hon. Member for Hamilton well from his Right-wing trade union days, and I understand why he would not want that issue examined.
You will be pleased to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am probably coming near the end of my remarks, and I am grateful for your patience. I am glad that there was no private notice question for us to fall out about today.
I have already mentioned that we do not have a Select Committee on Scottish affairs, however, an alternative has been set up by Opposition Members. It is touring Scotland, taking evidence and examining crucial issues. The Glasgow, Central by-election offers the alternative committee an excellent opportunity to meet in Glasgow, Central to take evidence from major institutions such as the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and from Scottish doctors and nursing unions about their views on the Health Service. They could make a significant contribution to the political debate. If I could persuade them to engage in such activity, what a tragedy it would be if there was a by-election on 15 June, in the middle of the European election, and the focus was lost.
I want to talk about Prestwick and Glasgow airports. Some people might ask what Prestwick has to do with Glasgow. I am glad that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South is present, because he has a strong interest in this. There is an intriguing relationship between the futures of Prestwick and Glasgow airports, and Glasgow airport's relationship to the centre of Glasgow, to which the air of culture and the development of the city is extremely important. In recent weeks there have been major debates about this.
I shall not be partisan. I used to represent South Ayrshire, but I have not changed my views because I have shifted geographically. The hon. Member for Cunninghame, South will be delighted to hear that. A decision was taken at the Court of Session in Edinburgh which seems to spell the death knell for Prestwick airport
Column 232--it only looked like that. There were legal problems attached to the decision because, I believe it was not a sound legal judgment. I mention that to illustrate the importance of another major issue which should be talked about and which can be talked about only if a by-election takes place.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has publicly expressed grave concern about the White Paper proposals on the future of Scottish broadcasting. One factor that will emerge in this by-election is the fact that the White Paper on broadcasting did not contain the word "Scotland". That will be a hard charge to answer. We want a Home Office Minister to go to Scotland to explain to the Scottish people why that happened. That is highly relevant to Glasgow, Central. Scottish Television is our biggest independent television company. It employs a fair number of people and exerts a major influence on life in west central Scotland, including the life of the Glasgow, Central constituency. Many people are very loyal to that television channel. Issues to debate are whether one or more independent companies should operate in Scotland, and whether licences should be simply on a financial basis or whether quality and commitment to Scottish broadcasting should come first. Those important issues involve culture-- Glasgow, Central sits at the centre of the city of culture--but they affect employment as well.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that the Prime Minister herself will be an issue in the by-election. Her 10 years in power are to be tested in Wales tomorrow, and there is also to be an important opportunity for them to be tested in Scotland. If I catch your eye during Prime Minister's Question Time, Mr. Speaker, I hope to persuade the right hon. Lady to come to Glasgow, Central for the by-election and to go through the streets and into areas of housing meeting people who endure torture from damp homes, unemployment and poverty. That, in my view, is a Prime Minister's role : the Prime Minister should not be afraid to come and meet the people who she says have never been better off.
One of the tragedies of the English Prime Ministers--I know that you do not see it in the same way, Mr. Speaker--is that they are locked into Downing street and develop the bunker mentality. They are surrounded by people who tell them what they want to hear rather than what they should know. Our Prime Minister takes photo opportunities using the backgrounds that she prefers : if she wants to project the image of an up-and-coming United Kingdom, for instance, the background to the photo opportunity will be a new factory. I think that her role is to get out into the streets and meet the people who are profoundly and fundamentally affected by her policies.
Mr. Andrew Welsh : Earlier my hon. Friend mentioned a subject dear to his heart, saying that he would return to it : he referred to the large Chinese population in Glasgow, Central. My wife taught at Garnethill primary school, which was attended by members of the Chinese community.
Although the ethnic minorities that my hon. Friend has mentioned, Pakistani, Indian and Chinese, are very much Glaswegians and have been welcomed into Glasgow--some of the best Chinese restaurants anywhere are to be found in Glasgow, Central--they also feel strongly about their origins and places of birth. Does my hon. Friend think that in the by-election campaign members of the Chinese community will raise the question of Hong
Column 233Kong's future? I know that my hon. Friend has an interest in that. To what extent does he believe that the population of Glasgow, Central will share his concern?
Mr. Sillars : I should like to persuade you differently, Mr. Speaker. In the House of Lords, Lord Glenarthur, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said that the reason why the Government did not propose a right of abode to the citizens of Hong Kong was that
"it did not believe that there was sufficient support in this country for wholesale changes to the law that would entail the prospect, albeit a theoretical one, of large-scale immigration from Hong Kong."
The key words are
"did not believe that there was sufficient support in this country".
How do we know that that is the case unless we put it to the test?
I have a long-standing interest in Hong Kong : my son was born there, and I have many friends who are Hong Kong citizens. When I was working there last year I met a number of members of the democratic organisations there who are seeking certain rights before 1997. The Chinese community in Glasgow is raising the Hong Kong issue. It wants the Government to engage in a test of public support--and, of course, a by-election provides a perfect opportunity for people to state their position and to commit themselves.
It is entirely fair for a Chinese from Hong Kong with a vote and right of residence in Glasgow, Central to go along to each election and ask, "Would you support a change in the British Nationality Act?"
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East raised the matter ; I had meant to deal with it, but my train of thought was upset by all the points of order. Islamic issues will also figure prominently because of the position of the mosque in Glasgow, Central.
All the issues that I have mentioned are reasons for the motion to be accepted, and for the by-election to take place at an early date. I hope that I have persuaded most hon. Members who have managed to attend this short debate. I am aware that other hon. Members want to take part : perhaps, like the hon. Member for Bolsover, they will be eloquent enough to persuade me that I am wrong, but at this moment I think that an early by- election would be a very good thing. 7.26 pm