Previous Section Home Page

(b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining items in the Lords Message as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall

(i) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on any item ;

(ii) in the case of each remaining item designated by Mr. Speaker, put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in their Proposal ; and

(iii) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.

Supplemental provisions with respect to certain proceedings 4.--(1) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons.

(2) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

5.--(1) In this paragraph "the proceedings" means proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments, on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and on the Report of such a Committee.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(3) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(4) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration), the bringing to a conclusion of any part of the proceedings which, under this Order, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

The Bill has had a good airing in the House, in Committee and in another place, and it is appropriate that the House should complete its scrutiny today, so that it can complete its passage on to the statute book and the

Column 194

country can begin to reap the benefits of the legislation. The purpose of the timetable motion is to enable the House to give proper and orderly consideration to the amendments made in another place, within a limit of time adequate for that to be done, and having regard to the relatively narrow range of topics covered by those amendments.

When my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland moved that the Bill should be given a Second Reading, he said :

"education does not consist only of what happens within school, and nor does what happens within schools interest only the teaching profession. The involvement of parents is likely to bring results that will ultimately be to the benefit of the pupils themselves."--[ Official Report , 6 March 1989 ; Vo. 148, c. 622.]

Throughout the past decade, the Government have consistently taken a lead in giving expression to the rights of parents and developing their role in the education process. The Bill represents the culmination of that development, and when it passes into law it will have a powerful and beneficial influence extending throughout the school system. We have put parents to the top of everyone's agenda, and we may claim credit for that, without in the least detracting from the credit due to those authorities, such as Strathclyde, which likewise have read the signs of the times and are now developing policies of their own to involve parents in the education process. The Bill is quite distinct from the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988, which now is being implemented throughout Scotland. It is distinct because school boards are intended for every school--the uptake of that facility has been heartening--whereas nobody is put under any obligation to use the provisions for self-governing schools who does not wish to do so. At the same time, the Bill can also be seen as a natural development from the 1988 Act. Some schools may well see the possibility of self-governing status in due course as a logical next step from the school board, but we have stressed repeatedly that we have no specific target for the number of schools that should become self-governing. Both my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), have made that point. The very existence of the option for a school board, however, will ensure that the parental point of view expressed through the board is heard with proper respect.

We do not expect school boards in large numbers to move immediately towards self-government, but we consider it right that the option should be seen to be available to them from the outset. It is therefore time to complete proceedings on this Bill and bring it into effect. It has already had adequate time for consideration here and in another place. We spent 127 hours on it in the Standing Committee, followed by a full day on Report to the House. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), whom I welcome to the Dispatch Box in his new role, was not a member of the Committee, so I acquit him of responsibility for any aspect of its conduct. Suffice it to say that the Opposition were given ample, indeed generous, time, before the timetable motion and after it, to develop their arguments on aspects of the Bill that troubled them.

The Bill then had three full days of debate, a total of 18 hours, in another place, where the Opposition made a measured and constructive contribution. So I hope that

Column 195

the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie will not rise to complain that the Bill is being rushed through with undue haste. The Bill returns to the House with 94 amendments. Of those, between 50 and 60 are, on any view of the matter, technical or drafting amendments whose purpose is to make the Bill clearer. Another 20 or so are necessary consequences of other more substantial amendments. Only a handful of amendments deal with matters of any substance, and I shall refer briefly to one of the most salient of them to illustrate my point.

The Bill originally provided that a ballot of parents on self-governing status could be initiated either at the request of a specified number of parents or by a single resolution of a school board. That remained in the Bill when it left this House. We were of course aware that the procedure for acquiring self-governing status was, in this and other respects, different from that for acquiring grant-maintained status under the Education Reform Act 1988. Our procedure is swifter, and deliberately so. For example, under this Bill a school board will be required, after a positive ballot result, to produce its formal proposals within one month ; the corresponding period allowed under the Education Reform Act is six months. That difference has not been questioned at any stage. It is common ground between Government and Opposition that, if there is to be a proposal for self-governing status, the issue should be settled as quickly as reasonably possible. Prolonged uncertainty is likely to affect a school's morale and reputation.

However, this must be balanced against another need that has been urged on the Government at successive stages of the Bill. It is one that we have always acknowledged--the need to ensure that the parents who vote in a ballot have a proper appreciation of what they are voting for. It was with that in mind that we accepted the amendment in the other place--I hope that the House will agree with it later this afternoon--to the effect that, when a board has made a resolution to call a ballot, it must first inform the education authority and then allow between four and six weeks to elapse, after which it must confirm its first resolution if it still wants to proceed with a ballot.

This means that the issue will be out in the public domain and open to debate for a fair length of time before the ballot. There can be no doubt that any education authority would want to respond, to make its views known to the school board and--very likely--to the parents directly at this stage. The school board, too, if it is in earnest, will want to use this time to consult the parents who elected it and state its case to them-- indeed, it is likely to be under pressure to do so. The board will have to take some time to reflect on its initial decision and hear the responses that come back before finally deciding whether to go ahead with a ballot.

This amendment illustrates two aspects that characterise all the amendments that we are to consider today. In the first place, it represents a Government response to a constructive point made in debate ; on the other hand, it does not represent a radical shift of policy on our part.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood) : My hon. Friend will know that, in England, some local authorities have bludgeoned and intimidated parents into

Column 196

not taking up grant-maintained status. Is he taking that into consideration, and is he satisfied that the school boards will have enough resources to be able to convey their message equally forcefully to the parents?

Mr. Lang : My hon. Friend makes a relevant point. Of course the experience of colleagues south of the border is relevant to our consideration of this measure. I believe that we have made adequate provision in the Bill for my hon. Friend's point, but we shall certainly keep an eye on it. I would condemn any local authority that sought to bludgeon school boards or parents into changing their attitude to these important matters.

But we have not shifted policy in any degree in the amendments that we are bringing forward today. We are bringing forward a refinement and a clarification of policy rather than any new departure. In considering the Lords amendments, we shall not be asking the House to consider any new policy. The underlying policy has been thoroughly debated and settled in both Houses, and we are not here to reopen that debate.

I shall, if I may, refer to the other significant amendments more briefly to demonstrate my general point. There are amendments clarifying the significance of the ballot result. Let me again briefly quote my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on Second Reading :

"the ballot does not itself decide the question of opting out ; it simply determines whether the process can reach the next stage." My right hon. Friend went on to point out that, as Secretary of State, he

"would of course take into account the proportion who had voted in a ballot but I think it right to give most weight to the views of those who have chosen to exercise their vote either for or against the proposal."-- [Official Report, 6 March 1989 ; Vol. 148. c. 631.]

Simply in order to reach a reasonable decision, the Secretary of State will have to take account of all the information available to him about the situation of the school, and the ballot result is one--but only one--of the relevant factors. An amendment which the Government accepted in the other place gives effect to that. There is also an amendment which gives effect to the policy that the Government had already declared, that a self- governing school should not be able, as a rule, to move to any change in its basic characteristics until it has been established as a self-governing school for at least five years. There is also an amendment which responds to an undertaking given to the Opposition in Committee to entrench a parental majority on the board of management of a self-governing school. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling welcomed the Opposition's conversion to that concept, and we have sought to give effect to their concern.

But all this is well-trodden ground. There are other aspects of the provisions on self-governing schools to which the critics have not given a great deal of attention. They have painted a picture of the self-governing school which would not be borne out by any dispassionate scrutiny of the Bill. The self-governing school has been portrayed as some kind of private enclave for a coterie of parents. But it is difficult to see how that is to be squared with the requirement on those parents to obtain mass support in a ballot, after a campaign which will extend

Column 197

over several weeks and will be conducted with maximum publicity. Even if such groups do exist, they may be disappointed by the reality of the legislation.

We have made it clear, and the Bill makes it clear, that a school must continue to be just as much a public and community asset after it becomes self-governing as it was before. Boards of management will be under a specific statutory duty, for example, to promote the use of the school premises and facilities by the community.

It is also appropriate for me to refer here briefly to the other parts of the Bill. Part II, which was the subject of extensive consultation and discussion beforehand, has been found largely acceptable to both Houses. We have had some debates on some aspects of part III, but in the end those provisions have been accepted with little amendment.

We have now had two years of legislative innovation in Scottish education. That has produced a great deal of new material and new ideas for those involved in the education system to digest. The period that lies ahead must necessarily be one of consolidation, and I do not mean by that that it will be a period of rest or retrenchment, and certainly not of stagnation. I hope that it will be a time of positive and co-operative effort to take up and to put into practice the new developments made possible by the legislation. There is common ground between the Government and local authorities on many things--on school boards, on development in the curriculum for the five to 14 age group, on the professional development of teachers, and on the management of schools and further education. I hope that we shall be able to work together vigorously on those things. The expeditious passage of the Bill's remaining stages will clear the way and set the scene for that to begin.

4.8 pm

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie) : I thank the Minister for his welcome and, in turn, welcome him to his first debate as Minister with responsibility for Scottish education. On the surface, his rather winsome smile is preferable to the sneering and snarling that we have had for the past two years from his predecessor, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). He has now gone off to work with endangered species, which is rather akin to herding together the remaining Tory Members of Parliament in Scotland, letting in a rabid dog and throwing away the key.

The Minister comes to us fresh from his triumphs in electricity privatisation. It is difficult to imagine how someone so mild and inoffensive could cause such carnage : the present chaos in the electricity industry follows his early triumph with the poll tax. From poll tax to nuclear tax! Scottish education and Scottish enterprise had better watch out, for this man is the Frank Spencer of the Tory Front Bench, creating chaos wherever he goes.

I am new to the debates on this Bill--even newer than Hansard suggests. As we know, its records are impeccable, and it was therefore with some amazement that I read that I had contributed to the Report stage debate on 20 June. That would have been difficult, as I was in Washington with the Select Committee on Home Affairs at the time. Having read the record of the debates on the Bill on the Floor of the House and in Committee, however, I can only

Column 198

pay tribute to the work of those who, unlike myself, are not new to it--the battle-scarred troops behind me, and the noble Lords Carmichael and Macaulay.

Opposition Members will resist the guillotine motion and fight the Bill to the last, because it was forged in dishonesty, and dishonesty remains its central characteristic. The Secretary of State stated explicitly at the time of the 1987 election that opting out would not apply in Scotland. He may have meant what he said then ; that was before the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Stirling got to him. That is the trouble with having a bendy toy as Secretary of State : he puts himself and his career before Scottish education. He should have stood up and fought. Now his career is stuck ; he is unhappy, marooned, shell-shocked and becalmed. More important, the Scottish people have been deceived. A Bill that has not even the flimsiest of Scottish mandates is poised to become law, simply because the Prime Minister imposed it on a half-hearted Secretary of State.

What is the purpose of the Secretary of State for Scotland if it is not to build on the roots of Scottish education, developing a policy based on Scottish culture and distinctiveness? The Bill merits longer debate because it is fundamental to Scottish education.

How do I square that belief with the knowledge that there is almost no desire for the Bill in Scotland? Let me explain. The same conflict exists in what the Tories are saying. According to the hon. Member for Stirling when he was responsible for education:

"It is the most radical change in Scottish education for a generation or more, and I freely admit that. Its potential is profound and the benefits it offers are obvious to some already. In time, they will be widely recognised people will realise that they have a tool with which to reshape Scottish education to the great benefit of its users."-- [Official Report, 6 March 1989 ; Vol. 148, c. 701.]

The present Minister responsible for education said on Sunday, in a television programme:

"I actually don't think that opting out is going to be something that the vast majority of Scottish schools is going to get involved in. I would expect that relatively few will decide to opt out." There is considerable conflict between those two statements. On the one hand, this is

"the most radical change for a generation or more".

I interpret that as meaning 30 or more years. On the other hand, we are told, "Let us not bother about this ; it will affect only a few schools." Who is right? The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is right, because the Bill gives the Secretary of State overwhelming powers over the development of Scottish education.

The major issue of contention in Scottish education is school closure : too few pupils and too many places. That issue must be faced by any responsible authority. The Bill gives to the Secretary of State the power to say which schools will close and which will stay open. We know how the Secretary of State will use that power. The Bill sounds the death knell for schools in areas that are struggling to provide a good education for their children. It makes sick the idea that the Secretary of State cares about deprived areas. It is one more kick in the teeth for local government after the poll tax. It removes from education authorities the ability to look at schools as a whole. Councillors will have to face the electorate and explain what is happening, but the power will be hidden away in St. Andrew's house.

There is not the slightest doubt that this is an attempt to bring back selection, despite the Secretary of State having said on Second Reading :

Column 199

"I can state categorically and without equivocation that the Bill is not designed to reintroduce selectivity".-- [ Official Report, 6 March 1989 ; Vol. 148, c. 625.]

I give to that all the weight that I would give to the statements of a salesman of very used cars.

In contrast, once again I believe what was said by the hon. Member for Stirling in The Scotsman on 6 April :

"We are not prepared to rule out selection entirely."

That is what is behind the Bill.

I have read all the Committee's deliberations. The Under-Secretary of State could never bring himself in Committee to say anything good about comprehensive education. He was scornful of any academic research that showed that there had been real progress since the introduction of comprehensive education. For two years as an education Minister he sneered at the state system, thus depriving it of good morale. He said, "I do not think that the state system is any good and I am going to introduce a Bill to break up the system." The Bill is, I believe, designed to break up the comprehensive system because of the sort of material that appeared this week in The Sunday Times under the heading :

"Grammar schools to make a comeback after 20 years."

The article states clearly--after, I suggest, a leak from the Department of Education and Science--

"The first new grammar schools in Britain since the comprehensive revolution began in the 1960-s will be created under plans to be revealed later this month."

What is planned will be spread over the border by the Under-Secretary of State.

In Committee there was much talk about choice, but the Opposition believe that the introduction of comprehensive education gave parents and children more choice than they had ever had before. We should like more comprehensive schools in order to give more choice. We should like comprehensive nursery schools to be provided. We should like more comprehensive training and more comprehensive adult education. That would provide choice. The Opposition believe that comprehensive schools can add on options by means of links with colleges and links between schools.

In itself, the term "comprehensive" is a misnomer. No school can ever be totally comprehensive in terms of subject, catchment area and age. There is always a compromise--about special schools, special gifts or list D schools. However, there comes a legitimate point when we have to say that we must hang on to the central core and idea of the comprehensive. It is impossible to have unfettered choice for some without denying choice to the great majority. At some point it must be said that the exercise of choice for some people is the denial of choice for others, and the good of the great majority is harmed by the choice of others, which is sometimes misguided. That is what happened in the past to senior and junior secondary schools where some people's ability was rewarded. The Minister uses choice as a means of breaking up the comprehensive system.

I am willing to abide by the choice of the Scottish people. I am willing to travel the length and breadth of Scotland with the Minister asking Scottish parents whether they want a development of the Scottish comprehensive or of opted-out schools. I am willing to submit to any objective poll on the development of comprehensives against his plan. Scottish parents would

Column 200

overwhelmingly choose to support comprehensive education. Because the Government are seeking to deny Scottish people that choice, we totally reject the Bill. The Government know that there is no support for it. Because their proposals are anti- choice, anti-local government, centralised and imposed from outside, we should resist the guillotine motion, and the Labour Government of 1991 will repeal the Act.

4.20 pm

Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood) : I add my personal welcome to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) in his new elevated position, and express the hope that he enjoys it as much as the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) did.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie has made previous speeches on this subject, although he was not on the Committee considering the Bill ; the matter was raised in discussions on the School Boards (Scotland) Act 1988 and the hon. Gentleman was on that Committee. In a famous reference, he suggested that the possibility of opting out for the Neilston primary school in my constituency because of a dispute over a possible extension to that school. The hon. Gentleman said that it would be disgraceful if Neilston received the extra allocation for that extension. I am always in the business of doing little acts of kindness for Opposition Members and it seemed to me that those sentiments should have a wider audience. He will be delighted to know that I quoted him in full to a mass meeting of the parents at Neilston primary school. He also attacked Paisley grammar school on the basis of spurious comparisons with schools in part of my constituency from which no one ever goes to Paisley grammar. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I am a product of the Scottish comprehensive system and the allegation that the Bill is about breaking up the state system is wholly erroneous. Schools are not opting out of the state system ; technically, they are opting into the state system from a local authority system.

The hon. Gentleman's remarks about choice could apply equally to the parents' charter. I am glad, that in his first speech as Opposition spokesman on Scottish education, the hon. Gentleman has stated that his party is against the parents' charter.

Much of the debate in Committee was about the relationship between school boards and self-governing schools. There is need for an orderly debate for many reasons. One is to enable the hon. Gentleman to make his position clear about some of the issues raised in Committee, such as the famous Strathclyde report. The hon. Member for Fife, Central said :

"I very much welcome this excellent report",

but it was not welcomed by every regional councillor in Strathclyde. One councillor said :

"I am dismayed at what has come out here."

The Educational Institute of Scotland accused Councillor Charles Gray, the leader of the council, of working hand in hand with the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). In turn, Mr. Charles Gray called the Strathclyde EIS officials

"educated ostriches who did not represent the rank and file of teachers or the Labour movement".

Column 201

Now the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie owes it to the House, the EIS and Mr. Charles Gray to tell us on which side of that argument he is, and I hope that he will have the opportunity to do so during the debate.

It is essential that the supplementary guillotine motion is agreed to get the Bill on the statute book, because the House is due to prorogue on Thursday, subject to satisfactory progress on business. Without the guillotine, satisfactory progress will not be made and the House will be treated to a repetition of what happened in Committee. The House should not be reassured by the fact that the amendments are mainly technical. In Committee, important clauses such as clause 15 on ballots hurtled through in 15 minutes, while technical clauses took hours. My hon. Friends who served on the Committee will recall clause 28 and that an undertaking was given by the Opposition that it would be delivered at midday on 25 April. It was delayed into the middle of the night, not because of a dispute with the Government but because Labour Members discovered that their amendments did not mean what they thought. Instead of admitting that and getting on with the debate, they continued into the middle of the night.

We should not believe that the guillotine is unnecessary because the Opposition are likely to accept the Lords amendments. That offers no reassurance of a short debate. In Committee, in the middle of the night, the hon. Member for Fife, Central moved an amendment. My hon. Friend the Minister intervened. Did he say "I shall consider this amendment"? No, he did not. Did he say, "This is a good amendment, but it is technically defective"? No, he did not. He said : "I am happy to accept the hon. Gentleman's amendment, so perhaps we can move on".

Move on we did not ; Labour Members continued to talk about the amendment. Eventually, the Chairman said :

"I am in the Committee's hands, but I find it difficult to understand why amendment No. 154 cannot be dealt with quickly".--[ Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 25 April 1989 ; c. 1005-6.]

What happened? Labour Members went on, despite the fact that they had received a kindly warning from the Chairman and despite the fact that the Minister had accepted the amendment, which nobody had opposed.

The same happened when I moved an uncontroversial amendment that was suggested by the Scottish Consumer Council. The Opposition indicated support in principle for it, the Minister said that he would consider it and I said that I was content, but the Opposition, not unreasonably, said that they were not content. They wanted an absolute commitment from the Minister. The Minister was persuaded and said, "I shall accept the amendment," but what happened? Opposition Members went on and on.

Hon. Members may believe that the guillotine is not necessary because Labour Members will want to get home for the break, because they are reasonable people or because, given a free rein, they might run out of steam. The House should dismiss that notion. When Labour Members run out of steam, they will bring on, with the skirl of the pipes and choruses of gaelic songs, their ultimate weapon--the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald). He persuaded the Committee of his considerable ability to speak at enormous length--obviously within order--about almost anything. Not only did he refine that technique but he introduced a new technique--the silent

Column 202

filibuster. He stood up, but said absolutely nothing. He was firmly and fairly brought to order by the Chairman, who said :

"Order. Let us be clear. The hon. Member must not stand without speaking, because it cannot be recorded in Hansard. It cannot be said that during the day, the hon. Member has shown a lack of words, but, if he has now run out of words, we may make progress."--[ Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 21 March 1989 ; c. 250.]

The events in Committee show why the guillotine is necessary. The Bill is important. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie referred to the fact that it was not in the last Conservative party manifesto. It was not in the Eastwood manifesto either, but that was before the closure of Paisley grammar and the Catholic girls' school ; fundamental questions were raised about the motives behind those closures in Strathclyde. Having said that, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is difficult to put any closure programme into effect and that Strathclyde was justified in trying to grasp these nettles.

The Bill is important not only because it gives Scottish parents the opportunities of choice but because it reassures them that they have an alternative. I believe that it will be to the great benefit of Scottish parents. I fully support the supplementary guillotine. 4.30 pm

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute) : I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box.

This is no ordinary Bill. It is being forced to a conclusion with the use of the guillotine. Any Government who use this procedure should have proved their case overwhelmingly. That the Government have not done so is obvious. By introducing the guillotine, the Government demonstrate, once again, their disregard for the views of the Scottish people.

The Government have repeated their earlier guillotine on Report to stifle proper debate on issues of great importance to Scottish parents, pupils and teachers. The Minister said that the Bill had had a good airing, but the amendments come from the other place and are being rushed through. We should have proper time to discuss them because the Bill is opposed by the majority of people in Scotland. At no time did the Government tell us that they would introduce these measures.

We need more time to discuss how boards of management will take account of the needs and interests of the local community. We need more time to ensure that the future status of schools is not determined by a small, unrepresentative clique of parents who are singlemindedly determined to pursue their own narrow aims. We need more time to ensure that the basic characteristics of a school in regard to admissions policy cannot be changed without the express consent of the majority of the parents in the school and after a period of thorough reflection and democratic consultation. We need more time to ensure that the Secretary of State does not abdicate his responsibility for maintaining an integrated education system. The Government have not been able to show how schools stand to gain by becoming self-governing. Will it mean a better building, a new school, playing fields or more books or equipment? No one can give us an answer. On the contrary, the key point is that funding for

Column 203

opted-out schools will not mean extra money. The money will be deducted from the grant that the local education authority would otherwise receive for the school.

The Government may have little regard for the effect of their proposed changes, but I assure them and those on the fringes of the Scottish Tory establishment that they matter greatly to people who depend on basic education provision and who value a service that is available to all. In rural areas such as Argyll, the threat is apparent : there are already cuts and closures. Without a basic framework of schools run for the benefit of the entire community, rural communities may find it difficult to survive. Contrary to the Government's protestations, parents in rural areas do not have a choice of school to which to send their children.

Once again, we have a guillotine motion on Scottish legislation. Last night, on the car radio, I heard about the glitter, pomp and ceremony of the Lord Mayor's banquet. I heard the Prime Minister's words ringing out-- about freedom to choose, human rights, the spread of liberty and genuine democracy. That has a hollow and hypocritical ring in the ears of the Scots, who have chosen to look after their own affairs, but are debarred from doing so by the Government. Today we are not allowed to debate the Lord amendments properly. That is a telling sign of the Government's attitude towards the distinctiveness of the Scottish way of life which, in the words of a Welshman, Sir Alwyn Williams,

"stems from an education system of historic merit".

The Government continue to treat the Scottish nation with contempt.

4.35 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : I welcome the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) to his new responsibilities. Those of us who served on the Standing Committee enjoyed the company of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish). Whether he enjoyed our company as much is a moot point. Perhaps it was due to the effectiveness of the contribution of English Members that the Scottish Labour party decided to promote an Englishman to be their spokesman--I know not--but I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new responsibilities.

The debate is supposed to be about the guillotine motion. I consider that a guillotine is necessary. I read in the newspapers this week that the Labour party is putting it about that the Government's programme is "in a shambles". If it is necessary for the Government to impose a guillotine this late in the Session, it is simply because the Labour party Chief Whip has lost control of his own troops. For night after night during the past two weeks, small groups of Labour Members who represent mining constituencies have kept the House up late. Their speeches have been in order, but I doubt whether their contribution has been more effective than that of the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald)--the silent filibuster which we heard of earlier.

I have no doubt that with such highly controversial

legislation--there cannot be an item of legislation on which there is a sharper political divide--all sensible hon. Members must hold the view that an early timetable motion for all stages of the Bill should be imposed.

Next Section

  Home Page