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Column 31hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) described Scotland as one of the oldest historic nations in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman is not only one of the most experienced, but one of the wisest Members of the House. His words should be listened to. We should never lose sight, especially in the Opposition, of the positive side of our nationalism and that of other countries. For example, few socialists would quarrel with the aspiration of the Palestinian people to national self-determination. Even fewer did not or would not support the nationalist struggles in Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua and elsewhere in the third world against the domination by American imperialism. Few hon. Members, on both sides of the House, would not accept the legitimacy of the nationalist goal of a united Ireland, so long as it is pursued by democratic means and is brought about by the democratic consent of the people north and south in Ireland.
The point that I am trying to make is that nationalism can be, and often is, a progressive and liberating force in the modern world. I believe that Scottish nationalism is and can be such a force if it is properly channelled. Indeed, for most of this century, the cause of Scottish nationalism has been the cause of the Scottish Labour movement. Keir Hardie, who founded the Labour party, was a lifelong advocate of Scottish home rule. John McLean, who, perhaps, was Scotland's foremost revolutionary socialist, campaigned all his life for what he called the Scottish socialist workers' republic. Red Clydeside's Jimmy Maxton fought for what he described as the Scottish socialist commonwealth.
In the general election of 1918, the Labour party in Scotland drew up its election manifesto, which had only three distinctively Scottish commitments. The first was the prohibition of alcohol. The second was proportional representation. The third was a Scottish parliament. It is interesting to note that, more than 75 years on, some of us are still campaigning for at least two of those three commitments.
Although Labour subsequently dropped its commitment to Scottish home rule in the 1950s and 1960s, it eventually returned to it, placing it at the very heart of its "Agenda for Scotland" through our support for a claim of right for Scotland and for the Scottish Convention scheme for a Scottish parliament. Opposition Members do not hesitate to proclaim Scotland's right to self-determination and to home rule and its own parliament. These are basic democratic demands, supported by a minimum of three out of four Scottish voters. I believe that the potential exists for a common agenda for three of Scotland's four major constitutional parties ; I hope that, by the end of the debate, Conservative Members will have been convinced as well.
There is plenty to form the basis of a democratic critique of Scottish government : God knows enough is wrong with it nowadays. The current housing crisis, for instance, is related to the lack of democracy in Scotland. Homelessness is now at record levels, having increased by a staggering 145 per cent. in the 1980s. According to reports in this
Column 32morning's Scottish press, in just four areas some 8,500 women are not only homeless but hidden out of sight, not recognised as homeless. God knows what the national figure is.
The first national housing condition survey, completed in 1992, revealed that no fewer than 423,000 Scottish dwellings were affected by damp, severe condensation, mould or, in some cases, a combination of all three. We all know areas in our constituencies which are euphemistically described as "areas of low demand". Housing in such areas consists of damp-ridden boxes and unemployment is at 40, 50 or even 60 per cent ; crime and vandalism are rife ; the streets are not safe for mothers to walk or children to play in ; and drug abuse is common, with hedges and stairwells littered with discarded syringes. Those areas are little better than hellholes, but people cannot escape from them : they have no alternative accommodation because of the housing crisis.
That is a national disgrace, but we have not the democratic means to do anything about it. Not so long ago, locally elected councils were responsible for Scotland's housing. Those councils were accountable to their electorate ; if local people were not satisfied with their performance, they could vote them out at regular elections. Now, every local housing scene is dominated by the quango Scottish Homes, whose financial muscle cannot be matched by individual councils. In 1993-94, Scottish Homes has a massive £372 million to invest in housing ; with resources on such a scale, it will call the shots. Without an agreement with Scottish Homes to bring part of that £372 million into its area, no council can really be in the housing business.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some 42 strategic agreements have been made with local authorities and that two more are about to be made? In the vast majority of cases--if not all--local authorities have nomination rights in relation to Scottish Homes housing.
Mr. McAllion : The Minister should have been patient and waited until I had finished. I was pointing out that councils were not in the housing business unless they had secured such agreements. Locally elected councils had to negotiate their agreements with Scottish Homes and in those negotiations all the muscle, power and influence were on one side. Councils are now being forced to submit to a housing agenda that is increasingly being set by the unelected Scottish Homes agency--an agenda whose priority is more home ownership, tenure change and encouragement of the private sector at the expense of the public sector. That agenda largely ignores those who are trapped in the worst housing, who have the fewest private resources and who are least able to look after themselves. That has arisen because housing in Scotland is dominated by non-elected quangos such as Scottish Homes at the expense of the input of elected local authorities, which used to be the main players on the housing scene before Scottish Homes.
That is true also of the Scottish Enterprise network, which has brought into being a whole new family of quangos in the form of local enterprise companies throughout Scotland. Their influence on economic development, training, business support and development grants completely dwarfs local council planning and
Column 33economic development departments. In my own area, Scottish Enterprise Tayside has an annual budget of about £25 million to spend on local economic development, compared with a combined budget for Tayside regional council's planning and economic development departments of less than £4 million.
To whom are Scottish Enterprise and other agencies accountable? Certainly not to the people of Tayside, local councils or Members of Parliament representing Scottish constituencies. They are accountable only to the Secretary of State for Scotland--and that must and does lead to abuses. In the past few weeks in my local enterprise company, two senior members were forced to resign because of a conflict of interest between their role as private business men and as heads of what is essentially a public agency. That situation cannot be tolerated and it should be snuffed out as soon as possible. The same argument can be made in respect of national health service trusts, the new water boards and the host of new quangos that have come into existence under the present leadership of the Conservative party in Scotland. They are a law unto themselves and to their master--the Secretary of State for Scotland. Little wonder that he is prepared to defend quangos--as he did earlier today. They are in effect his own flesh and blood. He forms quangos, packs their membership with Conservative party supporters and sets their agendas--and the quangos do his bidding. The Secretary of State and the quangos are running Scotland without the democratic consent of the Scottish people. Although the people of Scotland fund those quangos, they have no say in them and are treated with contempt. Many other aspects of Scottish life are equally intolerable.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : To emphasise the rottenness of quango appointments I should point out the appointment to the chairmanship of Inverclyde Royal hospital trust of a local employer who pays among the lowest wages in the whole Inverclyde area. Surely that augurs badly for the people who give their best service to patients of the Inverclyde Royal hospital group.
Mr. McAllion : My hon. Friend makes a fair point and that is not an isolated example. The Secretary of State for Scotland recently visited Dundee, but not in his ministerial capacity. In fact, he did not even advise my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) that he was to visit the constituency. The right hon. Gentleman did so in his role as a member of the Conservative party, to raise funds for his party at a secret dinner held at the Invercastle hotel in Dundee--to which was invited the chairman of the Dundee NHS trust, as a Conservative party supporter, together with the chairman-designate of Scottish Enterprise Tayside.
Mr. McAllion : That is exactly right. We are concerned with the country being run democratically and it is not democratic for Scotland to be run by people appointed purely on the basis that they give money to the Conservative party--which was roundly defeated in the last local and general elections.
In the past month, we have seen how Westminster-style democracy deals with Scottish affairs. A Government who
Column 34had been defeated in the polls in Scotland introduced a Bill on local government which relates exclusively to Scotland and the people who live there. Members of Parliament who were elected to represent Scottish interests voted overwhelmingly against that Bill. The House simply shrugged off what Scotland thinks about Scottish legislation and voted to give the Bill a Second Reading. Indeed, it ensured that in the Committee stage there would be a built-in Government majority, against the wishes of the Scottish people.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : The hon. Gentleman may have been in the House on 18 November last year when the leader of the Labour party made a complaint about English Conservatives being put on to the Committee which considered that Bill. He was certainly in the House last Tuesday when the Scottish spokesperson of the Labour party defended the right of English Tories to sit on the Committee. Which leader does the hon. Gentleman follow in that argument?
Mr. McAllion : This is a serious debate. It is unfortunate that it has to be dragged down into the gutter by the interventions of the hon. Gentleman. I am making a serious speech about the future of democracy. If the hon. Gentleman cannot recognise the national interest when it stares him in the face, he would do better renaming his party. It certainly does not act in Scotland's national interest.
Mr. Bill Walker : I assure the hon. Gentleman that I, for one, do not doubt the integrity of his view. I do not agree with it, as he knows, but I do not doubt his integrity. Will he clarify an important point of principle and detail? If a future Labour Government did not have a majority of Members in England, would it be right and proper for that Government to pass legislation affecting England which was opposed by the majority?
Mr. McAllion : As the hon. Gentleman knows, Labour is committed to a radical rehaul of the constitutional set-up in the United Kingdom. The start of that will be the establishment of a Scottish parliament with direct responsibility for Scottish affairs. Inevitably, the establishment of that Scottish parliament must change the very nature of this House. It is only a matter of time until we have a Welsh parliament and either regional assemblies or an English parliament--as the English people might decide under a federal constitution for the United Kingdom. That is the future and the way forward for the House. The hon. Gentleman had better recognise that it is the way forward for everyone in this country.
In the handling of the local government Bill by the Westminster Parliament we saw how Westminster-style democracy turns a minority view in Scotland into Government diktat. We saw it discount and disable the views of the democratic majority in Scotland. Yet we are asked to accept that that deeply undemocratic process is in our best interests and represents, in the Government's words, "A Partnership for Good".
Conservative Members argue that theirs is the democratic way while, at the same time, arguing that the democratic views of the Scottish people ultimately do not count in Scottish legislation. They argue that the role of Scotland in the partnership must always be defined for us by a bigger partner. They argue that democracy in Scotland means being governed by those whom we did not elect.
Column 35When they make those arguments, they stand on the verge of George Orwell's nightmare world of doublethink. Conservative Members are asked to hold two contradictory views simultaneously. If Conservative Members are not worried about the internal contradictions of their claims to be democratic in a Scottish sense, they should be. Everyone else is beginning to recognise just how unsustainable is the Tory position on Scottish democracy.
I am often struck by the religious fervour with which defenders of the current Union argue their case. It is almost as if Tories believe that history and God are on their side. That came across clearly in the most recent Government White Paper "Scotland in the Union--A Partnership for Good". In the introduction to the White Paper, the Prime Minister speaks about his faith in a Union which has lasted almost 300 years. The Secretary of State for Scotland waxes eloquent about the joys of a single market which has transcended almost three centuries.
The White Paper is almost awestruck when it speaks about the approaching 400th anniversary of the Union of the crowns of England and Scotland. There is about the document an air of historical inevitability--almost of destiny. It is almost as if 1707 is as important to Scottish Unionists as 1690 is to Ulster Unionists. Yet nothing in life is inevitable. The only constant factor in history is change--states come and go and unions come and go. In 1984, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was one of two world super-powers that bestrode the globe ; it no longer exists.
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South) : The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, which I hope to develop later if I am able to make my speech. Therefore, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Union has survived for 300 years due to its ability to change. It is a dynamic force ; the Union of 1994 is not the same one as that of 1707. It has changed to meet changing circumstances and will continue to do so. That is why it lasts.
Mr. McAllion : The hon. Gentleman has already admitted the case for change in the Union that exists in Scotland. The significant aspect of the Conservative party's attitude to the Union over most of the past 300 years has been its refusal to countenance any substantial changes in the Union. The hon. Gentleman is not guilty of that--I am pleased that he has joined us in our calls for changes to the existing Union and no longer tries to defend the Unionist status quo, as his hon. Friends do.
It is important for Conservative Members to understand that unions come and go. Not long ago, Yugoslavia was a powerful unitary state. Now, it has descended into the nationalists' nightmare in Bosnia, about which we are all concerned. As old unions have gone, new ones have come into existence. The European Union was designed by the Maastricht treaty and came into existence this year. In the spring of this year, the new democratic and non -racist South African Union will come into force. The lesson to be learnt from such developments is that nothing is permanent or sacrosanct about unions, including the United Kingdom.
The fact that the United Kingdom has existed for nearly 300 years is no argument or reason for the Union to continue. Recent history suggests that, as we approach the end of the 20th century, those political unions that are unsustainable are multinational, but based on a unitary
Column 36state that makes no allowance for that multinational dimension. Such unions are highly centralised and authoritarian, without local autonomy. Those unions are essentially undemocratic, where words such as "subsidiarity" and "decentralisation" are regarded as dirty. The United Kingdom has become like those unions under successive Tory Governments since 1979.
If the Union is in danger today, it is because of the activities, not of Opposition Members, but of Conservative Members. Those who would defend the Union argue that such arguments are merely constitutional points and that, ultimately, there is an economic case for defending the existing Union. They say that the Scottish economy is inextricably linked to the United Kingdom economy and it would be impossible to change that. Such arguments are essentially political. They try to underscore the importance of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, and part of a much larger and more powerful economy, but they merely state the obvious.
Those who advance such arguments might as well say that the Scottish economy is inextricably linked to the European or global economy. Economic interdependence, not independence, is the watchword at the end of the 20th century. What happens in the rest of this island, the rest of the continent and the rest of the world matters greatly and has a powerful effect on the people of Scotland. Scotland cannot step outside history and live in splendid tartan isolation, although some hon. Members want to see that happen. It needs to belong to a range of multinational entities and to a radically reformed, federal, decentralised and democratic United Kingdom. Scotland should belong to a different sort of European Union, which is genuinely democratic and has at its heart the interests of the peoples of Europe, not multinational companies. Scotland should belong to a United Nations that is an effective force for peace, not merely an observer of wars, as it has become on too many occasions. Scottish sovereignty is not something which Scotland can keep exclusively to itself. We need to pool our sovereignty with other nations where it is in our common interest to do so. However, the decision to pool that sovereignty must be a Scottish decision. We must decide how much of our sovereignty we are prepared to pool and decide with which other countries we wish to place that sovereignty and how much we shall keep to ourselves. The present Union is unacceptable because we are not allowed to make that decision. We are denied the opportunity to decide how much sovereignty we share with the other nations of the United Kingdom. That is why the Union is profoundly undemocratic and why it is ultimately doomed until it learns to transform itself into the decentralised, democratic and reformed Union to which I have referred and which the Labour party intends to implement after the next election. The debate is a matter of the utmost importance to the people who live in Scotland for those reasons and also because of the questions that it asks about the democratic credentials of the Westminster parliamentary system. It is not just a dry, constitutional matter.
An article appeared in the New Statesman 18 months to two years ago. It was about life on the battle front--the derelict housing schemes on the edge of Glasgow--and described the life of a man who was separated from his wife. It said :
"last night's meal was potatoes mashed with half an onion, and a tin of peas. In the fridge, there is a can of lager and some long-life milk He can afford to heat only one room in the flat,
Column 37so the bedroom remains unused. He sleeps on the sofa under a foam duvet, his coat serving as a pillow. In any case, he sleeps very little The TV plays all night ; at five in the morning, he falls asleep in front of women's golf or motorcycle racing in Florida sunshine. He is too demoralised even to get undressed. There is no hot water : a splash of cold tap water in a bathroom where the breath hangs in a mushroom of vapour."
Far too many of our countrymen are forced to live in such conditions in this day and age. That is partly to do with global and economic issues which are beyond Scotland's control, but it is partly because Scotland does not have the democratic means of changing those conditions. We live in a country which is rich in resources and which has enough wealth to ensure that none of our citizens has to live in such conditions.
Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside) : Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain how that person managed to watch golf from Florida at 5 o'clock in the morning? Would not that mean that he had a satellite dish? He obviously had a television set. How many such things did one have in the average household of some years ago?
Mr. McAllion : That is not the point. The hon. Gentleman may have satellite television, but I have not and I can watch golf from Florida at 5 o'clock in the morning if I choose to do so. The general description of the person living in that derelict scheme should have caused the hon. Gentleman concern and he should have been worried that some of his fellow citizens are living in such conditions. Something should be done about it by the people who represent Scotland in the House.
Dr. Godman : Before my hon. Friend ends his fine speech, may I point out that in speaking as an honest apologist for the Union, the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kinoch) is part of a long tradition? At the time of the Union, when Daniel Defoe was acting as a secret agent for the English Government, he said that it was a marriage of convenience, not of the heart. Conservative Members are part of that tradition.
Mr. McAllion : That is a good point. The hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside is certainly not a secret agent, but an open agent of the party which governs in Scotland. People do not have to live in the conditions that I have described in this modern age in a wealthy country such as ours. Part of the reason for those conditions is that we have lost the democratic means by which we can do something about them. Restoring the democratic means to the Scottish people is and should be the first priority of every Member who represents a Scottish constituency.
I refer hon. Members to the last few lines of the motion, which recognises that
"the future of Scottish democracy depends upon giving effect to the sovereign right of the Scottish people to decide for themselves how and by whom they are governed ; and therefore calls for the holding of a multi- option referendum in which the people living in Scotland can decide democratically the form of government best suited to their needs."
Everyone in Scotland should unite behind that theme. If we are genuine democrats, we have nothing to fear from the democratic decision of the Scottish people. Those who run away from that decision are those who fear the judgment of the Scottish people at the ballot box.
Column 384.39 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) : The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and I are in complete agreement about one matter--we do not support the prohibition of alcohol. Having said that, I must now say where and why I disagree with him on other issues. I have always made it clear to him that I do not doubt the integrity with which he holds his views, but I believe sincerely that were his views to be examined critically and positively by the Scottish people they would be rejected. I hope to be able to tell him why.
First, the hon. Gentleman talked about the Scots and, to use his words, the people who live in Scotland, from wherever they came. As he must know, with his name and background, his family came from one of the other islands off the coast of Europe. I speak as one whose family, as far as one can trace, has always lived in Scotland. In fact, I think that I am the first member of my family to have married a non-Scot--my wife is English, but that does not mean that her view of the well-being of Scotland is any less honest than that of the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. McAllion : The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that I am also married to an English woman and she, like me, is a citizen of Scotland and entitled to participate fully in Scottish democracy.
If I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he was saying that the Scots- -the people who live in Scotland--are not properly or adequately represented in this unitary Parliament. He was referring to the Scots who live north of the border. Less than 9 per cent. of the United Kingdom's population live in Scotland--no one can deny that ; it is a statement of fact. Eighty-three per cent. of the people who live in these islands live in England. How do the Scots in Scotland regard their representation in this place?
The Scots form less than 9 per cent. of the population, but constitute more than 12 per cent. of the total number of Members of Parliament. In all modern Cabinets--certainly those in the post-war years--the Scots have always enjoyed about 20 per cent. or more of Cabinet posts. In the present Cabinet, the Lord Chancellor, who is in charge of English legal matters and law, is a Scot. I wonder what would happen if we were to have an Englishman appointed as Lord Advocate--I can just see the reaction in Scotland. However, we have a distinguished Scot, the Lord Chancellor, in the Cabinet. The Secretary of State for Transport is a native Scot, as are the Secretary of State for Defence and, of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland who is here today. In other words, four of the 22 members of the Cabinet are Scots and, until recently, there were five Scots. As for Labour, if by some misfortune we were to have a Labour Government after the next election, there is no question but that the Scots would hold more than 20 per cent. of the posts.
By my reckoning, we have more hon. Members representing Scotland than we should have on a percentage basis of the population and, despite constituting only 9 per cent. of the population, the Scots have more than 9 per cent. of non-Cabinet positions of all levels.
Column 39it. In view of his percentage calculations, would he like to comment on the fact that, at the previous election, his party received about 25 per cent. of the vote and took 16 per cent. of the seats but 100 per cent. of the power? What lesson can we learn from that?
Mr. Walker : I am sorry to hear my hon. Friend say that--he is my friend because he is my pair, when the arrangements are working. Clearly, he has not heard me arguing my case before. I have always argued-- consistently, I hope--that Scotland and Scottish interests are well looked after in this place because we have always enjoyed more than our percentage share of posts and influence. It is not only in this place--
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) rose --
Mr. Salmond rose --
I have always argued--consistently, I hope--that in the spheres of science, arts and education, among others, the Scots have always enjoyed more than 9 per cent. of the key positions within the United Kingdom establishments.
Mr. Salmond : I have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument, which is not always the case. He is saying that the individual success of individual Scots will do some national good. Did the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence is a Scot help Rosyth last year?
Mr. Walker : In the short term, the answer is yes. I do not wish to digress and talk about Rosyth, but I am happy to debate the details with the hon. Member at any time. I think that I know more about the case than he does, but in the short term the answer is yes. I was developing my argument--
Mr. Connarty : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for accepting an intervention. Instead of talking about personalities and the few people who make a difference, will he instead talk about the subject of today's debate which is about the lack of democracy in Scotland, the fact that the positions of power in Scotland are given to adherents of the Government's politics and the fact that they are, as it were, chosen by the Secretary of State, not by the people of Scotland?
Mr. Walker : If the hon. Gentleman will wait, I hope to develop my argument and deal with that point later. I shall not duck the issue, unlike the hon. Member for Dundee, East who failed to answer my question about what the next Labour Government would do. I try to answer questions, which sometimes upsets people. I occasionally upset my friends, but I try to answer so that the following week I do not have to try to remember what I said. It is best to answer honestly and objectively.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : It is very good of the hon. Gentleman to give way. I wish to follow the question put by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). He asked whether the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence is a Scot was of advantage to Rosyth. The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) said yes. Does that mean that had the
Column 40Secretary of State for Defence been an Englishman it would have been of benefit to Tynemouth or that had he been a Welshman it would have been of benefit to some establishment in Wales?
Mr. Walker : The hon. Gentleman constantly talks about his being reasonable and moderate and other lovely adjectives. Let me put it this way : has he ever been a member of a body, at whatever level, in which common interest did not assist in decision making? It is true in golf clubs ; it is true in Cabinets ; it is true everywhere else. I got into terrible trouble before for suggesting what a good thing it was to have more than one Scot in the Cabinet. I believe that it is a massive advantage to Scotland to have Members representing Scottish constituencies in the Cabinet in addition to the Secretary of State. That is true in defence and in other sectors.
I wish to develop that argument with regard to Scotland's interests. The hon. Gentleman said that the Labour party's objective was to create a Scottish parliament, a Welsh parliament, and regional parliaments in England. Is that correct?
Mr. McAllion : What happens in England is a matter for the people of England. I would not dare to tell them how to run their domestic affairs and I do not think that they should tell us in Scotland how to run our domestic affairs.
Mr. Walker : I asked the hon. Gentleman about the policy and the likely practice of the next Labour Government. I will now discuss that, because I believe that it has some importance and significance for the basis of his argument. As I understand it, it is the policy of the next Labour Government to give the Scots their parliament, and to get that measure through the House on the basis that England will have regional assemblies. That is, as I understand it, the logic of the Labour party's case. Let me discuss that, because it is important to consider the situation.
We would have a number of regional assemblies in England--I do not know how many, but let us assume that there are five. That is not an unrealistic assumption. With 83 per cent. of the population, there could be as many as eight, but let us assume that there are five or six. Let us assume that there are six regional assemblies in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales, giving a total of eight. The views of Scotland would constitute one eighth of the views to be listened to at the centre, because the centre would be under the federal structure that the hon. Gentleman spoke about. There would still be a federal structure in the United Kingdom, in London, in whatever form, and therefore Scotland would have a one eighth contribution instead of the approximately one fifth contribution--at its worst--that it enjoys now.
Currently, there is a Scottish Secretary of State and at least one other Scottish member of the Cabinet, and they take decisions that affect the whole of the United Kingdom. That would change if the Labour party's proposals were implemented. We would adopt a system in which Members of Parliament for Scottish constituencies would represent the same numbers of constituents as Members of Parliament with constituencies elsewhere in the United Kingdom, so that Scotland would lose its parliamentary representation and its power. Scotland would have less influence under the new system, because it would not be an equal.
Column 41I shall put it to the hon. Gentleman in simple language. I have listened to him argue his case and it has always seemed to me that he recognises that Scotland has less than 9 per cent. of the population, but he reckons that it has 50 per cent. of the equity in the United Kingdom. That, I think, is generally his view--that Scotland should have an equal say and an equal voice.
Mr. Gallie : I think that a point that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) raised with my hon. Friend should not go unchallenged. The hon. Member suggested to my hon. Friend that he was not interested in English affairs. However, if I recall correctly, he voted during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, which dealt with many English matters. He voted, I understand, during the passage of the Cardiff Bay Barrage (Hybrid) Act 1993, which was about Welsh affairs. If the hon. Member for Dundee, East is suggesting that he is not interested in other parts of the Union, it is not represented, to my mind, in his voting record.
Mr. Walker : I thank my hon. Friend. Yes ; it seems to me that Opposition Members are trying to have their cake and eat it. They are trying to claim that, because they will have that representation and their own parliament in Edinburgh, they will continue to have the same power and influence as they currently enjoy under the Westminster situation.
That case will be put to the Scottish people. I believe that, in whatever form it is put, they will reject the proposals. When we voted in Scotland on the question of the Scotland Act 1978, it was fairly clear that, when the matter came out into the public domain, the people of Scotland thought, "Hold on a minute ; we do not want to pay for a talking shop simply because it will be there." One third of them rejected it ; one third said, "Yes, we will support it" ; but, critically, one third did not bother to vote. The people who did not vote "didnae care", and they "didnae care" because they had been told that if they absented themselves that would be the equivalent of a no vote. On the basis that that was how it was sold to the people during the referendum campaign, at least two thirds of the Scottish people either did not care or opposed the proposals. I reckon that one could add them together.
The hon. Gentleman speaks about the so-called "democratic deficit" and what it appears to have done, but he glibly proceeds to discuss "pooling sovereignty". It is wonderful the way in which we pull out of the sky lovely phrases to suit any circumstances. What is meant by "pooling sovereignty"? My views about the constitution are well known to everyone and I will not describe them today, but I took my stand because I have strong views about the so-called "pooling of sovereignty".
The hon. Gentleman glibly uses it as a throw-away line. It is not that simple, as the hon. Gentleman should know, because it impinges on all other activities ; I agree with him about that. Wealth generation, job creation, the way in which we deal with dampness in housing and all such matters have much to do with our economic performance--and when I say, "our economic performance", I make no apologies for saying that I mean the United Kingdom's economic performance.
I believe, sincerely, that the Union has benefited the Scots and the English out of all proportion to the sum of the two parts coming together. It is much greater than that.
Column 42That is why I think that when we speak about the "pooling of sovereignty", we must examine carefully what we are prepared to give or not to give.
The hon. Gentleman glibly skated around that. His hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), an Englishman--I do not hold that against him--spoke about a "marriage of convenience". He is obviously a student of history. If he is, he will know that many marriages of convenience have produced surprising results--very good results. If it was a marriage of convenience, using his description, he and others cannot deny that the ability to move anywhere in the United Kingdom seeking jobs, following one's career whether one is an artisan or a politician--in the hon. Gentleman's case, a politician--has been of enormous benefit to the people of the Clyde, because they have him as their hon. Member and, obviously, that has been a great benefit to him and to them. At least, being generous to him, I assume that it is. Therefore, he must accept that the Union, however it came about, has been of considerable benefit to him and to his constituents.
The economy is often critical to discussion of this subject. Has Scotland benefited from the Union? First, I will discuss Scotch whisky, about which I know that I will not get any argument from the hon. Member for Dundee, East. Has the Scotch whisky industry benefited from the Union? Yes, it has, because the Union created a substantial marketplace, a home market from which it was possible to expand into a world market that is the envy of many other industries. It is to the benefit of the Scotch whisky industry. The hon. Member for Dundee, East has argued that point many times.
We want a good home base so that the export markets can be maximised. The home base for which we have always asked is the United Kingdom home base. When we argue on behalf of the home base, we are not talking about the consumption of Scotch whisky in Scotland alone. The hon. Gentleman and I agree that the Union has been beneficial for the home base of the Scotch whisky industry.
How about the economy generally? Between 1979 and 1991, the Scottish economy grew on average by 1.7 per cent.
By comparison--this is an important point--the economy grew on average by less than 1 per cent. between 1974 and 1979. I do not pick those years by accident ; they are the years of a Labour Administration. It is possible that under the enlightened Labour Administration to which the hon. Member for Dundee, East looks forward, the Scottish economy could fare worse. It is a possibility, because that is what happened before ; I do not put it any higher than that. What about living standards in Scotland? Gross domestic product per head increased by 30 per cent. between 1981 and 1991. That was brought about through the Union.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East and his hon. Friends talk about the "political deficit". What they are really talking about is the fact that the Labour party cannot get its hands on the levers of power. They are not talking about democracy. I do not doubt the integrity of the hon. Member for Dundee, East, as he knows. I was, therefore, astonished
Column 43that his right hon. and hon. Friends had managed to buy him off. How have they done it? What quango post have they given him? What have they promised him? What job has he been given? How has he been bought? Immediately following the general election, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends--
Mr. Walker : The hon. Gentleman has obviously been shut up somehow and told to line up with the rest of the troops, so he has stopped rocking the boat so violently. His approach to the problems of the Scottish democratic deficit is the Scotland United approach, which he does not deny. That is not the approach of Labour Front-Bench Members. We have at least managed to ascertain that their views are different from the hon. Gentleman's. When the hon. Gentleman says that he is speaking on behalf of the Opposition--excluding the narrow nationalists and the Liberal Democrat nationalists--he is actually speaking on behalf of his friends in Scotland United. Labour Front-Bench Members have a different view.
That fact does not surprise me. Labour Front-Bench Members think, "Gosh, we shall have a lot of Scots in the next Cabinet." They do not want to rock the boat because people in England may say, "Hold on! There are too many Scots in key positions." That is the backlash that one gets if one attempts to push too hard the business of "We poor Scots are downtrodden and we do not get things our way." Some 83 per cent. of the population of these islands live in England. A backlash would not, therefore, be in the best interests of the hon. Member for Dundee, East, of the House or of the Scottish people.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East talks about dire threats caused by the views taken by people such as myself. I am well aware of the risks and hazards of the road ahead ; that is why I have spent so much of my life in politics and in Parliament trying to address that. I have put forward ideas which, as is the case with the hon. Gentleman, have not always been well received by Front-Bench colleagues. However, one has to look carefully at the risks of the route that one proposes. I have never accepted that the Union is cast in concrete or that it cannot be modified. That is why I have suggested changes.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East referred to appointments to non-elected bodies. I have been asked to address that point and I do not want somebody to say, "You have not addressed that point, Mr. Walker." We must be careful about excluding anyone from statutory bodies. My personal view is that there should be fewer statutory bodies, but I believe that as long as the bodies exist, we must be careful not to say, "You cannot be a member of a statutory body because you are a trade unionist" or, "You cannot be a member of a statutory body because you are a business man."
There have been two resignations from Scottish Enterprise Tayside. The chairman-designate properly took the view that there was a conflict of interests. It was not a conflict of interests that would have damaged the interests of the people of Tayside, but the chairman-designate honestly believed that, as chairman of a company, he could not be seen to be promoting the interests of other companies. He was probably right. However, if we are to
Column 44get the best people for the jobs--that is all that we should look for--we should not exclude someone because his trade union interests will inevitably conflict with others.
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raises the point at this stage. Everyone on Tayside was sickened to hear that James Miller had decided not to accept the chairmanship of Scottish Enterprise Tayside. He was eminently suited to taking on that task. Our objection was on the basis that he was appointed without any consultation. He was appointed by Scottish Enterprise Tayside, which is directly answerable to Scottish Enterprise, which is, in turn, directly answerable to the Secretary of State. That is a rather convoluted formula.
When the Secretary of State for Employment announced the formation of the training and enterprise councils and the local enterprise companies, I, as a member of the Select Committee on Employment, pointed out the problem to him, as the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) will recall. We raised the conundrum with the Secretary of State. There must be a conflict of interests when the head of one company takes decisions about promoting other companies, which will affect his company. That is bound to happen.