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Mr. McLeish : It is typical of the humbug of Conservative Members that they want the Secretary of State to proceed with the only thing that Scotland does not want--the reorganisation of local government. What about corruption in quangos? What about the right hon. Gentleman's back-pedalling on fundamental reforms to improve the government of Scotland at Westminster? If this is such a flagship policy, why does the Secretary of State run away from appearing in the Committee and dealing with his own business? It is pathetic. He seems to be getting bored with his brief and to want to give up his involvement in much of Scottish affairs.

Quite apart from trying to defend the indefensible--quangos--the right hon. Gentleman should apologise for introducing the most centralised state in the western world to Scotland. Other countries in Europe and in eastern Europe are trying to reform their democracies and to decentralise. Our Government are secretive and are massively centralising every power that belongs to local authorities.

Finally, the Secretary of State is also gerrymandering. This Secretary of State makes Westminster and Wandsworth look like a tea party. The biggest and most expensive vote-rigging exercise in Scottish history is being enacted in Committee. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities suggests that it could cost up to £700 million for a set of organisations that no one wants but which the Scots will have to pay for. If that is not expensive vote rigging, I do not know what is.

This evening, we have mentioned taking stock, the Government reneging on their commitment, quangos and the Secretary of State not having the guts to face up to some of the endemic corruption within those organisations. We have also mentioned the cost of vote rigging in the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill. The real tragedy, however, is that when--and if--the measure is passed nearly 100 extra statutory committees and quangos will be created.

The Secretary of State said in Scotland today that he is hunting down quangos to slay them. What nonsense. Who is he trying to deceive? Any Conservative Member who has read the Bill will realise that from the three super water quangos downwards it is not about single-tier but about multi- tier authorities and about centralisation, quangos and statutory committees before we get to gerrymandered authorities which cannot provide services.

Why is the Secretary of State so afraid of democracy and its institutions? Is it because the ballot box in Scotland has not delivered for the Tories? Is it because they are obsessed with the free market ideology, which requires the destruction of accountable institutions and public organisations? Or is the Secretary of State merely wedded to centralisation and elective dictatorship? Is it not simply that the Government have been in office far too long and are complacent and contemptuous of public opinion to the extent that any idea of listening or responding has been thrown out of the window? We need to rebuild Scotland's democracy and to recreate the conditions in which our democratic institutions can fight back. We need to reassert our commitment to rein

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back the rapidly expanding frontiers of the unelected state and instead renew our commitment to elected government and all the institutions associated with that.

Scotland does not want falling standards in public life, or waste, or the sleaze that is undermining public confidence. It wants a Government who are committed to scrutinising effectively nearly £7 billion of public expenditure.

The Under-Secretary of State should set up a public inquiry to study the functions of quangos in Scotland. He should also set up an independent review of the corruption that daily unfolds in our newspapers and on television. He should stop the asset stripping of local democracy that will result from the nonsense that we are calling the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill. He should dedicate himself to renewing democratic principles and he should stop lambasting local councillors while his Secretary of State unashamedly praises people who are not worthy of that praise.

6.2 pm

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South) : Until last week, I never realised that, in his armoury, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) possessed the ability to predict the future. When he chose the debate he could not have known how timely it would be. Last week we witnessed the constitutional capers of the Scottish National party--showing the usual maturity of a primary seven mock election--and later in the week the constitutional contradictions and contortions of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and the right hon. and learned member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith).

At the beginning of last week, the hon. Member for Hamilton attempted to polish up his Unionist credentials and then put them on display for all to see as he set about defending the rights of English Members of Parliament to serve on Scottish Standing Committees. He did so seemingly oblivious of the fact that that was in direct contradiction to his leader, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East who, during the debate on the Loyal Address, said :

"An overwhelming majority of the hon. Members who represent Scottish and Welsh constituencies are against the Bills that will only be carried by the votes of English Conservatives who do not represent the people in the countries concerned."--[ Official Report, 18 November 1993 ; Vol. 233, c. 24.]

Last Thursday, the hon. Member for Hamilton was in turn contradicted by his leader who said that it was "wrong" for constitutional parallels to be drawn between Scotland and Northern Ireland, ignoring the fact that his shadow Secretary of State had written to the Prime Minister only weeks before arguing exactly the opposite.

It is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) did not tell us whether it was the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East or the hon. Member for Hamilton--who had said completely contradictory things--who won that battle. I should gladly give way to the hon. Member for Fife, Central if he wished to tell us who won the battle, but I see that he does not want to intervene. The issues raise many questions but none more fundamental than who is deciding Labour's constitutional policy.

Today's debate is very welcome to Conservative Members. All the Opposition parties have refused to learn the lessons of the April 1992 general election. Let me remind them that at that election only the Scottish

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Conservatives were able to increase their votes and their representation in the House. The nationalists never received their mandate for independence and lost two seats.

While preparing for today's debate I happened to chance on the leaflet issued by the SNP at that election, which was called, "Six Steps to Independence". It is worth while mentioning the first steps, if only to inject some humour into our proceedings. According to the SNP :

"Step One : You vote for the only party honestly offering to bring real power back to Scotland.

Step Two : We win the majority of Scottish seats at the election. That gives us the mandate to negotiate Independence."

How the nationalists' slogan of "Scotland free by '93" must haunt them. I see that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) at least has the good grace to cringe when that is mentioned.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) indicated dissent.

Mr. Robertson : The Labour party did not fare any better as its neo- separatist bandwagon was derailed and in classic marginal seats, such as mine, the electorate swung behind the Unionist cause and rejected Labour's plans to play fast and loose with the constitution.

The Liberals were also marginalised as a force--albeit a small one--in Scottish politics. They lost one seat and came close to losing four others. However, some Liberals have learnt their lesson. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was widely quoted last year when he mentioned the dangers to his party in Scotland that would be unleashed by a close association with the Labour party in the constitutional convention.

The Opposition parties have all failed in their own way to learn the lesson of April 1992.

Mrs. Ewing : What about the Conservatives?

Mr. Robertson : When we went into that election we Conservatives were not embarrassed by our Unionist credentials. We did not keep them quiet in case anyone noticed that we were fundamentally and unequivocally different from every other political party contesting the election in Scotland. The courageous decision by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland to put the question of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom at the centre of our appeal was crucial and proved decisive. Only we stood, and still stand, full square behind the Union. At that election, only the Conservatives offered Scotland the chance to continue to be a full and equal partner in the United Kingdom and the Scottish people duly responded to that message.

Two years later the Opposition parties cannot resist refighting battles that they have long since lost. Bluntly, they are nothing more than constitutional masochists, intent on settling old scores in pursuit of something that they desire for their political ends but that the Scottish people continually reject. I do not usually quote the hon. Member for Dunfermline East, (Mr. Brown), but he summed it up last year when he said in a lecture at Edinburgh university : "I think we are making a mistake if we just assume there is a huge enthusiasm for home rule in Scotland."

For once, the shadow Chancellor was right.

The Scottish people want the sort of devolution that the Government have been delivering. For 15 years, the Government have been giving the Scottish people power over the homes that they live in, the schools that they send

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their children to, the utilities that deliver the key services that they use and--most importantly--the power to play their full part in the United Kingdom.

The reform of local government empowers the Scottish people even further, because there will no longer be buck passing from district to region and vice versa. The electorate will no longer have to deal with two sets of councillors and be passed from pillar to post and back again. The reforms that we are debating in the Standing Committee on the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill will lead to greater accountability, enhanced sensitivity to local needs and to much more local local government for every voter and service user in Scotland.

We all know Labour's views on local government. Members of the Standing Committee will no doubt hear them again and again during the coming weeks and months. Labour Members want to strip local government of its responsibilities and invest them in an Edinburgh-based, Glasgow-run Scottish assembly. Or, as councillor Jean McFadden, Labour president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said :

"There may well be a tendency for the Scottish Parliament to suck up power from below."

Given the shower opposite, I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there most certainly would be such a tendency. That is the bottom line.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) : At the end of the day, Scottish local government is run by people elected at the ballot box. They are overwhelmingly Labour. I accept that the people reject the nobodies in the SNP, and they certainly reject the Conservative party, but, overwhelmingly, they elect Labour Members. Surely they are qualified to speak on behalf of local government in a way that the hon. Gentleman is not.

Mr. Robertson : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman realises what Councillor McFadden said ; a Scottish assembly would "suck up power" from local councils and strip local authorities throughout Scotland of powers. It is not me saying that but the hon. Gentleman's party.

Mr. Norman Hogg : I accept that the hon. Gentleman is probably correct. There is a very real possibility that the Scottish parliament would find it difficult to reorganise Scottish local government because of resistance within local government. That stems from a fear of all government, because of the way that local government has been treated over the years, most notably by the Conservative Government, who have sought to destroy democratic control.

Mr. Robertson : We have had a real confession here today. Believe me, the hon. Gentleman's words will come back to haunt him. The bottom line of the Labour-Liberal assembly proposals is to concentrate all power in Edinburgh and have that power dominated by the central belt, to the detriment of every other part of Scotland. The Labour party doubts its ability to win power at Westminster ; it keeps losing the match, so it wants to change the game. We hear much about gerrymandering from the Labour party, but that is the real gerrymandering that the people of Scotland face.

As the party of the Union, we have never been frightened to question how the Union is working. As I said earlier, we have never failed to look at its failings as well as its strengths. Unionism is not blind, dogmatic adherence

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to the present constitutional arrangements, to what Opposition parties all call the status quo. The Union that we have in 1994 is not the Union of 1707--indeed, how could it possibly be so? It has constantly adapted to changing circumstances, moved with the times and been flexible. That is where the Opposition parties get it helplessly and utterly wrong. In denying the dynamism of the Union, they deny history itself.

To listen to Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Dundee, East who moved the motion, the House would be forgiven for thinking that Scotland's history ended in 1707 and its nationhood ceased to exist with the signing of the Act of Union. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scotland has had its best days since 1707--in culture, commerce and influence. Let us never forget that it was as part of the Union that our literature became world famous : Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "Treasure Island" ; Robert Burns, "Tam O'Shanter" ; Sir Walter Scott, the Waverley novels ; Conan Doyle, "Sherlock Holmes" ; and Adam Smith, "Wealth of Nations".

As part of the Union, Edinburgh became known as the Athens of the north, where the Scottish enlightenment took place. It was as part of the Union that Scottish soldiers fought for the Crown against Napoleon in one century and in two world wars in the next. It was as part of the Union that Clyde- built ships became masters of the seas and trade routes. It is as part of the Union that, in the 20th century, one in 10 of all the world's personal computers is made in Scotland. It was as part of the Union that Scottish inventiveness gave the world the steam engine, penicillin, television, telephone and the pneumatic tyre. It was as part of the Union that Scottish education was the first to be free and compulsory.

In Robert Owen, we led the way in social reform at New Lanark. It was as part of the Union that Scottish Christian missionaries pioneered in the mission fields of Africa and the far east. It was as part of the Union--my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) will like this--that my noble Friend Lord Mackay, a Scottish lawyer with no English legal training, became Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

That heritage is far too precious to throw away. Scottish culture today is just as distinct and proud as it has ever been. We have unique ways of doing things : in visible and tangible ways such as our legal system, our education system and our Church and in less obvious ways such as our acceptance of a shared inheritance and broadly similar attitudes and values. Those ways are just as pronounced and obvious, and are still cherished as much today, as they were all those centuries ago.

Far from destroying the character of the Scot and compromising his unique national characteristics, Unionism has enhanced them. They have been a powerful force in forging the destiny of the United Kingdom and, through the United Kingdom, the wider world. Far from creating a Britain of uniform Britons, the Union has benefited from encouraging the diversity of its people.

Nobody should forget that it was the Conservative party which continually updated Scotland's institutions and constitution and a Conservative Government who first established the Scottish Office and upgraded the office of Secretary for Scotland to a full Secretary of State within

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the Cabinet. It was in that proud tradition that "Partnership for Good" was written and presented to the House--the next milestone in the continuing evolution of the Union. That is why the Union is ready to face up to, and meet head on, the challenges of the 21st century and will celebrate its 300th anniversary in great shape.

Curiously, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East rightly said, the union of the old Soviet Union died after 70 years because it had none of that. The Soviet Union imposed uniformity and demanded conformity, suppressed culture and nationhood and survived by constantly rewriting history. In complete contrast, our Union positively encourages diversity and can accommodate nationalism. The events at Murrayfield on Saturday were testimony to that, although hon. Members will forgive me if I do not dwell on that encounter for too long. In conclusion, Scotland's place is as a full and equal partner in the United Kingdom. The Scottish people have shown time and again that they do not want to see the old saltire ripped from the Union flag. The Union has endured and it will endure--its dynamism will see to that.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) rose --

Mr. Robertson : I have no time.

In 2007, the peoples of Scotland and England will celebrate 300 years of pooled sovereignty and joint nationhood. In 2107, when you and I, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are long gone, our successors will, I believe, still be here, still debating the nature of that peculiar and unique relationship which binds our two nations together, still marvelling at what it has achieved ; and, yes, there will still be some on the Opposition Benches questioning its chances of survival. 6.16 pm

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : All I can say after that is that Rabbie Burns must have been burlin' in his grave when he heard himself being wheeled out in defence of the Union by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), who would surely qualify for inclusion in "a parcel o' rogues in a nation".

I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), who initiated the debate. It is the first opportunity that the House has had since the general election to debate the Scottish constitutional question and the lack of democracy in Scotland.

I remind Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, who tried to talk up the Tories' election result in Scotland at the general election, that they were hammered. They managed the magnificent feat of getting a quarter of Scottish voters to support them. If that is their measure of success, they surely have low horizons and expectations-- or perhaps they are trying to rewrite history.

If we believe recent opinion polls, Tory support has dwindled to a mere 16 per cent. of the Scottish electorate. There is no doubt that Scotland is being governed by an unrepresentative minority clique. Not only were the Tories rejected by three quarters of the people of Scotland at the previous general election, but the people of Scotland gave the positive message that they voted for parties committed to the setting up of a Scottish parliament.

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The denial of that parliament by the Government means a continuation of the democratic deficit in Scotland, which is the only country with its own legal system and laws, but no legislature to pass those laws.

Mr. Gallie : The hon. Gentleman has suggested that all the other parties in Scotland fought the election on the basis that they wanted a separate Scottish parliament. Does he not accept that one party--the Scottish National party--stood for election on one issue alone : the establishment of a self-ruling Scotland with no Westminster connection? Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood for a parliament within the Union--a Scottish assembly.

Mr. Canavan : Three quarters of the Scottish people voted for parties committed in principle to the establishment of a Scottish parliament. There are always differences of opinion within those parties about the exact powers that such a parliament should have, and about its relationships with the rest of the United Kingdom--and, indeed, the rest of the world ; but the best solution to that problem is contained in the motion, which refers to "a multi-option referendum". Let the people decide.

If the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) believes in the sovereignty of the Scottish people, he should support me on that. The truth is that there is more democracy in Hong Kong than in Scotland ; soon, there will probably be more democracy in Northern Ireland. Surely no hon. Member can defend that.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : When asked by a South American business man why the Scots were so popular all over the world, I replied, "It is because we have the great good fortune to be the only nation that does not have the misfortune to have a Government."

Mr. Canavan : I am surprised that a distinguished Scottish lawyer does not support my argument. Surely it is a disgrace that Scotland, which has its own legal system and its own body of law, has no legislature to pass that law. At present, bits and pieces are incorporated in English Acts, preventing the proper scrutiny and quality of legislation that the Scottish people deserve.

Sadly, the only Government response on constitutional questions since the general election has been the "taking stock" exercise, which has turned out to be a bit of a farce. Even the pussyfooting proposals in the White Paper have been delayed. Surely it is not enough to respond to the wishes of the people of Scotland by saying, "Oh, well, we shall have more meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland" ; that is almost as relevant as saying, "We shall shift the Committee to Timbuktu." The Scottish Grand Committee is basically a talking shop. I am not saying that it is a completely useless talking shop, but it has no real executive or legislative powers. If the Government had wanted to give it such powers, they would have referred the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill to it, and let all the elected representatives of the people of Scotland decide the future of the legislation, rather than drafting English Members on to the Committee to preserve the Government's majority.

The Bill threatens to destroy what is left of local democracy in Scotland. It has been rightly described as the most blatant piece of gerrymandering in the history of Scottish local government--and very expensive at that : the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has estimated the

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cost at some £720 million. If passed, it will also have serious consequences for important services such as social work and education ; it aims to remove the statutory responsibility to employ qualified directors of education, qualified social workers and committees dealing with those subjects.

I assume that the Under-Secretary of State who is responsible for education in Scotland will speak at some point. I hope that he will pay careful attention to what I am about to say. The Bill interferes with the traditional catchment areas of many schools, thus infringing what is supposed to be one of the basic tenets of democracy, in which the Government claim to believe--parents' right to send their children to the school of their choice.

Let me take a couple of examples from my area. St. Modan's and St. Mungo's high schools are the only two Catholic high schools in Central region ; some of my constituents choose to send their children to both schools. Both have rolls of about 800 pupils : St. Modan's is in Stirling, St. Mungo's in Falkirk.

If the Government's proposals for local boundary changes proceed, both schools will be in different local education authority areas. At present, about 60 per cent. of St. Modan's pupils travel from outwith Stirling district, which would be conterminous with one of the proposed new LEA areas. It may lose more than half its pupils, unless the pupils cross the LEA boundary--which they are unlikely to do unless the Government guarantee parents free transport, and also guarantee that the new LEA will not be burdened with extra costs. So far, the Minister has refused to give any such guarantees, despite representations from hon. Members--including me-- from the Scottish Catholic Education Commission and from the Scottish hierarchy. I hope that he will reply tonight, and that he will answer all the parents in Scotland whose right to choice will be severely curtailed, if not obliterated, by the Bill. It seems that the Government either do not fully realise the consequences of their proposed legislation, or are hellbent on wrecking their children's educational opportunities, destroying parental choice and eroding what is left of Scottish local democracy.

The Bill would also take power from elected representatives by creating up to 100 more quangos. That would make matters worse rather than better. I understand that Scotland now has 5,000 quango members ; after the proposed reorganisation, there will be only 1,200 elected local government members-- less than a quarter of the number of quango members. The quangos will be responsible for more public expenditure than the elected council members.

I am worried about more than the denial of democracy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) said, the Government are creating a system that is wide open to abuse and corruption. Last week, a conference of the west of Scotland Conservatives took place in Renfrew. The Minister and his colleagues may not take everything that I say as gospel truth ; let us hear what other members of his party said and decided.

The majority agreed with the statement :

"Quangos are a gravy train for Tory supporters",

and an overwhelming majority agreed that there were

"too many quangos in Scotland".

The same report said that leading Tories--including the chairman of the Scottish Tory party, Sir Michael Hirst were surprised at the votes that took place. No

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wonder Sir Michael was surprised--he would not recognise democracy if it were speared in his eyeballs. He was rejected by the voters of Strathkelvin in 1987, to reappear with his knighthood and patronage appointment as chairman of the Scottish Tories.

Given the placemen in certain posts, that seems to be the career pattern for Scottish Tories. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Minister with responsibilities for health and home affairs in Scotland, was rejected by the voters of Angus in 1987. Lord Mackay was rejected by the voters of Argyll, then turned up as a Minister with responsibility for transport.

Last weekend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury claimed in front of a student audience that foreigners are in the business of buying academic qualifications and indulging in corrupt practices. If the right hon. Gentleman is looking for corruption opportunities, he need look no further than all the quangos that were created and the many more that are being formed.

From the membership of those quangos, it seems that, to be virtually assured a seat on at least one of them, one has to buy not an A-level or university degree but only a Tory party card. That is what it is--jobs for the boys. That abuse of party power is even worse than that practised by many of the Stalinist regimes that once existed in eastern Europe.

Mr. McAllion : Did my hon. Friend read in the Scottish press that, because of the dearth of talent among members of the Tory Front Bench, there is every likelihood that Lord Mackay will be appointed Secretary of State for Scotland--even though he was not elected with a single vote cast anywhere in Scotland?

Mr. Canavan : I did, and I was appalled. I wondered whether the day will come when the Secretary of State for Scotland, instead of answering questions at the Dispatch Box, will have to be summoned to the Bar of the House because he has not been elected by even one constituency in Scotland. How will that go in terms of

accountability? Scotland is ruled--or rather, misruled--by a party which has only minority support, and which has no mandate from the people of Scotland.

I conclude with this warning. The Government cannot run away from the people of Scotland for ever. This year, they will receive two blunt messages. They will get a double whammy in the forthcoming local and European Parliament elections. The people of Scotland are fed up with, and can see through, the Government, and their verdict will be given on a Government who have an increasingly strong stench of corruption--which is symptomatic of terminal decline.

If the people of Scotland can accelerate that decline through the ballot box, so much the better. The sooner that we can be rid of this Government, the better for the people of Scotland.

6.35 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas -Hamilton) rose--

Mr. Salmond : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Chair has a responsibility, particularly in debates such as this, to protect minorities in the House that represent close to one quarter of the Scottish vote. What is

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the argument for independence that the House is unwilling or unable to debate? When such points of view are excluded from debate, does that not reinforce the strong view that is held in Scotland--far beyond the ranks of the Scottish National party--that the House, its processes and procedures are a conspiracy against Scottish public interest?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : The Chair is interested not in the personal views of any party, but in fairness in terms of the number of times that right hon. and hon. Members have contributed to debates.

Mrs. Ewing : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the interests of fairness, surely all constitutional parties represented in the House should have been given an opportunity to express their views in this debate. My hon. Friend, who has been present for the entire debate, was not afforded that opportunity. Meanwhile, a party that represents a minority viewpoint in Scotland was represented by several speakers.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Right hon. and hon. Members know full well that the number of times that they have contributed in the past determines to some extent how often they are called subsequently. The debate has not yet finished, so who knows who may yet contribute to it? I call the Minister.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and I entered Parliament on the same day. The only difference between us at that time was that he sat on this side of the House and I sat on the other. The hon. Gentleman has lost none of his characteristic vigour and vitality, and I shall seek to answer his points.

Mr. Canavan : The Minister should get on with it.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I will, and I shall deal now with the hon. Gentleman's points.

The Labour party's claim that the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill will create 100 new quangos is the purest fantasy. The Bill provides for a maximum of seven non-departmental public bodies, plus any necessary residuary bodies. They are the three new water companies, customers council, recorders administration, staff commission and property commission. I am astonished at the hon. Gentleman's nerve in talking about quangos. The last Labour Government presided over many more. In 1979, there were 84 executive quangos in Scotland, which this Government have almost halved to 47. I have only to look at Labour's election manifesto to see proposals to establish 17 new quangos. The hon. Member for Falkirk, West should make the sternest representation to members of his own Front Bench because they are not going along with his views.

Mr. McLeish : Surely to goodness the Minister does not believe the Secretary of State's speeches when he reads them. Does he agree that Scotland currently has 163 quangos and not the number claimed by the Secretary of State? What about expenditure levels of nearly £7 billion? I am giving the Secretary of State, who is in his place, an opportunity to give the Minister the benefit of his advice. It is appalling that the Minister should attempt to distort the argument by giving completely false figures.

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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman is hoist by his own petard. The number of advisory bodies has also reduced during this Parliament. It is a plain and unmistakable fact that there were 84 executive quangos under the last Labour Government in 1979, but there are only 47 today. I remind the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) of the new quangos that Labour proposes to establish. It wants a cultural education committee, human rights commission, national investment bank, judicial appointments and training commission, consumer protection commission, wages council and various other bodies. Labour's 1993 conference passed motions endorsing the establishment of various bodies such as a training agency, national investment bank and regional development agencies--the list goes on and on. Yet Labour Members have the nerve to criticise the Government when we have reduced the number of quangos.

I did not intend to begin with that point, but as the hon. Member for Falkirk, East told me to get on with it, it was only fair to answer his key point. He is wrong--the Government have reduced the number of quangos in Scotland, and the hon. Gentleman's representations should be directed at his own leader and members of his own Front Bench. I will say to the credit of the hon. Gentleman that he has no more hesitation in voting against his own side than against us.

Mr. Kynoch : Has my hon. Friend considered that the Opposition might have withdrawn all those conference pledges on increasing the number of quangos, just as they withdrew all their pledges on spending?

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