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Mr. McLeish : This is a Scottish Bill, and the Minister is responsible for it.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The matter has to be dealt with on a British basis ; it will be dealt with collectively by Ministers as a whole.
Mr. Foulkes : Will the Minister give way ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : No.
Thirdly, the amendment is technically flawed in that it refers to line 11
Mr. Hood : Will the Minister give way ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I shall give way to the hon. Member for Clydesdale, who moved the amendment, in a moment.
The amendment refers to line 11 on page 97, and would therefore amend section 50 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. In fact, the main provisions of that Act relating to school transport are in section 51. That is, of course, a detail, but it means that the amendment is flawed. For all those reasons, the Government must reject the amendment.
Mr. Hood rose
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I have many more points to make, but I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Hood : May I make an obvious point ? If the amendment was out of order, Madam Speaker would not have chosen it to be debated. Therefore, the amendment is within the competence of the legislation, and it is within the competence of the Scottish Office to accept that protection, as part of a Scottish Bill, to protect Scottish children.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I shall repeat what the Prime Minister said at the Dispatch Box yesterday :
"I hope that it will not be very long before we are able to publish it"
that is, the report. He continued :
"The report has now been delivered to Ministers and I hope that they will be able to announce their conclusions shortly."--[ Official Report , 17 May 1994 ; Vol. 243, c. 669.]
Mr. Foulkes : Will the Minister give way ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : No, I shall not give way now. The matter has to be dealt with on a British basis. I fully appreciate the widespread concern in the House for immediate Government action, but the decisions that we take will have to be right in the light of all the evidence, and the fullest knowledge of all the facts. That is our priority now. I am taking careful note of the widespread concerns that have been expressed about school transport safety, including what has been said in the House today. We are concerned to make certain that appropriate steps are taken on the safety of school transport. The Department of Transport's review looks at the technical and cost implications of fitting seat belts to all minibuses and coaches, as well as related safety matters. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to move forward in advance of the Department's conclusions. I hope that all hon. Members would agree that it is absolutely essential that we take the right decisions on safety measures when we are fully informed by all the available evidence and of the implications of our decisions. As the Prime Minister made clear to the House, we hope to be able to do so in the near future.
Mr. Dalyell rose
Madam Speaker : Order. Is the Minister giving way on an intervention ?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I have sat down, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Dalyell : I just want the Minister to explain how it is possible under this legislation to have legislation on the disconnection of water supplies, but apparently not possible to have a different policy on seat belts. How does that come about ? We had endless arguments in the
Column 916Standing Committee about the disconnection of water supplies, and it was said to be quite proper to have separate legislation for Scotland--rightly, in the opinion of some of us--on disconnections. Why cannot the same thing be applied to seat belts ? Is there an answer ? The Minister is broody with answer.
Mrs. Ewing : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I find it difficult to comprehend what the Minister has just said. It now seems that we cannot amend Scottish legislation through the normal processes of the House, because we have attempted with this amendment and debate to alter regulations pertaining to Acts which solely relate to Scotland
Madam Speaker : Order. The hon. Lady is not putting a point of order to me. She really is attempting to take a second bite of the cherry. She has already spoken once, and therefore I cannot allow it. She is putting questions to me which concern legislation, which is not within my authority.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : With the leave of the House, I shall explain to the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) that local authorities can put a specification into their contracts. They have that power now. The point I was making was that, while he may be confident in amending the Bill, it is not desirable before the review has reported to the House and to the Secretary of State for Transport.
Question put, That the amendment be made :
The House divided : Ayes 244, Noes 274.
Division No. 246] [9.42 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F.
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corston, Ms Jean
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Donohoe, Brian H.
Eagle, Ms Angela
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek