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Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) : It is well known that the Government are in deep trouble and profoundly unpopular. They are trying to find ways of ingratiating themselves with people all over the country. There is something deeply unconvincing about the present Secretary of State for Employment suddenly discovering a concern about mass unemployment. It is equally unconvincing for the Secretary of State for Scotland suddenly to discover a concern about the accountability of the Government in Scotland.
The trouble is that the amendments to the Standing Orders come from the same stable as the poll tax, the local government legislation and the water quango legislation. There is nothing in the amendments to the Standing Orders to prevent a Government in future from being just as cavalier in their approach to legislation and administration in Scotland. I fear that the changes are little more than window dressing.
The amendments to the Standing Orders may be useful, but they are no substitute for democratic home rule for Scotland. Frankly, they will be short-lived. The Scottish Grand Committee will not operate under the provisions of these Standing Orders for long, because we shall have a Parliament in Scotland to scrutinise the government of Scotland, legislate for the people of Scotland and manage Scotland's budget in future within the United Kingdom.
The changes are far too little, far too late. Since 1979, we have had four general elections and a referendum in which people have made it abundantly clear that they want control of the government of Scotland to be placed in the hands of an elected parliament in Scotland. But what has happened ? We have had the poll tax and all the rest over the past 16 years.
The amendments to the Standing Orders started life in the document, "Scotland in the Union : A Partnership for Good." I am afraid that the Government have poisoned that
Column 794partnership economically and politically to the extent that they have driven their own right-wing supporters to turn in droves to another right-wing nationalist party. The same people who voted enthusiastically for Baroness Thatcher over all those years are now voting for the Scottish National party ; and, in a sense, who can blame them ? Anyone who wants to keep the United Kingdom together and establish good government in Scotland must follow the line of devolution and home rule for Scotland within the United Kingdom.
Mr. Home Robertson : No, there is no time. The hon. Gentleman has had quite enough time already. However, as the hon. Gentleman has drawn my attention to him again, I remind him that he is sitting between two hon. Members--the hon. Members for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) and for Moray (Mrs. Ewing)--whom I vividly remember going into the Lobby to vote to bring down the Labour Government and put Mrs. Thatcher in power. They made it impossible for us to have a Scottish Parliament in 1979. But for them, we could have had one by now. The amendments to the Standing Orders include the interesting idea of a Scottish Question Time in the Scottish Grand Committee. No doubt the changes offer an intriguing chance to various English Tories to avoid the need to be present in the House to vote on Scottish business in the future. The crucial point, which the Secretary of State tried to brush aside when I intervened in his speech, is that we cannot vote on controversial legislation as it affects Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman tried to shrug off the importance of the vote in our democratic system, but it is crucial.
The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr.Rowe) asked why more Labour Members were not present at sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh.
Mr.Home Robertson : I will explain that to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson). Why should the members of the majority on the Scottish Grand Committee go along to its sittings simply to act as an audience to listen to idiotic speeches from the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) or whoever when we shall not even be able to vote on a substantive motion at the end of the debate ? Frankly, it is a waste of public money to ask people to attend debates of that nature. It does not achieve anything.
What we want is accountable government in Scotland. If we are to achieve that, effective votes must be cast by the democratic representatives of the people of Scotland on legislation and administration in Scotland. In the past 16 years, Scottish votes have been ignored with impunity and with malice by Scottish Office Ministers. Scotland must have its own Parliament. The amendments to the Standing Orders may be a small step in the right direction, but they are no substitute for home rule in Scotland within the United Kingdom.
Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central) : At this point I am supposed to say that the debate has been interesting, but it would be difficult to suggest that some of the contributions have risen to the dizzy heights that we normally describe.
Mr. McLeish : The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) is still talking from a sedentary position ; it is simply astonishing to think that he can still say in the House that the Conservatives and the Unionists are still doing well in Scotland. Does he not realise that the people of Scotland do not believe the Government ? They do not trust, nor have any confidence in, the Government and, increasingly, they do not even vote for them. The Monklands by-election was a graphic illustration that proved to the Conservatives that they simply do not matter.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. The House knows my views about seated interventions. If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr.Robertson) seeks to catch my eye on another occasion, I might be slightly short-sighted.
Mr. McLeish : I would not presume to make a comment after that judgment. Suffice it to say that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South had a simply spectacular role in that by-election as the minder to end all minders. After that recollection, he sits in his place in humility.
It is simply remarkable that, at a time when we are discussing the taking stock initiatives, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), speaking on behalf of the Scottish National party, wanted to talk about Rosyth. His party has done nothing in Scotland to fight for the retention of either the dockyard or the naval base. It is simply hypocritical for him to think that hon. Members on either side of the House can take any instructions from him on that issue.
Mr. Salmond : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order, in the course of the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), to ask, through you, where that hon. Member was two weeks ago, when I was lobbying on behalf of Rosyth outside the Scottish Office with some of his colleagues ?
The interesting point about the debate is that it has revolved around two important issues. First, the Government have presented a minimalist set of proposals, aimed at improving not the government of Scotland in Scotland but the government of Scotland at Westminster. Secondly, the Opposition parties passionately believe that
Column 796one cannot do anything significant about the governance of Scotland until one introduces a Scottish Parliament, sitting in Scotland, dealing with essentially Scottish business.
In their document published last year, the Government reminded us that we could celebrate the 300th anniversary of the union of the Parliaments in 2007--a mere 13 years away--and that the first Secretary for Scotland was established in 1895, so we could look forward to the 100th anniversary of that occasion in 1995. The point is that the Government are simply betraying those interested in both those changes because their electoral support has plummeted to new political depths. Why will not a party that has been annihilated in regional and European elections and a recent by- election take the governance of Scotland seriously enough to introduce substantial change ?
The Scottish people are simply sick and tired of a Government who provide tokenism at Westminster but no significant change in Scotland. The Labour party believes that, when the gap between the Government and the governed becomes so large, it is a cause for widespread concern. It is a matter not just of processing government in this House but of what is discussed and why it is discussed. Substantial issues that have dominated Scottish politics recently include water. In any measure of public opinion, the Government's proposals on water are simply not wanted. It would not matter if a Grand Committee were held every week in this House or if the Government set up extraordinary procedures to quiz Ministers. Scots simply do not want some of the public policy changes which the Government propose.
When the Leader of the House winds up, will he assure us that, not only will the process of government change, but that the Government will dump the unwanted, badly conceived proposals that lie at the heart of the political crisis facing the Government in Scotland ?
The Leader of the House should be aware that the Government's proposals on local government are not wanted. Will he reassure me that he will think not only about improving the government of Scotland at Westminster but that, when proposals are not only disliked but detested in Scotland, the Government will start to listen ?
On the processing of decision making and the discussion of important measures in the House, why have the Government decided, behind closed doors, to close a significant economic unit called Rosyth ? That is the point about tokenism and real decision making. The minor changes which the Secretary of State has announced to the Standing Orders will facilitate greater debate. He will agree that it is pointless to change how we debate issues if, on water, local government, the packing out of quangos by
Column 797Government placemen and issues such as Rosyth, we continue to be given proposals that Scots will not tolerate. That is reflected to a great extent in the Government's parliamentary and political unpopularity.
We believe that Scotland's interests can best be served in this century and into the next by a Scottish Parliament established in Edinburgh. In our attempts to ensure that the United Kingdom has a future, the first step should be to look at measures to introduce a Scottish Parliament. We have given the commitment repeatedly on the Floor of the House that, in the first year of a Labour Government, we shall legislate for a Scottish Parliament. That is what Scots want. I hope that the Leader of the House will say that he regards the Standing Order changes as only a small first step and that the Government will start to embrace the real need for significant change. When we see the needs and aspirations of Scots going in tandem with the practical policies of the House, we shall regard that as a success, but at present we shall wait and see. Of course, we support the changes being made, but they are a very small step forward.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton) : The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) started his speech by declining to describe the debate as interesting. As someone who does not have the privilege of attending such debates as frequently as he does, I found it extremely interesting. Indeed, it had a special flavour of its own which is rarely replicated in our proceedings in the House. I shall certainly hold it in my mind with the fascination that it deserves. Apart from the excellent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) and for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), with two honourable exceptions on the Opposition Benches, which I shall come to in a moment, I heard relatively few speeches which appeared to be other than loosely connected with the Standing Orders--although I accept entirely that they were within the rules of order by definition. They appeared to have rather more to do with fighting longer-running battles--indeed, some of them were resolved at the last general election--which are in the minds of hon. Members in various parts of the House.
I said that there were two honourable exceptions. I would not want to let my short time disappear without making some response to the straightforward questions asked by the hon. Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman). The hon. Member for Linlithgow raised a number of points, including the seating arrangements for a Minister who is not a member of the Scottish Grand Committee. The provision is simply intended to make it clear that the Minister in question is not a member of the Committee and takes no part in its proceedings, beyond making his statement and answering questions. The seating arrangements will not prejudice his ability to respond to questions or make his statement ; they are simply designed to emphasise that procedural point. I hope that that is reasonably clear.
Column 798The hon. Gentleman was also concerned about the possibility, as he saw it, that the rules concerning the proposed short debates--an interesting and worthwhile innovation in my judgment--could crowd out Back Benchers. The fact is that the topics of the short debates will be determined by shuffle, like oral questions, so the Government or, indeed, the Labour Front Bench will have no control over the subject matter ; it will be determined in the same way as for oral questions. While that will not guarantee the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to raise the subject of Lockerbie, it will certainly mean that he cannot be frustrated in such an intention or such a wish by either the Government or the Labour Front Bench.
As for the initiative in the selection of subjects for a statement by the Lord Advocate--another point raised by the hon. Gentleman--it would be up to the Lord Advocate or the Scottish Office Minister to volunteer a statement to the Committee. The Standing Orders do not provide for him to be summoned or compelled to make a statement on a particular topic, but that is no more than analogous with the position as it applies to the whole House or to Select Committees. Lastly, the hon. Gentleman asked whether the Scottish Grand Committee could ask to hear from Ministers other than those in the Crown Office or the Scottish Office. The answer--I say this straightforwardly--is no. The Standing Orders provide only for statements from Scottish Office Ministers or Scottish Law Officers, but of course there are opportunities in the House as a whole for the hon. Gentleman or anyone else to questions Ministers with United Kingdom responsibilities.
Mrs. Ewing rose
The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow asked me some questions as well. In particular, he wanted to know whether the Committee would have the power to reject Scottish statutory instruments. Reference to the Scottish Grand Committee is a matter for the House, and the House takes the decision after the Grand Committee debate. That, too, is the same as current statutory instrument Committee procedures here.
The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow also asked about the position of Law Officers in the SGC or a Special Standing Committee. They can attend, under Standing Order No. 87, at present. They could appear as witnesses before a Special Standing Committee, by invitation and with their agreement, under the proposed new procedures. I hope that that gives the hon. Gentleman some reassurance.
Where the Committee might meet elsewhere in Scotland would be decided on the recommendation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but he would expect, on this as on many other matters, to consult--through the usual channels--others with an interest in the decision. The physical facilities would have a great deal to do with the decision.
Column 799It being Two hours after the motion was entered upon, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [8 July]. Question agreed to.
That with effect from the beginning of the next Session (a) Standing Orders No. 93 (Public bills relating exclusively to Scotland), No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee), No. 96 (Scottish estimates) and No. 97 (Matters relating exclusively to Scotland) shall be repealed, and the following Standing Orders A to H below shall have effect ;
(b) Standing Orders No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees) and No. 91 (Special standing committees) shall be amended as set out below ; and
(c) other Standing Orders shall have effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this Order.
A. Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business) (1) There shall be a standing committee called the Scottish Grand Committee, which shall consist of all Members representing Scottish constituencies ; and of which (subject to paragraph (6) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) the quorum shall be ten.
(2) The business of the Committee shall include
(a) questions tabled in accordance with Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)) ;
(b) short debates held in accordance with Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)) ;
(c) ministerial statements proceeded with in accordance with Standing Order D (Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)) ;
(d) bills referred to it for consideration in relation to their principle, in accordance with Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) ;
(e) motions relating to statutory instruments or draft statutory instruments, referred to it in accordance with Standing Order F (Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c)) ;
(f) motions for the adjournment of the committee, notice of which has been given in accordance with Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) ; and (g) motions for the adjournment of the committee, to be made after the interruption of business, as provided in Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)).
B. Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer) (1) Notices of questions for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee by Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.
(2) Notices of questions given under this order shall bear an indication that they are for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee.
(3) No more than one notice of a question may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the taking of questions.
(4) On any day so specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), questions shall be taken at the commencement of the sitting ; no question shall be taken later then three- quarters of an hour after the commencement of the proceedings thereon ; and replies to questions not reached shall be printed with the Official Report of the committee's debates for that day.
(5) Notices of questions under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which an answer is desired :
Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph. C. Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)
(1) Notices of subjects to be raised in short debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.
Column 800(2) Subjects of which notice is given under paragraph (1) of this order must relate to the official responsibilities of Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers.
(3) Not more than one notice of a subject may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the holding of short debates.
(4) On any day so specified such debates shall be held at the commencement of the sitting or, if the order under paragraph (1) specifies also the taking of questions on that day, immediately after questions.
(5)(a) No member of the committee except the minister or law officer replying to the debate shall be called to speak later than half an hour after the commencement of the first such debate. (b) The Member who gave notice of the subject and the minister or law officer replying to the debate may each speak for five minutes. Other members of the committee may speak for three minutes. (c) The chairman may direct any member of the committee who exceeds the limits in sub-paragraph (b) to resume his seat forthwith. (6) Notices of subjects under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which they are sought to be raised :
Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph. D. Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)
(1) The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement, of which prior notice has been given to him, and to answer questions thereon put by members of the committee.
(2) Ministerial statements may be made for the purpose of (a) facilitating the questioning by members of the committee of the minister or law officer, as the case may be, about a matter relating to his official responsibilities as provided in the second column of the eleventh sub- paragraph of paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 130 (Select committees related to government departments), in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion not later than three-quarters of an hour after their commencement ; or (b) announcing the policy of the Government on a matter relating to Scotland or the response of the Government to an event relating to Scotland, in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion at the discretion of the chairman.
(3) Ministerial statements may be made
(a) at the commencement of a sitting ; or
(b) if questions are taken, immediately after the conclusion of proceedings thereon ; or
(c) if short debates are held, immediately after the conclusion of those proceedings.
(4) A minister or law officer making a statement under paragraph (1) of this order, who is not a member of the committee, may not do so from the body of the committee ; and such a minister or law officer shall not vote, make any motion or be counted in the quorum. E. Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)
(1) After any public bill has been first printed, the Speaker shall, if of the opinion that its provisions relate exclusively to Scotland, give a certificate to that effect :
Provided that a certificate shall not be withheld by reason only that a provision of that bill amends Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 or Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975.
(2) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill so certified, a motion may be made by a member of the Government (or in the case of a private Members' bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), That the bill be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee' ; and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business : Provided that such a motion may be made by a private Member only with the leave of the House.
(3) A bill so referred to the Scottish Grand Committee shall be considered on a motion, That the Committee has considered the
Column 801bill in relation to its principle ;' and, when the committee has considered that question for a total of two and half hours (whether on one or more than one day), the chairman shall put the question necessary to dispose of the motion, and shall then report accordingly to the House (or shall report that the committee has come to no resolution), without any further question being put thereon : Provided that a member of the government may, immediately before the motion That the Committee has considered the bill in relation to its principle' is made, make without notice a motion to extend the time-limit specified in this paragraph ; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith.
(4) A bill in respect of which a report has been made under paragraph (3) above shall be ordered to be read a second time on a future day.
(5) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill to which paragraph (4) above applies, a motion may be made by a member of the government (or, in the case of a private Member's bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), That the bill be committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee)' : and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business. (6) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time, and shall stand committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee).
F. Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c.) (1) Where
(a) a Member has given notice of a motion for a humble address to Her Majesty praying that a statutory instrument be annulled, or of a motion that a draft of an Order in Council be not submitted to Her Majesty in Council, or that a statutory instrument be revoked or be not made, or that the House takes note of a statutory instrument, or (b) a Minister of the Crown has given notice of a motion to the effect that a statutory instrument or draft statutory instrument be approved,
a motion may be made by a member of the government, That the instrument (or draft instrument) be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee' ; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.
(2) The committee shall consider each instrument (or draft instrument) referred to it on a motion, That the Committee has considered the instrument (or draft instrument)' ; and the chairman shall put any question necessary to dispose of the proceedings on the motion, if not previously disposed of, not later than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings thereon ; and shall thereupon report the instrument or draft instrument to the House without any further question being put.
(3) If any motion is made in the House of the kind specified in paragraph 1(a) or 1(b) of this order, in relation to any instrument or draft instrument in respect of which a report has been made to the House in accordance with paragraph (2) of this order, the Speaker shall put forthwith the question thereon ; which may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business. G. Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)
(1) On each of the days specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the Scottish Grand Committee, such motions of which notice has been given in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3) below shall have precedence.
(2) A member of the committee giving notice of a motion for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall
(a) also give notice of the subject to which he intends to call attention on the motion for the adjournment of the committee, and (b) give such notice of motion and of the subject in writing not later than ten sitting days before that on which the motion is to be made :
Provided that the subject to which attention is called must relate to Scotland.