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Mr. Andrew Rowe: If in the referendum the Scottish people vote yes to the first question and no to the second, will the Government have any objection to my constituents in Kent refusing to contribute to the costs of the Scottish Parliament? They will have no opportunity to vote on its creation and no representation within it. I thought that taxation without representation was something of which we did not approve.

Mr. Dewar: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I did not know that his constituents intended or expected to pay for the Scottish Parliament. However, if he intends to make that offer, I shall certainly be prepared to have a

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look at it. Indeed, it might make for some unexpected good will between us. He should perhaps take that suggestion back and have a look at his generosity.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks): In the light of his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), will the right hon. Gentleman make the position clear? Is the implication of his answer that the costs of the Scottish Parliament and proposed Welsh Assembly are to be met out of the Scottish and Welsh blocks and, therefore, out of the budget for public services in Scotland and Wales?

Mr. Dewar: I have a special passage on that in my speech, which I know the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt be looking forward to if he stays the course. He might reason with his hon. Friends to let me make some progress and then that passage will come all the quicker.

It is clear from the outset that what we are looking for is to settle the question of consent for the specific scheme. The scheme has been set out in the White Paper and it can be judged and endorsed if it is thought right by the people. It follows from that, and it is an important point that I know is dear to the heart of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and some others, that we are not running an opinion poll or what is sometimes rather vulgarly called a beauty contest. We are looking for a particular endorsement of a practical scheme. It is not a matter of running the gamut of every possibility and then considering what to do at the end of the process.

I have a clear view on the matter. I have watched the debate rage for close on 20 years. We have made surprisingly little progress in practical terms, and I want to see practical progress. It is because I want to see such progress that I want to concentrate upon that aim and that objective. That leads me to the conclusion that we should be concentrating on the scheme that is on the stocks and which is on offer. If we get the endorsement of that scheme specifically, we should be in the House pressing ahead from that.

Mr. Salmond rose--

Mr. Dewar: I shall let the hon. Gentleman intervene in a moment, but I have one other related point to make.

Even though the hon. Gentleman and I may have differences of interpretation, I hope that he will accept that I should be the last to challenge the sovereignty of the people or to deny them the right to opt for any solution to the constitutional question which they wished. For example, if they want to go for independence, I see no reason why they should not do so. In fact, if they want to, they should. I should be the first to accept that.

It is on that basis that I had no difficulty--perhaps this is a Scottish point--in signing the Claim of Right, but that does not imply that the people had to exercise their right by travelling on one particular road. That does not imply that if they failed to pick the road with the exit sign from the United Kingdom, they were betraying their trust. That is not my view. I believe that people have a right to choice, but that they have the right to every choice. I believe that the choice that they have made is the choice that we have put before them--there is evidence to support that claim. I hope that the referendum will settle that point.

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I accept that if the nationalists want to progress their cause--I do not expect them to pack their bags and go home--their route to putting independence back on the agenda is to carry the people with them. With six seats and a long record of failure in that respect, however, they have much to do and a long way to come.

Mr. Salmond: There is nothing between the right hon. Gentleman and myself about the matter of choice. I fully accept that argument. If the scheme is on the stocks, as the right hon. Gentleman put it, we can look for an early publication of the White Paper. If he is arguing that the general election did not decide the constitutional question, why will he not offer the choice between the well-supported constitutional options of independence, devolution and the status quo? Does he recall on 23 April 1992 telling The Scotsman that the case for a multi-option referendum should be shouted from the rooftops? Why was it to be shouted from the rooftops in 1992, but not to be countenanced in 1997?

Mr. Dewar: I am always slightly depressed when people have good cuttings files. If the hon. Gentleman would like to look back at the context in which I made that remark in 1992, he will appreciate that it was after an overwhelming vote for change in Scotland and the refusal of the then Government to take any action of any type. It was in that specific context that that campaign was launched. We are now in government with a policy that was contained in our manifesto. We are honestly going to put it to the people. If we are wrong and they reject it, that is their option. I am not going to be distracted, however, or put off from making progress as I think right on this occasion.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) rose--

Mr. Dewar: I am sorry, but I shall not give way. I have been speaking for more than half an hour, and in fairness to the House, I must get on.

I should like to consider briefly the contents of the Bill. This is the first time that I have done so and I find it a slightly daunting prospect when a speech becomes a list. It is important, however, that there is clarity. Put briefly, clause 1 authorises the holding of a referendum in Scotland and it explains that the date of it will appear in secondary legislation. The clause also defines the questions, sets the franchise, which will be based on the local government elections, provides for the appointment of a chief counting officer for Scotland and counting officers for each local authority area, and sets out their primary duties.

The House will appreciate--and this is an important point--that great care has been taken in framing the propositions. We took advice from people learned in electoral practices. We have tried hard to go for clarity and, above all, fairness. I genuinely believe that we have been scrupulous in trying to avoid any leading questions, and I hope that there is universal agreement that that has been fairly achieved.

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): In this part of the Bill, the House is being asked to give away its tax-varying powers in a referendum question. Taxation goes to the heart of the House's powers, so, at the very least, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we must

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be given practical answers as to whether it is feasible, in a single United Kingdom administrative and fiscal region, to have different tax rates applying to the earnings or investment income of different citizens, according to whether they work or live in various parts of the United Kingdom? Will he undertake to give the House full proposals and details before we agree to handing over those powers by way of a referendum?

Mr. Dewar: The subject will of course be dealt with in the White Paper. I am a little puzzled, because I do not know anything about the right hon. Gentleman's personal circumstances, but I would lay a small bet that he and I pay different rates of tax from those of most of my constituents. Of course we have variations in the sense that we have local tax, national tax, indirect taxes and direct taxes. We have a whole portfolio, a portmanteau, a travelling pantechnicon of taxes under all Governments and I do not accept the impossibility argument to which he refers, but it is an important issue and we shall return to it.

As I say, we have tried to be scrupulous about avoiding leading questions. We are anxious that no one should misunderstand what they are being asked to decide on and that there should be a minimum of spoilt papers. We shall use two ballot papers in Scotland because of the two questions. That is obviously to allow a free vote on each issue and to aid the counting process. I believe that it can be done with great fairness and great clarity, and that is our intention. The detail will be in the White Paper. We shall obviously, as I have stressed time and again, come to it in good time, and well ahead of the referendum.

Sir Patrick Cormack: If the right hon. Gentleman believes that the new Scottish Parliament is not going to be a danger to the continuance of the United Kingdom, and I believe that he is sincere in that, why cannot we have a third question in the referendum, inviting people to proclaim their belief in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Dewar: Because that would imply that those who are going to vote yes in the referendum are the enemies of the United Kingdom. As the hon. Gentleman has conceded, he assumes that I am genuine in my view, and my view is that we shall strengthen the United Kingdom by bringing in a more democratic and responsive form of government. It is obviously impossible to present me with a referendum in which I have alternatives but in which I might want to vote yes both times. I am sure that, if he thinks about it, he will understand that point.

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