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Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Dewar: I shall not take further interventions. I am sorry, but I have outstayed my welcome.

I understand that there are doubts about the second question. My friends in the Liberal Democrat party and on the Liberal Democrat Benches feel those doubts particularly strongly, but in my view, the whole question of revenue raising is a discipline and a responsibility, and the right to vary tax is an important part of the scheme. Opponents will view it as an opportunity, of course. The tartan tax--the playing to the pocket--will no doubt be a prominent feature of the campaign, as it was in the

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campaign in the run-up to the election. I might be wrong, but I believe that it will be as unsuccessful as it was in the run-up to the election. However, whether it is an opportunity for my opponents or not, we came to the view that it was right that the people should be allowed to decide in Scotland, and we went for the second question.

I think that we shall win that because it will be very difficult for even someone with the ingenuity of the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe somehow to persuade Scots that although there are many tiers of government with varying revenue and taxation powers, it is a unique impossibility, an abomination and a danger when similar powers are given to Scots sitting as a body, elected and responsible for wide-ranging legislative powers. That is in effect asking the Scots to give a resounding vote of no confidence to their own probity and responsibility and their ability to conduct business. I do not believe that we shall have that.

As the House, or those who have followed the argument, may remember, the poll in The Scotsman in January this year suggested that there was very substantial approval--59 per cent., in fact--for those powers. That may not be an accurate reflection, or it may change, but it is honourable and right to find out in the only way that matters and is clear. That is what we shall do.

The local authority franchise has been picked because it is the one that is available and which most nearly accords with the residency test, which we believe is the proper way to decide someone's eligibility to vote. It has some odd consequences, some of which I welcome. For example, it ensures that peers in Scotland will be able to vote. Rather to my surprise, perhaps because Scotland is a sort of second home for that group, there are only 123 of them, I am told, but still, let us value those 123 votes. They may be glad to know that it will not be possible to identify them and discover exactly how they voted in the referendum.

Some European nationals will also be included, a matter that has been raised. That is defensible on the simple ground that they are European nationals who have established the right of residence in Scotland. It will also have the effect--

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dewar: No, I am sorry. We can come back to this matter on many other occasions.

Picking the local authority franchise also has the effect of excluding overseas voters. If we had gone for the parliamentary franchise, which is marginally smaller, we would have had to include overseas voters, which would have meant that the fine old peppery gentleman who has spent 17 years in Kuala Lumpur but who takes a great interest in what is happening in the old country would have had a vote. [Interruption.] I am not aware of his domicile.

Mr. Wigley: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dewar: No.

Madam Speaker: Order. The Secretary of State has made it clear to me and to the hon. Gentleman that he is not giving way at the moment. This is an important matter that we need to know about.

Mr. Dewar: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I said that I would not take any more interventions, but I am

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happy to speak to the hon. Gentleman personally afterwards, to try to deal with whatever is troubling him at this stage.

The chief counting officer will be for the whole of Scotland and there will of course be one officer for each local government area. That is the precedent of 1979. The result that matters is the national result, but the local government results--area by area--will also be available. The final aggregate will tell the story that matters. The Bill is the way to ensure that that happens.

As an addendum, I hope--I cannot be definitive about this--that, unlike 1979, we shall have the final result on the night, rather than having to wait until the next day. That is certainly my intention if it is at all practicably possible. I just wanted to record that.

Mr. Wigley rose--

Mr. Dewar: I am very sorry, but I have made a decision. I shall of course talk to the hon. Gentleman afterwards.

Clause 2 makes similar provisions for Wales, as the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) will know. Clause 3 includes the necessary secondary legislation governing the conduct of the referendum. An Order in Council, subject to affirmative resolution in both Houses, will be laid, and the draft will be made available the week after the Whit recess. We are happy to consider comments on the draft received by the middle of June, which can be taken into account before final orders are laid.

Clause 4 excludes the possibility of legal proceedings to question a referendum result certified by counting officers. That follows the precedent set in all the other legislation dealing with referendums. I am assured that only the most devious of minds would see conspiracy behind a safeguard against protracted and unnecessary potential litigation.

Clause 5 will provide for the payment of charges and expenses of returning officers and chief counting officers. It also allows expenditure for preparatory work. We believe that it is a prudent measure to maintain momentum, so that a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly can meet quickly after the first elections. It also deals with matters such as the acquisition, refurbishment and design of buildings, with planning needs and with other romantic matters of that type. Its provisions will be used only if there is a positive outcome to the referendums, and, for significant expenditure, only after the successful Second Reading of a devolution Bill.

I know that we shall be hearing a great deal about the provisions of clause 5--the tone has already been set by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, on 16 May. On that evidence, the Opposition seem to be rather over-staffed with hon. Members of vision and wide horizons, who are sadly fixated by the comparatively minor expenditure specified in the explanatory and financial memorandum. It is a type of parliamentary pump approach--which blows up to fill the foreground of what should be a great constitutional debate on comparatively limited matters.

As the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks will know, the costs specified in the explanatory and financial memorandum are relatively modest and are dwarfed by the potential benefits. In Scotland, the cost of the referendum will be less than £1 per head. Moreover,

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the transitional--or paving--costs, which we do not believe will be as high as the specified upper limit, will be under £5 per head. That is in the context of a budget of £14 billion.

Mr. Heald: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Dewar: I will finish now.

Mr. Hague rose--

Mr. Dewar: I shall give way.

Mr. Hague: In the interests of clarity, is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that the costs of the referendums will be drawn from the Scottish and Welsh blocks?

Mr. Dewar: The right hon. Gentleman will see in the Bill that the funds will come from the Consolidated Fund. Perhaps we can take the matter from that point. I should tell him, because I think that it is important, that the referendum costs will be less than one thirtieth of 1 per cent. of the Scottish Office's annual budget. He should look at the £18 million to £25 million, which is the cost band for provision of paving expenditure, and compare it--to give only one example--with the £30 million or so that was lost, in a definitive sense, through the former Government's unwise investment in Health Care International, a private hospital in Clydebank. I appeal to him to raise issues of importance, but to try also to maintain some sense of perspective. If not, he will diminish only himself.

The Bill's schedules simply set out the layout and content of the ballot papers.

I have provided a rough Cook's tour of the Bill. I apologise for the length of my speech--I have perhaps been over-generous in allowing interventions, but there have been persistent attempts to intervene.

I have real hopes for the referendum campaign. In a sense, the Bill is only a mechanism. The reality--the consequences that will flow from it--should be an all-Scotland debate on issues of real importance. A similar debate should occur in Wales. I hope that the debate will have real public involvement and that there will be a sense of excitement. It will be a test not only of whether a Parliament in Scotland and an Assembly in Wales would bring better government, but of the type of Parliament and Assembly and of the range of powers that they should have.

The Bill should be a part of the process of rebuilding confidence and it will, I hope, return some faith to our democratic agenda. It is about whether people should be trusted with decisions about their own future, and I hope that the House will endorse it.

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