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5.15 pm

So the commitment in the SNP manifesto was

and SNP Members should not say tonight that a two-question referendum is unfair and undemocratic when they have just fought a general election on the platform of a one-question referendum.

Mr. Salmond: There is an exact parallel--that of a Labour Government receiving a mandate to pass devolution legislation and putting that, after parliamentary agreement, to the people in a post-legislative referendum. However, the Labour Government have not done that. They have said that the general election did not decide these issues, and Ministers argue that the people must be consulted. If the people are to be consulted, why not on independence?

Mr. McAllion: The hon. Gentleman argued earlier that if the Labour Government had simply set up a Scottish Parliament, he would have accepted that. He also said that if there is any test of opinion, it must be a fair test of opinion and it must be a multi-option referendum, yet he intended to test the opinion of the Scottish people in a one-question referendum if the SNP had won the last general election. It is very unfair of the hon. Gentleman to accuse my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of changing his position on the referendum issue when the SNP has changed its in the space of a month, since the general election.

Mr. Graham: Is my hon. Friend aware that nearly every member of the Labour party in Scotland supported devolution but did not support separatism? We told the people of Scotland that we wanted a Scottish Parliament along the lines of the Scottish Constitutional Convention. We did not hoodwink or kid the folk that we would lead them down the road of separatism. Why should we listen when the SNP tell us to follow its separatism policies, which we did not fight the general election on?

Mr. McAllion: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is about a general election mandate, and part of the Labour Government's mandate was that they should go ahead with the two-question referendum. It was in the

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manifesto and was spoken about at all the public meetings in all the constituencies in Scotland by all the candidates. In fact, they were fiercely attacked by the SNP and by others for adopting such a position.

In the event, the voters voted for us, and it should not be regarded as dishonourable or objectionable for the Labour Government to honour their manifesto commitment to introduce a referendum with two questions.

I realised the dangers of the second question more than anything during the brief period that I spent on the Labour Front Bench. I believe that it is a very weak position to put the second question to the people in a referendum. If this Parliament were to hold a referendum throughout the United Kingdom seeking the right to vary taxation throughout the UK, I doubt that a majority of UK taxpayers would give Parliament the power to vary taxation in the way in which the Tories did in the last Parliament. We must overcome that difficulty. We have a fight on our hands to win two yes votes in the referendum in September.

I do not mean this insultingly, but the Tory party in Parliament is irrelevant to the contest in September. We need to unite behind a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers, and then the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and the SNP will be even better placed to argue the case than they are at the moment.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): It is a great honour for me to address the House for the first time, as the first elected Member for Vale of York. I hope that hon. Members will consider this a good opportunity for me to pay tribute to my predecessors, one of whom is the shadow Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). Another is the shadow Minister for local government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), the third is my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and the fourth is the former Member for Harrogate, Mr. Robert Banks. I hope that colleagues will not feel that I am insisting that it takes one woman to do the work of four men. My predecessors have paved the way for me to take over in a smooth transition as the first Member for Vale of York.

In addition to his work as the former Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks did great work in north Yorkshire, especially among the farming community, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon in his previous capacity at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Hon. Members will recall that the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale has largely been in connection with racecourses throughout Great Britain, including Scotland and Wales, and not least in my own constituency of Thirsk. Sadly, the former hon. Member for Harrogate retired at the last election. He will be remembered for the sterling work that he did for his constituency, and for the work that he did as a man of great integrity in our relations with Sudan.

I am a Scot by birth and a Scottish advocate by profession, albeit non-practising at present. I am proud to have had the benefit of a Yorkshire education. It may not be that of, say, Fettes college, but I am proud to have been educated at Harrogate college in north Yorkshire and

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subsequently at the university of Edinburgh. I am exceedingly attached to my Scottish roots, which I consider to be firmly established in the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I shall say a few words about my constituency. The Vale of York is a special place with special people in it. I have referred to four of our number. My predecessors also include the present European Commissioner, Sir Leon Brittan. Other well-known residents of my home town, Thirsk, were Thomas Lord who, as hon. Members will recall, was the founding member of Lord's cricket ground, and Alf Wight--another Scot--perhaps better known for his contribution to animals as James Herriot. All those honourable people have made special contributions to the life of the Vale of York, as I hope to do in my capacity as the first elected Member. The geographic heart of my constituency is Helperby, but the population is based on the very pretty market towns of Bedale, Boroughbridge, Thirsk and Easingwold, as well as north York.

I turn to the business in question. On amendment No. 71, I have great difficulty in understanding the need for such an amendment and in supporting it. I query the relevance of drawing on the experience of Newfoundland and Australia, unless the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) is suggesting that the Scots who live there made a contribution there from which those of us now living in England can learn.

I have a letter from a constituent who is extremely concerned that those of us Scots who are now resident in England will not have a vote in the referendum. He writes:

I hope that hon. Members will consider that no less relevant than the amendment.

I have great difficulty in sharing the philosophy of the Government and other Opposition Members with whom I share a Bench. They conclude from the result of the general election that we have a mandate from the Scottish people and the Welsh people--albeit those who happen to live within the borders of Scotland and Wales--on the question of a referendum. In my humble experience in my first parliamentary term, we fight general elections not on constitutional issues, of which the Bill forms a part, but on domestic issues such as education--for example, assisted places such as those that were enjoyed by hon. Members at Fettes college--health and law and order.

I shall look forward with great anticipation to the referendum campaign, to see whether there is a sufficient majority of the Scottish and Welsh people in favour of the referendum, before we proceed further.

On clause 1, I am treading on new ground as a new Member, but I have serious reservations about substantive procedural points in the Bill being dealt with by Order in Council. Perhaps the Government could put me out of my misery by enlightening me.

One of the reasons why I sought to be the first Member of Parliament for Vale of York was that I believe that there should be proper scrutiny in the House through primary legislation. As secondary legislation, an Order in Council is not an appropriate instrument for the consideration of issues of a constitutional nature. They should be dealt with on the Floor of the House, not in Committee, in the form of a primary Bill enabling us to scrutinise draft legislation.

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We can draw parallels with the European legislation that appears before the House as secondary legislation. I seek an explanation as to why the Government consider it appropriate to proceed by way of Order in Council, which I do not consider to be an appropriate instrument to use on this occasion. I believe that it infringes the heart of parliamentary sovereignty, which the Opposition hold dear.

Returning to the Vale of York, I invite the Government to consider one point. Perhaps we could have a future referendum on how Scottish Power will transfer electricity. The Government will have to reach a view on whether a new line of pylons should be built in the Vale of York. It would be more appropriate to use any so-called windfall tax to put electricity wires underground, rather than carrying them in pylon form. Would the Government consider a referendum on the matter?

Finally, if the outcome of a referendum in Scotland was clearly in favour of devolution, would the post of Secretary of State for Scotland disappear? Who in Parliament would take subsequent decisions?

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