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Mr. Dalyell: It has been the tradition in the House to welcome maiden speeches, but I do so now out of more than perfunctory politeness. I do not think that I have ever met the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), but I warmly congratulate her on using her maiden speech to make pertinent observations on the topic in hand.

When I came into the House, it was the tradition that every maiden speech was devoted to the subject being discussed on the Floor of the House. That, alas, has rather ceased to be the tradition. It is an old tradition to which the hon. Lady returned with something pertinent and worthwhile to say. It is not for me to judge the content of her contribution to the debate, but she should be applauded by all of us for having thought about the subject under discussion and for making a highly relevant contribution. Maiden speeches are not always welcome on guillotine motions, but no one can accuse her of not treating the guillotine properly or of abusing the time of the House. She also has a locus in this matter, in that she is a graduate of the university of Edinburgh. I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that we look forward to hearing her speak on many future occasions.

I am tempted to break the habit of a lifetime and to vote for an SNP amendment, because it has the benefit of seeming transparency. Some of us believe that once an Assembly or Parliament is established, we shall be on a motorway with no exit to something that is indistinguishable either from federalism or from an independent Scottish state. For us, then, transparency has many attractions. It will however perhaps come as a relief to the leader of the SNP, my constituent, to discover that I will not be voting with his party this evening. I strongly believe that referendums should be about only concrete, definite proposals. It is wrong to have a general referendum on independence without knowing the exact terms of that independence. Independence involves divorce, and divorces can be messy. We are entitled to know the terms of the divorce settlement in the case of England and Scotland before we have a referendum on independence.

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5.30 pm

Mr. Salmond: The hon. Gentleman and I have discussed this on a number of occasions. It is why, under my party's proposals, the referendum would be held after a negotiated settlement once the exact terms of the proposals were available. The hon. Gentleman will understand that our amendment today cannot follow that line because it deals with a referendum that the Government want to hold in September. So the fault of holding the referendum before the legislation is the Government's, not mine.

Mr. Dalyell: It would be silly of me to say that I did not understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, given what I have said before. I just thought I would explain why I will not be in the Lobby with him, greatly tempted though I was.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): I begin by echoing the words of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) on her excellent maiden speech. I hope that she will forgive me if I do not say more than that, much as I would like to expand on my compliments. The time left for this debate goes to show the absurdity of the straitjacket in which the Government have placed us. We have to vote at 6 o'clock on the most important single issue to be debated on this Bill. Many of the Back Benchers who would have liked to take part will not have had the chance to do so by then.

Time is so limited that we are having to vote only on an amendment which is rather confusing and which would produce a confused result. I shall confine my brief remarks to amendments Nos. 97 and 99, the latter being the substantive one. It details a third question to put before the people of Scotland, taking up the wording that the Government have deployed for the other two questions:


The great virtue of the amendment and the question is that there is nothing incompatible about a voter saying that he or she wants a Scottish Parliament and that he or she wants to affirm the unity of the United Kingdom. I have always made the preservation of the United Kingdom my greatest aim. That is why I took an active part in the devolution debates of the 1970s. I would argue from a rather different position this evening if Parliament were finely balanced and if it were likely that the Government could be defeated. But I accept that the Government's majority will not be overturned; I also accept that we are in a weak position following the general election, there being no Scottish Conservative Members. I therefore want to test the Government's resolve.

The Secretary of State has often proclaimed his personal belief in the integrity of the United Kingdom. I must therefore ask him how the amendment can fail to strengthen his cause and the cause of others who believe in the United Kingdom. It merely gives those who go to the polls in September the opportunity to put a cross in a third box. Some people may say that they want a Parliament but not with tax-raising powers. They may also want to remain part of the United Kingdom. If 78 or 80 per cent. want to remain a part of it, as the recent general election seemed to show, such a vote would represent a massive positive affirmation.

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If, on the other hand, people voted in favour of Scotland not remaining part of the United Kingdom, I would deplore and regret that--but at least we would know where we were going. It is after all important to know that. That is why, on this one specific issue, I have always made common cause with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and his colleagues, who wish to test support for independence. That is precisely what the amendment would do.

I shall want to campaign vigorously on the issue. Indeed, any Member of the UK Parliament has the right to campaign in Scotland on the referendum and to support the idea of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom. If we are successful, perhaps many of the dangers that we have forecast will be lessened--but setting up a Scottish Parliament on the basis of the referendum questions proposed in the Bill would leave the whole issue wide open. Many of those who vote for a Scottish Parliament in a two-question referendum will be those who support the SNP line, but there will be no way, as things stand, of knowing whether they support that line or the Government line.

As the Secretary of State knows, I accept that there will be a Scottish Parliament--but I want it to succeed and not to lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. I therefore beg the Secretary of State even at this late stage to accept the logic of what I am saying and to introduce an amendment similar to mine in another place. We will not have the chance to vote on this question here tonight, a fact which I regret, but it is certainly right that the other place should examine the Bill in minute detail. It should not filibuster or hold up the Bill--it will not do so--and I hope that no accusations will be levelled at their lordships if they do examine the Bill in detail.

I am not one to suggest that the Salisbury convention should be flouted or overturned; I do not think that it would be if, in another place, an amendment along these lines were accepted. The Commons would then have the opportunity to agree or disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

I ask the Secretary of State to take the initiative and to table an amendment along these lines in another place. That will give him the satisfaction of knowing that his devotion to the United Kingdom can be supported by a large majority of those who go to the polls in September.

Mr. Dewar: I welcome the speech made by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). It is always a pleasure to see another part of the Scottish diaspora appearing in the House. I do not know the hon. Lady personally, but I do know that she is the Member of the European Parliament for the constituency of Essex North and Suffolk South. It seems that her appetite for politics is insatiable. She certainly has a remarkable geographical range, and I congratulate her on her ambition. She made a good speech--there is no doubt about that. It was not made in a particularly distinctive Scottish accent, but that was possibly the impact of Harrogate in earlier and better years.

The hon. Lady showed a very lively style and made many pertinent points, but I will take some slight revenge on her, because she made the mistake of asking a fairly technical question about Orders in Council. I can assure her that they will have to be considered by the affirmative resolution procedure in both Houses, and she will have every opportunity to take part in that debate.

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I must also tell the hon. Lady--here I visibly preen myself on behalf of the Government--that we have, of course, produced the Orders in Council in draft form, and they are in the Library now. Perhaps she will want to rush down there in just a few minutes to prepare her various recommendations and pleas about possible alterations, but I am sure that she will not--she is far too sensible. The Orders in Council are important, even though they might be described as crossing the t's and dotting the i's, as they deal with the small change to the mechanics of the referendum process.

The hon. Lady is extremely welcome in the House. I suspect that I shall hear her on many occasions, particularly if she is pressed into service as a kind of bearer or bag carrier for whoever is unfortunate enough to be shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. She is obviously well qualified by her Scottish antecedents.


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