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9.29 pm

Mr. Dalyell: It was 38 and 39 years ago that I was the Labour candidate in Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, as the constituency of Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale then was, and I endorse what the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) said about the welcome that the people there give to incomers. He represents some very nice, hospitable people, even though they may not be of his political persuasion or mine. They are welcoming people and he is very lucky to represent that seat.

The hon. Member is sitting in the seat that, for so long, was occupied with charm and distinction by Lord Steel, as he now is, whom we knew as David Steel. When David Steel had announced his retirement and we asked about his successor, he described the hon. Gentleman, saying, "He's very nice and he's a better prop forward than I am." We wish him well.

When I say that I have sat here for every single speech in the past two days, it is not to claim virtue but to make a judgment. I say as gently as possible to my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that, in all this, they have to take into account a point that has been so often missing in our

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discussions and that is that there is an English dimension. There are consequences of the English dimension to whatever action is taken.

I hope that I will be forgiven, but, in the light of the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, it is worth making a correction--or at least saying what actually happened in 1978-79, because it is relevant.

The then Bill was produced by two very able Ministers: the late John Smith QC and Bruce Millan, later to be a European Commissioner. They were very clever men and so was Joel Barnett at the Treasury. They were helped by some extremely clever and able civil servants: Sir Michael Quinlan, Sir John Garlick and Sir Brian Cubbon, who were some of the most imaginative civil servants.

The fact is that there honestly was not any time wasting in the House of Commons. The Conservative Members who participated in the debate were Leon Brittan--whatever one thinks about him, he is an extremely clever lawyer--and Enoch Powell, who speaks for himself. Incidentally, it was Enoch Powell who christened the West Lothian question--it was not named by me. The truth is that I had gone on reciting, although not at unwarranted length, the dilemma of Scottish Members of Parliament being able to vote on English matters, but English Members being unable to vote on matters that pertained to Scottish constituencies. It was Enoch who said, with that marvellous overtone of irony, "In order to save time, we are finally seized of the problem. I have grasped the issue." For Enoch Powell to have any difficulty in grasping an issue really stretches the imagination, but that is how it began. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), who knows Enoch Powell well, will know exactly what I am getting at.

However, the devil is in the detail and, as the various issues came up, it was like stones being turned: all sorts of creepy-crawly things, in the form of real difficulties, emerged from under the stones.

At the end, very many people reached the conclusion that there were two solutions: the status quo, or something indistinguishable from that favoured in general terms by the Scottish National party.

It was not a waste of time; it was the House of Commons educating itself. My fear is that in the learning curve we may be back, not at 1979, but at 1977.

Others wish to speak, so I leave this Third Reading by saying to the Ministers that they must soon come to grips with the problems that surround the Barnett formula. There must be a statement on that because, as the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) said, someone is writing the cheques, and the question is, will they continue for ever writing the cheques in conditions that have fundamentally changed?

Secondly, to save time, I say that Ministers must consider the problem that is encapsulated in the Bury, North question.

Finally, a statement must soon be made about the responsibilities and accountability of the civil service. That is a very real problem because, if we are to have a Scottish Parliament, there is a strong suggestion that there must be a separate civil service. If there is not to be a separate civil service, we must be told what that solution is, and soon.

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I make a last plea to Ministers. It is not good enough in terms of Parliament for Ministers to present a White Paper, let alone the Bill--which I thought that we were promised--on 25 July, or 27 or 28 July, in the last two days before the recess. In honour bound, the Government really must produce that White Paper by, say, 10 July at the latest, because there must be some parliamentary scrutiny from everyone's point of view. It really would be disreputable suddenly to produce it at the fag end of the Session, when people's to minds were wholly on going away. There must be a serious opportunity for Parliament to discuss what is to be the subject of the referendum.

9.37 pm

Mr. Bernard Jenkin: I feel somewhat awed to follow the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who made yet another distinguished contribution to the debate. His speech is evidence of the fact that, as a result of the guillotine, we have had a mere smattering of the arguments that we should have had. I add, with the utmost respect to the hon. Gentleman, that he has criticised some of the amendments that have been tabled, and from him I take that criticism very much to heart; I say no more than that.

I ask Ministers to consider a single question about the Scottish Parliament. From where will the authority of that Scottish Parliament derive? The question in the referendum is very general. The referendum question, and no doubt the White Paper--indeed, the Government's entire position--is about avoiding that issue. Legally, there is no doubt that the power is devolved from the United Kingdom Parliament, which is sovereign, but the Parliament that is being offered in the referendum has been founded on a claim of right of self-government of the Scottish people.

This is not just a theoretical debate. The strains and stresses of real politics will excite the real expectations of the various parties involved in the struggle for power that will result from the establishment of a Scottish Parliament.

Power does not have the quality of an object that can be picked up and transferred. Power is a fluid commodity which flows in an unpredictable way. When the United Kingdom Parliament is in negotiation with the Scottish Parliament about the issues that affect the livelihoods, health, education and well-being of the people of Scotland and of the United Kingdom, how will those issues be settled without the Scottish Parliament reverting to its legitimacy directly from the Scottish people, as opposed to the powers technically delegated to it by the United Kingdom Parliament?

The Bill is designed to obscure an unstable proposition. What is wrong with extending the arrangements of the Scottish Grand Committee, which could decide everything and anything that the British Parliament wanted it to decide, within the framework of a sovereign United Kingdom Parliament? With a Labour Government and a Labour majority on the Scottish Grand Committee, there is nothing that it could not do--and without passing any legislation--except raise the tartan tax. It deals with the famous West Lothian question, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) says.

We Conservative Members of Parliament have been criticised throughout the debate, as though we have no legitimacy to speak on these issues. We speak for the sake

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of the arguments that we advance. We do not pretend to speak for the Scottish people or the Welsh people. Ultimately, the Scottish people and the Welsh people are sovereign. They have it in their power to decide their own future. If they were to vote for independence or for a majority of nationalist Members of Parliament, there would be little to argue about in terms of their future, but that is not the choice being offered in the referendum.

This is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it referendum. It panders to the expectations and prejudices that have been aroused by whatever political tensions have existed in the United Kingdom for the past 20 or 30 years. There is no honesty in it.

There is nothing intrinsically democratic in announcing that there is to be a referendum. Clement Attlee described referendums as potentially a device of demagogues and dictators. Old Labour may have had some respect for the niceties of the political arguments that new Labour prefers to ignore.

Clearly, there are circumstances in which referendums are appropriate, but we have only to observe how, in our lifetime, people such as Pinochet and Ceausescu have used referendums to assert their own views. All too often we become aware that a referendum has been called by the people who think that it will help to assert their side of the argument.

The proposed referendum is clearly an abuse of the procedure for referendums. It asks the Scottish and Welsh peoples to vote blind, without knowing the full consequences of their decision. Our opposition to the Bill involves no disrespect to the Scottish people or the Welsh people. We will have to respect the result of the referendum, although that will take some degree of interpretation, in view of the way in which the Government have attempted to fix the result in advance.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): I call Mr. Howard.


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