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Mr. Ancram: Just wait.

Mr. Salmond: I have been waiting for some time, and I suspect that we will wait some time more for a Conservative comeback. The great difficulty for the Conservatives in Scotland is the Conservatives who sit on the Opposition Front Bench in this House. Every time they make a speech--with the insulting and condescending attitudes that they represent--they put back their colleagues in Scotland. They know it, and their colleagues in Scotland know it.

It is important for this Committee to take note of what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) said. We all may have ideas about what title is best, be it First Minister, Premier or Prime Minister. It may be that we should think about another title for the Members of the Parliament--whether they should be MSPs or Commissioners of the Scottish Parliament. I note what the right hon. Member for Devizes said about not getting the word "estaite" into his amendments. It is a strange institution which will accept Norman French but not the Scots language in its amendments.

The fundamental point is that we are enabling the Scottish Parliament to get on with its business. The note struck by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West--reflected in a large number of speeches--is that we should leave these matters to the Scottish Parliament when it is up and running. If it wants to change the titles, change them it shall; basically, nothing we say or do in this place will make any difference.

An excellent meeting of the consultative group to discuss the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament was marred only by the sole Conservative contribution, which seemed to be a last-ditch defence of the right to have 20 or 30 directorships while simultaneously serving as a Member of the Scottish Parliament--another attitude that will get short shrift from the people of Scotland.

Basically, it was a good meeting--there was a good feeling at the first meeting of the consultative group. I hope that the Minister feels able to give some indication to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West that that attitude--of letting the Scottish Parliament decide these things--will be reflected in the Government's attitude today.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East): First, I recommend to my hon. Friend the Minister that he reject amendment No. 196, tabled by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). It is an absurd proposition that a Speaker can only be elected on the basis not just of two thirds of the Members of the Parliament, but of two thirds of all the constituency Members and two

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thirds of the regional list Members in each of the eight regions across Scotland. If the Tory party had applied that formula to its own elections, it might have done a lot of good; the Conservative party would not have its present leader.

It would be almost impossible to elect anyone on that basis. I can think of no figure--with the possible exception of the Secretary of State for Scotland--who could command such widespread support throughout Scotland. In reality, amendment No. 196 is a wrecking amendment, which gives the lie to the idea that the official Opposition are being in any sense constructive in their approach to the Bill.

Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman is making a great fuss about this. Why did the Labour party accept such a system for the proposed Assembly in Northern Ireland in the framework document?

Mr. McAllion: I was quite unaware that my party had accepted it. If I had known, I would have said that it was an absurd proposition. It seems nonsense to me, particularly in a Parliament which will have not four parties, but six, seven or eight. That would give tremendous influence to smaller parties, which could block any agreement because of their strength in a particular part of Scotland. The Tories expect to be a very small party, embedded in only one little part of Scotland. [Hon. Members: "Where?"] Certainly not in my part of Scotland, but there must be parts of Scotland where they vote Tory. There are 500,000 of them somewhere; I do not know where they are all distributed.

I want to recommend to my hon. Friend the Minister the amendment tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie). My hon. Friend will recall that, when I was appointed to the Scottish Select Committee, the entire Committee was invited to the brand new civil service office in Leith to be shown the ropes by all the Scottish Office civil servants. During that very useful day, one of the civil servants responsible for drafting the Bill made the point that Westminster would, of course, have to draft Standing Orders, which would be there for the Parliament to use on its first day.

However, those Standing Orders would be drafted in such a way as to allow the Parliament itself to shape the kind of Parliament which the Scottish Members wanted. They would not be proscriptive Standing Orders, and the Scottish Parliament would be left free to decide for itself what it should call the presiding Minister, how many deputies there should be, how the Speaker should be elected, and so on.

My hon. Friend the Minister may point out that I have put my name to an amendment which seeks to tell the Parliament to call him or her not the First Minister but the Scottish Premier. Obviously, the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and myself is not consistent with the White Paper--which we supported in general--but the White Paper is not consistent with the convention document, "Scotland's Parliament, Scotland's Right," which states that the convention wanted the Speaker of the Parliament to be called the Speaker and the Head of Government to be called the Chief Minister. Perhaps my hon. Friend will explain why he has departed from the agreement in the convention document. He changed the proposal in the White Paper, and is continuing to do so in the Bill.

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I understand that there could be confusion if the Heads of Government in Scotland and in the rest of the UK were both called Prime Minister, as people might not know to whom they were referring. I am happy for this House to retain the use of the term "Prime Minister". In the early 18th century, it was a very unofficial term--in fact, it was regarded as odious, and Sir Robert Walpole and Lord North repudiated it. If the British Parliament wishes to carry on with an odious title for its Head of Government, it is free to do so. I would like to see a better term for the Scottish Parliament, and that is why I believe that Scottish Premier is the best way forward.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute): The hon. Gentleman may recall that, when the Secretary of State launched the White Paper in the House, I asked whether the term "First Minister" was written in tablets of stone. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was a form of words used in the White Paper, giving the impression that, thereafter, we could choose the term to use.

Mr. McAllion: I am greatly encouraged by the hon. Lady's intervention, and I shall now give the reason why I think the title should be Scottish Premier. Perhaps those who get to the Scottish Parliament should take note of what I say here, in case I do not get there myself.

"Scottish Premier" is a shortened version of Premier Minister, which can be defined as Prime Minister or Head of Government. That would end the confusion, and would mean that the Scottish Premier would not be seen in way as secondary to the British Prime Minister. If there were a suggestion that the Prime Minister was "over" the Scottish Premier, it would be unfortunate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West mentioned Canada and Australia. I am concerned because, in Canada and Australia, the federal Head of Government is called the Prime Minister and the Heads of the state Governments are called Premiers. There is a clear indication that the Prime Minister is above the Premiers. I would not want that to be the case in Scotland. I want the Scottish Premier to be so called on the basis of the auld alliance, with the French interpretation of that term--that the Scottish Premier is in every sense equal to the British Prime Minister for the areas for which he is responsible.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): I hope that we can resolve all the issues mentioned in the debate. I tabled amendment No. 85, which suggests that instead of First Minister, we should call the new chap the Chief Minister. That is a sensible compromise, and would be a major step forward.

I seriously suggest that the Government should not accept amendment No. 36, which would give the devolved Parliament the right to make such decisions itself. Hon. Members should be aware that it is a real possibility, as I have always suggested, that one of the strange, unusual parties--or perhaps even the Scottish National party--might get control and use names that would give the wrong impression.

I hope that hon. Members who are celebrating in advance the great delights of the Scottish Parliament appreciate that terrible problems will almost inevitably arise. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) rightly said that people were misled in the referendum

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about the powers of the assembly. The wholly wrong impression was given that a new form of self-government was coming in that would give unique power to the Scottish people to make their own decisions. Those who study the Bill know that it is a load of codswallop, that the powers are astonishingly limited, and that there will be less money because the cost of the assembly will have to be deducted. I hope that hon. Members understand some of the immediate problems that will arise.


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