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Ms Roseanna Cunningham: I have listened with interest to the debate. I am sorry that we have had yet another example of what I can only describe as an emergent Anglo-Saxon supremacist lobby that seems to see everything in terms of asserting its supremacy over us poor folk north of the border who clearly will not be capable of dealing with such nasty, complicated issues.

It is evident from the number of amendments tabled to clause 23 that there is concern about several aspects. If the Conservative Front-Bench team had examined it more carefully they might have seen why. It appears to be a retreat from what was contained in the White Paper. That gave rise to several of the amendments and to new clause 2.

The issue of clause 23 arose on Second Reading when we discussed the reservation of broadcasting. My attention was directed to it by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne), who is a colleague of my mine in another capacity in the Faculty of Advocates. I am sorry that he is not in his seat; he was here briefly earlier. Later in that debate, he graciously accepted that he was wrong in some of his comments, but he wanted to point out that I was equally wrong. I freely admit that, so focused was I on broadcasting, that I was partially wrong, although only in so far as I had not appreciated the extent to which the legislation differed from the White Paper on cross-border public bodies. I am grateful to him, although he may wish that he had kept quiet.

I want to discuss amendments Nos. 102 to 104, which deal with the power of the Parliament, especially in relation to cross-border public bodies, which I suspect may become a vexed question when the Parliament is in operation. Amendment No. 103 aims to open up a discussion on the precise meaning of clause 23(4)(a) in the context of the whole clause. We recognise that Government amendments Nos. 224 and 226 turn previous negatives into positives, but I am not sure that, in reality, they change much. The Government's attention may also have been drawn to clause 23 by the Second Reading debate.

8.15 pm

Government amendment No. 225 is tortuous in the extreme; it not only sheds no new light but further obscures matters. Clause 23(4)(a) states that the power in subsection (1) is not exercisable in relation to


What is that meant to do in the context of subsection (2)? Amendment No. 225 would make it read:


    "That power is not exercisable in relation to a person discharging functions of any body whose functions relate only to reserved matters in connection with the discharge by him of those functions."

That further obscures the matter.

Mr. Grieve: Does the hon. Lady agree that it would be helpful to hear from the Minister what he thinks his amendments are intended to do, so that we know where the Government want to go before we decide to what parts we might object? I find the amendments hard to follow.

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Ms Cunningham: I expect that the Minister will have some comments to make.

I have three questions. First, why was it felt that clause 23(4)(a) had to be inserted, especially as clause 23(2)(a) already confines the power to devolved matters? Secondly, what does Government amendment No. 225 mean? I simply do not understand it. It would not win any plain English awards in its totality. I shall not enter into what the Scots or Gaelic might be.

Amendment No. 225 may be aimed at an individual with more than one capacity--one devolved and one reserved--so that, if he was called about the one, he could not be questioned about the other by the sneaky people who will be elected to the Scottish Parliament. It is not clear. Perhaps the Minister could give examples of the sort of people that the provision is meant to catch. I cannot see what the Government are so nervous about. Clause 23, with clauses 83, 84 and 85 as drafted, seems to be designed to give a narrow interpretation of the people whom the Scottish Parliament can call before it.

On the comments of the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), an independent Parliament would of course have no jurisdiction to summon people from outwith its borders to give evidence on the activities of a body affects Scotland. We are all well aware of the international dimension and the fact that many things happen outside a state's boundaries that can profoundly affect what happens within them.

There really is not much that we can do. Much as we might like to have President Clinton called here to explain his activities in Iraq or elsewhere, we know we cannot do that. However, as the Government are so fond of reminding us, the Scottish Parliament is not an independent Parliament, but a devolved Parliament, so I do not understand what objection there can be to our calling from outside Scotland those people who operate in some capacity that directly affects Scotland, albeit not necessarily in purely devolved matters.

Amendment No. 104 builds on the sentiments contained in paragraph 2.11 of the White Paper, albeit inserting the word "require" rather than "invite", so that people cannot simply refuse to come. The Scottish Parliament will be hedged about with restrictions vis-a-vis representatives from bodies dealing with reserved matters, even where those bodies have an enormous impact on Scotland which is of social or economic significance--the phrase used in the White Paper. We shall return to aspects of this question when the Committee reaches clauses 83 to 85, so I shall not stray too far.

However, I shall quote the entirety of paragraph 2.11, because it is important that people are reminded of what was promised in the White Paper. It says:


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    The White Paper goes on to list some examples of those bodies:


    "energy regulators such as the Office of Electricity Regulation and the Office of Gas Supply; the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising and the Office of the Rail Regulator; the Health and Safety Commission; the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission; the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency; broadcasting and telecommunication organisations such as the BBC and the Independent Television Commission; and the Post Office."

Between the White Paper and the Bill being published, that has all disappeared. The promises made in paragraph 2.11 are not allowed for in clause 23 or in clause 83. None of the examples given in the White Paper of cross-border public bodies have found their way into annexe E of the guidance notes, which is the indicative list of what the Government regard as cross-border public bodies. Therefore, we face a gaping hole in what was promised.

I note, in passing, that the Scottish Law Commission does appear in annexe E as a cross-border public body, which is an interesting concept. Under the legislation as it stands, the Scottish Parliament would be unable to require a representative from the Scottish Law Commission to appear before it and give any sort of evidence. At the same time, two bodies named in the White Paper are conspicuously absent from the annexe E list--the broadcasting bodies, the BBC and the ITC, which triggered my contribution on Second Reading. Obviously, I shall return to that subject when the Committee debates the amendments to clause 83 and schedule 5.

I want to know where precisely we can find the commitment given in paragraph 2.11 of the White paper implemented in the legislation. Why have the Government turned their backs on their promise?

Mr. McAllion: I hope that, when the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham) made her allegation that Anglo-Saxon supremacists sat on the Government Benches, she excluded me from their number.

Ms Cunningham: Absolutely.

Mr. McAllion: If there is one thing no one can accuse me of, it is of being an Anglo-Saxon anything. No doubt the Opposition Front Benchers will accuse me of making a nationalist contribution to the debate; but I would remind the House that all hon. Members are nationalists of one sort or another. There are all sorts in the House: English nationalists, such as the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), who speaks for the Conservative party on Scottish affairs; British nationalists, which probably encompasses the majority of hon. Members; Welsh nationalists; Scottish nationalists in the Scottish National party and the Labour party; Irish nationalists--

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): Glasgow nationalists.

Mr. McAllion: --and Glasgow nationalists, who sit next to me. "Nationalist" is used as a term of abuse by the official Opposition, but it is a loose term and often used inaccurately. I wish that the official Opposition would use it with greater precision, so that people could understand that nationalism is something which every party in this country believes in--it is just a question of which sort of nationalism a party supports.

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During earlier debates, a whole series of amendments were rejected--especially by Labour Members--on the basis that they were too prescriptive and were trying to tell the Scottish Parliament how it should run its business. It was said that we should leave the Scottish Parliament to decide for itself how it should conduct its own affairs. I agree with that view, but clause 23, especially lines 11 to 21, is highly prescriptive about what the Scottish Parliament can do in pursuit of its own devolved affairs. That is where I find the problem lies.

The hon. Member for North Essex described the powers in clause 23 as draconian, but they are not draconian if one is exempted, and lines 11 to 21 ensure that a whole swathe of people are exempted from the powers that should be available to the Scottish Parliament to summon documents and witnesses to give evidence before their Committees on devolved issues.

The first category of exemptions is "a person outside Scotland". That is a very wide definition--there are all sorts of people outside Scotland whom the Scottish Parliament might ask to produce documents or to appear as witnesses in inquiries into devolved matters. As far as I know, Mr. Sean Connery would fall into the category of a person outside Scotland. Perhaps he intends to remain a person outside Scotland, but he certainly takes a close interest in Scottish affairs and Scottish politics--indeed, he takes a close interest in the Scottish National party and its funding. In inquiries into the way in which political parties are funded in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament might well want to summon him as a witness; but, as a person outside Scotland, he will be able to tell them to get lost. I do not think that that is a clever position for us to get ourselves into. The same would apply to Hong Kong drug traffickers, who have been known to fund the Conservative party in Scotland.


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