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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) is standing and holding a conversation. He and others must listen to the debate.

Mr. Ancram: I realise that I do not come from the middle east, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) will listen to the case that I am making. I was accused of skewing the earlier debate on concordats when I said that concordats should come before this House and this Parliament. I was asked why they should not come before the Scottish Parliament. That was a valid point. It was also said that many of the concordats would relate to relatively unimportant issues, such as organisational matters concerning the relationships between Departments. However, the concordats will be of great importance in a number of areas, most obviously in the representation of Scotland at the Council of Ministers--indeed, although we are debating concordats in relation to the Scotland Bill, the same case could be made in relation to the devolution proposals for Wales.

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When we debated the White Paper assurance that Ministers from the Scottish Executive could represent the interests of Scotland and the United Kingdom in the Council of Ministers, we were told that that would be organised by concordat--it did not need to be specified in the Bill. Indeed, I was given to understand that some of the concordats were being drafted--although obviously they cannot become effective until the Scottish Parliament and Executive are established. I questioned the wisdom of leaving a matter as crucial as Scotland's voice in Europe to informal arrangements, especially as the concordats will not be legally enforceable and as, according to the paper that was placed in the Library, they will usually be signed by officials.

5.30 pm

On Europe, and on resource and taxation matters covered by parts III and IV, agreements that are reached by what in law we might call back-letters but what in the Bill are called concordats--they are not specified, but are in the background--should be scrutinised by both the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments. Both Parliaments will have a strong interest in such matters, so I see no reason why they should not be able to scrutinise and approve the concordats--unless, that is, the UK and Scottish Administrations do not want them to be able to do so.

I make no major point about this, but I have been concerned throughout our deliberations at the fact that many of the agreements will be signed by officials, not by Ministers. The affairs of the past few days have suggested that it is always better for Ministers to be aware of what their officials are discussing and agreeing. It is important that Ministers are involved in issues of such grave importance as the resourcing of Scotland after devolution, and Scotland's voice at the Council of Ministers.

The new clause would ensure that any concordats relating to devolved matters that are raised at the Council of Ministers--or to matters that are raised under parts III of IV of the Bill--would not come into effect until the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons had approved them, and that they would have to be signed by a member of the Scottish Executive and a Minister of the Crown. I tabled the proposal with some anticipation and optimism. When I moved an equivalent but much more broadly based amendment, the Liberal Democrats made it clear that they would have found it acceptable--in relation to Wales, at least--if I had also specified the Welsh assembly, and I think that I was told the same in relation to the Scottish Parliament. I have genuinely tried to make the new clause constructive and important.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland): The right hon. Gentleman may be about to clarify this, but I want to ensure that I fully understand what he is saying. The list of consultation arrangements that could be defined as concordats under subsection (2) seems to cover more than matters discussed at the Council of Ministers or Treasury and tax-varying powers. Would the new clause apply to all concordats, or only to those relating to the Council of Ministers and taxation?

Mr. Ancram: The latter. Subsection (2) simply defines what the concordats would need to contain to trigger the

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provision. The same interest would not apply for issues raised before the Council of Ministers that did not relate to devolved matters. I have tried to ensure that the new clause would actively work in the interests not only of Scotland but of the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons. It would ensure that no major decisions were taken without being scrutinised by those who were elected to scrutinise them.

Mr. Dalyell: Given the scarcity of time, may I put my contribution in the form of five questions? First, how will the concordats be enforced? Secondly, will they be justiciable in courts? Thirdly, how will they be litigated on--indeed, will it be possible to litigate on them? Fourthly, how will concordats on matters such as investment problems, which are only too real--these questions are not hypothetical--be sorted out? Fifthly, will not the whole process depend on amiability and amicability? One would like to assume that there will be amiability and amicability, but, alas, that is not always the case. Finally, I should like--before you bong me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker--to express regret that new clause 4, which deals with expenditure on reserved matters, was not discussed.

Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside): I find myself in the altogether surprising position of having some sympathy with the new clause--no doubt the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) will be equally surprised. Throughout consideration of the Bill, Scottish National party Members have expressed unease about concordats. In being asked to endorse the Bill, we are being asked to take at face value other documents--no one seems to be sure of their status--but are being offered no process through which to scrutinise them. I have seen drafts of concordats on inward investment and on agriculture and fisheries matters--such concordats are being developed in the corridors of power.

Following our previous discussions about concordats, I tabled a number of parliamentary questions to various Departments. I discovered that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department for Education and Employment, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Department of Trade and Industry have all discussed the need for concordats on matters that they would deal with in relation to Westminster and the Scottish Parliament. We have seen what purport to be draft copies of the concordats on inward investment and on agriculture, but what status will documents from any of the other Departments have?

The memo on the agriculture concordat states:


that is, the perspective of the Scottish Office--


    "it is a chance to keep open the access to the European policy process and to decisions which have to be made at UK level while limiting MAFF interference in Scottish Executive business."

That memo, from a civil servant to a Minister, strikes at the nub of the question of how influential the Scottish Parliament will be in European deliberations. How far will Scottish Parliament lobbying and intervention on

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agriculture--which is fundamental to my constituency--be compromised by the constraints applied by the concordats?

We are being asked to approve certain arrangements in relation to Scottish representation in Europe that I do not find especially satisfactory and against which my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) has argued, and now some doubts are being introduced about those arrangements and the nature of the concordats.

Mr. Ancram: The hon. Gentleman was talking about the constraints of the concordats. What worries me about the concordats is that there are no constraints, in that they are not enforceable. Important rights between the Parliaments could be agreed by a concordat that turned out not to be worth the paper it was written on. That is why I want them to come before the House and the Scottish Parliament for approval.

Mr. Swinney: I may say something of more comfort to the right hon. Gentleman later on about the status of the documents and the process of enforceability.

I seek specific assurances on when the concordats are to come into force and what their status will be. A memo to Ministers from a Scottish Office civil servant on the timing of implementation says:


presumably, the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food--


    "see considerable advantage in getting the groundwork established well before then and, indeed, operating a period of shadow-running . . . We are therefore aiming with MAFF to get the concordat in more or less final form in order to allow a decent period of shadow-running."

I find that rather bewildering. Here we are, 12 months before the elections to the Scottish Parliament--we have absolutely no idea who will form its Administration--and issues about the development of the concordat are running apace.

The memo contradicts parliamentary answers that I have received, which I find disturbing. The Secretary of State for Defence replied to a written answer:


A civil servant argues that we can have shadow running with an imaginary Administration, because there is so much doubt about who will be in the driving seat, but Ministers say that the concordats will have no status until the Scottish Executive has signed up to them.

Can we be confident that the powers to be granted to the Scottish Parliament and Executive will in no way be eroded by a Whitehall fix that gets the concordats in place at an early stage? Will there be shadow running, or can we have a guarantee that the development of the concordats will be left until the Scottish Parliament and Executive are up and running? I cannot imagine a Scottish Executive wanting to find that the boys from Whitehall have stitched up most of the details and left it with a fait accompli. That would be an appalling start to the Scottish Parliament's work. Some clarification is essential.

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New clause 12 gives us some structure for the scrutiny of the concordats and would oblige both parties--the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons--to sign up to any concordat. We accept that there must be partnership consent, but it is absolutely unacceptable that, before the Scottish Executive is fully operational and able to make recommendations, it should be presented with a fait accompli.


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