Select Committee on Procedure Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witness (Questions 120 - 127)

WEDNESDAY 10 FEBRUARY 1999

MRS RAY MICHIE, MP

Mr Stunell

  120.  Could I ask a point, to clarify, because I wonder if we have misunderstood the point you are making. Of the 22 pages of reserved powers,——
  (Mrs Michie)  It hope it is 22, I think it is.

Mr Stunell:  Whatever the number, a significant number of reserved powers.

Chairman:  We will take it as a significant number then.

Mr Stunell

  121.  Can you just give us, from your knowledge, an estimate of how many of those powers are currently answerable to this House by the Secretary of State for Scotland, how many are currently answerable by UK-wide Government Departments, because we have made an assumption that all of these are currently being held by the Secretary of State, and perhaps that is not so?
  (Mrs Michie)  I have not heard the Secretary of State, for example, answering questions on foreign affairs and defence.

  122.  So you are saying that there will be no change in the existing opportunities for Scottish Members to pose questions, under devolution?
  (Mrs Michie)  Yes. All the questions that are asked at the moment of the Scottish Office Ministers relate to their portfolios.

Chairman

  123.  Would there not be a role for a Scottish Secretary of State in dealing with matters relating to the European Community/Union, where those issues actually affect the United Kingdom as a whole, not just Scotland, not just England, not just Wales, not just Northern Ireland, but actually have a bearing on the whole of the United Kingdom? Do you not think that there is an ongoing role for a Scottish spokesman in Government, or spokeswoman in Government, a Scottish Secretary of State, in short, to deal with macro issues, which could well include a very large number of those reserved powers to which you have, on more than one occasion, referred?
  (Mrs Michie)  If I could take, for example, the fishing industry, where it is a UK matter, a Westminster matter, and a European matter, we, I think, have got, through these concordats, that we hope we will have in place, agreement that the Minister responsible in Scotland for fishing will liaise with the Fisheries Minister here, that, if there is to be a delegation to Brussels, we hope that, by agreement, they will both go there, because 75 per cent of the fishing industry happens in Scotland. And I would see those two people going, rather than the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Chairman:  You make the very good point.

Mr Drew

  124.  We eventually teased out of the previous panel, and it takes one woman to match four men, I could make that point, we eventually teased out from them this notion, because I was asking the point about the role of, obviously, MPs, as against Members of the Welsh Assembly, and where people are both, that they were quite clear that, eventually, there would be no such thing as people representing the Welsh Assembly as well as being MPs. Is that what you envisage with MSPs?
  (Mrs Michie)  Yes.

  125.  Because, at the moment, there are a number of people who are already MPs and are standing for election to the Scottish Parliament. Do you see that role becoming quite distinct and people will either not want to, or, more particularly, will not be allowed to stand in both?
  (Mrs Michie)  I think that this is a matter for decision by the individual Parties, and, as I understand it, all the Parties in Scotland, I think, have said that they can have the two seats until the next UK general election and then that they will expect them to give up their Westminster seat.

  126.  The problem with that is, in a sense, that we are evolving a code of practice, a sort of modus operandi, and that does not give you very long, if you are genuinely evolving that, and, as I say, you are much more definite of the need for formal protocols between the two Parliaments, whereas in the previous case, as I said earlier, they wanted informality allowed to exist for as long as was practicable, to see how it worked, and then maybe make some formal rules. Now that does not give very long, and, in a sense, people are being asked to jump before they are pushed, but, more particularly, there could be some loss, certainly, of calibre of people here; if people are just, if you like, interested in Scotland first but UK later, then they are going to have to localise themselves within Scotland, which would be a loss here, understandably?
  (Mrs Michie)  Yes. But, in fact, there are not many Westminster MPs who are actually standing for the Scottish Parliament, a very small number. And I suppose that it depends a bit on when the Prime Minister calls the next election, whether it is 2001 or 2002, but that gives three years to allow it to evolve.

Chairman

  127.  If there were one thing that you think would need to be changed, as a matter of priority, here, after devolution takes place, Mrs Michie, what would it be?
  (Mrs Michie)  I think that there is no need for the Scottish Grand Committee to exist.

Chairman:  Thank you. Is there anything else you would like to say to us? You made a very forthright, one of the most forthright opening statements I think I have ever heard, to a Select Committee of this House. I was almost going to say unequivocal, but then you are renowned for that, for which I, as a somewhat independent-minded Member of this House, am inclined to congratulate you. Can I say, on behalf of the Procedure Committee, Mrs Michie, thank you very much for coming, thank you for being so specific and so direct, you really leave us in no doubt as to where you stand, and we are grateful for that and for the evidence which you have given to us. Thank you very much indeed.


 
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