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1.48 pm

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): It is wonderful what can be learned in the Chamber. Until I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) in aspic, I would never have guessed what the Conservative party, buggery and tripe had in common.

In the light of the comments of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), it behoves me to defend the right of a Scots Member of Parliament to express a view; and, in the light of the comments of the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), to defend the right to have not only a voice, but a vote on the matter. I do so in the light of the fact that the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) introduced a ten-minute Bill to deny us those rights. That was an attempt to answer the West Lothian question. I would say--having heard, at great length over many years my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who used to represent West Lothian, ask that question--that it is a silly question.

In that sense alone, I found the solution proposed by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead to be appropriate: it was a silly answer to a silly question. It has been suggested that we should not have the right to vote or speak on matters devolved to Scotland. I believe that there is a simple anomaly, which is open to a simple and fairly straightforward constitutional solution. Basically, the simple position is that if the House decides to devolve a matter anywhere to another Parliament or Assembly, no Member, from wherever, will have the power to determine it here. However, if the House decides to reserve any matter anywhere to itself, all Members of the House, from wherever, have the power to determine it. If there is a growing feeling that there is a need for devolution to England--there may be such feeling--that should be resolved in the logical constitutional way by devolution to either an English Parliament or the English regional assemblies.

Mr. Gray: Those are fine words, but will the hon. Gentleman explain why I can have no say, influence or vote on fox hunting in Scotland, although he has the temerity to come to the House to speak and vote on fox hunting in my constituency of North Wiltshire?

Mr. Savidge: I shall return to that specific point.

Mr. Garnier: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a fascinating discussion, but it is not germane to the debate on the Burns inquiry. A number of us who have been here all day would like to contribute. If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) wants to discuss the West Lothian question, perhaps he should do so on another occasion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I say to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge) that he has made his point and that he must get on to the terms of the debate. He is entitled to speak as this is an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Savidge: A specific point has been made that is germane to whether Scots Members are allowed to

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express a view and vote on this matter. That is why I make my point. My argument is not primarily with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead, but with some of his strange bedfellows. For example, I have been attacked in my local newspaper, the Evening Express--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I say, as nicely as possible, that I have given the hon. Gentleman an instruction to get on to the terms of the debate? Perhaps he can raise that matter another time.

Mr. Savidge: Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but that creates a difficulty because I am trying to respond to points made in debate.

For me, this is a matter of democracy. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey) have said, a free vote was promised in the Government's manifesto. Before devolution in 1997, there was a free vote of the only elected Chamber of the British Parliament, which was carried by 411 votes to 151. If there is an anomaly to be resolved, I suggest that it is how it can be that we have such arcane, anarchic and anachronistic Standing Orders that a small minority of Members--

Mr. Paterson: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is tearful. There are six packs of hounds in my constituency and I would like to talk about the Burns report. Is it in order to bang on about Standing Orders?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I remind the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North that he has no need to tell me about Standing Orders--I know a lot about them, which is why I am here. This is an Adjournment debate on the report of the committee of inquiry into hunting with dogs in England and Wales. He must address that matter, not Standing Orders or anything else.

Mr. Savidge: Am I allowed to say that it is unfortunate that a private Member's Bill was stopped? Surely that must be pertinent--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have given the hon. Gentleman a great deal of leeway, but if he does not accept my ruling I may have to instruct him to resume his seat, although I am reluctant to do so. He has my instructions and it is clear what I want him to do.

Mr. Savidge: This is an important issue of animal welfare, but animal welfare is not my top priority, as human rights and human survival are more important. However, consideration of this issue also involves an important matter of democracy. To use a well-known phrase, we are dealing with unfinished business and, indeed, the settled will of the people. As the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex recognised, opinion polls have shown steadily that more than 70 per cent. of the British people want a ban on hunting with hounds. I believe that that is the unfinished business of the British Parliament and the settled will of the British people: therefore I will support the ban here and in the Scottish Parliament.

As well as being an issue of democracy, it is also a moral issue. I have to make a confession--on the moral issue, some people might accuse me of prejudice. Let me explain where I could be regarded as being prejudiced and not taking sufficient account of the arguments.

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I have a strong prejudice. I believe that throwing Christians to lions was wrong. I confess that when I visited the coliseum, they were not throwing Christians to lions, so I suppose that the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex would say that I know nothing about the issue. I expect that the appropriate defenders of the sport would have said that too. We should lend our ears to the Romans and countrymen alliance because they had at least one good argument.

Mr. Leigh: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is all very interesting, but the Burns inquiry was specifically excluded from considering ethical questions. We should be debating the Burns report on the effect on the countryside of hunting.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: If hon. Members will allow me to take those decisions, I shall decide whether the hon. Gentleman is straying from the question before us. So far, he is all right.

Mr. Savidge: I am not impressed by the argument that there was not sufficient conclusive scientific evidence that Christians did not enjoy being thrown to lions, although I believe that an objective report suggested that it could have seriously compromised their welfare. I am not particularly impressed by the argument about the jobs of the coliseum workers, the lion keepers and the rest, as I am not totally persuaded that there could not have been other forms of entertainment. I tend to think that apart from the direct employment, the multiplier that was used to suggest indirect employment was a rather curious one, even in the objective report, and that the money that was spent could probably have been spent elsewhere and caused other jobs to be created. I am not even impressed by the argument about the culture, the framework of life and the traditional human values which we heard about from the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex in respect of hunting; presumably it was the bread and circuses argument in Roman times.

Nor am I impressed by the argument that a ban on throwing Christians to lions would have criminalised good, law-abiding Roman citizens. People who claim to be law-abiding provided that the law does not affect what they want to do have a rather poor definition of law-abiding. On that basis, one could say that drug pedlars, rapists or murderers would be law-abiding if only we had not passed laws against them, and that when the burglar is not a-burgling or the costermonger is not cutting up his mother they are just as good as any honest men.

Nor do I consider good arguments what one might call the middle way--that had the throwing of Christians to lions been licensed and controlled and had there been a body--perhaps we could call it Oflion--to look after it, that would have provided a reasonable solution to the problem.

Mr. Swayne: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I hope that it is a point of order.

Mr. Swayne: I hope that you can assist the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is there a provision in the Standing

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Orders in which the Speaker, in communication with the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, can determine whether or not an hon. Member remains sane?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: If there were such a provision, I would certainly be a very busy man indeed.

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