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Mr. Brian H. Donohoe (Cunninghame, South) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman has been talking for almost 10 minutes, but he has not mentioned Northern Ireland. It is strange that he attacks Scottish Members of Parliament but not Northern Ireland Members. Why is that?
Mr. Duncan: Here we learn the extent of Labour's undermining of the Uniona policy that Scottish Members are not willing to countenance for their own constituencies, but which they are willing to impose on England and Wales. Is it any wonder that resentment is now building against Tony's tartan army?
David Burnside: Is the hon. Gentleman in any way concerned that his historical and traditional allies, the Ulster Unionists, who were once part of the Conservative and Unionist party, feel unable to support the motion for fundamental constitutional reasons, and will go into the Lobby with Her Majesty's Government?
I abstained in the Division on foundation hospitals, and am happy to accept that, as a consequence of devolution, the decision on foundation hospitals in Scotland should be made by the Scottish Parliament.
Mr. Russell Brown: I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question that I have asked him many times before and to which he has never responded. People who live at the eastern end of my constituency do not depend on Dumfries and Galloway royal infirmary for hospital care; they depend on the Cumberland infirmary at Carlisle. Was I wrong to vote for foundation hospitals, bearing in mind the fact that my constituents depend on an English health authority for health service provision?
Mr. Duncan: The hon. Gentleman, like many of his colleagues, is seeking to deny devolution and the fact that it created that situation. It is extraordinary that the Labour party in Scotland sought to gain political advantage from devolution, but now that it is in place it is seeking to avoid the logical consequence of its decision. The foundation hospitals vote exposed another U-turn by the Scottish National party. Strangely for the nationalists, they had adopted a principled stance and decided not to vote on devolved issues. However, when they smelt blood on the issue of foundation hospitals they adopted an opportunistic stance, and voted with the aim of defeating the Government.
The House should be aware that the actions of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and his colleagues then and now are designed to destabilise the constitutional settlement. However, a brief analysis of the separatist position exposes their ridiculous hypocrisy and opportunism. If Scotland were an independent country as the nationalists wish, they would not even be represented in the House and would have no say whatever in what England decided to do with its university system. If England introduced top-up fees, the effect on an independent Scotland would be the same as it would be if the Government won Tuesday's vote. Are we to assume that for the purposes of this issue SNP Members are happy to be part of the United Kingdom?
Mr. Salmond: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has realised that a consequence of independence is that there would be no Scottish MPs at Westminster. However, to pursue a point made by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) has voted 37 times in this Parliament on English legislation, some of which, such as the Mersey Tunnels Bill, would have no financial consequences for Scotland whatever. Yet, as the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife has pointed out, the Higher Education Bill has direct consequences for Scotland. How can the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale abstain on things that are of vital interest to Scotland yet vote on things in which Scotland has no interest?
Mr. Duncan: If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I shall deal with that later in my argument. There is a simple resolution to the problem. The Speaker should certificate which Bills are, or are not, devolved, and Members of Parliament from Scotland should vote accordingly.
The rationale of the nationalists' position is that they would only ever vote when higher public expenditure in England and Wales was possible, provided that that would result in greater funds for the Scottish Executive. That is unsustainable and will not work. It is designed with one objective in mindthe undermining of the United Kingdom. On that basis, I am happy to oppose the nationalists' view.
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op): On the classification of Bills, does the hon. Gentleman remember how he voted on the Second Reading of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill? How will he vote on Report, as all but three clauses apply to England and Wales, three clauses apply to Scotland and three to the whole United Kingdom? If we adopt the procedure that he suggests on Report we will have a legislative hokey-cokey"I'll vote on this but not on that"which is ridiculous and unworkable.
Mr. Duncan: The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) is getting excited on his birthday, and has forgotten that that Bill has already completed its Report stage. It is obvious that a Member of Parliament from Scotland should vote on clauses with an element that is applicable to Scotland, but otherwise should not. The simple issue is whether Mr. Speaker should be given the ability to certificate Billscould he do so, much of the confusion would end.
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) (Con): The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) complained that he would not be able to vote on an issue affecting patients in his constituency who attend hospitals in England. The same applies to me, because I cannot vote on issues involving patients in my constituency who travel to Borders general hospital at Melrose.
Mr. Duncan: My hon. Friend makes entirely the right point. That is called devolutionor that is what the Government led us to believe. We pointed out such difficulties at the time, but they now seek to deny them.
The next test of double standards in Scottish politics will come next Tuesday, when the House makes its long-awaited decision on the Higher Education Bill. Much of the comment over the past few days has centred on the belief that there will be a cross-border effect in the top-up fees vote. It is suggested that Scottish universities will be substantially affected and that Scots students will pay the fees when attending higher education institutions south of the border. I agree. I speak as a Scot who graduated with some pride from the University of Birmingham, where some of the most active student groups were those of the Scots.
I entirely accept that whatever the result in the House, universities in Scotland will have to respond and compete. The Scottish Executive will have to review their policies to ensure that Scottish institutions of tertiary education are not disadvantagedindeed, that they can be made to flourish in an increasingly competitive market. But that is for the Scottish
One can imagine the constitutional crisis that would have ensued if English and Welsh Members had sought to change that decision. They would have been accused of denying Scotland its rightful post-devolution say in higher education. The same Scots MPs who will make up the lobby fodder for the Government next Tuesday would have hounded them. I restate the call made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) on Sunday: in the interests of students across the UK, and of stable and successful devolution, hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Scottish constituencies should abstain from the vote next Tuesday.