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Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North) (Lab): Can the hon. Gentleman inform us whether the Leader of the Opposition is advising Tory Members in the House of Lords to abstain on such votes?
Mr. Duncan: The hon. Gentleman needs to be aware that Members of the House of Lords do not have constituenciesthat is the difference.
We have never pretended that these are easy issues. They are as difficult now as they were in 1977, and they will not get any easier if the House postpones addressing them. I point particularly to the fact that it is not always clear whether an equivalent power is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. How much more straightforward it would be if Mr. Speaker were to certificate on each Bill whether it exclusively concerned matters of policy devolved to the Scottish Parliament; that would make the position entirely clear and transparent.
I commend that suggestion to the Government. Not least, it might assist them in making an accurate analysis of my voting record. We certificate each piece of legislation as being, for example, compliant with the European convention on human rights. Some Labour Members suggest that it would be too complicated for the Speaker to certificate in that way. I reject that suggestion, and I suspect that you do, too, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Once Mr. Speaker had certificated legislation, we would expect hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies to abstain on Divisions by voluntary convention. I urge Members on both sides of the House to recognise the advantages of such a move.
Mr. Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab): I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument.
Mr. Duncan: The hon. Gentleman raises a particular issue. I have said that salaries for Members of Parliament are not an issue for Members of Parliament. I am content for the Senior Salaries Review Body to consider that matter, and no doubt it will comment in due course.
Mr. Duncan: I will give way, for the final time, to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik).
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generosity. If I have understood his argument, he wants to see devolution work in a sustained and stable way. Will he therefore confirm that he would like to see the fulfilment of the devolution settlement in Wales by further devolution? Will he also confirm that Conservative policy is that any future Conservative MP sent here from Wales will not be permitted to vote on issues that do not apply to Wales?
Mr. Duncan: As far as Wales is concerned, obviously we are awaiting the Richards report, which we will consider in due course. As for MPs from Wales, the hon. Gentleman knows that there is currently a significant difference between devolution in Scotland and devolution in Wales. The key issue is that the Scottish Parliament has the ability to legislate.
This morning, President Bush delivered his state of the union address. Like the UK, the United States of America is a union founded on mutual consent and respect among its constituent parts, so it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the state of our Union.
Too many hon. Members have not accepted that the rules of the game have changed since devolution. It is unacceptable and unsustainable for hon. Members from Scotland to continue to force through legislation that is unwanted by the majority of hon. Members whose constituents will be affected by it. Such constitutionally cavalier behaviour merely breeds resentment, which one must concede is perfectly understandable.
Devolution will never be deemed a success until that constitutional imbalance is addressed though a Bill certification system. Until that happens, it is incumbent on hon. Members with Scottish constituencies to examine the potential consequences of their actions. We know that the nationalists have their own agenda, but I urge Unionist Members from Scotland to stop playing into the hands of those who wish to see our Union brought to its knees. Devolution is about answering the difficult questions as well as the easy ones; the West Lothian question must be answered before very much longer.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to end and add
I am faced with the dilemma of how seriously to take the arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman. For reasons that I shall outline, it is hard to debate the motion, which was advanced by the Conservative and Unionist party. The hon. Gentleman's principled position is not really principled, becauseas hon. Members have already identifiedhis voting record shows how often he has breached that principle.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Will the Under-Secretary give way?
Mrs. McGuire: Not at the moment. The hon. Gentleman's mother is a constituent of mine, so I would be afraid to return to my constituency if I did not take an intervention from him. However, I hope that he will forgive me if I do it in my time, not his.
Labour Members firmly believe in the importance of constitutional principles, not the fly-by-night principles that the Conservative party outlined. We believe in the sovereignty of Parliament at Westminster and that all hon. Members should have equal rights and equal responsibilities. Those responsibilities are exercised on behalf of the United Kingdom, not simply on a constituency basis.
Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): Will the Under-Secretary give way?
Mrs. McGuire: I shall take an intervention from the former shadow spokesperson for Scotland, who did the job from Beckenham.
Mrs. Lait: I am most grateful. Although much of my family lives in Scotland, the Under-Secretary will be pleased to know that no members live in her constituency.
What is the point of principle in reducing the number of Members of Parliament from Scotland in Westminster and maintaining the number of Members of the Scottish Parliament? The purpose is merely to continue to dominate the Scottish economy.
Mrs. McGuire: That is a debate for another day.
We believe that there is a delicate balance in our constitution between the Executive and the legislature and between the centre and the nations and regions of our country. The constitution should be flexible enough to accommodate change while maintaining that internal balance. The Conservative party should consider that seriously, especially in view of the advice that it is getting from the Galloway and Upper Nithsdale One.
The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale claims that he will not vote on so-called English issues. He and the Leader of the Opposition have paraded that
Mr. Gray: On behalf of my mother and the good people of Dunblane, I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. Why is she, as Under-Secretary of State at the Scotland Office, wherever that may be, replying to the debate, which is entirely about English votes on English matters? She mentioned the so-called Secretary of State for Scotland. How can he come to England and pontificate on motorways and Mersey tunnels when he claims to be a Scot?
Mrs. McGuire: Every boy is a mother's son, but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that since the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale opened for the Opposition, it is perfectly logical for me to make a contribution.
Mr. Duncan: The Under-Secretary cited a vote on top-up fees. Will she be more generous and concede that that was not on legislation? It is perfectly legitimate for a Scottish Member to sign an early-day motion, but not to vote on legislation. That is the key point.
Mrs. McGuire: Let us consider deliberations on the Criminal Justice Bill last year. I have all the Divisions on English issues flagged. I say in a spirit of generosity that the hon. Gentleman has painted himself into a corner. On 23 June 2003, in a debate on English education, he said:
We have a feeling of déjà vu, given that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) debated this very subject in Westminster Hall just a few days ago. That debate was fully answered by the Deputy Leader of the House. Two debates on the same constitutional issue have taken place within a matter of days. Why? Not because the Opposition care about the constitution. Indeed, the fact that we are having a second debate in such a short time proves exactly the opposite.