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Mr. Gray : Does the hon. Gentleman also accept that almost every Bill brought before the Scottish Parliament has consequences for the Treasury, and yet I, as an English MP, have no say whatever in that?
John Thurso: By a remarkable coincidence, I was just coming to that. The point is that the funding of the Scottish Parliament is undertaken by a block vote, which is voted
Mr. Forth: From English taxpayers.
John Thurso: From British taxpayers. It is voted by the United Kingdom Parliament and paid for by the British taxpayer. That block grant and how it is spent is then decided by the Scottish Parliament. There is no such arrangement for England. There is no English block grant. All the grants that are given to the devolved nations are awarded under the Barnett formulawhich is a pretty unwieldy formula, and worth considering on another occasion. At the moment, the United Kingdom Treasury and, if you like, the English Treasury, are inextricably intertwined.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the delicate
John Thurso: I am particularly happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman. I believe that the Barnett formula is outdated and that we need a much more needs-based formula, so that any area of the United Kingdom that is deprived may be given the support to which it is entitled. But the principle that I am aiming atand it must remainis that UK Members vote on UK Treasury matters, which means voting on virtually every Bill.
Mr. Peter Duncan: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the logical consequence of what he is saying is that hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, which are subject to devolved policy, will elect to vote for ever-higher public expenditure in England and Wales simply to provide, through the Barnett formula, a knock-on benefit for the Scottish Executive?
John Thurso: No, I could not agree with the hon. Gentleman because that ascribes to Scottish Members a degree of cynicism that simply does not exist.
Lembit Öpik: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a more practical difficulty for the Conservatives if the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) insists on saying that the Opposition motion outlines their policy? If he persists with that policy, no future Conservative Member of Parliament representing a constituency in Wales could possibly be allowed to vote, by his own party's conventions, on matters that do not relate to Wales, and no Conservative Member of Parliament representing an English constituency would vote on matters relating specifically to Wales. I therefore assume that he will advocate abstention on the Public Audit (Wales) Bill, which has no bearing whatever on English Members of Parliament.
John Thurso: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point.
As I hope that I have made clear, any detailed consideration of the proposals in the motion shows them to be fundamentally flawed and unworkable, but there is ultimately a more important principle at stake: for so long as this is the United Kingdom Parliament, its Members must be equal in the Chamber and in front of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The concept of part-membership has been considered by academics and many contributors to the debate and almost universally rejected as impractical, unworkable and undesirable. Just as in another place all peers are equal irrespective of
Mr. Alan Duncan: The hon. Gentleman says that, in the other place, all lords are equal; but, in fact, in that place, to reflect the specific status of certain lords, various conventions have arisen that govern their conductfor instance, the Law Lords do not vote on any item of legislationand it is exactly that kind of distinction on which the debate is designed to concentrate.
John Thurso: I have to tell the hon. Gentleman, with a small degree of experience, that it is a very strongly held principle of convention in the other place that all peers are equal, despite the fact that there are obvious inequalities between them. If my memory serves me correctly, that understanding arose when an early Earl Spencer was accused of doing something nefarious by another peer; the doctrine of equality, despite whatever each peer was up to, was entered into. That is an interesting parallel, and one that we can adopt.
So long as we are equal in the Chamber, I see absolutely no reason why Members should not serve in the Government for whatever Department they are chosen to do so by the Prime Minister. I well remember a notable English Member who fulfilled the role of Secretary of State for Wales. I never carped about that, and I do not carp the other way round.
The Conservative party for most of its distinguished history has operated on the principle of the preservation of the status quo interspersed, when change is inevitable, with benign opportunism. It is that which gave us Disraeli's "one nation", Salisbury's "villa conservatism" and Macmillan's "You've never had it so good." It is sad today to see that once-great party so far from its principles and so far from a positive Unionist stance and to have descended, with this self-congratulating and self-serving motion, into the malign opportunism of a perceived short-term gainto see a party of former British stature descend into the gutter of English nationalism. The Union deserves better, and I hope that the House rejects the motion overwhelmingly.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the House that there is now a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.
Mrs. Helen Liddell (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): I will not delay the House long because it is very clear to hon. Members on both sides of the House how unacceptable the Opposition motion is. I wish to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) for actually managing to get through that speech with a straight face. If we look in detail at the wording of the motion, we see that it
Mrs. Liddell: I shall make some progress, and then happily give way.
As the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) said, the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale made what was fundamentally an English nationalist speech. However, I should point out to Conservative Members that of the 529 hon. Members who represent English constituencies, only 164 are Conservatives. I had always believed that throughout the history of the Conservative party it had been viewed as the Conservative and Unionist party.
Mr. Forth: Will the right hon. Lady give way?
Mrs. Liddell: Let me make some progress, and then I shall happily give way.
The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale is selling the history of his party down the river, as, indeed, is his parliamentary leader. For almost a century we had devolution in Northern Ireland, yet Northern Ireland Members voted on legislation with the Conservatives. There are those of us in the House who are aware that Northern Ireland Unionists kept Conservative Governments in office by voting with them. If such voting is so heinous now, why was it not heinous then? The hon. Gentleman has not answered that point.
Mr. Forth: Can the right hon. Lady explain how Scottish nationalism can be paraded with such pride and yet English nationalism can be referred to with such apparent contempt? If she is not careful and if she does not listen to the arguments that emerge in debates such as this, we are in danger of a serious English backlashI will be part of it.