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Mr. Lazarowicz: In that case it might be hard to see a Scottish connection. However, for example, the London underground might be thought of as a matter for debate simply by London Members, but London is the capital of the UK, and what happens to transport in my constituents' capital city is of interest to them. Hardly any measure could be seen to have no implications for Scotland.
Mr. Lazarowicz: I am happy to accept that there is a theoretical anomaly in the position that the hon. Gentleman describes, but the question is this: what is the price of trying to work out a system to resolve that anomaly? The result of the solution to the dilemma that the hon. Gentleman highlights would be to undermine the entire way in which the Executive relates to the legislature in this Chamber. As a consequence of the Conservatives' proposals, there would be occasions when the Executive chosen by the majority in the House could not command a majority for its legislation. In the long run, we would end up in a situation in which we had the official Government, the Executive, and on some measures a shadow Cabinet, the shadow Government, acting as if it were a semi-detached Government with some status in this Chamber. Obviously, that would be unsustainable.
In the long run, the only outcome would be that there would be pressure to set up an English Parliament with powers relating to many matters that are relevant to England only. Like many of my hon. Friends, I do not necessarily oppose that proposition, but I suspect that many hon. Members with English constituencies would much prefer to have a federal system within England instead of an English Parliament that would inevitably be much more dominated by the south-east and London. We could discuss that subject in due course, but it seems to me that if we were to set up an English Parliament, that should be done by choice and as a result of debate on that issue, as opposed to being brought in through the back door by a constitutional mechanism that would bring chaos to the workings of the House if it were ever put into effect.
We should ask ourselves, why are we being invited to go down that road today? Is there really great public or parliamentary demand for such a change? I am not aware of any public tumult in England demanding such
If there had been a great deal of concern within Parliament, we might have seen slightly more Conservative MPs from England in the Chamber today. There certainly does not seem to be any major concern about the issue on their side, even though it is their debate.
Mr. Duncan: The hon. Gentleman asks how widespread this concern is. He knows that there is majority support for our proposals among the wider electorate in Scotland. They know that devolution, to be stable, needs to work properly, and to work properly needs to be stable. Why is he refusing to accept that?
Mr. Lazarowicz: All I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that I have not had a vast influx of constituents demanding such a change. In fact, not one has expressed that view, and I should be interested to know how many hon. Members have been contacted by anyone demanding such a change.
As hon. Members on both sides of the House well know, the Conservatives are suggesting this measure today purely because it is seen as a good piece of political opportunism to take advantage of one or two slight difficulties with the majority on the Government side. [Interruption.] Everyone knows that. It is for Oppositions to cause embarrassment to Governments from time to time and to take advantage of the opportunities that arise, but the Conservatives really should consider the forces that they are in danger of unleashing in political debate in this country. It is fair for them to ask the questions that they are asking today, and it would be fair to develop a debate on them over a period, but to put it bluntly, the way in which these issues are being raised today and have been raised previously, even though they have been raised by a Member from a Scottish constituency, is designed to start whipping up anti-Scottish feeling and resentment among the electorate in England. That is what it is about.
I have always been one of those who thought that separation of Scotland from England would only be likely to come about not because a majority in Scotland wanted it, but if politicians in England started playing an anti-Scottish card for short-term popularity. That is what the Conservatives are in danger of doing by pursuing the line they are taking today, and which they took in a recent Westminster Hall debate.
It is precisely because I want the Union between Scotland and England to survive and prosper, strengthened by devolution, that I hope that the House will reject the Conservative motion today. I urge all those in the House, on whichever side of it they sit, who do not want to see separation between England and Scotland, who do not want to see border guards at Berwick and customs examinations at Carlisle[Interruption.] I do not expect support from Scottish National party Members today. I urge all those who do
Like the Conservatives, I want to find a solution to the West Lothian question, but I want a solution that is fair to England and fair to Scotland, too. What the Conservatives are suggestingthat Scottish Members stay away from the vote next weekwill, indeed, be fair to England, but it mostly definitely will not be fair to Scotland because, if the Bill goes ahead, it will lose out quite significantly: up to £100 million of funding. We would experience a decrease in staff and resources over the year, and our effective advantage would then be compromised.
The Conservatives believe that the devolution settlement is some sort of perfect arrangement, whereby the Scottish Parliament takes its decisions, determines its own agenda and policies and is then locked in some sort of vacuum, impervious to any decision that is taken down here in the larger, Big Brother Housebut the devolution settlement is far from perfect. As the settlement currently stands, the Scottish Parliament is very much only a pocket-money Parliament. We are still very vulnerable to decisions taken down here.
It is in every Scottish Member's interests to ensure that Scotland's interests are protected and defended. That should be the sole priority of Scottish Members in the House. Those in Scottish Labour know that, and they have a solution to the West Lothian question. It is quite simply that the Scottish Parliament should do as the Big Brother UK Parliament should do, too. Even if tuition fees are bad for Scotland, their solution is quite simple: the Scottish Parliament should simply adopt tuition fees as a policy tooso much for internal democracy, so much decision making, so much for separate solutions for separate legislatures and so much for their commitment to devolution.
Labour Members say that there is a problem with jumping in and out of legislation. Well, that is not a big deal; it is what we have been doing for the past 10 years. If the right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) does not want to do the hokey-cokey, we will provide the information for him and let him know which measures will be voted on. If that is too much of a big deal for him, why does he not get the underemployed Scotland Office to give him a brief on the exceptions that are confined to Scotland? In that way, he would no longer have to play that game and do the hokey-cokey.
There is a solution: give Scotland financial responsibility and fiscal autonomy, and the Barnett formula immediately goes. Better stillgive Scotland independence and England, too. In that way, the Lobby fodder of Scottish MPs will not be needed to get English legislation through.
I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me a minor diversion, just to pay tribute to the originator of the entire issue: the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)or for West Lothian, as he will perhaps be better remembered. He and I first encountered each other on this very issue 25 years ago. Indeed, when devolution referendums took place at the end of the Callaghan Government, the hon. Gentleman was a champion of the issue. As the president of the Oxford union, I oversaw a televised debate, and the hon. Gentleman pulled out at the very last minute. He said that the BBC was behaving badly and that, because there was a 40 per cent. threshold, staying away was equivalent to voting no. In his normal, logical way he became very angry, and the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) replaced himin a pretty ghastly brown suit, but that is by the by.
The hon. Gentleman will not mind if I tell the House that, 25 years later, he had the good grace to confess that the real reason that he pulled out was that those in the vote no campaign decided, at the very last minute, that they did not want to parade before the cameras someone who might be thought to be an Etonian toff. Well, I can assure him that we see him not as a toff, but as the Father of the House and the originating and enduring champion of the issue that we are debating today.
All new constitutional arrangements create new problems. As Lord Lawson said when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is bit like simplifying taxationit always makes it more complicated. What devolution has done is to create some new complications. It is all about who has power over what, and by what right. Scotland wanted power over its own affairs in some areas separate from the House, and it has now got it. But we now have the classic and almost insoluble overlap and inconsistency of the legislative power that has followed.
There are two sides to the West Lothian questionperhaps doubly galling for Scottish MPs. Scottish MPs can vote on English matters, but English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters. The situation is doubly irritating because in addition to English MPs being unable to vote on Scottish matters, Scottish MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters. They can no longer vote on many matters that affect their constituents because they are devolved matters.