All the bodies that we are discussing were established through primary legislation, a process with which we are very familiar, involving reasoned and detailed debate here, in the other place and in Committee. Surely the most appropriate way in which to consider the abolition of most of these bodies is through the same reasoned and detailed debate. It may be possible to deal with

25 Oct 2011 : Column 276

some it of through secondary legislation—I do not want to make a universal law—but it seems to me that Ministers are being given far too many powers that will be exercised by means of orders placed before the House. Already, even before the House has finally decided to enact the Bill, the Government have, by administrative means, begun to disassemble the various quangos with which we are now so familiar. They have gutted the regional development agencies, which were there to create jobs, enterprise and growth, and which are needed above all in times of difficulty such as those that we are now experiencing. They have cut staff, changed their functions and reduced their funding without a by-your-leave from the House, although the House spent many weeks, indeed months, setting up the RDAs in the first place. The same applies to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. What I consider a disgraceful 66% reduction in staff has made it difficult for the commission to perform duties that were conferred on it by the House. It is not right for Ministers to take administrative measures to curtail the lives of bodies that were established by Parliament to carry out particular public functions before the Bill has been enacted.

Ministers will claim, as they have done repeatedly, that there will be detailed debate on each body at a later stage through the secondary legislation process. However, it is simply not right for such important issues to be debated only by means of statutory instruments. That is not, in general, the way in which to reverse primary legislation.

In the other place, the Bill was debated for what must have seemed an eternity, particularly to civil servants and Ministers. Literally hundreds of amendments were tabled, and, as we have heard, there was criticism of the infamous schedule 7. The Bill was condemned as a mass enabling act which circumvented the proper and due process of Parliament, and it emerged substantially changed. I am sorry to inform any of their lordships who read the record of tonight’s debate that they must again pay special attention to the Bill if it is passed tonight, because so much of it has been dealt with inappropriately. I urge them to look carefully at some of the amendments that have been driven through.

We should remember that when Conservative Members first envisaged the Bill, they said that it was designed to save money. It was extraordinary that the Prime Minister should say that it would save £30 billion, given that two days earlier the Secretary of State, in another newspaper article, had said that it would save £20 billion. Now we hear that, in fact, we will save £2.6 billion. However, we gather from parliamentary questions that I have tabled that the savings will amount to about £1.5 billion. The financial underpinnings of the Bill are a shambles, and that typifies the way in which it has been handled more generally. Therefore, my patience and good-will in respect of the Government’s course of action on quangos have tonight been stretched to breaking point.

The House was given less than five hours to consider the Bill on Report, even though there was a glut of Government amendments and a list of incredibly important organisations that ought to have been discussed, but which were not. There was an odd moment in the Lobby, when the Government Whips seemed to be dragging their feet, presumably in order to avoid a debate on the Welsh television channel. Therefore, as I predicted earlier, this evening we have not had an opportunity to deal

25 Oct 2011 : Column 277

with all the matters before the House. We did not get an opportunity to look at the regional development agencies, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Equality and Human Rights Commission or the Human Tissue Authority. Above all, we did not get even a moment to discuss S4C, a vital service to the people of Wales. These are just some of the bodies covered by the Bill which, disgracefully, the House did not have a proper opportunity to debate.

Jonathan Edwards: My colleagues were delighted to see the Labour amendment on S4C. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that if Labour are returned to power—or when broadcasting is devolved and Labour take control of the Welsh Government—it will honour its commitments?

Jon Trickett: What I will say about S4C is that we tabled our amendment and we made our position clear both in that and in the speeches made in Committee, which the hon. Gentleman can read, and thereby see the precise commitments we made.

Throughout the consideration of the Bill, there has been no appropriate means for consultation or for the making of representations by the many bodies whose futures are being damaged or by their clients who will be affected by these measures. Evidence sessions were not permitted, and bodies who had a case were ignored, as were people who benefit from the services they offer—the disabled who depend on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for instance, or those who depend on the Royal British Legion.

The Ministers have been fair-minded, but the truth is that this whole process has been ramshackle. Giving Ministers the power to strike down organisations without there being proper parliamentary scrutiny is the worst kind of government; that simply does not meet the high standards this House should expect. The Bill should be condemned based on the decision on the chief coroner alone. For these reasons, the Opposition firmly oppose the Bill and will seek to press the House to a Division.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. Seven Members are trying to catch my eye, and the arithmetic is not encouraging, although a self-denying ordinance exercised by the colleagues called to speak in the interests of other colleagues would doubtless be helpful.

9.43 pm

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): I will be brief, but there are some important points that need to be made. First, I follow the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman in thanking the ministerial team who served on the Bill Committee. Being the mouthpiece for several other Government Departments was an onerous task, and they performed it very effectively.

The Bill has been on a long journey since its introduction in the other place. I hope there is still broad agreement on the original principles. When I was sitting in Committee, I continually reminded myself of the three yardsticks the Ministers had set: transparency, accountability and the economics of quangos. All the parties wish to reduce the number of quangos but, as many were created through primary legislation, it was necessary to

25 Oct 2011 : Column 278

adopt a streamlined approach that would allow Ministers to modify and abolish existing quangos. I think the Government now accept—grudgingly, at least—that the initial powers in the Bill as introduced in the other place were far too sweeping. That has changed, and we now have a much better Bill.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George) said, this is still a work in progress. The Ministers in Committee reminded us constantly that this was enabling legislation. As one of my friends who was concerned with S4C alone reminded me today, that is still unfinished business. We have had some welcome news today, but there is still going to be a public consultation, there are still various regulatory hurdles that the Cabinet Office will have to overcome, there will still be an order under the Bill and an operating agreement—at least I hope we will get this—will still need to be reached with the BBC. So there are still issues to be dealt with.

I welcome the fact that this Bill provides for an enhanced devolution process and, in particular, grants Welsh Ministers the power to create their own environmental body to take on the functions of the Environment Agency Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission Wales. I regret, however, that the principle was not extended to consumer advocacy. I know that the right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) was hoping to pursue that on Report if his amendment had been accepted—it was the amendment that I moved in Committee.

Alun Michael: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. It is important that Ministers continue the discussions that have been taking place with the Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that the systems put in place for Wales are appropriate and properly resourced, and that this is not allowed to wither on the vine. I endorse the point that he is making about the importance of this matter.

Mr Williams: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that comment. As he is aware, the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs is undertaking an inquiry on this matter and we will not allow it to wither on the vine. The requests of the Welsh Assembly Government must be responded to.

In not pursuing the amendment that some of us sought, we are missing an opportunity to ensure that Wales can have the best possible model to deal with consumer policy. The Bill will pass tonight, but in the coming weeks and months the Government will present the results of consultations on the consumer landscape and if they do decide that Wales should have the power on these matters, sadly they will have no suitable legislative vehicle to grant that.

I welcome the announcement on S4C, although I regret more that we did not have an opportunity to talk about S4C today. We had a prolonged debate in Committee on it but, like the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams), I would have welcomed the opportunity to push our amendment on providing financial stability for S4C. I welcome today’s announcement that the BBC will not have representatives on S4C’s management board, but S4C will still be reporting to the BBC under the terms of the operating agreement, once it is finalised,

25 Oct 2011 : Column 279

and will be reliant on the BBC for its funding. That decision did not need to be taken now in this Bill; it could have been taken in the forthcoming communications Bill, and concerns remain.

We heard the welcome announcement by the Government that there is now to be a duty on the Secretary of State to provide sufficient funds, although how closely involved the Secretary of State will be remains to be seen. I am firmly of the opinion that this must not just be a rubber stamp of whatever the BBC decides. Like the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards), I feel that until the day when devolution is passed down to the Cynulliad as part of that settlement, the Secretary of State must be central to and engaged in the process.

We do now have a longer-term funding settlement. Again, it is welcome that S4C has a better long-term idea of its funding, albeit not at the level that some of us hoped for. But what we tried to achieve in Committee and hoped to achieve on Report were genuine stable funding criteria that will provide guidance and direction on what S4C requires. That is particularly important to the creative industries in Wales. I have concerns that tying S4C into the operation agreement that it will have––to which it has perhaps reluctantly agreed––means that it is difficult to see protections for its independence, particularly its operational independence.

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): Is it not the case that this morning’s agreement between S4C and the BBC has guaranteed a six-year funding stream for S4C? In the current economic climate, would not the majority of small businesses be very grateful for a six-year funding guarantee?

Mr Williams: I ask my hon. Friend to examine the justification given some 15 years ago by the Conservative Minister at the time for a stable, formula-based funding settlement for S4C. It was convincing in 1996 and I suggest that that is the direction the Government should have taken.

Nobody at S4C has ever doubted the need to make cuts to reduce costs but the Government need to recognise that the action they are taking is not tinkering around the edges or making a few savings but fundamentally changing the dynamic that makes S4C valued by fluent Welsh speakers and Welsh learners. It is a guarantee for the independence that is valued. This decision should not be taken lightly, but I have to say, without the history lessons that we considered at great length in Committee, that the decision was rushed and taken without due consideration.

I sincerely hope that the arrangements work well and that the assurances that have convinced my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) and others are realised but I fear that the S4C we knew has been changed for ever. As someone who represents a Welsh-speaking constituency, I testify to the importance of this issue. I do not regret for one moment the hours we spent talking about these issues on Second Reading and in Committee. Had we been given the chance, we would have spent some time on them on Report as well.

25 Oct 2011 : Column 280

9.50 pm

Jonathan Ashworth: It is a pleasure to speak on Third Reading. I was privileged enough to sit on the Bill Committee and I want to endorse the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the House—the way in which the Committee proceeded was generally very good indeed. I do not want to appear discourteous but I think that he and the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) have made a better fist of defending the Government position on some things than departmental Ministers have this evening. Perhaps they should have been at the Dispatch Box more tonight.

I am conscious that many Members want to speak so I shall just make a few brief remarks. The Bill has been spun in the newspapers as a great bonfire of the quangos—rather differently from the way in which the Paymaster General presented it. We have had briefings to The Sun, with an article featuring the headline, “Quango cull saves £30 billion”, stating:

“Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, writing in The Sun today reveals the giant new sum”.

However, the Minister comes and tells us that this is not about saving money, and that may be the case, but it seems that his press officers have been spinning to the newspapers that that is exactly the case.

Let us look at the history of Conservative party policy on this issue. Before the election the Prime Minister talked about needing to save £60 billion from quangos, and I recall the Conservatives’ entering the 2005 election with the James review and talking about abolishing quangos. I do not think that the Paymaster General was in the shadow Cabinet at that time, but one of his Ministers in the Cabinet Office was the shadow Chancellor. Many of the bodies that were proposed for abolition in the James review have, hey presto, ended up being proposed for abolition in this Bill, so when the Minister says that all this is not driven by savings, cost-cutting and trying to get rid of bureaucracy and paper clips, I am a little sceptical.

I am also a little sceptical about the savings that the Government claim they will make. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) has found out, through a series of parliamentary questions and freedom of information requests, that far from making administration savings of £2.5 billion, they are more likely to make savings of £1 billion or so. They have talked about making huge capital savings of about £11 billion from the Department for Communities and Local Government, for example, but I do not see where those savings are going to come from in the Bill. There are certainly some big ticket items—for example, the regional development agencies’ going is a major saving—but I do not know whether Ministers have taken into account the effects on economic growth. I know they will disagree with this, but Lord Heseltine thinks it is a mistake to get rid of RDAs. He has also said that now RDAs are being abolished, Departments are setting up departmental empires in the regions. Has the Paymaster General accounted for that in his figures?

When we look at the ways in which a number of bodies are being abolished, there are further questions. The case of the Audit Commission, for example, although not in the Bill is instructive none the less. The Secretary of State announced its abolition and people at the

25 Oct 2011 : Column 281

commission entered into redundancy negotiations, but in February this year they were told that the commission will continue to be open for business until 2014. How much did that cost?

There are also some examples in the Bill. The merger of the Central Arbitration Committee and the Certification Officer will probably produce a negligible saving. We can argue about whether it is right to merge them, but surely a cost will be associated with doing so, because of the need for new branding, a new name, new offices and so on. Has the Paymaster General taken that into account? Perhaps most ludicrously, the Football Licensing Authority was removed from the Bill and replaced by the Sports Ground Safety Authority—a body welcomed by Ministers—which will now be abolished, but not until 2012. Again, Ministers cannot tell us what will happen to its staff and what savings will be made.

I am running through this very quickly, and I shall come to an end. Generally, there is much scepticism about the savings that the Paymaster General expects to make. There are certainly some good things in the Bill—for instance, abolishing unnecessary quangos such as the Victims Advisory Panel, which has not met since 2009. I am pleased that Ministers have now accepted the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke). He spoke eloquently in Committee, and he got those amendments through because of Labour Members. Overall, I am afraid that this is a bad Bill. In places, it is ill thought out. It is potentially costly, and I will oppose it.

9.56 pm

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): I pay tribute to all hon. Members, including Ministers, who served on the Bill Committee. Members will think that we had a good time, and we did. We had a great time, with a lot of laughter. The tears, however, came from the Opposition, partly because of the different bodies that will be abolished.

I want to touch on three major bodies, the first of which is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Of course, I would mention it; as a woman, I have felt the effects of an increase in equality because of such bodies. The Minister talked about the cost. It costs £1 for every person in Britain. That is a small price to pay for equality. Equal pay is still an issue. The case of Gibson v. Sheffield city council in 2011 involved women carers who were not paid the same as their male counterparts, who got a productivity bonus. There is still much to be done, including for those people who have a background of disabilities. Lesbian and gay issues are still not accepted by everyone.

The other two bodies that I want to touch on are the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority, which were born of a need to protect embryos and human tissue. The establishment of the HTA is the result of the retention and use of children’s organs without parental consent and the Bristol heart surgery scandal, which involved 170 babies. The establishment of the HFEA is the result of the report by Baroness Warnock—an eminent and iconic figure—on the special status of the embryo, and it was created under a Conservative Government.

This cannot be money-driven. The Minister is wrong, because those bodies cost £2 million and £1 million respectively. They generate their own income. They are trusted, independent organisations, with two brilliant

25 Oct 2011 : Column 282

women as chairs—Professor Lisa Jardine at the HFEA and Baroness Warwick at the HTA. It is no wonder that the Women’s Institute is upset with the Government, because they are getting rid of the EHRC and attacking those two brilliant women.

The future plans for those two organisations include placing them in a research body that has not yet even been founded, with other parts of them going to the Care Quality Commission. Hon. Members should read the report of the Health Committee, of which I have been a member, because it raises grave concerns. Those bodies give the public confidence. They are internationally renowned. They are asked for advice throughout the world. They should be left alone to carry on and do their important work.

9.58 pm

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I endorse everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) said. It is a great credit to the people in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that they have done such a good job, but it is a great credit to the House that in that sphere, where there are a great many ethical and practical problems, and where some people wanted no research done and others wanted no restrictions on that research, the House, after lengthy deliberations over two decades, came up with a system that works and is well thought of all over the world, and we are expected to dismiss it in a farcical five minutes at the end of a debate on the Bill.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 300, Noes 224.

Division No. 376]

[9.59 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stephen Crabb and

Norman Lamb


Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bain, Mr William

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Yvonne Fovargue and

Nic Dakin

Question accordingly agreed to.

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25 Oct 2011 : Column 284

25 Oct 2011 : Column 285

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Bill read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Constitutional Law

That the draft Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential Modifications of Enactments) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 14 July, be approved.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.


Ordered ,

That, at the sitting on Wednesday 26 October, paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments) shall apply to the Motions in the name of Edward Miliband as if the day were an Opposition Day; proceedings on the Motions may continue, though opposed, until the moment of interruption and shall then lapse if not previously disposed of; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Angela Watkinson.)


Mr Speaker: With the leave of the House, we will take motions 6 and 7 together.


Scottish Affairs

That Cathy Jamieson and Fiona O’Donnell be discharged from the Scottish Affairs Committee and Iain McKenzie and Graeme Morrice be added.

Work and Pensions

That Kate Green be discharged from the Work and Pensions Committee and Sheila Gilmore be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

25 Oct 2011 : Column 287


Wharfedale Hospital Ward 1 (Otley, West Yorkshire)

10.15 pm

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): I present a petition from more than 3,000 people on behalf of the Support Wharfedale Hospital campaign, which is a campaign group in my constituency formed for the whole community to show its support for Wharfedale hospital in Otley.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Leeds,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the decision by Leeds University Teaching Hospitals Trust to close Ward 1 at Wharfedale Hospital and oppose any further loss of services at the hospital.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Leeds University Teaching Hospitals Trust and NHS Leeds to commit to Wharfedale Hospital's future as a genuine community NHS hospital.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Constitutional Status (Scotland)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Angela Watkinson.)

10.16 pm

Mr Tom Harris (Glasgow South) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to lead this important debate about the future of my nation. It will not have escaped your notice that the results of last May’s Scottish Parliament elections were less than satisfactory as far as my party is concerned. We now have a majority Scottish National party Government at Holyrood, a Government who are committed to ripping Scotland out of the most successful political and democratic union the world has ever seen.

Although I disagree fundamentally with the nationalists and the very notion of identity politics—my party has always believed that people are rather more important than borders—I nevertheless concede and recognise that the SNP now has a mandate to hold a referendum on whether Scotland should be a nation separate from the rest of Britain and, consequently, Europe.

I want to take the opportunity of this debate to remind the nationalists that the electorate have given them a mandate, not a blank cheque. I want to know from the Minister whether, if the SNP proves to be incapable of holding a free and fair referendum, the UK Government will have any role in ensuring that the Scottish people are properly consulted about the future of our nation. The SNP manifesto earlier this year stated:

“Independence will only happen when people in Scotland vote for it. That is why independence is your choice. We think the people of Scotland should decide our nation’s future in a democratic referendum and opinion polls suggest that most Scots agree. We will, therefore, bring forward our Referendum Bill in this next Parliament. A yes vote will mean Scotland becomes an independent nation.”

Unfortunately, since unexpectedly achieving an overall majority at Holyrood, the First Minister seems to have decided, rather counter-intuitively, that the manifesto on which he was elected matters less than it would have mattered if he had been forced to govern again as a minority. Even now, many SNP members claim that their party’s mandate is to hold the referendum towards the end of this Parliament. The manifesto says no such thing. The First Minister is entitled to hold a referendum at a time of his choosing, and it could be next year, or in 2015 if that is his preference. He obviously knows when it will be, and it beggars belief to suggest that he and his cohorts have not at least narrowed down the time to two or three possible dates. Why will they not share that information with Scotland? Are only high-ranking members of the party entitled to that information?

Whatever one’s view of independence, I am sure we can all agree that this debate will inevitably cause a degree of uncertainty in Scotland. Even if Alex Salmond today condescended to share the date of the referendum with us mere mortals, a degree of uncertainty and financial instability would ensue. The SNP could choose to minimise that, but instead chooses not to do so. More important than the effects on future investment decisions is the simple democratic right of ordinary Scots to know precisely what plans the SNP has for our nation.

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Nor does the SNP manifesto feature a commitment to lowering the voting age for the referendum, yet that seems to be exactly what the SNP is planning, since it clearly believes that the chances of the people endorsing their plans for independence would be less if the existing franchise were used. The SNP will, no doubt, point to its long-standing commitment to joining Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador in the group of nations where 16-year-olds vote. Polling suggests that younger people are more likely to support independence, so who can doubt that a one-off reduction in the voting age for one specific event can be anything other than the most cynical move to get the “right” result? If the SNP really cared about enfranchising younger people, why has it made no progress towards lowering the voting age for local authority elections, over which it does have legislative control?

Thirdly, the SNP seems to have a problem with the idea of the Electoral Commission having any oversight of the referendum. I suspect I know why. When the Deputy Prime Minister announced his preferred question to put before the people in the AV referendum, the Electoral Commission said no and insisted on a more objective, more easily understandable question. I think that the Deputy Prime Minister’s preferred question was “AV is great, isn’t it?” To be forced to ask the Scottish people a straightforward, understandable question is something that the SNP, bizarrely, cannot tolerate.

Then there is the biggie: so-called full fiscal autonomy. However long it will be before the referendum, it is unlikely that this option—whatever we call it, whether it is “Devo Max”, “Independent Lite” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Independence”—is likely to be any better defined than it is today; it will still mean whatever one wants it to mean, which undoubtedly explains why it is consistently the most popular option in the opinion polls. Not only is it ill defined, it is not even deliverable, since it would affect fundamentally the way in which the whole of the United Kingdom, not just Scotland, was governed. Scotland imposing a form of government on the rest of the UK would be no more acceptable than the other way round.

Moreover, once again, there is nothing in the SNP manifesto, nor in anyone’s manifesto, to justify the addition of a third option on the ballot paper.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Harris: I am tempted; of course I will.

Pete Wishart: I have been listening very carefully to what the hon. Gentleman is saying. When does he think that Westminster should take over the whole referendum process? Given that he is so concerned, perplexed and exercised about the third question, what does he have to say to Lord Foulkes, Malcolm Chisholm, former First Ministers and those of his hon. Friends who believe that a third option should be put on the referendum?

Mr Harris: When the SNP starts telling us dates, I will, in turn, give the hon. Gentleman some dates for any deadline that the UK Government might wish to impose.

Even in his typically humble and understated conference speech in Inverness on Saturday, the First Minister gave an opaque hint that “Separation Lite” might yet be included on the ballot paper, but he fell short of clarifying the issue, though his spin doctors had told the press in

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advance that that was exactly what he intended to do. Let us be clear that none of these things—the refusal to name a date, the lowering of the voting age, the exclusion of the Electoral Commission and the inclusion of a third, vague option—was in the SNP manifesto, and for a very good reason: fair-minded Scots would have concluded that someone, somewhere, was attempting a constitutional sleight of hand; and they would have been right. Whether or not the Scottish people wish to remain part of the UK, it is of the utmost importance that the result of any referendum cannot be second-guessed, misinterpreted, reinterpreted or undermined. It must not be ambiguous.

In 1995, the people of Quebec were asked to take part in their second referendum on independence. One might be forgiven for assuming that the question on the ballot paper was, “Do you want Quebec to become independent?” That would have been far too honest and straightforward a question. After all, the actual question was framed by nationalists. This is the question that was put to Quebec’s voters in 1995:

“Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign, after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership, within the scope of the Bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on 12 June 1995?”

Very straightforward, is it not? Given the high esteem in which Scottish nationalists hold the separatists of Quebec, I expect that they looked upon that wording and on the narrow margin of defeat that it suffered with envy and admiration.

It would be a great shame if the nationalists’ posturing, prevarication and cowardice on the referendum were to result in the same kind of solution to which the Canadian Parliament was forced to resort: a Clarity Act to ensure that certain basic principles of transparency and honesty were adhered to in any referendum. That is not a road that I want to go down, but it is something we may have to consider. After all, the sovereignty of the Scottish people and our right to a fair and honest say in the future of our nation trump the pomposity and pride of Scottish Government Ministers of whatever rank.

Perhaps this jiggery-pokery—I do not know whether this will be the first time that that phrase will appear in Hansard—is understandable from a nationalist perspective. After all, politics is about priorities and the SNP priority is independence, nothing else. Jobs, the economy, the health service, schools, the fight against poverty—none of those issues matter as much to the nationalists as the prospect of replacing the words “United Kingdom” with the word “Scotland” on their passports. Perhaps in their minds, the end justifies the means. In my mind, and in the minds of the great majority of Scots, it certainly does not.

It is not too late. The Scottish Government could, even now, rescue their reputation and re-establish their commitment to Scottish democracy by making it clear that the question we were promised—yes or no to independence—will be asked, with no fudging, no cheating, no rigging, and with complete transparency. The Scottish people deserve that at least.

If the SNP Government cannot rise to the challenge of delivering their own manifesto commitment, we may have to accept that the UK Government have a role to play. Alex Salmond is highly thought of in Scotland. [ Interruption. ] He is. He is a substantial politician and I have no doubt—I am not being sarcastic—that he loves Scotland dearly. If he is guilty occasionally of putting

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his party’s ambitions above those of the Scottish people, it is only because he too often conflates the two. So what would it say about Alex Salmond if the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), the Prime Minister, turned out to be more capable than he of delivering the SNP’s key manifesto commitment?

10.28 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris) on securing this debate on what is an important issue, and I thank all hon. Members for their presence at it. I note the hon. Gentleman’s participation in the contest for the leadership of the Scottish Labour party. I would wish him well, but I know that that would damage his chances. There is also a contest for the deputy leadership of the Scottish Labour party. As I have already made clear, when a newspaper headline read, “Mundell Backs Davidson”, it did not refer to the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson), so that should help his chances.

The Government have been clear that they are totally opposed to the break-up of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has committed to working constructively with the devolved Administrations on the basis of mutual respect. There are many issues on which the Government have worked successfully with the Scottish Government. However, we do not agree with the Scottish Government in their pursuit of separatism. On that issue, we will give them no succour. Whatever factors played a part in May’s election result, a rise in support for Scottish separatism was not one of them.

However, let me be clear that we are not complacent about the Scottish Government’s call for a referendum on the breaking up of the United Kingdom. We are challenging them. They must answer the substantive questions, to which the hon. Member for Glasgow South referred, about what they mean by “independence”. They have been uncharacteristically shy in setting out exactly what independence would involve and what it would cost.

After repeated questioning, the Scottish Government have now told me that the 2009 White Paper “Your Scotland, Your Voice” and the 2010 draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill hold all the answers. As hon. Members would expect, we are scrutinising those papers thoroughly. However, so far they appear simply to raise more questions than answers. We now also have another glossy SNP pamphlet entitled “Your Scotland, Your Future”, in which, as usual, dozens of promises are set out but there are no facts and no evidence.

The hon. Gentleman raised valuable points about the Scottish Government’s proposed referendum. First, the date of the referendum is crucial. Not only is the current situation unsettling, but many people’s patience is being tested by the lack of detail coming from the Scottish Government on what independence would actually mean. Business leaders are now beginning to say that they are worried about the uncertainty that that is creating about Scotland’s future, which is damaging to Scotland and to the United Kingdom. We are trying to get more detail out of the Scottish Government. At present, all that we have to go on is the vague time line of

“the second half of the parliamentary term”

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and no other detail. We do not have to accept that that is satisfactory. As the hon. Gentleman said, that time scale was never a manifesto commitment. In fact, the First Minister revealed the notion only a week before the elections took place. If the case for separatism is so strong, why wait to hold the referendum?

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the referendum question. The First Minister has raised the prospect of “devolution-max”, also known as “independence-lite”, or possibly “full fiscal autonomy”, and is dangling it as a supposed third way. That is a fallacy. There is no third way. The only choice is between separatism and remaining in the United Kingdom.

We can review and update the devolution settlement, as Calman did and as the Scotland Bill is currently doing. The Calman commission, formed through cross-party consensus, recognised the strength and benefits of the economic and social union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Its recommendations are now being implemented through the Scotland Bill, which represents a radical, historic and significant change to the financing of public services in Scotland. We can allow the settlement to evolve, but selling the Scottish people the undefined SNP construct of “devo-max” is selling the Scottish public a pig in a poke. Any referendum question needs to be clear—yes or no to separatism. As the hon. Gentleman said, anything else would simply be jiggery-pokery.

Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the franchise. The Scottish Government have indicated that 16 and 17-year-olds should be given the right to vote in any referendum. Many people are already suspicious that the SNP is trying to rig the electorate to get the result it wants. Is it appropriate to experiment with changes to the franchise on a matter of such importance as the future of Scotland?

Finally, the hon. Gentleman discussed the role of the Electoral Commission. It is an independent body, respected for ensuring transparency in polls across the United Kingdom. In their 2010 draft referendum Bill and consultation paper, the Scottish Government stated that they intended to create their own electoral commission for any referendum. Questions have to be asked about that course of action. What is wrong with the current Electoral Commission, which has delivered so much in Scotland to date? What is the motive behind the Scottish Government creating their own commission? How many extra costs would that create for the taxpayer?

The hon. Gentleman also made a valid point about the Canadian Clarity Act, and it is worthy of further consideration. Hon. Members will be aware that the Scottish Affairs Committee is holding two inquiries into questions relating to a referendum and what the break-up of the United Kingdom would mean for Scotland and the rest of the UK. I have no doubt that academics and experts called before the Committee will be keen to explore the Canadian Clarity Act and its parallels with Scotland.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister correctly identifies that the Scottish Affairs Committee is looking at aspects of a separation referendum. Will he make the resources of government, particularly civil servants, available to provide information to the Committee? That would help us to clarify some of the

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questions that we identify in our current trawl. Those issues will require settlement before any referendum is held, so that the Scottish public can be well informed.

David Mundell: I can give the Committee Chairman that assurance. The Government will do everything we can to support the Committee’s work, because we believe that the people should be well informed before any referendum takes place. We sincerely hope that the Scottish Government will follow our example and be forthcoming with the same level of information, which is required not just by the Committee, but by the people of Scotland if they are to make a decision on this important matter.

Pete Wishart: The Minister does not quite understand that the days of this House determining and dictating what the Scottish do in future are over and gone, and do not matter any more. Does he foresee any situation or condition in which this Westminster Conservative Government will take over the referendum process?

David Mundell: If the hon. Gentleman believed a word of that diatribe, he would call the referendum now and demonstrate what the people of Scotland think.

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We share so much in common across the United Kingdom and we have a successful partnership that delivers stability and prosperity for all parts of the nation. I think we will see people across Scotland coming out in favour of the most successful economic and social union ever when they eventually get the chance to vote. It is right to keep the United Kingdom together when so much unites us. The best of the UK is still to come.

Let hon. Members be in no doubt that the Government will not be neutral on the break-up of the United Kingdom. We will continue to argue for a better future for Scotland within the UK. We look forward to continuing this debate and to contributing to the Scottish Affairs Committee inquiries in due course, and to the Scottish Government’s co-operation with those two inquiries, when they can answer the questions raised in the debate. What the people of Scotland need now is not vulgar triumphalism from Mr Salmond and glossy brochures from the SNP, but facts, evidence and answers.

Question put and agreed to.

10.38 pm

House adjourned.