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8.12 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. In introducing the Bill, I paid tribute to Mr. Flather for his work over seven years and I said that I thought my noble friend Lady Flather was not in the Chamber. Having listened to her speech, perhaps it would have been better if she had not been in the Chamber!

My noble friend pointed out many material improvements which could be made to the Bill. I accept the points that she has made. However, this is a Private Member's Bill and in order for the Bill to become law, it cannot be amended in any way in this House. If it were amended, it would have no hope of achieving Royal Assent. I understand that all these Bills must go through in a matter of minutes in the other place.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, pointed out that there was no debate on the Bill when it was introduced in the other place and I understand that when it returns there, there is even less time available. Therefore, we must either have the Bill as it is or no Bill at all. That is a very difficult decision. It is true that faults have been pointed out. However, I believe that the Bill still answers a need and I believe that it is appropriate that it should become law.

I take a number of points which my noble friend made; for example, that hearsay is usually admissible in tribunals. That is absolutely true and is an interesting point.

I am pleased that my noble friend's husband is asking for this committee to be established and that he appreciates the difficulty of health cases. I understand that in the past my noble friend's husband will have had to deal with the sort of cases to which she referred under the heading of misconduct when really they were health cases. I am sure that he has handled those matters very sensitively and well, but that has not been an easy process. Therefore, it is important that there should be the change to a health committee and I am glad to hear that my noble friend's husband supports that.

The point was raised as regards what investigations should be carried out. I believe that the pharmaceutical committee should have the right to inform someone of what investigations it is carrying out, if it wishes to do so. That might be something that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society could look at, to see whether there would be any greater fairness if that could be done. That society is a highly reputable body which would want to do whatever was best.

It is probably deliberate in the Bill that disciplinary committee members cannot serve on the health committee. I believe that there is a deliberate separation of discipline from health matters. I do not believe that that is in the Bill by accident. The Bill has been drafted deliberately in that way. However, as I said, because it is a Private Member's Bill we cannot alter it in this House if we wish it to become law. I thank my noble friend Lady Flather for the issues which she has brought before the House. I hope that she will explain to her husband that we are in a procedural difficulty in relation to this matter and we wish to ensure that at least some powers exist.

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I support strongly the point she made that there should be a Bill to give interim suspension orders to the disciplinary committee. That leads me to the point made by my noble friend Lord Hacking that dentists and doctors have that power. I was involved in that legislation, which was brought forward about a year ago. I understand that those provisions are working quite well. My noble friend asked me about veterinary surgeons and I am afraid that I do not know anything at all about them. I do not know whether they come into the accountants' and solicitors' category or that of doctors and dentists. Therefore, I am unable to help him on that. But I know that we have dealt with interim powers of suspension for doctors and dentists. There is a need for the disciplinary committee to have those powers. My noble friend Lady Flather and I have discussed that point often in general conversation. It has been recognised only in recent years how important it is to give immediate teeth to the professional bodies so that they can protect the public.

I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading and I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Local Government (Gaelic Names) (Scotland) Bill

8.18 p.m.

Lord Gray: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill has government support and has come about principally as a result of representations made by the Western Isles Council and was introduced by the honourable Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde, Thomas Graham.

The Bill is designed to enable any Scottish local authority which wishes to do so to use the Gaelic language for the statutory name of its council. That option is not available presently because, although the Local Government (Scotland) 1973 permits a council to choose or change its name, Section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 stipulates that in addition to the word or words descriptive of its area, a council's statutory name must include the word "council".

While that provided for consistency of terminology, it has also prevented the adoption of a statutory name in Gaelic in any area where there is a strong local wish for that. That seems most unfair and compares unfavourably with the position in Wales, where bilingual names are required by law.

While there is no widespread wish in Scotland to require all councils to have Gaelic names, it is fitting that it should be possible to use the local language traditionally spoken. Western Isles Council, in whose area 68 per cent. of the population are Gaelic speaking, has long campaigned legally to call itself Comhairle Nan Eilean, which it already does informally.

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My council at home is Argyll and Bute. It uses the Gaelic language selectively and in some localities. I imagine, however, that it is less likely to change to Comhairle Earraghaidheal Agus Bod than Highland Council is legally to adopt Comhairle Na Gaidhealtachd, which it already uses bilingually in non-statutory contexts.

The meat of this Bill is in Clause 1, which amends existing legislation so that, with the Gaelic "Comhairle" in place of the English "council", a council may "by a resolution" opt for a Gaelic name. Under the terms of the 1973 Act such a resolution requires two thirds of a council to vote at a specially convened meeting, which is only appropriate for a matter of such importance.

For the avoidance of doubt, subsection 1(B) of Clause 1 provides that a council which has chosen a Gaelic name may subsequently,

    "change it back into English",
however preposterous that notion may seem.

This Bill corrects an anomaly and gives recognition to the culture and tradition of our people. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord Gray.)

8.22 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I certainly welcome the Bill and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gray, on the thorough and complete way that he introduced it. The noble Lord lives in Taynuilt and I have a brother who lives in the manse of Kilmelford, so Argyll matters are brought to my attention. Local authorities are very dear to the heart of Scottish people. They are proud of their achievements and resent assaults upon them. I am very proud of the achievements of Clackmannanshire Council and I shall speak about it later. There is dismay at the putting of personal consumption before service provision, especially in education. I cite the rise in class sizes in that respect. They were supposed to be safeguarded by the Union Treaty.

I turn now to the Gaelic language. I welcome its resurgence, and especially the funds which have become available for Gaelic television. I notice that it has become necessary to put English sub-titles into Gaelic television programmes because of the amount of the latter. I welcome that fact. I believe that it is important for us to have a bilingual approach at all times. I say that because the English language is the lingua franca; for example, I understand that aircraft are landed all over the world with the use of the English language. I am in favour of the use of local languages, but I also believe it most important that standard English should be taught wherever possible.

I was interested to read in today's Scotsman that a "Gael" is to be defined as someone who has Gaelic as his or her first language and that it does not refer to where a person lives. I also notice that we already have the bilingual approach in transport; indeed ScotRail has been busy putting all the names of stations on the line

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out to Kyle of Lochalsh into Gaelic. I noticed that while taking part in the Special Select Committee on the crofting Bill. It is a boon for the road sign industry and is also being introduced unofficially into local government. I recognise that this is also happening in Wales and Ireland. However, in neither Wales nor Ireland do people bother to translate B&B into Welsh or into Gaelic, nor do they bother much with commercial signs for tourists.

The Bill recognises the reality of the situation--and this is where my Gaelic accent will be even worse that than of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, which I thought was most impressive, despite what he said to me beforehand. Clearly the Western Isles Council would very much like to be called Comhairle Nan Eilean. Already the Highland Council has taken a subtitle of Comhairle Na Ghaidlealtacd. It strikes me that the subtitle approach is a rather good one. I shall not attempt to repeat the name that the Argyll and Bute Council has adopted as its subtitle. In fact, I am wondering whether the subtitle names are covered by the Bill. Perhaps the Bill is about the headline titles and only the Western Isles Council really wants to change its name.

However, the Bill makes it appropriate for all local authorities to use Gaelic which of course was much more widespread. My own dynamic local authority could change its name to Comhairle Na Clackmannan which would be a curious mixture of Gaelic and Pictish. Most of the names in Clackmannanshire are of course of Pictish origin. Indeed, I cite Alloa, Tillicoultry and Tullibody.

Of course there are other foundation languages in Scotland and perhaps we ought to be considering a Bill which would allow their use. Here I cite Doric, Lallans, Pictish, Norse and other Celtic languages. The unfortunate thing about using Doric is that we would end up with places having councils with the slightly uneducated sounding equivalent of, say, "Aberdeenshire cooncil" which might not come over terribly well.

In the case of Orkney and Shetland the word "Ting" could easily be used. Examples of this lie in Dingwall, Rosshire and Tingwall in the Isle of Man. When reading the report of the Napier Commission in preparation for the crofting Bill, I noted the imposition by default of the Scottish feudal system onto the Norse udal tenure system which was the result of the islands being a dowry for the marriage of Alexander III to the Princess of Denmark. It seems to me that, in compensation, we perhaps ought to allow the Orkney and Shetland councils to adopt the words "Ting", although I realise that we would probably need another Bill to do so.

Finally, I very much welcome the Bill. It recognises the culture and linguistic tradition of Scotland. It is perhaps symbolic rather than substantial but it is not unlike the welcome return of the Stone of Destiny. The Bill does honour to the position of Scottish local authorities. I wish it well.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, like the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gray, on introducing this small piece of

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legislation. Nevertheless, it may be a small step along the road to having the Gaelic language properly incorporated in the culture of Scotland.

I speak at fairly short notice. I was not aware that the Bill has Government support. I was not aware either--until the noble Lord, Lord Gray, indicated this--that the impetus for the Bill came from the Western Isles Council. I am not sure that I agree entirely with the interpretation of the legislation as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Gray, but no doubt that can be looked at rather more closely at the Committee stage.

I refer to the 1973 and 1994 Acts. I believe that the 1973 Act allowed names to be changed, but there is no mention of the language in which the name must appear. Therefore, on one view, one could use any language one chose to change a name. Legislation may be completely unnecessary in that regard. This is an interesting Bill. There is some degree of jocularity as regards the Bill in your Lordships' House. Noble Lords ask who is speaking on the Gaelic Bill, for example. However, the matter is much more serious than that. I hope that is not an attitude which any Member of your Lordships' House would take towards any other community in the United Kingdom. There is a flourishing Gaelic community both in terms of language and economic development which deserves all the support it can be given by the Government.

If this Bill is enacted, I hope it may herald a better understanding and greater consideration of the Gaelic language and culture, and of the people in the Highlands and in the Lowlands who speak Gaelic. At the moment it is not an official language. Various efforts have been made to print leaflets on welfare rights and other matters in Gaelic. However, as far as I am aware, none has yet been produced. If they have been produced, they must be of a minimal quantity. However, when I walked into a post office recently, I counted leaflets printed in some eight different languages, most of which were completely unintelligible to me. There was no sign of a document in Gaelic.

The Western Isles Council, Comhairle Nan Eilean, is to be congratulated on the stand it has taken. It alone reached the decision to call itself Comhairle Nan Eilean rather than wait for any legislation before doing so. If my memory serves me correctly, its coat of arms bears the legend of the county council in Gaelic. Jobs are advertised in Gaelic in the Western Isles. One can even obtain a bank book in Gaelic in the Western Isles from a bank which I shall not name in case I am accused of promoting one bank against another. The bank book will contain the name of the bank and one's own name printed in Gaelic. The only item which I believe is not printed in Gaelic is the amount one owes the bank. That may be another example of the single currency rule applying throughout the United Kingdom. However, I am not quite sure about that.

The Western Isles Council, on behalf of its own people, has sought to recognise its people's identity. There is no reason why other councils should not now change their name and ask the Government, or whoever is concerned, to declare the translation of the name of the council into Gaelic as illegal. The Gaelic name

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of the Western Isles Council has been in existence for a considerable time. As far as I am aware, no one has tried to tell the council it cannot do that.

I refer to the question of costs in the Bill. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum states,

    "The Bill will not result in any additional burdens on business".
However, if a council changes its name from an English name to a Gaelic name, there may be a burden on the council, as notepaper and other items have to be changed. However, the Welsh have taken this step. There is a strong Welsh lobby within the Palace of Westminster. I refer to the Welsh language Bill. The Irish have their own language. They found a simple solution to this question. When I was in Ireland before the troubles started, I found that the street names appeared both in English and Irish. The Irish found a solution without resorting to any statutory measure; namely, they took a black paint brush, painted out the English names and left the Irish names. That was not of much help to the tourist industry at that time except for people who intended to lose themselves in Ireland until properly directed to wherever they wanted to go.

Like the previous two speakers, the noble Lord, Lord Gray, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, I welcome this Bill on behalf of this side of the House as a starting point to greater achievements and recognition of the Gaelic language not only in the Highlands but throughout Scotland, and indeed throughout the United Kingdom.

8.36 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I join the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, in congratulating my noble friend and kinsman Lord Gray on presenting this Bill to the House and on his fine speech. I also congratulate him on the expertise with which he incorporated Gaelic into the proceedings.

The Government support this measure. It will, in effect, allow councils to change their name into Gaelic if they have a strong wish to do so. A change of name would still require a resolution of the council, with two-thirds of the members having voted on it. That was well explained by my noble friend. This measure has the support of the Western Isles Council in whose area Gaelic is routinely spoken.

The Bill supplements the Government's commitment to supporting the Gaelic language and culture. We have taken a number of major initiatives in recent years; for example, the creation of the Gaelic Television Fund, now known as the Gaelic Broadcasting Fund, which the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, has welcomed, and the adoption of further new measures to maintain and strengthen the development of Gaelic education. These initiatives clearly demonstrate that commitment.

Such measures, among others, are doing much to enable the Gaelic community in Scotland to meet its aspirations for the development of the language. The financial resources which we have allocated to support the language have risen from the £61,000 which we inherited in 1979 to well over £11 million in the current financial year. We are planning to spend a further £300,000 on Gaelic in the coming financial year.

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We welcome the contribution which this Bill makes to the promotion of the Gaelic language and Gaelic culture. I am delighted that noble Lords on other Benches have also welcomed it. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, queried whether sub-titles of councils would be affected by this Bill. The Bill is about the headline title. However, councils will wish to use a sub-title in the other language of their area, where appropriate.

I join the noble Earl in welcoming the extent to which, in the public sector especially in the Gaelic speaking areas of Scotland, increasing use is being made by other organisations of the Gaelic language. I inform noble Lords that my arts and cultural heritage division at the Scottish Office, which has direct contact with the Gaelic community, has bilingual headed notepaper and makes use of bilingual signs in the offices. In addition, the agricultural training that my department organises in Gaelic-speaking areas provides documentation in both English and Gaelic. We are determined that the efforts which are being made by others--the noble Earl mentioned ScotRail--is reflected by efforts that we are making.

The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, suggested that the use by the Western Isles of its Gaelic name at present could be illegal. That is not the case. It is used only unofficially. On official documents the name is still the Western Isles Council. Anyone who has received correspondence from the Western Isles Council will see that alongside the name it includes the Gaelic name. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill describes the implications for public expenditure as minimal. I believe that to be correct. The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, was uncertain about, for instance, stationery costs. The Western Isles Council is an example of a council which already prints in both languages on its paper. We stand by the assertion on the Title page of the Bill that public expenditure implications should be minimal.

The noble Lord also wondered whether the legislation was necessary. It is necessary, otherwise councils would be called the name of the area in Gaelic or, as the noble Earl suggested, in Pictish or Doric. It would then be obliged to use the word "council" rather than "cooncil".

It is an important Bill. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Gray has introduced it so expertly. I wish it well.

8.41 p.m.

Lord Gray: My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in discussions on the Bill. I thank my noble kinsman the Minister for his kind remarks.

I was pleased that the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, nodded in the direction of British Rail, which has contributed to the promotion of the Gaelic language with its renaming. He seemed to suggest that we might soon discuss a Bill to allow councils to have Pictish, Doric or

3 Feb 1997 : Column 1524

even perhaps Norse names. Nonetheless, despite those slight worries, it was pleasant to have a welcome from the Liberal Benches.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, did not criticise my Gaelic pronunciation. I was a little disappointed that he suggested that any of us spoke in this Chamber except in serious vein. It was inevitable that we should have a laugh with one another about whether our Gaelic was from Argyll, Western Isles, Inverness or Clackmannan. His question concerning the 1973 Act has been answered by my noble kinsman the Minister. However, without referring to any authority, I am fairly certain that, unless provided otherwise, in terms of legislation passed in this Parliament a name would have to be in English unless the contrary were stated. I do not think that there is a problem but I shall consider the matter and be ready for any argument that may come forward. I doubt that a Committee stage matter arises on that point.

The noble Lord commented about expense. I do not think that we need to worry too much. As my noble kinsman the Minister pointed out, and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, acknowledged, bilingual names are in place at present. The substantial point as regards the Bill is that in future in deeds, official documents, and so on, a council which chooses a Gaelic name will be able to use that name. At present in such official context, the body is restricted to the English name. The Highland Council and Western Isles areas have logos which combine the two names.

I do not think that I can usefully say more beyond endorsing a general welcome for the encouragement of Gaelic and the contribution that Her Majesty's Government are making towards that. I note that in the Highland Council area and Argyll and Bute slightly more children in percentage terms between the ages of three and 14 speak Gaelic than in the next age group. That is encouraging.

A Dhaoin-vaisle, I translate that--"my Lords"--since the Companion to the Standing Orders requires me not to address your Lordships in Gaelic, I again commend the Bill to your Lordships' House and trust that it will be given a Second Reading.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may make clear that I was in no way being critical of the promoters of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Gray, the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, nor the Government. I regard the Bill as an important step in strengthening the status of Gaelic in Scotland. I am sorry if the noble Lord perhaps misheard or misinterpreted what I said. I look forward to further Bills making the language even stronger.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at fourteen minutes before nine o'clock.

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