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I should now like to consider some of the questions which the Bill addresses because I do not propose to talk about the detail of the White Papers. I shall spend a few minutes discussing the electorate. The Minister made some point about using the local government electorate. I refer back to the commission that I previously mentioned which, on the question of the electorate, said:
I highlight the problem in this way. My daughter lives in northern Italy in a little village just south of Lake Como called Bosisio Perini. She is an overseas voter, not in the Glasgow constituency of Govan, where she certainly might be checked up on in the current circumstances, but in the Glasgow seat of Maryhill. I do not believe that her vote adds much there but, never mind, she has a vote. She will be deprived of a vote. Let us consider the beautiful little gelateria in the centre of Bosisio Perini and let us assume that the waiter there had decided to come to Scotland, perhaps to work in the famous restaurant of Nardini's in Largs for a year or
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I need notice of that question. I believe that she has lived in Italy for about seven years. She is well within the 20-year period that is highlighted in the legislation. I do not see that there should be any problem about that. She comes back to Scotland every summer and she considers herself a Scot. At some stage she will return to live in Scotland. I do not think that was a good question from the Minister.
Ironically, the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, who is to speak later, would have been deprived of such a vote for most of her working life when she worked so hard for this country in, I believe, the Diplomatic Corps. I think that that is equally wrong. There is an easy way to solve that problem. We just need to add Peers to the parliamentary register. However, I would happily sacrifice my vote to ensure that youngsters from Scotland who by and large travel abroad to work for a short period of time have a vote. I should like to see them have a vote and be involved in the politics of Scotland. After all, if my daughter was thought good enough for the noble Lord's party to send her an election address in the days leading up to 1st May to try to persuade her to vote for Maria Fyfe, it seems to me she is good enough to vote in this referendum.
Of course I appreciate that the matter is more difficult as regards the Scots in England. However, there are Scots in England who feel that they are Scottish and who fully intend to return to Scotland. For example, there are the Royal Scots based in Colchester. In another place Mr. Henry McLeish got into deep trouble on that matter. He did not answer the question as to how those Royal Scots based in Colchester who registered their vote last October in Colchester are to be allowed to vote in the referendum. The simple answer is that they cannot do so. Those people will have no say, no voice and no vote in that important decision for their country.
I now turn to how we judge the majority in this referendum. The Minister tried to address that point. In any organisation there is usually some kind of qualified majority needed to change the constitution. I believe that is sensible. I am not trying to be difficult about this but the commission has said, as regards these matters,
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, implies that there is no such thing as wet days in Aberystwyth. I must go there. Would a bare majority be enough in those circumstances? I do not think it would. Seriously, we ought to look to see whether we can find some sensible and agreed method--that is the point I am making--for all the referendums.
I now address the question itself. The Welsh and the Scots are being asked different questions. I have not been persuaded on that issue by anyone. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, with his deep Welsh roots might try to persuade me why the poor old Welsh should be offered very much a second best procedure compared to that of the Scots. The Minister in another place who is in charge of this Bill, Mr. Henry McLeish, said,
I look forward to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, just after mine. I gather that some years ago he introduced a Private Member's Bill in the other place asking for exactly that three-way referendum. I shall be interested to hear what he has to
Scotland United comprises a group of Labour MPs who were brought together to mourn the results of the 1992 election, rather as some of us are doing with regard to the 1997 election. However, the group sought to mourn that election result in a positive way. It said,
After the referendum the SNP will claim that the majority of the people who voted "Yes, yes" were in favour of independence, and if the assembly project gets off the ground it will get off to a bad start as Scottish Nationalists and some sections of the Scottish media will say that a majority of the people who voted "Yes, yes" voted for that as the first step on the road to independence. Will the Government welcome the support of the Scottish National Party's "Yes, yes" campaign, which I understand is to be based on the slogan,
I reiterate what I said at the beginning. It would have been better for the Government to have come forward with a generic referendum Act. But they have not done so. We shall have to discuss these general issues at Committee stage.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships' House to make my maiden speech. After 32 years in another place I have much appreciated in the past few days the warmth of welcome in your Lordships' House. I look forward to serving in it.
It is an especial pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. In the days of his youthful enlightenment when he was a member of the Liberal Party he and I used to go fishing together. In recent years we have fished in different waters. He is not so much a quota hopper, more a party hopper; but it is a great pleasure to be with him again on this occasion. As regards some of the mechanical points he made about the referendum Bill, I find myself strangely in close agreement. We shall need to examine issues such as postal and broadcasting arrangements at later stages of the Bill. I took part actively in the two referendums that we have had in this country: the 1970s referendum on Europe; and the later one on Scotland. The European referendum was much better organised than the Scottish one and I hope that lessons will be learnt from that past history.
My excuse for making my maiden speech so early on arriving in your Lordships' House is that for seven years I was co-chair of the Scottish Constitutional Convention whose proposals are the basis of the legislation which will come shortly before Parliament. Contrary to the common view south of the Border, that constitutional convention enjoyed widespread support. It was not just a meeting of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. It embraced all the Churches in Scotland, the trade union movement and many other organisations. We deliberated long and hard before coming forward with the measures which form the basis of the forthcoming proposals.
It is the view of my party, and my own view, that the proposed referendum is entirely unnecessary. We agreed with the views of the late John Smith that the settled will of the Scottish people was that the Scottish parliament should be restored. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, had much fun with the Labour Party over the various terms and referred to the resignation of my co-chair, the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, whom I look forward to hearing later today. Nevertheless, without going back over those unhappy days, it is quite clear that the referendum will take place.
We were a sovereign nation until 1707 and the Act of Union. But the important point to note is that sovereignty in Scotland lay with the people, and always did. That is why kings and queens north of the Border were always referred to as kings and queens of Scots, not of Scotland. One never hears of kings and queens of the English; one hears of kings and queens of England. That symptomises the difference in the constitutional position. Indeed, the then Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Cooper, in his celebrated 1953 court judgment, was quite specific about it. He said:
But these arguments about the governance of Scotland are far from new. These are not matters of recent political debate. Following the Union of the Crowns in 1603, there was much debate in both countries about whether the Union should be a closer one or whether there should be a Union of Parliaments. The failure of the colonial dairying scheme, the Scottish economic venture in the Americas, led to a greater recognition in Scotland that union with England made sense, and that we should gather round us the strength of a united kingdom. The real argument which took place in 1707 was not for and against union; it was whether or not it should be an incorporating union or a union in which the Scottish parliament remained for Scottish affairs. That argument was lost, and again there was much debate and history about the extent to which Members of the Scottish parliament were or were not subject to influences in the days before Lord Nolan had written his report.
However that may be, the fact is that the abolition of the Scottish Parliament was never really accepted by the Scottish people. Indeed, the disappearance of the parliament has been consistently resented. In the 18th century one had the two open revolts against
In that referendum a majority of the people voted yes for the creation of a Scottish parliament. However, it was not a sufficient majority in accordance with the Act. A critical person who intervened in the 1979 referendum, at quite a late stage, was Lord Home, who was held in great respect throughout Scotland, and indeed in both Houses of Parliament. He advised a no vote rather to everyone's surprise because, in common with Mr. Edward Heath (as he then was), as Leader of the Conservative Party he had supported the principle of devolution. However, I draw your Lordships' attention to what Lord Home said when he declared himself in favour of a no vote. He said:
What I regard as improved proposals have now been brought forward and are substantially better than those on offer in 1979. They are improved in two respects. The first is the tax-varying power. That is important. As Mr. Tony Blair, rather maladroitly, attempted to say during the election, if even the smallest English parish council has the capacity to raise some of its revenue, how can that capacity be denied to a body called a Scottish parliament? If the will of the Scottish people, reflected through their elected politicians, is, say, to spend more on health than is the view south of the Border, why should they not do so, raise the funds and be responsible and accountable to the electorate? The financial component is a novelty, and is an improvement on the previous proposals.
The second improvement is that the electoral system proposed is a proportional one. That is important for the reason that, in 1979, there was great concern in the outlying areas of Scotland, including my own area in the Borders, that a Scottish parliament, if elected under the first-past-the-post system, might well be dominated by the Labour majority in the central belt of Scotland. I pay tribute to the Labour Party for recognising that as a serious problem in relation to public opinion and for accepting in the constitutional convention proposals for a proportional system. The Labour Party does not enjoy the support of more than 50 per cent. of the Scottish people. Therefore there is no likelihood of an automatic majority for the Labour
The reaction to Scottish agitation over the years has been to devolve more and more administration to Scotland. The Scottish Office was created in 1885; and more and more parts have been added since. But that has created real problems of democratic accountability. If I may give your Lordships the benefit of my experience in the other place, there is a real frustration in being a Scottish Member watching one's English colleagues ask a Question of the Minister of Health on Monday, the Minister of Education on Tuesday, the Minister of Housing on Wednesday, the Minister of Agriculture on Thursday, when you as a Scottish Member have to hold all these questions for the one occasion in a month when the Minister responsible for these and many more matters for your constituency comes before the House to answer Questions. Then you have to choose which questions--health, education or housing. Accountability has been lost with the transfer of administration. That is a powerful argument for restoring democratic accountability north of the Border.
It is argued that anomalies will arise if there is a Scottish parliament. My answer is: yes, there will be anomalies. There is no system that we can devise which does not have anomalies. There are consequent changes that could be made. We could reduce the number of Scottish MPs, as recommended by the Royal Commission on the constitution under Lord Kilbrandon in the 1970s. We could establish an English Grand Committee. We have a Scottish Grand Committee, a Welsh Grand Committee and are to have a Northern Irish Grand Committee; there is no logical reason why there should not be an English Grand Committee. I passionately believe that there is no anomaly in the proposals that will come before this House as great as the anomaly that exists at the present time, and is best seen in the advent of the poll tax. There were Members for English constituencies in the other place who voted to inflict the poll tax on Scotland and who, a year later, saw the light and decided to revolt against having the poll tax in their own constituencies. The fact that we have legislation inflicted upon us by Members who have no constituency responsibility for what happens is what makes the present arrangements so unsatisfactory.
Finally, there is the argument about the slippery slope, referred to in passing by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. Looking round at the rest of the world, we gave the constitution to post-war Germany; we constructed it on a decentralised model. The country has not broken apart. And it can be argued that, but for the federal constitution, Quebec might well have seceded from Canada before now. A more recent example is that, since the death of Franco, and the restoration of parliament in Catalonia, there has been great success in the revival not only of the Catalan economy, but of Catalan culture. There is not a federal system; there is what I would call lopsided federalism--much more analogous to what we are likely to end up with here in Britain. There is distinction in Scotland between a proud patriotism, which we all share, and a narrow nationalism confined
In the past few days there has been some press speculation north of the Border that this House might in some way delay or obstruct this legislation and the legislation that is to come. I can think of nothing that is more likely to bring disfavour on your Lordships' House after an election that was so clear-cut and resounding in favour of these proposals.
I end by quoting the remarks of Mr. Malcolm Rifkind when he was an Opposition Back-Bencher. He said that Scotland is the only territory on the face of the earth which has a legal system without a legislature to improve, modernise and amend it. This Bill provides the opportunity to put that right.
The Earl of Perth: My Lords, it is my great honour and pleasure on behalf of the whole House to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Steel, on his maiden speech. I recall the time, some years ago, when he and I used to attend conferences in relation to the constitution. Whether or not I agreed with him, I always admired his clear thinking and his advocacy in one form or another. We heard exactly that today in his maiden speech. I can only say: please, keep on talking to us and telling us things that are so valuable.
To turn to the Bill, the Minister seemed to indicate that we should not talk about the merits or demerits of the referendum, that that is decided and the various details of it are a question to be considered later. I am not sure that I go along with that view. It is a pity that the referendum is to be held before the White Paper is issued. My hope is that what takes place in this House, in debate on the Bill and otherwise, will be taken into account when the Government produce their White Paper. If that is the case, then there is some excuse for the order of batting; but I am not entirely happy about it.
Noble Lords may ask me why I say that. Let me try to explain. If we give tax-varying powers and the Scots decide to increase taxes on themselves, what will happen? Business will leave and so may many people who now live in Scotland. They will ask: "Why pay taxes?". It may be argued: "Well, it's only 3 per cent. or thereabouts". But that is quite a lot of money. We are talking of a total budget of £27 billion that we get every year, so 3 per cent. is a lot of money.
However, let us look at the other side. Supposing the Scots say: "Ah, here's the chance we want. Let us decrease our taxes". To me, that is an invitation to the English to rise and say quite simply: "You are not going to, or if you do we shall cut down the block grant which you get". They would be perfectly justified in doing that because at present we in Scotland--quite rightly, I think--have a great advantage in what comes to us from Parliament. I believe the figures are that we receive about £4,600 per head from the block grant, whereas the English receive only some £3,800 a year, a difference of nearly 20 per cent. If people in England rise and decide to cut the block grant, we shall be in grave trouble.
It seems to me that it would be tragic if, because the people of Scotland wanted a say in the running of their own affairs, they should vote "Yes; yes". I beg that it should be "Yes; no". If there are no tax powers for the Scottish parliament, people may say that it will become an ordinary talking shop. That is not true. The opportunity they will have will be to decide how they will cut the cake of the block grant that they are given. Believe me, if you are trying to cut a cake of £27 billion, it is a pretty formidable figure to work on, giving all kinds of opportunities for people to decide whether they want to spend more on health, more on education or more on the roads, etc. It could be an effective body, without the need for any taxing powers.
So I feel strongly that we should say "Yes" to the first question and "No" to the second. My worry is that the people of Scotland may not appreciate why a large number of people may advocate saying "No" to the second part of the question. Superficially, it sounds fun: "Let's be able to change the tax in one way or another and get more or less, as the case may be". My anxiety is that the opportunity to plead the case against the "Yes" on the second part of the ballot may not be adequate. I am worried that the White Paper and all the arguments against such an answer will not be given a fair hearing. That is a serious point.
I care enormously about continuing the Union. Let us not endanger it by saying "Yes" to the second part. Originally, we had the Act of Union under somewhat murky circumstances--I believe that is the right word to use. But over the past 300 years, it has proved of enormous advantage to all of us. Let us not forget our triumphs and the contribution the Scots have made, whether it was militarily or even politically. We did it
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I too crave the indulgence of the House for making my maiden speech now. I felt a certain hesitation in addressing your Lordships so soon after being introduced. I do not have quite the same excuse for doing so as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, because I am neither a Scotsman nor a Welshman; I am not even a former Leader of the Liberal Party. However, I claim to have some stake in the matter as I am one of the veterans of the last Labour Government. I can assure the House that many anxious hours were spent both in the other place in debate and in Cabinet committee discussing the problem and deciding how we should proceed in our earnest endeavours to bring about devolution for Scotland and Wales and to carry that proposal with the additional strength of a referendum. So I feel that I too should say something on this important matter today.
It is a short Bill--no doubt about that. But it raises many questions, some of which have already been touched on in the few speeches we have heard this afternoon. There are two particular matters which I feel should be addressed at this early stage in the debate. One is the whole place of referenda or referendums in our constitutional processes. It is an important matter and something even of an innovation. Secondly, we must address the question which has been expressed not only here but also in many parts of the country recently: whether devolution for Scotland and Wales, in the way that has been proposed, poses a threat to the unity of the United Kingdom. I am quite sure that all of us are united in our resolve to maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom.
On the referendums, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that a referendum is unnecessary. I can perceive and well understand the argument that prevailed for a time in Scotland among my Labour Party colleagues that one did not need an additional referendum after all that had been gone through on previous occasions in Parliament and in debate in the country. Was it needed, after the question of devolution and a referendum appeared so clearly and specifically in the manifesto of the party? The electoral mandate is undoubtedly there in what was said during the general election campaign. It was rather striking that those parties which favoured the status quo failed to gain a single representative in the House of Commons, either from Wales or Scotland. Clearly there is already plenty of evidence of a desire in Scotland and I think in Wales too for what is outlined in this measure--for a referendum and for a say on the whole question of devolution.
However, I believe that we were wise to insist upon a referendum. We were wise to do so not because referendums are--as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, who spoke for the Opposition put it--a "cop out". It was not for that reason, but because this is a constitutional measure. I hope that in this country we are developing a new convention for our constitution which will insist
The referendum is already becoming part of our unwritten constitution. In my period in politics we have had a referendum on the status of Northern Ireland in relation to the United Kingdom; and that was absolutely right. We had a referendum on whether or not we should join what was then called "the common market". We had referendums in Scotland and Wales on previous measures that were enacted, and have been promised--not necessarily to the satisfaction of noble Lords opposite--further referendums on such matters as changes in the electoral system and the fraught subject of a single currency.
We do not have a written constitution and are, in a sense, vulnerable to change as compared to a number of other democratic countries which do have written constitutions which entrench the constitutional powers of their parliaments either by insisting upon an additional large majority vote in those parliaments and/or a referendum of their people. We have no such written constitution. However, it is important that we begin seriously to accept the new constitutional convention that in the future we shall insist upon the use of a referendum whenever the powers of our Parliament affecting legislation and taxation are involved.
That apart, I want to say something about the understandable fear that devolution will destabilise the United Kingdom and provide a stepping stone for separatism and total independence. It is not easy to be certain about this. Looking over the fraught history of our relations with Eire, I take the view--I may be wrong--that if we had been able to devise a satisfactory scheme for Home Rule before the Easter rising in 1916, we may well have been able to maintain a union with southern Ireland as well as Northern Ireland. That would have been extremely satisfactory.
There is a danger--and Ireland gives us some indication of it--of frustrating the perfectly legitimate ambitions of people who feel that they have a national identity. Unlike in the regions of Britain, the Scottish and the Welsh feel that they have a cultural and national identity. They experience frustration in not being granted some substantial measure of self-determination.
Self-determination and self-government are now accepted almost throughout the world. Indeed, in the 20 years since we last debated these matters in Parliament in relation to Scotland and Wales, a number of countries have insisted upon self-government and self-determination. That has had the effect of the break-up of so-called sovereign states. There was a Soviet Union 20 years ago; it now consists of 15 separate states. There was a Yugoslavia 20 years ago; it now consists of four separate states. Throughout the world people have been insisting and continue to insist on self-government. We would be foolish if we did not take account of that and act with greater sensitivity than we have shown in the past in
My final point is a plea to the Minister who is to wind up to say a little more about the pre-legislative referendum that we are now proposing as opposed to the post-legislative referendum which we practised 18 or 19 years ago. What is the specific reason for our insistence upon a pre-legislative referendum? I ask the question because I am worried that, while a referendum should give greater force and weight to the devolution proposals, it will and can be argued that unless Parliament has first seen, and the people have seen, the full measure of what is being proposed, it will not have the same authority and legitimacy as it would if it were proposed afterwards. I hope that the Minister will give further thought to that important matter.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to be speaking immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Shore of Stepney, and to congratulate him on behalf of the whole House upon his maiden speech. He and I were in the other place at the same time for some years and I know that he is an accomplished speaker from the other place, where he was a distinguished Minister. He will be listened to attentively in your Lordships' House by friends in all parts of it. The noble Lord may find himself especially at home if he is on the same Bench as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, and others who share a common view on Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, is a doughty debater. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shore, on his excellent maiden speech.
I have already given my first reactions to this Bill on the second day of the debate on the Address on 15th May, because it was published and available that afternoon. I am glad of the opportunity today to say more because I took a prominent part in the two referendum campaigns in this country in 1975 on whether to stay in the European Community--it was not in relation to joining but in relation to staying in--and in 1979 on the Scotland Act. I voted in both. In both also I travelled round the country and was on the same platform as Members of the Labour Party who shared the same view. I found it an invigorating experience and we achieved the desired results in both campaigns.
In relation to the 1979 Scottish referendum, in this House, from the Opposition Front Bench, I spoke on the necessary order on 5th December 1978, having attended every minute of all the stages of the Scotland Act 1978 during its passage through this House. Modestly, I must also recall that I initiated the only post-mortem debate in Parliament after the referendum in 1979, on 12th March--only 12 days later--upon the conduct of the Scottish referendum.
In 1978 the Labour Government eventually decided to hold referendums in Scotland and Wales on the respective Acts after they had been passed by Parliament. The question in the Scottish referendum was,
This time, in contrast to 1978, the Government are putting a referendum first. My noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish quoted the comments of the present Secretary of State for Wales on the trouble with a pre-legislative referendum. The same right honourable gentleman, Mr. Davies, has been very frank. He was recorded as stating in mid-April, during the election, on tax-varying powers, which are not included in the Welsh proposals, that it was economic illiteracy to think there could be one tax rate on one side of the Welsh border and another tax rate on the other side. What about the Scottish Border and the tax-varying proposals for Scotland? Is that economic illiteracy? These are contradictory proposals which show that a parliamentary examination of a Bill for a Scottish parliament is needed before it is fair to ask the electorate in Scotland to take decisions.
In 1976 the then Labour Government made a statement in Parliament, repeated in this House by the then Leader, that there would be no referendum at all before or after. That was later changed and the first Bill was withdrawn completely and then replaced. I can understand the reason for the Government now opting for a referendum before a Bill even appears. They want to avoid losing the many days of parliamentary time that they lost in the other place on the last occasion--all to no avail, because in five-and-a-half years they did not achieve a single small devolutionary step. All the steps taken in the past 25 years in that direction have been by Conservative Governments. I am suspicious, however, of the words in the Labour Party manifesto that a simple majority in the referendum will "speed" the passage of the Government's proposals through Parliament. It is one thing to vote on a vague idea--a parliament, not a particular system; it is another to vote on a definite, fully explained scheme for a parliament.
On the last occasion, if there had been a referendum first, my guess is that about 60 per cent. in Scotland would have voted yes to "Are you in favour of devolution?" or "Are you in favour of an assembly?" It is like asking "Are you in favour of decentralisation?" or, as the Americans would say, "Are you in favour of apple pie?" A second referendum in 1979 would nonetheless, I believe, have produced the same 33 per cent. only in support. That is as happened, with 31 per cent. against, because the defects and the unanswered problems became clear to much of the Scottish electorate in 1979 when the whole Act was there to be seen. So, as I urged on 15th May, there should be a second referendum in Scotland after the new Act is passed so that it is put to the same test as the 1978 Act, with the question, "Do you want the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 to be put into effect?"
In 1978 this House examined parts of the Scotland Act not scrutinised by the other place because of the guillotine, including the provisions for a referendum. History is repeating itself now. During the Committee stage in another place two weeks ago there was no time for discussion of three important matters. Because no amendments were made to the Bill, there was no Report stage. The first was the question of whether there should be a threshold. In the 1978 Act a threshold of 40 per cent. was inserted as a result of an amendment introduced by a Labour Member of Parliament. It led to the automatic repeal of the Scotland Act, and the sighs of relief from some members of the Labour Cabinet at that time when this happened were very audible, presumably because at that time they were fully aware of the defects and the unsolved problems of a thoroughly unstable assembly. What happens if the turn-out on this occasion is low or if there is a very small majority in favour; for example, 36.5 per cent. in favour and 36.4 per cent. against? It is, I understand, to be an advisory referendum, like its predecessors. Will the Government be left to take the final decision if the result is very close?
The second important matter for which there was not time in the other place was the conduct of the referendum and its financing. The 1979 referendum did not follow the 1975 pattern. In 1975, those leading both sides on the question of whether to stay in the European Community had to account for the money received. A White Paper was published afterwards recording the figures, including the names of contributors and recipients of sums of more than £100. For example, the names of four Ministers then serving in the Labour Government were recorded, with their expenses and organisation costs. All four, I am glad to say, are now
The third particular matter of importance for which there was not time in another place was the situation of service men and women not registered at their home addresses in Scotland and Wales. Last October, when the electoral registers were last being compiled, they would not have had uppermost in their minds the possibility of referendums. In this House we will again have to address subjects on which discussion was chopped off in another place or excluded. The referendum in Scotland is designed to consult the electorate in Scotland--those on the electoral rolls on a certain date, including many non-Scots. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, that ethnicity should not be a qualifying factor or disqualifying factor. But the electorate cannot be described correctly as "the Scottish people", as the Minister did, many of whom will not be on the Scottish electoral register because they are away from home, working, married or for other valid reasons. I am not referring mainly to the Scottish football managers and players who strengthen English teams so well.
Of course, Members of your Lordships' House can vote in referendums, as in the past and as in local elections. I was mildly shocked by the words of the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Dewar, in the Second Reading debate on 21st May. He expressed surprise that there were only 123 Peers eligible to vote in Scotland. Whether that was caused by his arithmetic being at fault or his acquaintance with population figures--123 is almost exactly one-tenth of the total number of Peers in your Lordships' House, which is 1,196, as recorded in the latest annual report of the House of Lords. One-tenth is what one would expect. It reflects the fact that Scotland contains about one-tenth of the United Kingdom's population.
In 1979 there were members and former members of the Labour Party who were opposed to the 1978 Act. For example, the chairman of the organisation called Scotland Says No was the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, who had been Lord Advocate in the previous Labour Government. Labour MPs included the right honourable gentleman Mr. Robin Cook, who was not then a senior Minister. He stated in another place that he hoped that the whole issue would be killed and buried.
I end with an unusual episode. I hope that some noble Lords will remember the late Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, as I do, warmly. He was a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, which is the Church to which I belong, who sat on the Labour Benches. Shortly before polling day a letter from him was published in The Scotsman newspaper, complaining about a report that six former Moderators were to vote yes and only one no. Lord MacLeod himself telephoned to all the ex-Moderators he could trace and found that 11 of the 17 still living were in the no lobby, including himself. I am glad to say that an abject apology from the journalist concerned appeared below his letter.
I hope that this House will carefully examine the Bill at later stages, raising the points that need consideration. This the House did over the provisions in the Scotland Act 1978 on the referendum and the subsequent statutory instrument, without taking up any more time than was necessary.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, with consideration for the 30 speakers to come after me, I shall be somewhat shorter than previous speakers. But I would like to take time to congratulate the two maiden speakers. I know that it should be done by the immediately following speaker, but I have connections with them. I went into the other place about the same time. The difference is that they stayed in and I was put out. The quality of the speeches obviously shows what an acquisition they will be. It is lovely that we follow the quaint custom of saying that they are maiden speeches, although how anyone can preserve any form of vocal virginity after 30 years in the House of Commons I cannot imagine. After the speeches that we have heard, I am sure that we all agree that their effect here will continue to be extremely beneficial.
The Minister said that we should concentrate on talking about the referendums. That advice has not been quite followed until now. Indeed, one must stray somewhat. The Government, particularly the headquarter's party while fighting the election, deserve to be condemned thoroughly for the fact that they interfered with Scottish affairs without consultation. They became terrified of the success of the tartan-tax phrase, which was invented and produced by Mr. Forsyth. They reacted in a manner which the Scots, who knew the situation, would not have done.
I do not believe that there is any need for a referendum. The Scots have spoken very clearly. They have sacked every single Tory representative in Scotland--but one would not think so to hear the Tory speeches today. One would have thought that while in defeat there is defiance, a little humility might well have been the order of the day as well.
The tartan tax aroused great fears. The Tories assiduously put it about that every single factory in Scotland would be taken out and immediately put away. The fact is that the Scots comprise and the Scottish parliament will comprise sensible people. They certainly would not drive away the people who were feeding them. Indeed, a Scottish parliament, composed of good Scottish people--better people than those who go to the other place--who are still at the height of their careers, will produce an atmosphere which will ensure that there is a good deal of indigenous investment as well as inward investment.
The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, has already given the House information on the wide composition of the Scottish convention. It has laid down sensible rules and a sensible programme for the Government to follow. I hope that they will follow it. The last referendum was a device put up by an MP for the north-east of England out of jealousy in order to defeat the Bill. It was effective for one reason: there was no mention in it of any form of proportional representation. My brother--my Liberal one--voted no simply for that reason. I believe that many of the Moderators who have been referred to probably did the same. I am sure that that will not apply to this Bill.
I disapprove of the referendum. I do not believe that it should have been brought forward. I do not believe that the second question is necessary. However, I believe in the sincerity of the Government and that they mean to bring forward this referendum and a Bill immediately afterwards. For that reason there is no question but that we in the Liberal Party in Scotland will be campaigning for a double yes, which I believe is a sensible attitude. The Government have sinned, but we shall forgive them, in view of the fact that they are going to put things right. God help them if they do not!
Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, I am tempted to speculate whether his forgiveness might ever extend to the previous Government, but I shall return to that a little later in my short remarks. I follow him in congratulating the two maiden speakers. It is a great pleasure for me--I suppose that I should never have been in this House at all as a lower case Welsh nationalist, but I shall explain that in a moment as well--to welcome colleagues who join me here from different positions.
As regards referendums, I remember that I campaigned on the wrong side with both noble Lords in two referendums. I was on the same side as the noble Lord, Lord Shore, concerning the referendum and opposed to membership of the European Community at that stage, while the noble Lord, Lord Steel, was a distinguished proponent of the other case. I have since
That reminds me that I have been on the winning side only once in any referendum. Former honourable Members from Wales will know what that was. It was when I strongly advocated the opening of public houses on Sundays in my previous constituency. We won with a large majority. My firm intention is to be on the winning side in the coming referendum in Wales, which is why I have made my compromise and I support the Government and the Bill as it stands.
As regards the matter of there being two questions for the Scots and one for the Welsh, perhaps I should say that it has nothing whatever to do with the level of literacy, numeracy or bilingualism of the peoples concerned. It is all to do with the "maturing"--if I may put it like that--of Labour Party policy in Scotland and in Wales. The Labour Party in Wales tends to take the view that Plaid Cymru at 10 per cent. of the vote in Wales is not as much of a threat to it as the Scottish National Party which has 20 per cent. of the vote in Scotland. That is why Wales is offered an assembly while Scotland is offered a parliament. Historic spurious reasons are invented, but political reality is the order of the day.
However, I shall not go into all that because I want to be positive in my support for the Government and to say that one question is enough--that is, one clear question as opposed to the 1978 question which was not so clear. This is a much better-worded referendum. There is no need for us to go into a series of options, although in Committee some of us might want to rehearse some of those discussions and get them out of the way.
The referendum--or the "preferendum"--is on a direction of policy and that is why the whole argument about whether it is a "preferendum", a post-legislative referendum or, as in the case of the European Community, a post-membership referendum looking back to decide whether we did the right thing is not an issue. All approaches are about the direction of policy.
The referendum campaign and this Bill will enable us to have a serious debate about a direction of policy which has been galloping ahead under governments of both main parties, including the Conservatives. The Conservatives have been devolving power to Wales and to Scotland at an alarming rate. I can speak and declare an interest because I am part of it. I was appointed to serve on a public statutory body in Wales which was set up by the previous Conservative Government as part of their devolution policy. The Welsh Language Board is not the exception because a whole series of bodies dealing with the countryside, the environment and all aspects of the implementation of public policy were set up by the Conservatives.
The Bill will enable us to have a debate about the form of that devolution and whether that structure of government should be accountable in an assembly. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, referred to the question of "a parliament" and "an assembly", but I can see no problem because that is exactly what they are. We are talking about a form of government. That is why people who may agree or disagree with other forms of parliament--whether 15 parliaments or three Welsh assemblies--should feel able to support this question and that is why it is essential that we have an open debate during the referendum campaign.
I agree entirely with the franchise. It should indeed be based on local government residency because that is what for practical purposes the local, regional or national citizenship of a place comprises. It is not a question of ethnic connection. It is not a question of people outside an area being able to influence its course of events. This is not some great historic decision about the future of the Scottish or Welsh peoples; it is a simple debate about the structure of government that will be put in place during this Parliament.
The history of this issue should remind us that if we do not make some progress this time, it will come back to haunt us--presumably not on a 20-year cycle, but probably on a 10 or even a five-year cycle. The structures and forms of devolved government have been debated in this House and in another place with increasing regularity since the 1960s. We heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Steel, about the turn-of-the-century examples of how this House got devolution in this kingdom terribly wrong. The results are still with us in Northern Ireland to this day. I do not say that because there is any such threat from Scotland or from Wales, but simply to emphasise the fact that, although devolution is a question for this House in terms of legislation, it is primarily a question for the people.
I come now to the final three minutes of my speech--that is, if I can contain myself to three minutes when speaking about why I have been so disappointed by the Conservatives' attitude so far today. From the way in which Conservative noble Lords have spoken, one would have thought that the Conservative Party had won the election in Scotland and in Wales with a massive majority. One would have thought that there was no need to consult the people and that Conservative policies had been completely vindicated. I am the last person to argue that the result of the election in Wales was satisfactory for the Conservatives. It is not satisfactory that they should have 20 per cent. of the vote but no Members of Parliament in another place. Thank goodness that noble Lords from Wales can speak for the people of Wales here--and we are always glad to hear them, especially when we agree with them. But that issue relates to the electoral system and should be tackled in that way.
Surely, however, the Conservative Party should reflect on the fact that it has a role to play now in the public life of Scotland and of Wales beyond the result of the last election. The Conservative Party should be addressing itself to ways in which the referendum campaign can be conducted positively. Obviously, there are positions for and against and I understand that the
It will be seen as the ultimate hypocrisy in Wales and in Scotland if the Conservative Party decides to campaign aggressively against a referendum--and even to prevent some of its members from speaking in favour--and then, if an assembly or a parliament is established, for its members to stand as potential candidates for that structure. The Conservative Party should realise at last that the unity of the kingdom is nothing to do with a uniform political structure; it is about a diversity of structure which cements and retains that unity.
That is why at the beginning of my speech I described myself as a Welsh nationalist (lower case); some might describe me as another kind of case, but I am a lower case Welsh nationalist because I am not a separatist. I do not even like the word "independence" because clearly within the European Union there can be no independence; there is only interdependence. I suppose that I am a European federalist, but these proposals are not federalist, European or otherwise. These proposals, the referendum and the White Paper when it comes, will not be anything more than the devolutionary recipe that we have already seen in the manifesto of the Labour Party.
Therefore, I do not understand the argument about the slippery slope. Indeed, I have never understood "slippery slope" arguments. They are advanced by those who are opposed to any change whatsoever. No progress and no change can happen in a constitution, written or otherwise, unless it is by the consent of the people. When I hear the argument about a written constitution, my first reaction is to say that if we do not have one, it is high time that we started writing it. In a sense, that is what we are doing this evening in the referendums Bill.
Any further progress towards a federal structure in the United Kingdom--indeed, as a result of this Bill and the question in Wales, any progress towards a legislative Welsh assembly--will depend on a further question and a further referendum because, even if they consent to a Welsh assembly, the Welsh people will not have consented to a legislative or tax-raising body. Therefore, as a Welsh democrat I would argue that there should be a further opportunity to take that decision in a further referendum. Clearly, the referendum on the slippery slope is yet a further referendum because if we are talking about federalism, further legislative action would be required which would be subject to a further referendum. Therefore, I believe that there can be no argument as to that.
I hope that this time we do not resort to the kind of referendum campaign conducted last time. From my reading of the Western Mail--I use this voice when referring to the Western Mail--there are terrible signs that all of the old arguments about the north hating the south will be repeated. I am aware of no country in the
I believe that this House and the Government have dealt with the issue of legislating for language in Wales for a long period. There can be no argument but that the Welsh assembly will be subject to a language scheme. There is no way in which that assembly can be used in any way to inflict a form of language policy on people who do not agree with it. That assembly would be bilingual by consent, as the rest of public life in Wales has been. I shall play my part in ensuring that that happens. Let us not have any argument that Welsh speakers in the north will terrorise English speakers in the south, or, worse still, that Welsh speakers with a Welsh southern accent will terrorise English speakers in the north.
I hope that we shall not hear it said that somehow this assembly is a Labour Party creation. Of course, this assembly has evolved from the internal debates of the Labour Party, but the result of the last election has signified quite clearly that there is overwhelming support in Wales for the Labour Party. If the proposals for the assembly are put to the vote and are accepted by the Welsh people, that will be a national decision. That assembly will belong to all of us and it will be a national institution. I hope that the Conservatives in Wales will have the sense to participate in that institution as well.
Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, I also extend a warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Shore and also to my old friend Lord Steel. I congratulate both of them on excellent maiden speeches. I also thank my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas for his effective support of the Government.
In his opening speech my noble friend reminded the House that a White Paper would be published later in the summer and that it would explain in greater detail the Government's proposals for an assembly. I shall not venture to comment on the Scottish proposals, but I must state the truth: the policy for a Welsh assembly is a modest one in comparison. When we vote we must bear that in mind, as indeed will the Welsh people. It is important that they will have an early vote on the establishment of a directly elected Welsh assembly. We must be careful to remember that the consequence of this will strengthen democracy in Wales so that our interests will be heard not only in these islands but beyond.
The House should note that whenever we seek a new form of devolution in Wales there is excitable opposition in some quarters. This puzzles me. There are forms of devolution in most of the countries of western Europe and they operate effectively. But Wales, which is one of the very oldest countries in Europe, with its own culture, language and literature, is treated like a helpless colony. On a clear day looking out to sea from Anglesey I can see on the horizon another Celtic island--the Isle of Man. It is the same size as Anglesey and has a population of about 70,000. It is a Crown dependency, with its own parliament and legal and
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