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Noble Lords: Why?

Lord Sewel: Well, my Lords, you are going to get the answer. Amendment No. 7 requires them to be on the same date, but I fail to understand the Opposition's obsession with a single date. There is no reason why the Scottish and Welsh referendums should be held on the same day. They are two separate referendums being held in two separate countries on two separate sets of proposals. They are distinct events and distinct propositions. I am afraid that there would be as much sense in arguing that the referendum on our proposals for London should be held on 11th September. "Why not have a single referendums day?" seems to be the argument from noble Lords opposite. It is a nonsense.

There are many things that we want from the referendum--including a "Yes" result. We want it to demonstrate clearly that the people of Wales endorse our proposals. For that, we need to make sure that the people of Wales are well informed about our proposals and that they make their decision based on a full and thorough understanding of what the assembly will mean, what it will do and what it will bring to Wales. We have already made an excellent start on informing the people.

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I am delighted that the White Papers in Wales and in Scotland are selling well--although one is subsidised. It is hardly a common occurrence for people to clamour to get hold of a government publication.

As well as reading our proposals, people need to debate and scrutinise them and to hear what all the different interests have to say about them. For that reason, it is important that the referendum in Wales is not held on the same day as in Scotland. I am sorry to say, but I think it is a matter of fact, that the national media have a tendency to take less interest in events west of the Border than they do in those north of the Border. If the referendums were held on the same day, there is a real risk that our proposals for Wales would receive less public scrutiny and debate. There would be a degree of overlap and confusion--and that is wrong. People in Wales might arrive at the ballot box having heard a great deal about a Scottish parliament but relatively little about the proposals for a Welsh assembly. We need to ensure that these proposals are discussed as far as possible in a self-contained and focused way. That is achieved by holding the two referendums on two separate dates.

Our proposals for Scotland and Wales are different. There is no reason why the two ballots should take place on the same day, but there is every reason to give the people of Wales the time and the opportunity they deserve to hear and debate our proposals before they go to the polling stations.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1A in lieu thereof.--(Lord Sewel.)

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we should at least be thankful that the third group of amendments tabled by me and accepted by your Lordships at Committee stage has been accepted by the other place. Therefore, we can leave for our summer holidays today; otherwise, we would have been here for another week. Occasionally, the Government see the good sense of Opposition suggestions.

As far as concerns the amendments before us today, the argument has not improved since the first time we heard it. If I had put forward an argument like that and noted that not a single Member of your Lordships' House believed it the first time round I would at least have tried a different and new argument on the second occasion. Not even his noble friends agree with the Minister's argument. We all know why the referendums must be held on different days. Frankly, it would be far better for the Minister to admit it than to try to create a web of an argument that we all know is absolutely false.

The referendums are to be held on two different days simply because the Government believe--I suspect that they are looking at the bookies' odds--that there is a better chance of achieving a "Yes" vote in Scotland than in Wales and that if they hold the Welsh referendum a week after the Scottish referendum the Welsh people may be gazumped into giving a "Yes" vote there too. I thought that this Government were against gazumping, but here they want to do it on this most important aspect of our constitution.

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The argument that the Welsh need another week to debate these issues is the most pathetic of all the pathetic points that have been made. The idea that in that week everybody in the United Kingdom will forget the result of the Scottish referendum and that the whole country will then discuss the Welsh question is imagination on the part of Her Majesty's Government. We all know that the weekend following the Scottish referendum, whatever the result, the United Kingdom press will be full of the results of that referendum. If this argument held any water at all the Government would be holding the Welsh referendum a month after the Scottish referendum to allow clear time between the two. Frankly, I would have had a great deal more respect for the Minister and the Government if that proposition had been put forward. I do not think that I would have been as able as I am now to poke fun at the pathetic arguments that noble Lords have just heard.

If they are two distinct propositions, why did the Government insist that they be debated together yesterday? If they were two distinct propositions they should have been debated on two different days. Even the internal consistency of the Government--

Lord Carter: My Lords, I point out to the noble Lord that it was the Opposition who asked for the two referendums to be debated on the same day.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I asked for the two to be debated on the same day yesterday. If the noble Lord had been here to listen to my speech, he would have heard me say that I did not believe it was sensible given the list of speakers but fortunately most noble Lords followed my example and kept their speeches short. We did not come to the more important debate on salmon until later, but at least we came to it on the same day as the debate started.

The position is as I have said. The Government's case is a nonsense. They hope that they can gazump the Welsh people into giving a "Yes" vote on the back of the Scots. It is not because the Herald, The Scotsman, Scottish Television, Grampian Television or BBC Scotland have a huge viewing figure in Wales. I suspect that very few people in Wales are able to receive even radio transmissions from Scotland, let alone buy Scottish newspapers. The idea that the Welsh will not be able to consider the proposition before them because the airwaves and the press will be full of the Scottish position is just Cloud-cuckoo-land.

We have been repeatedly told that this is a government of honesty and integrity. Would it not be nice just to have a little honesty on this question? Tell us the truth. The truth is that the Government do not believe that they can get a "Yes" vote from the Welsh unless somehow they can browbeat them into believing that the Scots will get something that they will not get. I say to the Welsh people that whatever my fellow countrymen do they would be best advised to give this a very big "No" on 18th September.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I take much cheer and comfort from the argument that has been advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. It is

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based on the proposition that there will be an outstanding victory in Scotland and a decisive "Yes, yes" vote. I welcome that recognition and concession contained in the noble Lord's argument. The fact of the matter is that we are dealing with two very different proposals. That emerged very strongly from the points raised in yesterday's debate. It is proper that there should be a degree of space between the decisions taken on these questions in Scotland and Wales. That will lead to clarity, not confusion. In those circumstances. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

11.45 a.m.



Clause 1, page 1, line 6, after ("and") insert ("income")

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason--

Because it is desirable to keep the questions to be asked in the referendums as simple as possible.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 2 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 2A. In moving this Motion I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16.

The people of Scotland will be asked whether they agree that there should be a Scottish parliament and that a Scottish parliament should have tax-varying powers. The amendment to which the Commons have disagreed would require a specific reference to "income" tax-varying powers. The key to this is to understand what the people of Scotland are being asked to agree with. It is not some vague notion of an independent Scotland or some never-never promise of better things to come from the party opposite--a never, never, never, never, never promise. The people of Scotland will be asked whether they agree with the Government's proposals. It says so on the ballot paper.

The Government have set out their proposals in the White Paper Scotland's Parliament which was published on Thursday of last week. Chapter 7 of the White paper sets out the financial arrangements for the parliament, including the tax-varying powers. No doubt noble Lords are familiar with it. I quote from Chapter 7:

    "Subject to the outcome of the proposed referendum on this issue the Scottish Parliament will be given a power to vary tax ... The Government propose that the tax varying power should operate on income tax".
It is crystal clear that the tax-varying power on which the referendum asks the people of Scotland to give their views is the power to vary income tax.

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