Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords, we who are fellows of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales always regarded fellows of the Scottish institute as far superior and more qualified beings.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, flattery will get my noble friend everywhere. The vice-chancellor said that we were given four extra marks for writing "incorporated in 1854". It must have been that that got me through the exams! The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, expressed some astonishment that I was just an

18 Jun 1998 : Column 1765

accountant. I am extremely pleased to have that qualification. I started my apprenticeship in October 1962. I spent most of the Saturdays that October doing extra work as I had expressed a view that the symbol of the chartered accountants in Scotland was a vulture with the motto "Vigilance". For that I was punished with four extra Saturdays of work. The motto is quaere verum, which I understand translates as "Seek the truth". It is with that sentiment that I pose my questions tonight and look forward to discussing Part IV in Committee. Is there a possibility of arranging a meeting for the chartered accountants with the Minister during the course of the Bill to try to save time in your Lordships' House as we could discuss problems outside the Chamber? These problems have been alluded to by my noble friends on these Benches. I believe they would have been alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Milne, who sits on the Cross Benches. He is another member of the chartered accountants of Scotland.

Over the past year I have made several visits to the services with the All-Party Defence Study Group. I have visited all three services, including the Royal Marines. On each visit I was asked by servicemen and women whether they would be liable to pay the tartan tax if they served in Scotland. They had read about the additional 3p rate. I replied with an instant volley, rather like a Wimbledon tennis player. I said, "Yes". I do not know whether I am right about that. That is an example of the guidance we shall seek during the course of the Committee stage.

I hope I am correct in thinking that this Scottish variable rate will not come into force until the next Parliament. Clause 70(6) refers to the year 2000-01. It seems that there is at least a year in which we can discuss these problems. The PAYE system is complicated enough, but the self-assessment for individual taxpayers will be more complicated still. I note that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon is on the Front Bench. Recently he asked me to assist him in filling in the little sheets that we collect from the Printed Paper Office. I assure him that that is child's play compared with some of the complications that will arise with PAYE.

As I said, I look forward to discussing Part IV in Committee. I hope that above all we shall not scare investors or people who will bring jobs to Scotland. I hope that the Government will keep the tax-raising powers as simple as possible. The chartered accountants have some thoughts on this matter which I hope they can express in the next month or two. I hope that the Scottish parliament and the Cabinet will be successful with this Bill, but they will have a hard and difficult road ahead and hard choices to make. I refer to an Italian proverb, "Between the doing and the saying--word and deed--there is half an ocean". Many expectations have been raised. However, we shall have some problems as regards finances.

This morning I received a telephone call from that valuable organ of the press, the Sunday Post. I was asked whether I could tell them how many hereditary Peers there were in Scotland. I do not know why they rang me. They should have consulted the noble Lady,

18 Jun 1998 : Column 1766

Lady Saltoun. Perhaps they had read col. 1601 of the Official Report of yesterday and read of the noble Lady referring to the Wolf of Badenoch and thought I might not savage them quite as badly as the noble Lady. I was able to assure them that out of the total membership of the Scottish Peers' Association it appears there are 84 hereditary Peers. On a rough count this evening, 35 out of 68 noble Lords are Peers of succession. I believe that shows there is sufficient talent and interest in the Bill before us tonight. I hope that we shall continue to discuss it in a constructive spirit. I apologise for having spoken for 15 minutes. I promise that I shall speak more briefly when we discuss Clause 71. I thank your Lordships for your attention.

8.58 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, inevitably I shall reinforce views expressed elsewhere in this debate. As a Scot, living in Scotland, and having been a Minister in the Scottish Office, it is almost inevitable that I should feel strongly, and frankly not a little worried, about this Bill and about what has led up to it.

My concerns are many, but let me dwell on what I believe are the key themes. First, despite the Labour Party's election manifesto and the popular wish--which I understand, even if I do not agree with it--for devolution in Scotland, as evidenced by the referendum I share fully and without any reservation the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Kingsland about government by referenda. To that extent I do not share the view of my noble friend Lord Rowallan about a further referendum, for the reason so admirably expressed by my noble friend Lord Kingsland earlier. As the Bill makes clear, and as this debate has shown, the issues involved in devolution are immensely complex. They are not fully understood by the experts, let alone by the man in the street, as was remarked by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, and my noble friend Lord Rowallan. The man in the street expresses a rather loose wish for Scottish devolution, not really knowing what is involved, and cannot reasonably be expected to appreciate the pitfalls it introduces as highlighted in this debate.

I accept that we now have a Bill before the House. We must work as hard as we can to make it an operable Bill. I hope the Government will accept that the very broad range of concerns expressed in the debate require thorough examination. The debate has indicated how strongly opinions are held. Those of us who have anxieties will be diligent in pursuing them in order to achieve a better Bill.

I now turn to the constitutional aspects. A measure that has stood the test of time, as has the Act of Union, should not be casually tampered with or put in peril, as this Bill inevitably risks. It leaves a mass of issues wholly unresolved, from the West Lothian question to what might happen as Scottish nationalism grows, feeding on the provisions introduced by this Bill, with the threat of separation one day growing ever more real. I wonder whether the Government ever imagined, as they embarked upon their proposals for devolution, that this might happen, and that what I regard as the frightening cries for greater independence, leading to

18 Jun 1998 : Column 1767

separation, would have grown so fast. But they were warned. I bet they are uncomfortable with what has happened.

Like others, I believe that what has led to all this is a rather vague popular wish, a search for an increased national identity. But that identity is already very real. It is a kind of unattainable, simplistic and unrealistic grab for some glamorous ideal, swelled by popular emotion rather than well-judged practical thought.

And what of the economic realities to which it may lead? Yesterday, my noble friend Lord Nickson said it with admirable clarity: the sums just do not add up. The Scottish people are not only being conned; I very much fear that they are in danger of conning themselves.

I was particularly struck by the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, on the legal aspects of sovereignty, whether parliamentary or constitutional. What a tangle potentially lies there for us to unscramble over the next few months. These issues will need very thorough scrutiny.

Finally, I turn to the unicameral nature of the Scottish parliament. After 22 years in this House I am bound to say that I am wholly unclear as to how first-rate Scottish legislation can be achieved without some form of revising chamber. I disagree fundamentally with the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. Primary legislation in the Westminster Parliament would be in the most appalling mess were it not for the scrutiny, in principle and in detail, which this House gives to it. Yet the Scots are to be denied that. I know, because I handled the Bill at the time, that the Scots grumbled about the Abolition of Domestic Rates (Etc.) (Scotland) Bill--the poll tax legislation. How much more they would have grumbled had it not been for the work of your Lordships and the number of concessions that were achieved during the progress of that Bill in this House to make it marginally better than others felt it might have been. It is our duty as a revising chamber to find ways of tackling this difficult problem, of making the legislative body that is to be set up a wholly effective body.

I accept, of course, the results of the referendum, but with more than a little sadness. I realise that we now have to work with the grain of public opinion. The Bill as it stands does not resolve some very difficult and contentious issues. Indeed, it creates many more of them. To that extent it is a rather frightening experiment, one of a series of doubtful constitutional experiments, and one that will require an enormous degree of detailed work to make it even half safe--as my noble friend Lord Forbes said, safe for England as well as Scotland, but most particularly for the Union.

9.5 p.m.

The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this significant and important Bill--even though I am number 64 on the list of speakers. Nonetheless, noble Lords will be glad to hear that I have some new points to make. I therefore crave the indulgence of the House.

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar, when introducing the Second Reading of this Bill in another place said:

18 Jun 1998 : Column 1768

    "It is part of the most far-reaching programme of constitutional reform that the country has seen for well over a century".--[Official Report, Commons, 12/1/98; col. 19.]

I entirely agree with the Secretary of State. In fact, "far-reaching" is, if anything, an understatement. Before I come to the body of my speech, I wish to comment on the speech made by my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton. I do not know whether it is in order for a mere hewer of wood and drawer of water in the rhetorical vineyard such as myself to congratulate a speaker. However, my noble friend's speech was one of unalloyed brilliance. The first part, and the only part I intend to address, was an eloquent exposition of everything that Scotland receives from the present system. My noble friend was absolutely right in everything that he said. It was absolutely valid. However, a third fact is that the Scots do not want to know.

The reasons why they do not want to know are very interesting, and might indeed have been avoidable--if only the Labour Party had not, in a reckless and cynical way, fanned the fires of nationalism in order to preserve their seats in Scotland; if only--this is not an entirely facetious point--Mel Gibson had chosen to make a film called "Lionheart" about Richard I rather than one called "Braveheart" about William Wallace; if only, and I hope my party will not perceive me as being disloyal if I say this, the poll tax had not been introduced in Scotland at the time and in the manner that it was. But all those things happened. There has been a sea-change in public opinion in Scotland, as confirmed by the referendum. There is no putting the clock back.

Given that there will shortly be a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, I now propose to address what my noble friend Lady Young--who is not in her place--described yesterday as the English dimension. The overall context of which I should like to make noble Lords aware--and again, so far as I know, it has not been mentioned in this debate--is that, according to the DTI in a survey published conveniently in last Thursday's Financial Times, if one can categorise Scotland as a region, it is the second most prosperous region in the United Kingdom, second only to the south-east.

By comparison, my own region of Yorkshire and the Humber, where I have recently been selected to stand for my party in the European elections next year, is on that basis 10 per cent. poorer per capita than Scotland. I should say that, despite my forthcoming candidacy, like the noble Lord, Lord Dean, I am merely presenting my views as I see them.

Stating the facts which I am about to draw to the attention of the House, will probably be characterised as inciting an English backlash. But stating facts does not constitute incitement. On the contrary, the facts speak for themselves. They need no rhetorical spin from me or anyone else. I shall cite three facts which are unfair to England, one of which has already been mentioned in this debate.

The first unfair fact is the gross over-representation of Scotland at Westminster. Under the Government's proposals, this gross over-representation of Scotland will still exist at the time of the next general election, even though there will then long have been a fully

18 Jun 1998 : Column 1769

fledged Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. Should the general election be close, those extra Scottish MPs will determine which party forms the government. That is obviously unfair on English electors.

There is also the familiar West Lothian question, which I am sure we all understand. However, as I said in my earlier intervention, it is a problem which the Government have made not the faintest attempt to solve in their proposals.

At the risk of imposing on the goodwill of the House, because the matter is important, I intend to say something about regional selective assistance grants. Regional selective assistance grants are payments financed by the UK taxpayer, paid directly to companies as an inducement to them to locate or relocate in a given region. In the past 10 years, almost £3 billion sterling has been paid in grants directly to companies under that programme. Of that huge sum, 57 per cent. has gone to companies locating or relocating in Scotland and Wales. If one excludes the grant paid to Wales from the calculation, 44 per cent. has gone to Scotland alone. The effect of this is that people living in Yorkshire and the Humber who only have nine-tenths of the wealth of people living in Scotland--

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page