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Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I seek a little clarification following what the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, has said. I refer to the Scottish Constitutional Convention. Did the Conservatives, particularly the Conservative Peers, and, more particularly, the independent Peers, ever have a chance to take part in the Scottish Constitutional Convention? I am certainly not aware that the independent Peers did. Could that be clarified?
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, will allow me to answer the question. The question is easily answered. Every person in Scotland was invited to attend the original meeting that set up the Scottish Constitutional Convention. All our meetings were held in public. People joined us as we went along, whether they were Conservative, SNP, Labour, non-political, members of Churches, trade unions, the
Lord Renton: The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, generously suggested that this matter merits a full discussion. I wonder therefore if I may presume to extend it a little. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, wisely asked the Government to consider carefully what we are putting forward in view of his 35 years' experience in Parliament. Dare I say I have had 53 years' experience in Parliament, most of that involved with legislation in one way or another?
The first point that I feel it is necessary for us to get right is the following. To what extent should we rely upon the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which was an advisory body? Parliament receives advice from various bodies such as Royal Commissions, specially appointed departmental committees and outside bodies of various kinds. We do not accept that advice more than about 50 per cent. of the time. We have to decide these matters within our own responsibility. We cannot delegate that responsibility merely by saying, "Someone else has decided this. They may be right so we ought to accept that". That is not the spirit in which we legislate.
I warmly support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I suggest that to have a second chamber would add to the value and importance of a Scottish legislature. I say that for the simple reason that in this long-established Westminster Parliament goodness knows how things would have gone without the revising powers of your Lordships' House. In Scotland we have to remember that they will start off with various disadvantages compared with the position that we have. In the first place--dare I say it?--most of the members of the new Scottish parliament in what is to be called the lower chamber (if we are to have a second chamber) will have had little, if any, parliamentary experience. Some will. Some of my noble friends will stand for that parliament and their contributions will be valuable. But we have to remember that to a great extent it will be a body of people who are tiros, inexperienced in parliamentary matters. How will they be advised on legislation? Of course the Scottish parliamentary draftsmen at present have a great reputation. I dare to say that often Scottish legislation compares favourably with that governing the United Kingdom as a whole.
However, the Scottish draftsmen will have to continue to advise the Scottish Office when legislation which affects Scotland passes through our Parliament at Westminster. There will be quite a lot of that. The Scottish parliamentary draftsmen are not over-manned at the moment. New draftsmen will have to be found and trained. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate is the Minister responsible for that. It
With those limitations and difficulties, surely it would be wise to have a revising chamber. There is just one further point. One of my noble friends said there would be no delay. I am afraid that there will necessarily be some delay in order to ask the body to be appointed by the Prime Minister of the day--after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition--to consider, under these amendments, the composition of a second chamber. It is right that great care should be taken over the matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, was right in saying that this is not a matter that we should rush into. We should consider it very carefully. We should make provisions in the Bill of the kind proposed by my noble friend Lord Mackay, which ensure that it is done carefully. I hope the Government will give the matter serious consideration. We shall be making history for Scotland with this Bill. We have to make it the best legislation that we can.
At Second Reading, I expressed the opinion that a revising chamber was a desirable thing. That is not surprising. My long membership in Parliament has been entirely in this House. So I have seen the merits of a revising chamber--provided that it confines itself to being a revising chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, made a slight mistake in attributing the Norway suggestion to my noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale. I made that suggestion during my Second Reading speech. I believe I am correct in saying that she gave it not unfavourable consideration.
No matter how much a Bill may be discussed in one House, it nearly always seems to need amendment. The Bill before us today is no exception. I have looked at it roughly, and find that at least 25 amendments have been tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Sewel, and not all are merely drafting amendments. Some are quite serious, particularly those in relation to reserve powers. So we have a demonstration in relation to the very Bill that we are discussing of the merits of having a different group of people to examine the legislation. The Norway example is one possibility. However, that would be a matter for the Scottish parliament to decide.
We have limited experience here at Westminster of single-chamber government. We had it for a short period under Oliver Cromwell, who abolished the House of Lords. However, before very long he decided he had made a mistake and set it up again.
I cannot support the amendment, although I believe that in the long run the government in Scotland would be better if it, too, had a revising chamber. But that must be a matter for the Scottish parliament. In this country we do not know how a single-chamber parliament would work in modern times. We must accept that there are
I therefore suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, should accept the provision, if it is certain that it would be within the powers of the Scottish parliament to divide itself into two or to recommend a separate elected chamber. However, I am certain that it would not wish to have a second chamber that was other than a revising chamber and with no rights to insist against the will of the other house.
The real merit of this place is that we can examine legislation and do not always arrive at the same political conclusions as Members of another place. Four of my noble friends have spoken on the Bill; three have given support to a revising chamber in one form or another. I would not go so far as my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon in inviting the Government to consider accepting the amendment. However, one of my colleagues was wholehearted in his opposition. He rather over-egged the pudding. He said that the people of Scotland had voted emphatically against a second chamber. I doubt if there was one in 10,000 people who voted for a Scottish parliament who had any idea as to whether it should have one or two chambers. What people wanted was not separation, but a parliament to look after their rights.
I suggest that it would be wise to leave this matter to the body which will meet for the first time, as my noble friend suggested. Let us leave it to the parliament to decide whether the one chamber is working as well as it would like, or whether it would prefer something else. I am certain that its members would not want to rush into any change. They would want to approach the matter with due consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, suggested long consideration. I suggest that on this particular matter the right place for that long consideration is Edinburgh.
Lord Rowallan: I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Ewing. He has apparently come up with a suggestion which, apart from anything else, gets round the West Lothian question. However, we must also pay attention to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon. He is involved with the media and therefore keeps in close contact with what the Scottish people are saying. I have to disagree with my noble friends Lord Lang and Lady Carnegy of Lour. This House would be totally inappropriate as a second chamber for the Scottish parliament. The Scottish people have voted unanimously for a parliament and laws in Scotland, not in England. That is the reason the parliament is being set up in the first place. Therefore, it is my strong belief that they are wrong.
I venture to say, perhaps rather facetiously, that one of the reasons why a second chamber has not been discussed until this moment is that the other place does not understand what this House does. It is not until Members from the other end of the building come through to this end that they understand the importance of a revising chamber and the process of the law that we conduct in this place.
I hope that there will be a second chamber in Scotland. It is very important that that happens. However, we must not stop the movement towards the implementation of the parliament. Its success is paramount if we are to have a continued United Kingdom. Any delay will be seen as procrastination on our part and will go against everything that we are trying to do to keep the country united.
I therefore strongly recommend this as the right idea, but we should write into the Bill a provision whereby the parliament itself has to form a second chamber--by the means suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, or by any other means that we come up with. But we must consider this issue. It would be a great mistake to allow the Scottish parliament to be set up without any sort of revising chamber being a possibility.
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