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Lord Higgins: My Lords, as that will not be published until after tomorrow, perhaps the noble Lord could put a copy in the Library.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, when it is available for publication of course it will be available in the Library. A personal copy with my signature will be sent to the noble Lord and all other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about the timing of the sustainable development strategy. That interesting report--

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I apologise for intervening again. The point is that we need to know, either tonight or tomorrow, whether or not the figures in the accounting adjustment which are large are approved by the Office for National Statistics to which I referred. We welcome the answer, "Oh well, it will eventually appear in the report of the Treasury Committee" but it does not help us at all as regards tomorrow. If it is not possible to publish it because it is still confidential to the committee, can the Minister at least ensure that we are made aware of whether it approves of what is done?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall respond to the noble Lord when he makes the point tomorrow, to the fullest extent possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, rightly referred to environmental issues because they are referred to in Section 5 of the Maastricht Act. If the noble Lord turns to page 8 of the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report, he will see that there is specific recognition of environmental issues in line with our obligations under the Maastricht Act. We shall publish a sustainable development strategy later this year.

I suspect that behind these more specific comments lies a general fear that the economic situation is deteriorating and that our projections for public expenditure and revenue will not be realised. We have examined our projections against all the possible alternative objections, the alternative ways of running the Treasury model. We are convinced that what we have done has been cautious, rather than adventurous. If there is any risk it is the risk that we have underestimated revenue and overestimated expenditure, rather than the reverse. The average of the Treasury's latest survey of independent forecasters shows growth expected to be 2.2 per cent. in 1998 and 1.7 per cent. in 1999. The Government's fiscal projections based on growth of 2 per cent. in 1998 and 1¾ per cent. in 1999 therefore seem to us entirely reasonable.

I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, says about the dangers from the potential collapse in Asia and I do not underestimate the seriousness of it for us. It is essential that the Japanese economic management should take control of its economy and should revive demand in a way that has been discussed in your Lordships' House within the past few days. It is true that the effect of any default in the Japanese economy on Asian economies generally would be serious on

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economies in this country. I can only say to the noble Lord that we have taken serious account of it in the way in which we have made our projections for the future. We have not allowed for a complete meltdown in the world economy, but we have allowed for everything that it is reasonable and proper for us to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked about sustainable convergence which provoked a response from my noble friend Lord Desai. My noble friend rightly pointed out that if the markets had not rejected the Government's thinking, then perhaps for capitalists there is no good reason to suppose that we have got things wildly wrong. I am not sure whether my noble friend Lord Desai would extrapolate his comments for all aspects of economic policy. I do not think he would, but he had a valid point because the Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report was published more than a month ago. It affected the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee last month and it is clear that our most important decisions, about the way in which we handle, understand and present our public accounts, have been subjected to the scrutiny of the Monetary Policy Committee and of the markets. They have been supported both by the MPC and by the markets.

We have been entirely open about our economic and fiscal strategies on the basis that we are saying realistically and soberly to the European Community, to the Commission and the Council, what is our understanding of the economic situation in this country. I commend the Motion standing in my name.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Scotland Bill

8.37 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 35 [Acts of Union]:

On Question, Whether Clause 35 shall stand part of the Bill?

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I momentarily seek to oppose Clause 35. First, I wish to set down my disappointment about the state of the treaty between Scotland and England which in practice we are in the process of modifying. Half the treaty's articles are abandoned and it cannot be said to be a working document any longer.

This failure to keep the treaty up to date leads me to call for its renewal. A new treaty would be constitutionally healthy in a diverse and voluntary multi-national state. Not to describe the United Kingdom as such would be to accept the fact of annexation.

Secondly, I am concerned that the two Acts mentioned in Clause 35 are both largely not in force. Thirdly, the Union with England Act, passed in the Scottish Parliament in 1707, is not available on the Lexis computer system, whereas the Union with

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Scotland Act is. If the Union is as important as I keep being told it is, then this foundation Act should be electronically recorded and widely available.

Fourthly, I must say to the traditional Unionists that at present they are failing to explain to people in Scotland the benefits of the Union. This is exemplified by the failure to teach in schools the formation and purpose of the United Kingdom and its constitution. For example, out on the streets the treaties of 1536, 1706, 1800 and 1921 mean little, if anything at all.

I said that I shall not delay the Committee for long, and I shall not. I conclude with the statement that that all needs to be remedied before Clause 35 can be seen as a useful clause of the Bill.

Lord Sewel: Perhaps I may just make clear what is the effect and intention of Clause 35. The Government may be held responsible for many things, from natural calamities to the weather and the awful summer we are having, but I do not believe that we can be held responsible for which Acts and treaties appear on Lexis.

The intention behind Clause 35 is to make it clear that the provisions of the Bill should be given effect notwithstanding anything in the Acts of Union. That sends a clear signal that the provisions in the Bill are to take priority in the event that it may be alleged that there are inconsistencies. The Government are satisfied that there are none. That will reduce the potential for any uncertainty or legal challenge in the future.

I am aware of cases that have been brought in the past based on the Act of Union, not with great success. This provision will remove that possibility. That is the simple, straightforward reason for including the clause in the Bill. I do not accept the invitation from the noble Earl to go down the road of discussing whether or not we need a new treaty. I leave that to others.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps I can intervene briefly and ask the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, a question. Does that mean that the two Acts of Union will not be amended by this Bill and that, therefore, when I look at Statutes in Force, I will not find them with the amendments, deletions or whatever that are consequential on this Bill?

Lord Sewel: Let me repeat what I said. The provisions in this Bill are to take priority in the event that it is alleged that there are any inconsistencies between this Bill and the Acts of Union. I said that the Government are satisfied that there are none.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Does that answer mean that no changes will be made to the Acts of Union and Statutes in Force? It is a simple question and I should have thought it deserved a simple answer.

Lord Sewel: I gave the noble Lord a simple answer. There is a difference between a simple answer and an abrupt and abbreviated answer. I hope the noble Lord will accept that I answered his question.

Clause 35 agreed to.

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8.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 249A:

After Clause 35, insert the following new clause--

Council of Ministers of European Union: accountability to Parliament

(" .--(1) Before any Minister of the Crown attends a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Union at which consideration is to be given to any issue related to devolved matters, the Secretary of State shall consult the Parliament and seek its views on the issue.
(2) Following a meeting of the Council of Ministers at which any issue related to a devolved matter has been discussed, the Secretary of State shall forthwith make a report to the Parliament on the substance and the outcome of the meeting and shall respond to any questions that members of the Parliament may put to him.").

The noble Lord said: In this amendment we return again to the subject of the relationship between the Scottish parliament and indeed Scotland, and the Council of Ministers of the European Union. We discussed this rather late on the night of the fourth day of Committee when we debated the relationship between the Scottish parliament and the executive and the European Union. As far as I can gather, the Government have no clear view as to how that relationship will be developed, other than that it will be via the UK Government and, in some mysterious way of which I am not entirely sure, the Scottish executive will play a part in the UK government delegations.

On the night of the fourth day--this becomes a little like Genesis--I discussed my amendment specifically in relation to agriculture and fisheries. I do not want to repeat what I said then, though I do not believe that the answer I received was in the least satisfactory. However, in the light of the answer I received, I have tried, in Amendment No. 249A, to firm up the arrangement; to build a bridge between the Scottish parliament and the Scottish executive and the European Union and its Council of Ministers and make that bridge the Secretary of State. In fact I mean the Secretary of State for Scotland though, in the conventional manner, I did not specify that. If it were related to agriculture or fisheries matters, it could be the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. But I am not specifying that.

I am looking at the reality, which is that members of the Scottish executive will not be able to attend the Council of Ministers and lead and speak for the United Kingdom. I am still left with the two examples sent to me by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, after our debates on the Government of Wales Bill. They were supposed to satisfy me as to the attendance of ministers of governments--not the member states' governments--at meetings of the Council of Ministers. At the risk of being accused of repetition, I should like to read out the important parts of the letter I received from the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I asked him to give examples of where members of German Lander or provisional governments elsewhere in Europe, like Spain, actually attended the Council of Ministers and

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spoke on behalf of their countries on subjects like agriculture and fisheries where serious decisions are made and policies taken. The letter of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said this:

    "The more obvious instances which have been identified relate to the German Lander. Because of its particular expertise, Bavaria, for example, has represented the German government at EU meetings where cultural issues have been the main agenda item. Similarly, members of the Catalan autonomous government have attended meetings on behalf of the Spanish, where language issues were under consideration. I trust this information goes some way to removing your scepticism that in practice it would not be possible for an assembly member to be part of a UK government delegation, nor indeed to lead such a delegation, if that was the view reached by the UK government".--[Official Report, 1/7/98; col. 736.]

I am afraid my scepticism remains. I see that there may be some issues in a European Union meeting which are specifically Scottish and the UK Government may decide to send a minister from the Scottish executive. But the issues that worry me do not relate to culture and language where no hard policy decisions are taken which are binding on all the member states of the European Union. My concerns relate more to agriculture, fisheries, transport, Department of Trade and Industry matters, assisted area status and all those subjects which are important to the economic life of our country. Those are the issues that bother me and on those issues it is almost inconceivable--I go further; it is inconceivable--that there will be a policy item for a whole Council of Ministers meeting which will be only of relevance to Scotland and not relevant to any other part of the United Kingdom.

I am afraid, therefore, that I am as unconvinced as I have ever been about these rather vague statements that Scottish ministers, members of the Scottish executive, will somehow be able to play a full part as though Scotland were a member state of the European Union in meetings of the Council of Ministers and the peripheral meetings which are so important. I have therefore devised Amendment No. 249A. I accept that is not the most satisfactory arrangement but, short of reserving some major issues to the United Kingdom Parliament, which I know the Government will not do, my amendment makes the Secretary of State the bridge. It proposes that before meetings of the Council of Ministers, in addition to the usual round-robins which circulate in Whitehall,

    "the Secretary of State shall consult the Parliament and seek its views on the issue".

It will therefore be the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland to seek views on those issues. Then he would be able easily to represent them to his colleagues and, if necessary, he could accompany a colleague to a meeting of the Council of Ministers in order to speak on behalf of Scotland as a Minister of the United Kingdom Government.

I see that my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton has returned to us. I have no doubt that he, as Secretary of State for Scotland, attended Council of Ministers' meetings. I know that I did. I know that my noble friend Lord Sanderson of Bowden--who I also see in the Committee--attended meetings on agriculture and fishery matters. I certainly did, especially on fishery matters, which are so important to Scotland. That is the first part of the amendment.

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The second part is that after the business is done in Brussels, in which any matter relating to Scotland and a devolved issue has been discussed and perhaps resolved, the Secretary of State should report to the parliament and should be available to answer questions from members of the parliament. "Answerability" is also important.

I still have not had an answer to my question. If a negotiation takes place in Brussels, on any subject, and the Minister comes back to the House of Commons, and it is a devolved subject, and the Minister makes a statement and answers questions, what does he do when a Scottish Member of Parliament pops up and asks a question about Scotland on a matter which has been devolved? Does the Speaker of the other place rule that out of order because the subject has now been devolved in the legislation we are discussing? Does the Minister--especially if it is a difficult question--simply duck it and say, "That is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the Scottish parliament and for the Minister there"? I do not know the answer to that question. I have failed miserably to get out of the Government any positive indication of what will happen in those circumstances on the question of answerability.

I am saying here that the Secretary of State would report to the Scottish parliament and would answer questions that any members of the Scottish parliament might put to him. That would lead to the kind of accountability that is essential if Scotland is to be properly represented at the Council of Ministers and in the councils of the European Union.

Brussels is no longer some sort of peripheral place where people go for a nice day out and the business does not matter terribly much. It matters hugely over a whole raft of policies. I am deeply concerned, whether it be Wales--and I see the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in his place--or whether it be Scotland, that one of the results, unintended I grant the Government, of these devolutionary proposals will be that Scotland will lose its direct representation, its clout and influence at Council of Ministers' meetings in Brussels. I beg to move.

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