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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am pleased to hear that the Procedure Committee is examining the matter. It certainly needs to be examined and I look forward to reading its report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 86 [Scottish representation at Westminster]:

Viscount Dunrossil moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 40, line 29, at end insert--
("3B. A constituency which includes the Western Isles (na h-Eileanan an Iar) shall not include the whole or any part of a local government area other than the Western Isles.";").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, my purpose in bringing forward the amendment is certainly not to try to embarrass the Government; nor is it to impose yet further delay in the passage of this important Bill. It has already been argued about at some length and is now in its final stages.

I should declare interests--one official and one personal--which may help briefly to explain why I feel obliged to propose the amendment to safeguard the Western Isles parliamentary constituency. First, I live in North Uist in the Western Isles where I currently serve as Lord Lieutenant. I am therefore deeply concerned about the Western Isles' general well-being. Secondly, as the amendment refers exclusively to the parliamentary constituency of the Western Isles, perhaps I may add that my father contested the constituency in 1924. He was a Conservative, and therefore at the time had no hope of winning the seat. However, he was also a native Gaelic speaker as both of his parents and their parents came from North Uist. Therefore, unlike some other distinguished contestants of the seat, he did not lose his deposit. I may say that his English improved considerably over the years and he ended his political life in Westminster as Speaker of another place from 1951 to 1960.

What has disturbed many people in the Western Isles is the manner in which we seem collectively to have stumbled into a position where an amendment along the lines I have suggested becomes not only desirable but essential if the people of the Western Isles are not to feel deep misgivings and a mistrust of the political process that has brought us to this situation. I will not rehash the arguments as to who should be held responsible for what is essentially a misunderstanding. It is, after all, set out at great length as a description of

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assumptions, assurances and a lack of communication, in the Stornoway Gazette, which is available to all noble Lords, and it makes rather sad reading.

In essence, the parliamentary constituency of the Western Isles was set up in 1918. The unitary local authority covering the same area has been in existence since 1974. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, had a hand in that when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. Both are natural expressions of the life and distinct culture of the people of those islands and there has been no serious move to alter the arrangements since their inception, and none is apparently foreseen by the Government.

One feature of life in the Western Isles is our vulnerability to the effect of changing wind direction and strength. Every winter we experience winds of more than 100 miles an hour. That makes us wary of assuming that structures will be permanent unless great care is taken to protect them. The wind blowing one way today may not be the same next week. So it is with this Bill.

It will not have escaped the notice of those noble Lords who listened to this morning's shipping forecast that a severe storm, force 11, has been forecast for today for the Island of Lewis. It is a reminder from the forces of nature that our shelters and defences should be in good order and repair. It is also an allegorical warning of why we need the amendment.

The people of the Western Isles, while proud of their individual way of life and identity, are not that strange, nor are they hostile to their mainland neighbours. They simply do not want to be merged with them so closely that they will be taken over by the sheer force of numbers only. At this time of remembrance, it is appropriate to recall that the island's contribution to the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy in two world wars, as a proportion of its total population, was massive.

At the recent referendum on devolution, the islanders produced a strong "yes" vote, little knowing that a threat to the integrity of their parliamentary constituency could be the maverick result and that what was claimed to be progressive mindless legislation could thrust them backwards into the pre-1918 situation which they so disliked.

All along they have believed and trusted Government Ministers when they have been reassured by them that any threat to their constituency's existence was "inconceivable". But the wind has certainly changed and on 22nd October the noble Lord the Minister in charge of the Bill said, in effect, "I shall have to put a stop to this somehow". He also asked, and I paraphrase, "If we give the islanders this, where do we draw the line?". Lines, he implied, are difficult to draw.

This is where my explanatory amendment could help. It will be simple to "put a stop to all this", as the Minister wishes, with no bad feelings by an act of generosity and some display of positive and sympathetic statesmanship by accepting this small amendment. As to drawing the line, it is not that difficult. Having dealt

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with Orkney and Shetland, both with seats and voting populations smaller than ours, the line drawn is simple; straight down the Minches! I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, my friends in the Western Isles have asked me to say a few words about the amendment. As indicated by the noble Viscount, in the early 1970s, as Secretary of State for Scotland, I made the Western Isles as well as Orkney and Shetland, which are not involved in the amendment, separate local authorities in the reorganisation of local government in Scotland. A new entity was invented; namely, the island authority. Three island authorities came into existence. Before that, nearly 30 years ago, when I was in the Shadow Cabinet, I stated from the Opposition Front Bench in 1969, when we were considering the report of the Wheatley Royal Commission, that I favoured three island authorities. That was one of the changes that I made as Secretary of State to the proposals in the Wheatley Commission's report. I shall be sorry if that principle were now to be discarded.

I would understand if the Government were to say that they do not wish to have any apparent restriction on complete discretion in future to devise constituencies. I believe that I would be sympathetic to that if I were still on the government Front Bench. But since my decision in about 1971, both the residents and the councillors of the Western Isles have rejoiced in being an island authority. It was quite new to them and it has given them great pleasure. I continue to receive letters and messages of congratulation on having taken that decision. So in principle I support what is proposed although I realise that this Bill may not be the place in which to make such a change.

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, I have extremely sympathetic views towards this amendment. I am very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Dunrossil, for having brought it before your Lordships' House, not least because it gives me the opportunity to correct a small mistake in the Official Report, which occurred when we were discussing the question of the Western Isles on the first day of the Report stage in the debate which has been mentioned. It states at col. 1609 that it was my noble friend Lord Alderdice who stated,

    "My Lords, it was my understanding at Committee stage that the Government accepted this amendment. Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, wishes it, we shall support him".--[Official Report, 22/10/98; col. 1609.]
In fact, it was I who said that and not the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, who, I believe, was happily in Northern Ireland at that time. There is confusion with the facial hair: I believe that his is slightly prettier than mine.

In that debate on the first day of the Report stage we supported the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, in the Lobbies. That was on a somewhat different question from the one we are facing today. The amendment put forward at that point by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, regarded representation

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in the Scots parliament. In just the same way as this Bill has sought to give Orkney and Shetland two constituencies in the Scottish parliament, it was quite logical for us to support an amendment to give the Western Isles a constituency in the Scottish parliament.

However, we lost that vote. There is some consolation in that the amendments I moved, with the valued support of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, were carried in this House. They mean that the Scottish parliament will ultimately be responsible for looking at what the proper constituencies will be for the Scottish parliament in the future. Consequently, it will be in the hands of Scots to make the decisions in respect of the Scottish parliamentary constituency.

However, what we are discussing today as regards Clause 86 concerns representation at Westminster. It is my understanding that subsection (3) of that clause concerning Orkney and Shetland is required as a consequence. The introduction of Rule 3A is required as a consequence of having split Orkney and Shetland in the first place. Therefore, the principle involved here is that for the Scottish parliament there will be two constituencies, but in order to preserve the Westminster situation, this change is required to the rules. That is not quite the same thing and it cannot be applied to the Western Isles.

In other words, the creation of two constituencies for the Scottish parliament requires the changes to Clause 86 rather than the desire to pickle in aspic Orkney and Shetland as a constituency although, I believe, it has that effect. I fully support the sentiments which the noble Viscount has put forward. He referred to a Force 11 crossing the Western Isles. They come mostly from the West. In Caithness they tend to come from the North. They are just as strong, but a little colder. I have great sympathy for what the noble Viscount is putting forward, but I do not believe that this is the appropriate place for it. Therefore, I shall not be able to support him on this amendment.

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