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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I share a sense of disappointment with my two noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. I had rather hoped that, with the end in sight for the ministerial job of Under-Secretary of State for the Scottish Office in the House of Lords, the noble Lord might have shown himself to be freer of the ties that bind him to Downing Street and would have been prepared to see the problem we put forward.

As my noble friend Lord Monro said, it is hard to believe that it can take longer to create 58 new Westminster constituencies in Scotland--or rather, to keep 72, because that is what we are talking about--than it will take to come up with Royal Commission proposals to reform your Lordships' House. I cannot think why one is expected to last eight months, yet the other for two or three years. My noble friend Lord Rowallan said that it was a huge error for Westminster to appear on the one hand to be giving something to Scotland, but in a year or two's time to be seen to take it away, at least in part. The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, made clear points, going over the previous position in which the Government had clearly signed up to the proposals in the constitutional convention. My party was not a part of that, but recognised that they signed up to them. Then, all of a sudden, when we come to look at the legislation the Government back away from them.

The Minister said that I had adduced no new evidence and no new argument; but once again he has failed to persuade me, or anybody in Scotland listening to this debate, of the Government's case. One of the reasons for coming up with a tightly drawn Bill is to get away from the other issues in the Scotland Act and just try to concentrate on this one matter. The idea that if we break this link, we will be breaking a bigger link between Westminster and the Scottish Parliament is a nonsense. If I thought for a minute that breaking the link between the number of MSPs and the number of MPs at Westminster would endanger the Union, I would not be bringing forward my Bill.

If I may speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I thought that the worst argument the Minister adduced was that because the noble Lord campaigned for a yes, yes vote he must have been happy with the White Paper--as though the noble Lord would have campaigned for a no vote on the basis that he did not

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like a small part of it. That really was disingenuous. Mind you, I should not be surprised because currently the Labour Party, having campaigned to give the Scottish Parliament the power to charge another 3p in the pound on Scottish taxpayers, is not campaigning vigorously against the idea that it should ever be implemented because of the damage even 1p more tax would do to the Scottish Parliament. If the Government throw stones at people for the way they campaigned in the referendum, they ought to be careful lest serious bricks be thrown at them.

I do believe that we ought to break the link, which could easily be one of the catalysts that might damage the Union. Let us assume for a moment that the Scottish Parliament does as the noble Lord, Steel of Aikwood, said. Anybody who lives in the real world knows that it will. When it comes to the day when the Boundary Commission is set up, and this seems to be coming over the horizon, the Scottish Parliament will pass a Motion, which it will send here, saying, "We want 129 constituencies". It will do that after lots of campaigning, when the Scottish National Party will make hay in a big way. So will the other Opposition parties, if Labour is still in government. The Government have stored up real trouble for themselves. This little issue will be magnified by the Scottish National Party and the Scottish press. The people who think that they are the short list of 21 will, regardless of where they sit in the Scottish Parliament, stir up as much trouble as they can.

That issue will be brought here, and we would do better dealing with it now--rather than let a head of steam build up and have the Westminster Parliament forced to back down.

I do not believe in common boundaries. The Government have proposed a method for the election of European Members of Parliament when in Scottish terms--and the same is true all over the UK--eight MEPs will be in the one constituency, without any boundaries. They are not so sacrosanct as the Minister seems to make out. We will all be puzzling which of the eight represents us. If we have a bit of a problem, we will write to all eight. That situation is much worse than a bit of double representation. It is not even double. I will know that my MSP and Westminster MP are A and B. A neighbour may share A but not B, because he will have a different MP at the Westminster Parliament. I do not think that will be a problem. The Scottish electorate are quite well educated enough to work that one out.

I am disappointed. The Government's failure to act on those two issues will lead to problems in two different places. The Minister did not address why, if it is right to go to 58 constituencies the election after next, is it not right to go to 58 at this election. He did not lock horns in that argument. I am not surprised because he has no possible justification for the Government's action. The result is that once the Scottish Parliament is up and running, the number of MSPs will begin to become an issue in England. In two or three years, when we come near to the reduction in the next Parliament and therefore in the number of MSPs, that will become an issue and a problem in Scotland. On those two issues,

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there will be problems in England to begin with, then problems in Scotland. The Government are being very "head in the sand", in not seeing that my little Bill is one way of resolving those two problems. I hope that your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

International Mobile Satellite Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1999

11.59 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th February be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the order is required to give effect in UK law to the new headquarters agreement which has been negotiated as the result of the organisation's restructuring. An affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament is necessary before the order can be referred to the Privy Council. The order revokes and replaces a previous order made in 1980 to confer privileges and immunities on the organisation's predecessor.

The decision to restructure, which is basically privatisation, was taken to ensure the organisation's survival in a rapidly changing and commercially competitive environment. This is due to take place on 15th April 1999 when most of the organisation's staff, assets and liabilities will be transferred to a limited liability company to be known as Inmarsat. A small secretariat, which will retain its intergovernmental character and will continue as a treaty-based entity, will remain. This will be known as the International Mobile Satellite Organisation. Its sole purpose will be the oversight of the new company's public service obligations, that is, the operation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety Service (GMDSS)--in other words, the "999" for ships.

The organisation was previously known as the International Maritime Satellite Organisation. This was established in 1979 and located in the UK under the aegis of a headquarters agreement signed on 25th February 1980. It was given effect in UK law by the INMARSAT (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1980. The organisation subsequently changed its name to the International Mobile Satellite Organisation.

The original purpose of the organisation was to improve maritime communications, as well as aeronautical communications, as practicable. These activities were designed to assist in improving communications for distress and safety of life and for communications for air traffic services. They were also designed to improve the efficiency and management of transportation by sea, by air and on land, as well as maritime, aeronautical and other public correspondence services, plus radio-determination capabilities.

The Government strongly support the restructuring, which is designed to ensure the new private sector company's attractiveness to investors and its ability to

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take advantage of rapidly advancing technology. The incorporation of new developments quickly, the reduction of operational costs and improvements in the speed of decision-making are also key objectives. An important point to note is that the residual intergovernmental organisation will be entirely funded by the new Inmarsat company, with no cost burden falling to member countries. The net result is private sector funding of an international public service and the more efficient and competitive use of a public sector organisation's staff and assets.

The number of staff accorded privileges and immunities will be much reduced from 472 at present to about six when the restructuring becomes effective in April. The Order in Council will give the residual intergovernmental organisation, which will be based in London, the same kind of privileges and immunities as its predecessor. The new headquarters agreement,

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necessary on account of the restructuring, is modelled on and closely follows the wording of the 1980 agreement with the organisation's forerunner, which it terminates.

It is essential and important to the 86 member states of the International Mobile Satellite Organisation for the order to be made by the Privy Council at its next monthly meeting on 13th April. This is so that the necessary implementing legislation is in place in order to enable the headquarters agreement between Her Majesty's Government and the organisation to be signed on 15th April which is the effective date for IMSO's restructuring. In the circumstances, I very much hope that your Lordships will approve the draft order.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th February be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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