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Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside for his questions. He appears to be asking us to rewrite the Act, whereas the Statement deals with significant changes to it in the light of the successful first three years of the Parliament. The deal referred to was done not for Members of the Scottish Parliament but for Members of the Westminster Parliament. I am fully aware of that deal and it was very transparent.
We have gone out to consultation; we have been transparent in the way in which we have approached the matter; and I recognise that we have done something which has not pleased my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside. However, these are early days and the Parliament is working well. Give it a few more years before passing the kind of judgment that is being passed today.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I am completely astonished by the Statement. It is amazing. Had the noble Lord been here when the Act passed through this House, he would know that we spent many hours pointing out to the Government precisely what would happen if they linked the number of Members of the Scots Parliament to the Westminster and Euro constituencies. That is what the Act does: by implication, it ties the numbers in the Scots Parliament to those constituencies in Scotland.
We warned the Government that that would happen and my late noble friend, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, was extremely amusing on the subject. He castigated the Government about what they were about to bring upon themselves and they have now done just that.
I do not believe that the Minister has been involved in fighting parliamentary elections, nor has the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, who thought that it was quite all right to consider altering the coterminous boundaries. Does the Minister appreciate that it is most confusing to fight elections on the groundI do it every timewhen boundaries are changed by the Boundary Commission? When the boundaries are changed for the next Westminster electionsand at the next election we may have non-coterminous ones for the Scots Parliamentthe situation will be even worse. The Government are bringing upon those who fight the elections a very big problem indeed. The general population may not appreciate that, but they will.
What are the Government allocating in cost for the commission, which will be doing what the Government should be doing themselves, if I may say so, and which they have known since 1998 would be necessary? How long will it take? There has been the most extraordinary collapse of business-like arrangements in the introduction of legislation.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, for the questions she has asked. She appears to be saying that the Government should be chastised for accepting points made during the debate by Her Majesty's Opposition. I believe that this is an example of how pragmatic and flexible the Government are.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, we do not yet know what the cost of the commission will be. It is a matter for discussion. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, expressed concern about changes to the boundaries for the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments. That is why the Secretary of State said in her Statement:
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement and I have to say that I welcome it very much. I am particularly pleased to receive the assurance from the Government that they proceeded with the consultation on the future size of the Scottish Parliament in the spirit of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, seeking the kind of consensus which was achieved by that convention.
I speak as the last co-chair of that convention, along with the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. So I welcome the further assurance that any changes to the Scotland Act will be guided by the spirit of the convention, which in some eight years of careful deliberation provided the blueprint for the Scottish Parliament. And I have to say that that was without the benefit of the participation of the Scottish Conservative Party, which perhaps explains the somewhat jaundiced view of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when he speaks of the convention. His party, which he boasted was always consistent at that time, was very much against the idea of a Scottish Parliamentso much so that it did not even participate in the convention. In the referendum campaign his party was part of the "No/No" campaign, which I have to sayand I hope I am not being too unkindwas led by the noble and learned
I am glad that the decision from the consultation is not to decrease the number of MSPs. As one of the three Front Bench spokespersons who took the Scotland Bill through its very, very long passage through this House, I know that we were always clear that if it emerged that the work of the Scottish Parliament would be adversely affected by a reduction in the number of MSPs then a change could be made. It is therefore absolutely right that after such a careful and broad consultation across Scotland, very much in the spirit of the conventionwhich I do not expect the Benches opposite to understandthe Government should take the necessary steps to bring about the desired change.
I also congratulate the Government on showing the foresight to announce now how they propose to deal with the consideration of any problems which may well arise from different boundaries for Westminster and Holyrood constituencies, and which will appear more clearly after the Holyrood 2007 elections. I think today's Statement will be widely welcomed in Scotland, where the requirement for the efficient functioning of the Parliament will be paramount, and any administrative difficulties will have to be addressed and overcome. I would also like, in concluding, to say that I very much echo the praise for the Scottish Parliament with which the Statement concluded.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Ramsay for her support. She was one of the most significant people involved in setting up the Scottish Parliament. The extremely positive way in which she endorses the Scottish Parliament and where it is in its development is significant. We should all acknowledge that.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their stand. It is extraordinary that our Conservative friends cannot understand that the consultation over the whole country showing a clear lead needs to be taken into account. The numbers in the Scottish Parliament are important; you need 129 MSPs because they have no House of Lords. We do more than half the work in Parliament, because we do all the intricate work, and the committees have been working well. I hope that the Government will keep it up.
I have no quarrel with anything that the Minister said, except when he said that the Government had nothing to do with the cost of Holyrood. They had everything to do with it. I had great respect for the late Donald Dewar, but it was an impossible site. It was chosen and built on and the Scottish Parliament have had to put up with it. Will the Minister agree that the Government should supply the cash for the mess that they made to start with?
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, will the Minister be clear on dates? Why is there such urgency? Nothing can happen until May 2007. Why are the Government not waiting until the Boundary Commission reports, either in 2003 or 2004, on the Westminster constituencies and then see whether some will be coterminous? The Government are racing ahead of the all-important Boundary Commission. Will the Minister assure us that, if the Boundary Commission reports in 2003 or 2004, its recommendations will be in place for the next general election? We do not want to happen what happened in 1978, when the Boundary Commission presented its case to Parliament and the then Labour Government voted it down, which was a disgraceful scandal.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, we cannot determine when the Boundary Commission will report. I argue with the noble Lord, Lord Monro, when he says that we are rushing ahead to set up a consultation in the year 2007, which is five years away. I fully anticipated the question of why we were not setting it up sooner. The reason for the timescale is that if we start the process now it will be a paper consultation. We must wait for elections to obtain facts and evidence so that the commission can deliberate and come up with pragmatic, sensible conclusions rather than academic conclusions based on theory.
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