2.—(1) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolution—
(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the Proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under this paragraph, and the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall also be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on the Motion.
8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.
9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say:
(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) which apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.
(4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, or to any later time under sub-paragraph (3) above, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on that Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.
10.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the Horse by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph 9 above shall apply as if the Proceedings were Proceedings on the Bill on an allotted day.
(2) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee shall—
13. In this Order—
'allotted day' means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
'Resolution of the Business Committee means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
I begin by reminding the House that it is the custom on some occasions for Leaders of the House when they move motions of this character first to give the House some facts and figures. I suspect—and I think that it is only right that the House should approach the matter in this way—that the more general arguments are likely to figure in our debate today. However, the facts and figures about the timetable and the hours and days that have already been provided enter into the argument, so I shall briefly give some of the statistics before seeking to elaborate upon them.
It would be wrong for anyone to suggest that we have been ungenerous in the amount of time that has been allocated—two days for Second Reading and a further 28 to Report and Third Reading, making 30 days in all, not counting time for the consideration of any suggestions that the House may receive from another place. I know that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) referred to that aspect the other day. A period of 30 days for the two measures—this Bill and the Wales Bill—has very few precedents.
During the Second Reading debate on the Scotland and Wales Bill last Session my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister promised an allocation of about 30 days for all the stages in this House, which was in itself an exceptional offer. It allowed for more time for that Bill, leaving aside Finance Bills, than any had enjoyed since the Government of India Bill over 40 years ago. We then had, following the introduction of the Bill in the last Session, four days debating the Bill on Second Reading and 10 days in Committee.
Earlier, we had had four days debating the basic concepts of directly elected Assemblies and a separate Scottish Executive, set out in our White Paper of November 1975. These basic ideas, which the House spent a good deal of time debating, are also features of the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill to which the House has this week given Second Readings. Therefore, whatever else may be said about the arrangements that have been made, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the time allocated for the general discussion of these matters in the House has been very small compared with what has been arranged on previous occasions, in previous precedents.
I shall come in a moment to the motion that the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) put down on these aspects of the matter. But when it is sometimes suggested outside that the House has been gagged on this issue, I must say that that is not the impression of most hon. Members who have been in the House. A great deal of time has been provided, quite rightly, and a great deal of further time is to be provided under this motion. Any suggestion that the House has been gagged would be an absurdity.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the Government of India Act. I infer from what he said that that is a precedent for a timetable motion on a constitutional Bill. Will he tell the House whether that timetable motion was introduced before the Committee stage began? If it was not, is not my right hon. Friend's motion today of great procedural significance, this being the first time we have had such a motion?
There have been introduced into the House a number of major Bills, including constitutional Bills, on which the procedure we have followed in this instance, of the timetable motion being moved before the Committee stage, has been used. [HON. MEMBERS: "Such as?"] Hon. Members seem to be in a very impatient mood. I cannot under- stand why. Perhaps they want to proceed even faster. I hope that we shall be able to satisfy them on all these matters.
Hon. Members ask for a precedent on a constitutional Bill of a Bill's being proposed for a timetable before the Committee stage. There was the Representation of the People (No. 2) Bill in the Session 1931–32. I presume that that was to be regarded as a constitutional Bill. There were many other important Bills, such as the Military Training Bill in 1938–39, which I am sure involved important questions.
Hon. Members are barking up the wrong tree on this subject. The question of constitutional Bills raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is extremely important, but it is the fact that over a long period constitutional Bills have been subjected to motions for the timetable. There was the most important constitutional Bill of all, as I would claim, to be introduced into the House in modern times, the European Communities Bill. [Interruption.] I understand that the timetable motion was not moved before the Committee stage, but it was an extremely important constitutional Bill to which a guillotine was applied. [Interruption.] I shall come to most of these points if hon. Members will allow me to proceed. If I am thought not to cover them adequately, I shall follow the normal custom of giving way, and we shall see whether we can proceed even faster in that manner. It is wrong for anyone to give the impression—I am sure that my hon. Friend was not seeking to give such an impression—that it is unusual or improper in any sense for timetable motions to be applied to constitutional measures.
The Conservative Government applied a guillotine to the European Communities Bill—in very special circumstances. No doubt the then Government were acting on a precedent that they had set early in the days of guillotine operations. It was very soon after the establishment of the guillotine procedure that the guillotine was applied by the Conservative Government to the Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill 1888, which I should think was a constitutional Bill.
The Liberal Government—we want fair shares for the Liberal Party in these Matters—moved a guillotine on the Parliament Bill 1911 and on the Government of Ireland Bill 1914.
Labour Governments, as I have already mentioned, introduced timetable motions on the Representation of the People (No. 2) Bill 1931 and on the Scotland and Wales Bill in the last Session. That is two each to start with.
There are quite a number of other constitutional Bills to which timetable motions have been applied. In one sense—I say this in particular in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South—it is constitutional Bills for which guillotines are most required, particularly in Parliaments where there is a close margin between the two sides.
I do not believe that the House should proceed on the basis that the guillotine is strange to its procedures. Whether it is right in a particular instance is another matter. However, the House should not give the impression to anybody inside and, worse still, to anybody outside that there is something extraordinary, improper or contrary to our traditions in the application of timetable motions to constitutional Bills.
The suggestion that the more important a Bill is the more likely and more desirable it is that it should be subjected to a timetable motion comes ill from the right hon. Gentleman when it is recalled that for 30 years he said something quite different from below the Gangway. Is he aware that he is setting what is probably the most unhealthy precedent ever set by any Leader of the House?
I shall take the hon. Gentleman's comments one stage at a time. I assure him that I am not seeking to avoid any accusations that he may wish to make against me about what I said on the timetable motions on the European Communities Bill and other Bills. Indeed, if he wishes I shall come to it right away. I can satisfy him now, because I have come equipped with all the facts and figures.
It is the fact that I have spoken on a large number of timetable motions, that I have voted against a considerable number of timetable motions, and that I have voted for quite a number. However, that seems to have escaped the attention of some Opposition Members who have not applied their minds to the figures.
If we are to take first the number of guillotine motions for which right hon. and hon. Members have voted, I should point out that the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) is a greater offender than I. The right hon. Gentleman, proportionate to his time in the House, has voted for more timetable motions than I have. If he cares to work out the figures—I am sure that my mathematics are correct—he will find that for every four for which I have voted he has voted for five.
The same comment applies to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, who sometimes becomes very passionate about these matters. I am not complaining about her absence today. However, if a great constitutional issue were at stake, she should be here, particularly in view of the accusations that she has made against me in the past.
I am looking after the Prime Minister very well. There is no need for him to be here. He can attend to other business.
If it is a grievious crime to have voted frequently for timetable motions, the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire is a greater offender than I. That is the fact of the matter. If I am Saint-Just, he is Robespierre. Indeed, I think that he might have had the decency to bring along Madame Defarge, too, because she has an even worse record than the right hon. Gentleman in this respect, and that is saying something. Marginally, it is not so dramatically worse, but it is worse.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, if I may anticipate his defence against these accusations, that when timetable motions are properly to be introduced and whether it is right and advisable for the House to pass them are different questions which take account of the quality of the legislation and the kind of discussion which has taken place in the country. All these various factors enter into the matter. That is what I have said in all the debates on these matters in which I have taken part.
The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt) must have spent a happy time reading all my speeches. Indeed, to read my speeches on guillotine motions is almost a liberal education in itself. However, as he has come to the House so well equipped, I am sure that there is no more information that he wants to extract from me on that subject.
It is the Representation of the People (No. 2) Act. The hon. Gentleman was probably looking for No. 1. We shall have to see whether we can sort out this momentous constitutional issue with which the hon. Gentleman has thought fit to waste the time of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "You raised it."] I raised it because there appeared to be some sceptical characters in the House who did not believe that there had been any previous constitutional issues.
Perhaps I may draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to something much closer home than the experiences of the last half-century. We are judging this guillotine motion before the beginning of the Committee stage and we have no guidance as to what we have done wrong which should merit disciplining our discussion on the matter. We have an account of what took place in the last 12 months. Indeed, this is the second guillotine motion that my right hon. Friend has moved on this issue. With hindsight, does he feel that the introduction of the first guillotine motion was due to filibustering by hon. Members? Will he clarify that point?
I shall clarify it in almost the same words as I used on that occasion. I made no accusation of filibustering when I introduced the previous timetable motion. I make no accusation of filibustering on this occasion, particularly as we have not reached the Committee stage. Filibustering is not the only reason for the introduction of a timetable motion. That is not the only issue at stake. It may be the issue on some Bills, but it is by no means the only issue.
I turn now to the hon. Member for Eastleigh, who has a motion on the Order Paper touching on these questions. I have naturally looked up his precedents, too, because he put down the motion.
This is not a Front Bench game. There is a motion on the Order Paper suggesting that the precedents that we should have taken were the Government of Ireland Bills of 1886 and 1893 in view of the lengthy Second Reading that took place on those Bills, or the Government of Ireland Bill 1912 in view of the lengthy procedure that was allowed on Second Reading on that occasion.
As I have already indicated, the time arranged for discussion on the Scotland and Wales Bill was extremely wide in the last Session and what we have proposed in this timetable would also allow extensive time. I agree that since the 1880s or 1890s the time allocated for Second Readings has changed. The fashion has changed. I did not change the fashion.
If the hon. Member for Eastleigh wants to raise the question of the curtailment of debates on major constitutional issues by this type of motion he does not need to go back to 1886 and 1893. He could have gone back to 1972. In that year we had the European Communities Bill, whatever its virtues or vices, whatever attitude hon. Members might take in different parts of the House about its importance or significance.
I have no doubt that time will pass like a flash when certain hon. Members are speaking, even though the clocks have stopped.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh appears to have been worrying over the decades about the nature of the departure from the principles operated and the time allocated as long ago as the 1880s and 1890s. He should have made his protest in 1972. He should have protested when a Bill was presented to us, whatever its vices or virtues, which impaired the supremacy of Parliament.
One or two hon. Members who signed the motion, if I understand their criticism, voted in that sense. For any hon. Member who voted for the timetable motion on the 1972 Act to accuse me of truncating debates without taking into account what happened in the 1880s and 1890s is an absurdity. This, motion clarifies what Disraeli said of the Conservative Party as a whole when he described it as an organised hypocrisy.
If the right hon. Gentleman is correct about what happened in 1972, he has perpetrated the same sin. His defence for giving only one day for the Second Reading on the Scotland Bill is to quote a precedent with which he disagreed. That is a peculiar position for him to be in. He could commend a guillotine on the Committee stage far better if he had allowed adequate debate on the Second Reading when the principles could be discussed.
I have already dealt with that. If the hon. Gentleman had taken sufficient factors into account before he put down the motion, he would have had a better chance of appealing to the House. He must take into account the time allowed for discussion in the last Session. That discussion does not determine the issue but if the House applies common sense, it must take that into account.
It is an absurdity for the hon. Member to cite an example of something that occurred decades ago when timetables were of a different nature and when allocations of time were operated in different instances. It is an absurdity for him not to take into account developments that have taken place since. I am sure that the House will regard it as an absurdity.
I am sure that the House would want the Leader of the House to move from the nineteenth century to the somewhat unusual procedures for the present Bill and for him to tell the House more about those procedures.
In Clauses 81 and 82 there are provisions for the House to vote after Third Reading against the implementation of the Bill by order. May we have an assurance that, after we have had the referendum, when deciding whether to table a motion for the implementation of the Bill or for its repeal he will take into account the size of the vote in the referendum? That would ensure that the Bill did not come into effect after a derisory vote in the referendum.
This matter has already been discussed and will no doubt be discussed afresh in Committee. As I said in yesterday's discussion, of course I believe that it is right and proper that, when deciding how a referendum is to operate, the House should consider carefully how it is to be done and all the circumstances that surround it. That is of great importance, because the referendum, as a new institution introduced into our constitution, has great dangers. I do not deny that. Those dangers must be guarded against carefully. I am sure that when we discuss the allocation of time in the Business Committee that is one of the subjects to which attention must be given.
To answer my hon. Friend's particular point, I say that this will be debated when we come to it. We shall see what amendments are proposed and the House will consider the matter then.
In my opinion it is not sensible to write into the Bill a figure above or below which the referendum is supposed to count or not. It is more sensible to do what we have already proposed. The referendum should not be mandatory in the sense that it translates automatically into the operation of the measure itself. The House of Commons afterwards should have the chance to make up its own mind on the referendum. That is the sensible way to proceed and I believe that covers the question. It is by far the most healthy way for the House to deal with that subject.
I am sorry if my hon. Friends think that it is wrong to discuss some of the precedents for these matters. I do not complain about or criticise the discussion on the precedents. Discussion on the precedents that have been established by the House and on its traditions has continued over generations. These precedents must be examined with care. If they are to be altered, the House must approach the matter with great care.
I do not believe that it is a good way to protect the present rights and liberties of the House to disregard what has happened. Certainly I do not see the matter in that light. That is why I dealt with what is said in the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Eastleigh.
The House must take into account the whole of the surrounding circumstances of a Bill of this character to which timetables are to be applied. The House should take into account what has happened in previous Sessions, just as it must take into account the precise precedents and procedures. We are not departing from the precedents and procedures. I believe that if the House of Commons, and particularly this House of Commons, were to say that no timetable motions were to be introduced on the two devolution Bills, that would be tantamount to saying that this House of Commons, in this Session, had no possibility whatsoever of placing the Bills on the statute book.
I believe that those who attended, day after day and night after night, as many of us did, our discussions in the last Session of Parliament—and I am making no accusations of filibustering, because very important issues were involved—must come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to reach an end to the debate. I therefore repeat my assertion that the rejection of a timetable on these Bills would be tantamount to saying that they could not be translated into Acts of Parliament in this Session—
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. My right hon. Friend's view of the matter, which he has stated in the House before, although I do not agree with it, is that all major Bills should have timetable motions applied to them from the start—
Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends hold a similar view to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey. That view is being presented to the Procedure Committee and is being discussed by it at the moment. I believe, however, that guillotine motions are not the best way in which to proceed, if it is possible to proceed successfully by other means.
The right hon. Gentleman is arguing that we should take note of what happened to this Bill in the previous Session. On that occasion the House said that it did not want the Bill to be guillotined. It seems a bizarre argument for the right hon. Gentleman to bring the Bill back this Session and say that it should be guillotined from the word "Go".
It is not a bizarre proposition for the House of Commons to be given a second chance to say what it thinks. It has happened repeatedly in history before. If it were held that a proposition could never again be presented to the House having once been turned down, that would be a recipe for permanent Conservatism. I am sure that the Conservatives want that. They were aggrieved when the Reform Act 1832 was presented to the House. The more the hon. Gentleman's proposition is considered, the more laughable it becomes.
I do not believe that any hon. Member contests that if we had sought to proceed with these Bills without any resort to a timetable motion that would have been tantamount to saying that the Bill should be abandoned. Some hon. Members—perhaps including the right hon. Gentleman for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—might say "Why worry?" But the House will make up its mind on the question and we shall see how we are to proceed. If we followed the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), however, and were prevented from submitting proposals a second time, that would make successful and effective government of this country impossible.
It is fair for the Government to bring their case forward again, but does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it would be equally fair in that case for the House to be able to argue again in precisely the way it did the previous time?
The House will have considerable opportunities to argue the case. The idea that there is to be no further discussion on the Bill is quite wrong, and I hope that the hon. Member, who is always so careful to give the correct impression on these matters to the country, will not try to spread misleading information.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I mean no disrespect to my right hon. Friend the Lord President. However, he has been speaking for 33 minutes—admittedly, with many interruptions—in the context of a guillotine. May we ask the Front Benches to guillotine their speeches? We know what they are going to say, and Back Benchers have a rôle to play here. We want them to have enough time to play it.
I regard that as an enthusiastic speech by my hon. Friend in support of the guillotine. His view seems to be, however, that while other people's speeches should be guillotined his own should not. We shall see how he votes on the matter at the end, but I am grateful for his support and I am encouraged by his enticement to me to reach my peroration.
The most important aspect of these Bills is that they are designed in what we consider to be the circumstances of the United Kingdom to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom. That is essential to the measures that we are presenting. I know that some hon. Members elsewhere in the House take a different view of the matter. Their main objection to the Bill is that it leans in the wrong direction. However, we hold the view, just as strongly and just as sincerely as they hold their view, that we must proceed through these measures and that that is the way to preserve the unity of the United Kingdom.
Those are our views and we have been urging them on the House not just for a few weeks or months but for several years. I believe, therefore, that it would be a dereliction of duty to the House and to the country if the Government were to turn their back on that and say that, because of the procedural objections, they were not prepared to proceed with these measures.
The issues on which the House will vote at 7 o'clock, or soon after, and at 10 o'clock on these matters are whether these Bills should have the chance of going on the statute book and whether the Government will have the chance of presenting successfully to the House of Commons measures which we believe are essential for the maintenance of the unity of the United Kingdom.
If the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) wants to be told, I can tell him that he is wrong. He is a great smearer in this place. I wrote down my comments on the Lord President's speech as he made it. It is typical of the hon. Member to make an allegation such as that in the hope that it will stick. I throw it back at him and tell him that it would be a good idea if he kept his mouth shut until he knew what he was talking about.
The right hon. Gentleman spent a lot of time dealing with other people's shortcomings but not explaining his own. He made a number of references to a timetable motion in 1972. That was on a constitutional Bill, but there were, of course, a number of important differences between then and now. The most important was that before that timetable motion was moved there had been 10 days of debate in Committee, just as there was last Session on the Scotland and Wales Bill. The result of the vote in the House was different last Session from what it was in 1972, however.
Perhaps I should remind the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) that we are not today discussing whether in principle it is a good idea to allocate time to Bills. We are discussing a particular timetable motion in particular circumstances in relation to a particular Bill. This afternoon we can forget all about previous guillotines and the arguments surrounding them.
By tabling this motion the Government are trying to take the House into a new world. This timetable motion, put before the House on the very morrow of the Second Reading debates on the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill, holds the possibility of the end of the guillotine era and the arrival of the era of the electric chair. There are two timetable motions on the Order Paper today, so already it has become an electric settee. When the button is pressed, it remains to be seen whether the current will annihilate its victims in either or both seats. With a new device one cannot tell until one tests it. Some device! The victims are to be conducted instantly to their chairs without the hearing even having been started.
There is no question of any inordinate delay in the proceedings on the Bill. They have not even begun. As the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, even last Session he made no complaint about unreasonable delay, because there was none. There is no question this afternoon of some pet Socialist doctrinal Bill about nationalisation or something else having to be saved from entirely legitimate and time-honoured parliamentary delaying tactics. Nor is this a case of some measure much debated in public and supported by an obvious majority of opinion requiring a time limit in Parliament to secure its enactment, which otherwise a minority could frustrate for an unreasonable amount of time.
For decades these have been the traditional guillotine arguments, always hotly debated in the House. In my view none of those arguments applies to this motion. Today we see for the first time what amounts to a new instrument for the suppression of parliamentary debate. I can find no trace of a previous occasion when a constitutional measure involving major reform was guillotined immediately after Second Reading and before the Committee Stage. I can find no precedent for that. The Lord President referred to some, but I think that they were weak, and in one case certainly, if not more, I think that they were on agreed matters. Therefore, I think we are departing in a substantial way from any precedent.
In the Government bringing forward this motion today on such a disputed constitutional matter—nobody can deny that—I accuse them of abusing their special position and their special responsibility in relation to Parliament, of failing to consider the effect on their action upon Parliament and, in particular, the effect upon Parliament's supreme rôle of safeguarding the liberties of our people. It seems to me that the Government are seeking to elevate the power of a House of Commons majority into an unauthorised licence to override everybody else, to disregard minorities and all those who disagree with the Government, whatever their political views, and in particular, to set aside the undoubted rights of the House.
The long success and the genius of our unwritten constitution has always been in part the respect in which all parties and all people have held our institutions, and Parliament especially, and the rules, conventions and traditions surrounding them. If those rules are to be put on one side, we must weigh very carefully what we are doing and the risks that we are running with our trusteeship of the liberties of our people.
We know the deep doubts which exist about the Bill. We know that, whatever the votes may have been, the House does not in its heart believe in the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill. This is hardly surprising in view of their contents, creating four different categories of Members of Parliament, all different, and five different rôles for the House, all different. But with the election year approaching, we know that the Government, very naturally and understandably, have been pressuring their Back Benchers to support the Bill even though they do not believe in it.
Many are adhering to their known convictions. Many who disagreed with the Scotland Bill on Monday, for one reason or another, nevertheless either supported the Government on Second Reading or did not vote against it. Some hon. Members went so far as to speak against the Bill in the House but to vote for the Bill in the Lobbies, and coupled that with a commercial offering their services in a campaign against the Bill in the country if ever a referendum stage is reached. Some of them did it rather to the alarm of their hon. Friends.
There is nothing new in speaking in one sense and voting in another, but I think that the scale of it on this occasion is new. I notice that the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Ryman) wrote in The Sunday Telegraph of 30th October that devolution was
a shabby political manoeuvre calculated to appease Scottish and Welsh nationalism.
Yet he voted for the Second Reading.
We heard similar speeches in the debate. I myself—it is only a personal view, of course—think that this sort of practice will not raise the standing of Members of Parliament in public esteem. I think that it will give rise to cynicism, and I am doubtful whether it is a development which is for the good of the House.
The Second Readings were obtained, for better or for worse. What is to happen now? The Government dare not wait for the arguments to be unleashed again. They are too overwhelming against the Bills, too devastating to be capable of a satisfactory answer. The consequence of unleashing the arguments once again, would, once again, be no guillotine and no Bill. That is precisely why the House is so ill at ease with the Bill.
I do not believe that there is an hon. Member in the House who is not conscious of the atmosphere of disquiet and uneasiness in this place over the Bill. The House feels almost trapped by it. I refrain from again rehearsing my argument for a conference of all parties, though I believe that it is an absolutely valid and appropriate way of making progress. But, unable to face the music or cacophony of criticism, according to how one looks at it, the Government are runing for cover in a move to stifle the argument—not completely, but effectively. No splitting of hairs about 17 days will cut any ice with anybody on either side of the House. I might add here that there was no need for the Wales Bill and cer- tainly no demand for it. Therefore, those 11 days could have been made over to Scotland with advantage to Scotland and to Wales.
A little earlier the right hon. Gentleman gave as one of the principal posts of his argument that there was no precedent for this procedure. Assuming—which I do not—that there were no precedents, perhaps I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that the whole life of Parliament has been a continuous growth and that precedents did not arise on the first day of creation. They have arisen since. Precedents have often been new, and then they are followed. I beg hon. Members' pardon. What I meant was that a precedent had often arisen as a new principle and subsequently been followed, and there is no reason why the same thing should not happen now.
It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is agreeing with me that this is actually a precedent, and I am looking at it in that light. [Interruption.] I do not see why that should be a laughing matter, because that is exactly what I think the position is.
The Government are running away from the argument, waving the white flag of surrender, not of their cause but of their case, because their case has insufficient merit. They hope that they have one dugout left in which to take refuge, and that is to curtail the debate before it has even begun.
I think that that is a bit much, coming, as it does, from the Lord President. That is hardly a credible proposition, coming from him, because we know his parliamentary history and we have heard his lifelong perorations in defence of the liberties of the subject as defended in the House. Either we have been deceived about him for all of his parliamentary life or he is deceiving us now.
Whether or not one agrees with what the House decided on Monday night, the Second Reading decision has been taken. But this motion is something entirely different. It is procedural. It deals with how we are to deal with the Bill—not the substance. A majority of Members who spoke on the Bill were highly critical of it. Surely they want to be able to perform their parliamentary functions properly and adequately by testing the Bill in debate. How can their misgivings and doubts be heard, let alone satisfied, if only a few of the issues are debated? How can the criticism be dispelled or proved valid except through the proper processes of this House?
Those who spoke against the Bills yet supported them on Second Reading and said that they would campaign against them in a referendum will surely want to scrutinise the legislation and challenge Ministers about their misgivings before entering the campaign—unless they so love campaigning for the sake of it that they do not very much mind what they campaign about.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of precedent, he will no doubt wish to cast his mind back to the fact that he was the Chief Whip in the Conservative Government which put the European Communities Bill through both Houses of Parliament without accepting an amendment in either place, so that the Bill which went on to the statute book was in the same form as when it received its Second Reading. Can he think of any other occasion when a Government have so treated a constitutional Bill? In the light of that experience, is he in a position to make allegations about this Government?
I do not quite understand what the Minister of State has in mind. I did not decide whether the House would amend that Bill, did I? What I say about that was that it was a constitutional Bill. It was guillotined but it did have 10 days in Committee first. There were many other differences, too, which I will not now rehearse. But the fact that the House decided not to make any amendment was a matter for the House to decide.
What I was about to say was that the existence of referendums, if the House decides to include them in the Bills, should not and does not absolve this House from carrying out its rôle properly. Can one imagine anything more dangerous or absurd than asking people to vote in a referendum, for or against a novel and elaborate scheme in which the House does not have confidence? We must be satisfied about the good sense of what we put on offer. If we offer a choice it must be the right choice, otherwise what do we think we are all doing here?
I return briefly to the matter raised last Thursday concerning the intolerable burden that will be placed on another place if this motion is passed. If we do not consider this Bill properly, another place must. It is no use the Lord President saying, as he did last Thursday, that I am threatening him with the Lords. That was a deliberate smear, unworthy of any Lord President and he knows he invented it. The other place would go through the Bill carefully in any case.
What I think the Lord President was trying to say was that this House will not be able to do its duty if he has his way, and he does not expect the other place to do its duty either. The truth is that if we do our work properly the other place can do its work much more quickly. If we do not play our part we automatically create problems for another place. Perhaps the Lord President does not mind that too much. Some of his hon. Friends might welcome it, although we were interested in the view expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) on Monday evening.
Is the Lord President's attitude of benefit to Parliament? Is it the proper way for a Lord President to fulfil his responsibilities to Parliament? I think not. The only people who honestly want to vote for this motion are those hon. Members who are virtually certain that this Bill is right—and there are precious few of them. All the rest of us wish to ensure that there is proper time available in the usual parliamentary way.
I point out how detailed this Bill is. It lists, first, the general powers to be devolved and then detailed exceptions to them. Then it has listed specific Acts and even specific sections of Acts that are excepted. It then lists those powers to be devolved for executive but not legislative purposes. This is a new and complex way of making a division of powers, and something which ought not to be examined in a rush. In addition, the Bill raises a wide range of major constitutional issues, including the referendum, single-Chamber legislation and especially the rôle of Members of Parliament We are all waiting for an answer to the question which has justly become known as the "West Lothian question". This is central to the whole argument.
This brings me to consider the implications for the future. Is the referendum to become more frequently used? Is it to be reserved for constitutional Bills or Bills that are awkward for the Government? Certainly these two Bills are the most important this Session and the most awkward. What about the Bill for establishing direct elections to the European Parliament? How is that to be handled? It is the precedent of this Motion that is so significant. It seems to be a lowering of our high parliamentary standards, and for largely political reasons. It is fair to add that the Opposition has certainly been co-operative. We have been constructive. Our offer to co-operate in a conference still stands. We tried to co-operate earlier this year.
What I am asking is: how will this EEC Bill be handled? Is it to be guillotined? We do not know. It ought to have been brought in last year and it would be on the statute book by now. We tried to co-operate last year in the establishment of a Select Committee, a proposal which the Lord President put forward. We believe that the terms of reference we proposed were eminently reasonable. But the Government insisted upon adhering strictly to their Scotland and Wales Bill, which they later admitted was defective.
It is not necessary for the House to pass this motion tonight. A General Election will not follow. The Government were right not to make this procedural motion one of confidence. If the Government lose the motion they can try for another later. That would be the normal time, after a certain period has elapsed in Committee. At the time of the defeat of the guillotine motion on the earlier Bill, I said:
It was…a House of Commons decision ".—[Official Report, 22nd February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 1365–6.]
This, too, is a House of Commons decision. There is far more at stake than
simply trying to get one constitutional Bill on to the statute book quickly. We are debating and deciding upon a small but literally vital aspect of our parliamentary machinery, designed to safeguard the liberties of our people. If we are to change that procedure on a permanent basis it has to be done with the full agreement of all the parties in this House and with good will, not swiftly and peremptorily introduced in the circumstances of a Government wanting a particular Bill which is highly controversial. I hope that after the most thoughtful consideration the House, in all its experience, will refuse to pass this motion and stick to its well-tried procedures and practice.
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) was a very good Chief Whip in his day. He is a man of integrity. I have no doubt that he believes most sincerely what he has said and really does think that this is a change in procedure which is being put forward by the Government. Let me put something to him. My right hon. Friend the Lord President agrees with the right hon. Gentleman on one thing—that without a guillotine there is no hope of either of these Bills reaching the statute book. The argument, therefore, comes down to whether this procedure is right. I know that it has been said many times before, but, while Governments have a right to govern, Oppositions have a right to oppose.
Ultimately it has to be remembered that the Government spent 30 days in the last Session trying to get this Bill through. It was inevitable, everyone knew it, that the Government would take this step rather than introduce the Bills and then bring in a guillotine a little later because by then it would look right and decent. The fact of the guillotine has been accepted from the word "go". The leading articles in some of the newspapers today, certainly the Daily Mirror, have summed it up absolutely adequately.
The right hon. Gentleman would be correct if these Bills had never before been debated. If the subject of this Bill had never before been debated in the House, and the guillotine was a new procedure, it would be right to argue that there should have been discussions about it. But this House has already debated the subject ad nauseam, and some of my hon. Friends made a determined attempt to do everything they could to ensure that the earlier devolution Bills did not go through. That is not filibustering. No one has to filibuster if a certain number of hon. Members are continually getting up and are able to be called; and are able to put down hundreds of amendments. My understanding is that that is not filibustering but good parliamentary tactics. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) does this very well. He is an expert at it.
I do not accuse the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire of being a humbug, but no one has been more involved in guillotine motions than he has. He will remember the direct clash between us when we were Chief Whips. He guillotined the Industrial Relations Bill without even telling me, as Opposition Chief Whip, therefore he cannot suggest that all the virtues are on his side and none on the Government side. I did the job for seven years, and I learned that at the end of the day, with the knowledge that certain legislation cannot be obtained without a guillotine, a Government have no alternative but to use it.
When a Government take office, their first function, after the Cabinet has been established, is to set up a legislative committee to determine which Bills shall have top priority. It is usually chaired by the Lord President of the Council, and the Chief Whip has to attend. Ministers ask the Chief Whip when they can hope to get on the statute book the Bills in which they are interested. How, otherwise, are we to run our democracy? Is the Chief Whip to say "I have not the slightest idea. I cannot tell you. I have not a clue."? Is this democracy?
But at the end of the day the same people who say that will also demand that the Government implement their so-called manifestos. They are the same people who demand that the legislation of which they are in favour shall be given priority—especially measures dealing with State ownership. These are not the great constitutional measures, I agree, but I did not hear any complaint from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) when we dealt with the State ownership of shipbuilding and had the guillotine straight away, because we all knew that every Member of the Conservative Party and most of the Opposition parties were opposed to it. We could get the Bill only by using the guillotine. Did anyone object on the Government side?
Well, it was brought in on most of them. We ought to stop talking humbug about guillotine motions. If the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) ever gets into a Government position, he will see the logic of what I say. It is impossible for Governments to govern without a guillotine and to get their major legislation through, in my view. I agree that it should not be done without discussion between all the parties concerned. I do not believe that any Bill that is of major consequence, and on which there is a major clash between the Government and the Opposition of the day, should come before the House until there have been discussions.
I believe in what I call an end guillotine motion, that is to say, a motion which simply says that on, say, 31st May the Bill will have its Third Reading. I believe that the period of time allocated to a Bill should be a matter of discussion between those responsible for running the House. This may well come about in the future. It has never been tried before. I believe that it ought to be tried now, because I believe in the Government governing and the Opposition opposing. The Government would get their Bill eventually, much later than they wanted, but the Opposition would have a chance of opposing.
From some of the arguments put forward in this House one might almost believe that the Government of the day dominate the House and take all the time. The fact is that 29 days are given to the Opposition for Supply. On one day a week the Opposition are able to say what they wish on the matters that concern them. Almost every Friday is allocated to Private Members' Bills. The Government get three days out of the five in the week. It is humbug, therefore, to talk about the Government dominating the scene and taking away the rights of the Opposition and of the private Member.
Everyone knows, that the truth is that the two devolution Bills could not get through without a guillotine. If the Government were to lose the guillotine motion tonight on these Bills, as they may well do if my hon. Friends join with the Opposition, the Government's entire programme of legislation will be in disarray.
That would be a logical argument if the principle of these two Bills were coming before the House for the first time. I will not use the word "humbug" but I remind the hon. Gentlemen of what happened here last Session. We were talking about devolution day after day after day, and nothing is likely to be said in the days allocated to the devolution Bills that has not been said already many times.
My right hon. Friend is unfair to the Government when he suggests that if the devolution Bills are lost the whole legislative programme of the Government will be in disarray. Surely he has noticed that in the Queen's Speech there are a number of worthy measures to which his party is committed, and which could be brought in. We are told that some of them cannot be brought in for want of time. If the guillotine motions were defeated, the Government's legislative programme would not be in disarray. The devolution Bills would be dropped but we could then get on with all sorts of other measures to which the party is committed, and which are a great deal more relevant than the devolution Bills.
That is exactly the argument that was put by the Opposition in the last Session. Whenever the Government introduced State ownership measures, the Opposition said that they were irrelevant and of no consequence and that the Government should get rid of them. The Opposition said that the Government should get on with matters which would do more good to the nation. That is the oldest argument in the world. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) knows better than anyone why the Government are committed to the devolution Bills. We are not arguing the principle of the Bills—
My hon. Friend should be fair about this. The arguments about what is contained in these Bills have already been expressed again and again. He knows only too well that without the guillotine the Government cannot get these devolution Bills. Everyone in the House knows it, and it is humbug to say anything else at all.
The House is familiar with the preference of the right hon. Member for Bermondsay (Mr. Mellish) for the notion of a general timetabling of major Government legislation. He would rest it upon the principle—if it be a principle—that in this House ultimately there must be ways for the will of the majority to prevail. That being so, his case is not relevant to the proposition which is before us this afternoon. I imagine that no Minister, in introducing a guillotine motion, has been more candid than the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council was on 22nd February 1977: his candid assertion then was that time had not been wasted in the first 10 days in Committee. When the House was asked whether it wanted to proceed at an accelerated pace by curtailing discussion, the House, knowing what was involved, said "No".
The majority by which the Second Reading of the Scotland Bill was passed on Monday this week was almost the same as the majority 11 months ago when it was part of the Scotland and Wales Bill. But there the similarity ends. Eleven months ago at Second Reading stage there was probably just a majority in the House in favour of the Bill. There certainly was not a majority in the House in favour of the Scotland Bill on Monday. In order to know that, one does not have to resort to suspicion; one simply had to sit through the debate, hear what hon. Members said, and listen to the speeches of hon. Members, many of whom constituted and made possible the majority by which the Second Reading was carried.
It is no secret that one of the main reasons for the change between December 1976 and November 1977 was the effect upon the minds of hon. Members of the arguments which had been deployed, the aspects of the Bill which had been exposed and explored, during those days in Committee—days when time was not limited to a certain number of hours for the consideration of a certain number of clauses.
Perhaps the most striking speech in Monday's debate was that of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook), who has very courteously indicated to me that he is sorry he cannot be present this afternoon. He deployed, with his customary intellectual incisiveness, the most devastating case against the Bill, based upon his reflections in the 11 months which had intervened; but he came to a conclusion—a conclusion which I think surprised the House—that he was nevertheless going to vote for Second Reading and for the guillotine motion in order that the Bill might subsequently be destroyed by a referendum in one part of the Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman concluded with the words:
I believe that this is an honourable course."—[Official Report, 14th November 1977; Vol. 839, c. 162.]
I would not bandy words with him, even if he were present, as to whether the course is honourable. But this I say without hesitation: that that is not the parliamentary way of resolving a
dilemma, and that it is death to this institution if the public understand that Members come here convinced that a measure is bad and still vote that measure through this House, on the assumption that "with a little bit of luck" that measure can be disposed of outside this House by some unparliamentary procedure.
The parliamentary way in which dilemmas are resolved, the way in which this House decides whether a proposed measure, with all its imperfections, ought to go on the statute book, is by debating it without constraint, by debating it in Committee without being limited to specific times for specific aspects of the Bill.
I turn from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central to the speech on Monday of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). Some hon. Members, I was sad to notice, seemed to think that the painful dilemma in which he found himself was amusing. I did not find it amusing at all. It was a very real dilemma, and it did credit to the hon. Gentleman that he exposed it so candidly. He said: "This is a measure, though I do not like it, though I condemn it, which was part of the election policy of my party, and I was elected as a member of a party which had this as part of its election policy." He found himself torn between the moral duty of honouring the compact with the electorate which is implicit in the major elements of an election policy and the duty not to be party to helping put on the statute book something which one believes is unworkable and damaging.
I also for my part do not take election manifestos lightly. If I had been able to take election manifestos and party election policies more lightly, I would probably be sitting in this House for the seat which is occupied by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen). Indeed, I think I am probably not the only Member of this House who has come to the conclusion that the extraordinary phenomenon of the Leader of the House, the first parliamentarian among us all, managing to advocate a measure of this sort is due to his sense—he has said it over and over again—that there is no escape for him from the commitment of honour which was constituted by the election policy of the Labour Party.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Walton is not present, but I have told him that I should refer to this point, and, as I have explained, it is in no spirit of criticism that I do so. There is a resolution of his dilemma. There is a parliamentary resolution of his dilemma. There is a correct way for the hon. Gentleman and many others out of their difficulty. Let it be granted that the Government were compelled in honour to introduce some measure of devolution. What no one can assert is that, by its election policy, the Labour Party is obliged to force through the House of Commons by guillotine a particlar form of measure for devolution. The hon. Member for Walton does nothing to offend his conscience, nothing to offend the most exquisite conscience, if he votes against the curtailment of time in Committee for discussion of these Bills.
That is the way in which, when we can—we do not always succeed—we manage to avoid saddling the citizens of this country with legislation that is either impracticable, or has the opposite effect to that intended, or proves to be gravely damaging in ways which superficially were not suspected.
I make a personal appeal to the Leader of the House. As is the way very often with personal appeals, I rest it upon a reference to the good old times, to shared experience. It is already part of contemporary history, if not of contemporary legend, that he and I and others—but he and I seem to get mentioned more than the others—were responsible for destroying the Parliament (No. 2) Bill in the Session 1968–69. We did it because we were both convinced that it was not merely inherently absurd and unworkable but that if it ever came into existence it would be an abominable instrument of patronage that would be used against the rights of this House.
I very much doubt whether today any hon. Member, any party in any part of the House, if they could by a flick of the fingers put that Bill on the statute book, would do so. Of course they would not. They would recoil in horror. The thing has been covered with ridicule in the years that have passed. There may be a case for or against reforming the other Chamber; but no one would ever dream now of doing it in such a way as that proposed in the 1968 Bill.
That Bill passed Second Reading by a majority very much bigger than the majorities which carried Second Reading of the two devolution Bills yesterday and the day before. It was supported by the Government—it was a Government Bill, included in the Queen's Speech. It was supported, though rather more passively, by the Opposition Front Bench of the day. I have no doubt that the majority for it on Second Reading was largely genuine. Hon. Members thought to themselves "This is a good idea. Let us reform the House of Lords. Let us modernise it."
But then what happened? Day after day as we proceeded—not generally to unreasonable hours—hon. Members from all parts of the House, hon. Members, not particularly interested in that question, sat here or stood below the Bar and began to say to themselves "But this is not workable. There are contradictions in this which have not been resolved. This will be an intolerable disturbance or even destruction of the equilibrium of Parliament. This will play havoc with the balance between the Executive and the House of Commons."
Thus the time came—it so happens, by a felicitous coincidence, after 10 sittings in Committee—when the Government did not even try the experiment of 22nd February last. They did not even try to introduce a guillotine. The procedure of the House of Commons had done its work. It had rescued the Government, it had rescued the Government party, it had rescued the House of Commons itself, from committing that folly.
The Lord President is one who has taught this House of Commons that we are fertile of expedient and that to say that the House of Commons can get into a trap but not get itself out of it is to talk nonsense. That is one of the lessons that we have sat at the right hon. Gentleman's feet to learn. Many Government supporters think that they are in exactly that position today. They hate these Bills. They make no secret of their hatred for them. But they do not know how to get out of the trap into which they have been drawn by the persistence of the Government and the commitments that they have undertaken. Yet all the time, the way to freedom lies there in the ordinary procedures of this House.
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that if there had been a guillotine after the Second Reading of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, allowing one sitting up to 11 o'clock for Clauses 1 and 2, another sitting for Clauses 3 and 4, and so on, that so-called reform, that disastrous nonsense, would surely have found its way on to the statute book; for the place at the other end of the corridor would have had a majority of about 500 in favour of it. There is no hope that absurdities of that sort which this House commits will be corrected elsewhere. It is our own procedure we must rely upon for that purpose.
So by the recollection of one of the services for which the Lord President will perhaps be most remembered in history—history may, indeed, say of both of us, "Those boys didn't do very much good, but at least they stopped a piece of clotted nonsense on that occasion"—by the experience of that event, by the fact of the harm which the right hon. Gentleman knows would have been perpetrated if that Bill, a Government Bill in the Queen's Speech, had been guillotined as the right hon. Member for Bermondsey would wish all such Bills to be guillotined—I appeal to the Lord President, of all people, to allow the House of Commons to use its procedure in Committee unconstrained—at least at first—so as to see whether we can resolve the contradictions with which all hon. Members know that these Bills, and, therefore, they themselves, are beset and avoid saddling those whom we represent with consequences for which otherwise they will curse us.
I disagree with only one part of what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said in his moving and effective speech. He ended by appealing to the Lord President to permit the House to use its normal procedures in order to have the effects which he described.
I do not blame the Government for bringing forward this guillotine motion. The commitments which they have unfortunately entered into are so strong that they have nailed their colours to the mast and tied the nails with wire so many times that they are bound to go on in that direction. Any wavering Mem- ber of this House who is looking for the solution to his personal dilemma by asking the Government to get him out of it must look in vain. We cannot expect them to help us in resolving the problem.
Therefore, I do not address my remarks to the Government. This lot will vote for the motion and that lot will vote against it: the Front Benches are totally irrelevant today. I address my remarks to those who on crucial occasions are always the ones who matter—those who are prepared to vote the way that they think and who are still in a position to think afresh. That means my hon. Friends the Members for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) and Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), and many others in the House.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) suggested that whatever there was to be said about devolution had been said long ago and that nothing new could be said in the course of the debates now. I hope the House has appreciated the enormous significance of the change in the content of the debate as between last winter and Monday of this week. It was colossal.
What was happening last winter was that the right hon. Member for Down, South, my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and some others were saying "There is a problem about devolving to one part of the country but not devolving to others, and there is no answer to the problem." The reaction of the supporters of the Bill was to say not that there was an answer to the problem but that there was not a problem.
I ask the House to contrast that with the speeches on Monday, when speaker after speaker on both sides of the House—principally supporters of the Bill—said "There is a problem. It may be solved by a federal arrangement. But we shall have to find a solution and, until we do, devolving to one part of the country is incompatible with the continuation of the unity of the country." The House has been exposing itself to a system of self-education by debate, which is what it normally does, and the effect of the guillotine will be to cut that short and to ensure that we are unable to learn any more lessons and to realise that there is here a totally insoluble problem.
I agree wholeheartedly that the problem is quite insoluble. There are problems to which there is just no answer. It is not possible to find the square root of a minus number. It is not possible to find any way of coping with devolution to Scotland and having the 71 Members in this House unless we walk along the federal path. The Liberal Party is the only group in the House which in the past has been prepared to acknowledge that. But we cannot at this stage possibly say that we will now adopt in principle the notion of walking along the federal path because we now see that that is the only way of making this Bill workable.
Therefore, we are left with the insoluble problem that we cannot devolve to Scotland and have the 71 Members here without breaking up the legislative unity of the country.
The problem is expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. It is usually in terms of whether the 71 Members are to vote on English education and the like. The problem can be expressed more starkly in terms of what happens after a General Election. When there is a majority of the United Kingdom Members who are Labour and a majority of the English Members who are Conservative, there will be a British Government who are a Labour Government. The people of Scotland will be able to opt for a Labour education policy in Scotland and a Labour housing policy in Scotland by electing a majority of Labour men in the Edinburgh Assembly. But the people of England will not be able to have a Labour policy—or, more usually, a Conservative policy—on education in England by electing a majority of Conservatives in England. They will have to elect a sufficiently large margin of a Conservative majority to outweigh the normal predominance of Labour representatives which would arrive from Scotland and Wales. That is no mean number.
The next excess of Labour over Conservative, even after netting off the reverse trend in Northern Ireland in the last four elections, has been between 27 and 45. If any Member imagines that the dynamics of politics are such that 45 million Englishmen will put up with having to win over the devolved parts of the country as well as their own parts to get the Government of their choosing, he is living in dreamland.
Of course such a situation would suit my party and me personally. But if that arrangement were to continue, the dynamics of politics are such that every party—certainly the Conservatives and the Naional Front as well—would make every possible use of that anomaly. The anomaly is so intolerable and of such a size that there would be no chance of its succeeding. From the pressure from Scotland to go further down the path that had been entered upon there would come pressure from England to start on that path. We should end up either with separatism or a federal constitution, which has not yet been investigated.
There is no solution to these problems and the majority of Members have now realised it. They are not just beginning to realise it, they have already realised. Why then, one may well ask, did a majority vote for it? Some people say that if the Bill is not passed now, it is very likely that there will be a greater demand for independence in Scotland.
I believe that Scottish people at present think that there are three possibilities—the status quo, independence, or devolution. We have come to realise by processes of self-education through debate that the middle one is a mirage. But the people of Scotland have not yet had it brought home to them. When it does come home to them they will choose not independence but an improved version of legislative unity—and I call it that rather the status quo. The only thing that will lead the Scots to independence is if we lead them blindfolded and alone towards the door of independence, kidding them that it is not independence through the door but something far short of it.
I would not vote for an arrangement which prejudiced the form of Government for 45 million Englishmen because it is thought to be desired—no one claims that it is good—simply because we are stuck on the hook for the 5 million people in Scotland. I am encouraged in my views by the remarks of my Friends the Members for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) in the debate on Monday. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew-shire, West said that he had predicted an outcry when the House killed the Bill in February, but no outcry came. There was no great interest in devolution and no marches in the street. If there were marches, they would be about housing, jobs and prices and not about the irrelevancy of devolution.
I accept that. I ask Members who are still free to realise that when they vote, believing that they are using a tactic to do down their enemies on the SNP Benches, they have only to look and see that SNP Members are laughing their heads off. Thus Members must realise that they are lending their votes to carry through a tactic that the SNP supports, and they should think again.
Members of the SNP and my friends from the Scottish Labour Party are not muddle-headed Englishmen. They are hard-headed people who know precisely which way they are going. They say that they see this as the first step to independence. What they did not say was that it was a necessary first step to independence.
My Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) said he saw this as a catapult to an independence Bill. Those who think that they are buying off independence should pause and look at their enemies on the SNP Benches supporting them in what they are doing.
Some people say that if we do not vote for the motion, the Government will fall. We know that words have been said—not to me, because I am regarded as incorrigible—about what might happen if the motion is defeated tonight. It is incontestable that if the motion is defeated the Prime Minister will not go to Buckingham Palace tomorrow to hand in his resignation. Anyone who believes that he will is extremely naive. That will not happen, and neither will Government credibility be grossly endangered—whatever that word "credibility" means. People use it when they have a power cut in their mental processes. If the motion is defeated, the Government will be able to get on with work on more substantive issues, and people will applaud them for doing so.
I do not blame the Government for bringing forward the motion. They had to do so. It is a House decision whether the motion is passed, and it is a great historic decision. We cannot pass the buck to the electorate in the referendum, because the people in Scotland will say "Parliament has passed the Bill; who are we to cut its throat?" This is precisely where the other alternative will be represented as a do-nothing alternative, which is not quite fair. People will say to each of us "If Members of Parliament did not have the guts to cut its throat, we shall be hesitant about cutting the Bill's throat in the polling booths." Of course, a miracle might occur and the people might have more sense than we have, but I think that is asking too much.
I ask every Member who has an open mind to use his vote and to use all of it, not just part of it. Members who could be counted on just two hands could kill this thing tonight. This is not an issue on which abstention is possible. It is not an issue on which a word said by the Chief Whip could be held to prevent a Member from doing what he believes is right. This is a historic and irreversible decision, and our grandchildren would not forgive us if we did not use our powers to stop something that we know is not wise.
There is only one point on which I agree with either the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) or the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). That is, if this timetable motion is not accepted tonight the Bill will not go through. On that point we are on common ground.
The right hon. Member for Down, South is correct in saying that the Government have no electoral commitment to any particular Bill. That is just the trouble. For almost 10 years people of Scotland have looked on this place, regardless of the Government in power, as having a commitment to devolution in general but to nothing in particular. There is a limit to the time we can continue in this posture.
If, as the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said, there are those who believe that this is a bad Bill, so bad that it is impossible, the right thing is for them to vote against it. But why did they not vote against it on Monday night and again last night? The wrong thing to do from the House of Commons' and the public's point of view is to go on, day in day out, night in night out, dragging on the agony of discussion in the vain hope that matters of contention will be resolved by endless debate when we know that they will not.
It is right that we should not clog the legislative programme and go through this exhausting process. We should have a sensible timetable motion if we are to do anything at all.
I disagree with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) in one sense. He seemed to argue that the novelty of having this timetable motion before Committee stage was a bad move. However, I see no merit in the right hon. Gentleman's case that the Bill should go on in Committee until we have worn ourselves out dealing with Clauses 1 to 3 and, after that, when everybody is absolutely fed up with the debate on the first two clauses, we should rush the debate on all the other provisions. There is no merit in that proposition.
I say what I have always said in these debates, and I look back to the 1972 European Communities Bill where I dealt with this matter on 2nd May 1972. I then referred to the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure of 1966–67. The recommendation then was:
Your Committee believe that the House should come to accept timetabling for Bills as a more regular practice.
I added, when arguing in favour of the guillotine, of which the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire was then in favour:
That ought to be the case and that is the view I and my colleagues have always taken on the timetabling of this and other Bills."—[Official Report, 2nd May 1972; Vol. 836, c. 260.]
When we came to the guillotine on the Scotland and Wales Bill on 22nd February of this year, I said:
My colleagues and I have never been opposed to the principle of a negotiated timetable at the start of a Bill. I made that clear to Ministers before the Summer Recess, but they chose not to take that course."—[Official Report, 22nd February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 1266.]
That was the position on the previous Bill, but the position on the present Bills from the point of view of the Liberal Party which is that this timetable motion
has been agreed before the debate starts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not agreed."] I am speaking for my party, not for the whole of the House. I am arguing that this is a reasonable proposition to be advanced at the beginning of debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is no use the Conservative Front Bench occupants shaking their heads. We came to a similar agreement with them when they were in Government in 1972. Therefore, any cries of outrage from them about any agreement will not do.
If we go back to the last Session, what happened was that the Liberal Party voted in favour of the Bill against the guillotine. If we had had the guillotine immediately after the Second Reading, is it conceivable that the Liberal Party would not have voted in favour of the Bill and in favour of the guillotine? What happened was that the course of argument caused the Liberal Party rightly to change its mind. Therefore, is not the right hon. Gentleman's argument palpably nonsensical?
No, it is not nonsensical. I cannot answer a hypothetical question. There was no attempt on that occasion to introduce a sensible timetable motion at the beginning or to seek agreement on such a motion. However, agreement has been sought on this occasion.
I wish to deal with what was said by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire in the Second Reading debate on Monday. He attempted to quote me against myself as having said in the earlier debate of 22nd February:
There has never been any consultation or any kind of cross-party talk of the kind mentioned by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire."—[[Official Report, 14th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 80.]
That was my criticism in the last guillotine debate, and again I am speaking for my own party.
But on this occasion there have been not only talks but endless consultations on the form of this Bill across party lines. I am not pretending that we are now faced with the most perfect measure ever met with in parliamentary terms. All I am saying is that so far as we are concerned the measures which are now before us are in a more sensible form than was the measure last Session.
I went on in the previous guillotine debate to say:
There has been no concession or change in principle since the Bill was introduced, and none in the direction of those who support the Bill."—[Official Report, 22nd February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 1272.]
That is not the present position. There have been a good many changes in the legislation since last time. Indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland in his opening speech outlined many of them. The first important fact is that we now have two separate Bills. Anybody who examines the Scotland and Wales Bill and compares discussions on that measure with the debates held this week will accept that this time we have proceeded on a much more rational basis. Discussion has followed more logically on the separate Bills. Furthermore, the powers of override have been changed, as have the provisions for judicial review, and there is less overlap. There are to be changes in financial provisions even though those are not part of the legislation. Therefore, the Government have come a long way to meet our views.
The main reason for our change in our views on the guillotine is that we have changed our view on the merits of the proposals which are now before us. They are much more acceptable than they were on the last occasion. We accept that they are not acceptable to the Conservative Party.
A Second Reading debate is concerned with principle rather than with detail. On the previous occasion the Government had not made any of the changes which they have now made in the present Bills following inter-party consultation.
I argued on the Scotland and Wales Bill in the guillotine debate that the Government had three options. I said:
The first is to go ahead with the Bill, chastened by their experience tonight
—I was there referring to defeat on the guillotine motion—
and willing to consult others and to make changes in the form of the Bill so as to recover
enough good will and a majority in the House to get the Bill through.
That is an option which the Government have adopted. I then dealt with the Conservative proposition for an all-party conference. I said:
time has gone on, and in saying to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire that this is still a possibility, we are entitled to ask him or someone else from the Opposition to confirm that the objective of such a conference would be to decide how, and not whether, devolution for Scotland and Wales should take place."—[Official Report, 22nd February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 1273–4.]
We did not get an answer to that question. That is why we never had an all-party convention or conference. One of the major parties was not prepared to go into such consultations or to agree to any commitment to legislate. It wanted to go back to the pre-Kilbrandon situation and to discuss again the basis whether there should be devolution for Scotland.
I can to some extent understand the Conservative stance, but they are seeking to persuade the Government to do the impossible. They want the Government to square the circle of the West Lothian-West Bromwich question. I do not think that that anomaly can be put right in any perfect way, save under a federal system which a larger number of Members are coming to accept, but which is not on the cards at the moment.
We must reach a judgment whether these Bills are capable in future of adaptation towards a federal system or whether there are too many anomalies. I accept that there are anomalies. I would accept the Kilbrandon proposal of reducing the number of Scottish Members of Parliament to the correct number proportionately. But I say that as an aside. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is irrelevant."] It is not irrelevant because it would reduce the degree of offence.
I accept that there are anomalies, but what staggers me about those who use the anomaly argument to hold up devolution is that they do not stop to look at the anomaly of the way in which we run this place. To hear some of the arguments advanced in the House one would think that what goes on in the Palace of Westminster was the most rational and perfect system imaginable. The Leader of the House last night spoke of local government in Wales, and I remember the passage of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill when there were important issues of deep concern to Scottish Members. There was intense debate on those matters through the night, but what happened when a Division was called? At 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. the bells would ring and English, Welsh and Northern Irish Members, who had been engaged in their work or sleeping, would flood into the Chamber and decide the issue that we had been discussing for many hours. How does one defend that kind of anomaly to the Scottish people? Yet we have accepted it and the House has been able to work with that built-in anomaly.
One need only consider the House of Lords. If a visitor from Mars came here and asked "This is the Mother of Parliaments and the most sophisticated democracy in the world. How do you organise yourself?", we should have to answer that Bills are passed from here to another Chamber consisting partly of descendants of those who performed various services to past monarchs and partly of appointees of past Prime Ministers, made at the Prime Minister's discretion. That is the position of the second Chamber of Parliament, but it works.
I am in favour of reform, but the system works and we have been able to develop conventions as we have gone along. The most recent is that the Conservative Party in the Lords does not use its inbuilt majority to block legislation that this House has accepted. That is sensible, but no one has written that down. It does not appear in any Bill, but we have adopted it. Therefore, any anomalies—which I accept will exist—between the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies and this House will be capable of being overcome with a degree of common sense. They will not be overcome by endless debate, nor shall we find that hours of discussion will provide a solution to the problem—a solution that evaded the Kilbrandon Commission and that has evaded us during our lengthy debates on the last Bill and the Second Reading to date on this one. More debate is not the answer.
A constitutional measure requires a timetable. The reason that the House of Lords Reform Bill was lost was precisely that the Government could not carry a guillotine and the House decided quite rightly—though that is a matter of opinion—that it did not want the measure and it was withdrawn. Either this Bill should be withdrawn or—if we are to reach a conclusion—we should agree the timetable motion tonight.
I say seriously to Conservatives that I understand their difficulties. It is too easy to pour ridicule upon the internal difficulties of the Conservative Party. However, I simply do not accept that the Tory Party—having been unable to come to a conclusion alone on what their policy should be—would somehow be able to come to a conclusion if they were locked in a room with Labour, Liberal and nationalist hon. Members, that such would be the chemistry and miraculous alchemy that the Conservatives would suddenly find a policy. The House must decide. If we will the end of devolution, we must will the means, and that must be through rational and ordered debate in the House. We should get that or we should abandon the Bill.
There will, no doubt, be great rejoicing in some nationalist circles tonight if the guillotine motion fails. It would then be relatively simple for the Scottish National Party to hotfoot it north of the border and say, to the people of Scotland: "We told you so. London is not to be trusted. Given that Scots hon. Members voted 2 to 1 for the guillotine the English majority will always have its way. The only option now is outright independence". That road could lead to collision and confrontation, and it is not a road down which the Scottish National Party intends to go unless it is forced to by tonight's vote. The SNP will therefore be firmly in the Government Lobby this evening.
This has been an extraordinary week at Westminster for rumour, gossiping and scaremongering. Certain hon. Members have hinted that they might do a disappearing act and take themselves off to Israel. That is not the SNP way. We recognise that 80 per cent. of Scots want some form of constitutional change and, more important, an orderly and responsible transfer of power from London to Edinburgh. There can be no talk, therefore, of devolution as an "imperial settlement" and a once-and-for-all transfer of power. Devolution is a continuing process and the point at which it stops will be decided not by this House but by the people of Scotland alone. To assume that a vote for the guillotine tonight, however, will inevitably mean that the Scottish people are on the road to independence is arrant nonsense. There are many hurdles to be covered yet. All that we are talking about now can be summed up as "No guillotine: No Bill".
This may not be a particularly good Bill, but it is the only one that we have and the best that we are likely to get. It is a small start towards solving the Scottish problem. Hon. Members who believe that the best way of handling the problem is by doing nothing will clearly find themselves voting against the guillotine tonight.
Since devolution is a continuing process, it is important to put on record that the SNP sees the Bill simply as the start of a return of decision making to the Scots. We had an interesting meeting with the STUC on this subject on Monday of this week. The General Secretary of Scottish TUC, Mr. James Milne, gave it as his considered opinion that
The present Bill is not the end of the road".
He wanted revenue raising powers for the Assembly, full industrial powers and separate links between the Scottish Assembly and the EEC. When we vote for the guillotine tonight it will not mean that we regard the present Bill as anything more than setting up a useful halfway house to a totally changed situation.
It is always difficult when hon. Members give a version of what happened at a meeting but, with respect, the hon. Member for Clackmannan and Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) is not being accurate. Will he not agree that the STUC totally reject independence or a separatist position and that it does not wish to go along that road? Does the hon. Gentleman not also agree that the General Secretary said nothing of the kind about full industrial power for Scotland because that is not the policy of the STUC as determined at congress last year? The STUC has decided to reject full industrial powers for Scotland.
I concede that the STUC does not support Scottish independence but I wish to put on record—and this can be confirmed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson)—that a call for full Scottish industrial powers for the Scottish Assembly was made at that meeting by the General Secretary of the STUC.
Many hon. Members may argue that debate on such a vast constitutional measure should not be curtailed, and I have much sympathy for that view, but I cannot see how else the Bill can be considered. To decide otherwise would be to leave the whole measure open to gerrymandering and time-wasting. In spite of his 20 interruptions on the last Bill, the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was brief and to the point. The same cannot be said for the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). Did the hon. Gentleman really need two speeches, each of more than an hour, plus several shorter ones, to put his point across? Did the House need 98 hours and five minutes to get to page 4 of the Mark I devolution Bill and hour upon hour of debate on the Title of the Bill? I suggest not.
This House has an excellent record in granting independence to what has been left of the diminishing Empire but it has an appalling record of sorting out the constitutional tangle between the member nations of the British Isles. From Gladstone and "Home Rule All Round" there has been a continuous story of failure, and the heavy hand of British nationalism has never been far below the surface in this House. I ask hon. Members to reflect on how long the subject has been in the headlines in Scotland. Some of my hon. Friends would argue that there has been a continuing fight for Scottish freedom since 1707. My first political memory is of the Scottish Labour Party manifesto of 1945 which said that the party had two objectives: the first the defeat of Japan, and the second the establishment of a Scots Parliament. For 10 solid years, almost to the day, since my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) won Hamilton, the return of power to the Scottish people has been high on the political agenda.
Against that background the debate on the first devolution Bill was confused and obtuse. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) talked about a Fijian who had Scottish blood because his great-grandfather had eaten two Scottish missionaries. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said he was not making a partisan speech but trying to speak for the ordinary people of England whether they vote Labour, Liberal, Conservative or Scottish Nationalist.
It is time to stop this nonsense. Much of it is offensive, though born out of ignorance, I am sure. The only way to ensure a proper debate on where Scotland is going is through the guillotine.
Let me draw attention to the publicly stated views of the other parties in this House on devolution. The Labour Party has promised a Scottish Parliament with a budget of £2 billion. In its overstamps and advertisements immediately before the last General Election, it said that
the Labour Party does not make promises which it cannot keep.
I know that this poses difficulties for the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), I know that the NEC of the Labour Party did not consider the matter in detail, I know that the party's Executive Committee in Scotland was dragooned into taking a decision a few days before the election was called and I know that the Labour Party position was born out of expediency and the need to hold seats north of the border. But I cannot help hon. Members opposite on that. They have made a firm pledge to the Scots people. That is why they are in Government. That promise must be kept.
The Conservatives were the first into the devolution stakes with the declaration of Perth, but their position is now one of vast confusion. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) went to his electorate in October 1974 promising an Assembly, a Scottish budget and a Scottish oil fund. He has now done a total turnabout and cannot hope to save both his faces.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) has had some fun with oil. He has promised a hypothecation of part of the North Sea oil revenues to built a new Hampden Park and part to build a new Scottish Opera House. This is an indication of the populism that is current in Tory ranks in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman cannot hypothecate the Scottish oil revenues and simultaneously vote against the Scottish Assembly and a Scottish budget.
On the last occasion, the Liberals voted against the guillotine. They wanted a Scottish Bill with tax-raising powers and electoral reform. I see precious little sign of those provsions in this Bill. I believe that a sensible judicial review, an end to the governor-general powers and a five-year rolling budget would have been achieved in any case. The Liberals are simply a party that, offered a choice between hung today and hung a year from now, have decided to hang on for as long as possible.
The Ulster Unionists have a key role in the vote. I do not know what their game is, apart from upping the ante with other parties, but I have a good deal of sympathy with their position. I sympathise with them because Ulster is under-represented in this House, its Parliament has gone and it is having the single transferable vote system forced upon it for EEC elections, but my plea to the Ulstermen is that they should not stop Scotland getting what it wants and has been promised only because Ulster is not getting what it wants. Surely the best guarantee of a return of devolution to Northern Ireland is through a Scottish Assembly. By precept and by example, Ulster will get what Scotland has been promised.
We have seen many false dawns in this House, the most spectacular of which was the Second Reading on the Mark I devolution Bill. That was killed off by an unholy alliance in the House. I hope that this Bill will not meet the same fate tonight.
Mr. Alex Kitson was present at the meeting between the STUC and SNP on Monday. He said that the Prime Minister had made it obvious to the PLP and to the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool that the guillotine vote would be a vote of confidence. Can the Minister who is to reply to the debate confirm whether this is so?
If there is no guillotine there will be no devolution. Only through the guillotine can the promises that were freely made to the people of Scotland be enacted.
No one can seriously argue that Parliament has not spent enough time discussing devolution. More has been said and written on this subject than on almost any other political issue in recent times.
In 1969, the Kilbrandon Commission was set up, and it reported four years later. Since then, we have had a series of debates and motions in the House. In June 1974, there was a consultative document, followed, in September, by a White Paper. In February 1975, we had a two-day debate and there was another White Paper issued in November that year. We had a four-day debate in January 1976, with another White Paper in August and, at last, the introduction of the Scotland and Wales Bill in November that year. We spent four days on the Second Reading of that ill-fated Bill, 11 days in Committee and another day on a timetable motion similar to this guillotine. In July this year, there was another White Paper and a statement by the Lord President. This week, we have already had a day each on the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill and the proposed timetable allots 17 days for the remaining stages of the Scotland Bill.
That adds up to a total of 24 days' debate so far—more than 160 hours. In addition, the topic has been discussed in Private Members' time, in Consolidated Fund Bills and so on, and in various Adjournment debates. I do not see how anyone can seriously argue that we have not spent enough time debating devolution.
The hypocrites on the Conservative Benches claim that we are stifling democratic discussion. What nonsense! They should look at their own record, including their indecent haste in rushing us into the Common Market and the way in which measures such as the Industrial Relations Act and the Housing Finance Act were pushed through with a guillotine and without the wholehearted approval of the British people.
My right hon. Friend the Lord President has dealt with that point. We have to take into account not just Monday's debate but all the time that we spent discussing the Scotland and Wales Bill in the last Session and all the other debates that have taken place on the principle of devolution. The Bill is very similar in most respects to the Scotland and Wales Bill and takes account of many of the points made in previous debates.
It is sheer cant and hypocrisy for Tories to object that there has not been enough time for debate. I have a great deal of sympathy for the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) that we should timetable most legislation. Far too much time is spent in this House on filibustering. We have too many words and not enough action to convert the words into legislation for the benefit of the people.
We can expect opposition from the Tories, but I should like to consider the position of my hon. Friends who have expressed doubts and reservations, particularly in regard to how they will vote. Some claim, perhaps with some justification, that we have spent far too much time debating constitutional issues and that, particularly on this side of the House and in the movement that we represent, we should not be overconcerned simply with the machinery of government but rather with the decisions which that machinery is supposed to be taking to provide better jobs, to tackle unemployment and the problems arising from inflation, bad housing and so on.
However, although I have some sympathy with my colleagues who claim that we have spent too much time debating devolution, they are sadly mistaken if they think that they can kill devolution by voting against the guillotine. They may kill the Bill, as they killed the Scotland and Wales Bill, but they will not kill devolution as an issue. It will come back to the House again and again until this place has the common sense and the guts to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Scotland. It is important, too, to realise that their aspirations may change through time. The more reluctant the House becomes to respond to their aspirations the more that we shall drive people into the camp of the separatists, represented by the SNP.
I urge my hon. Friends to think carefully, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), who said that there are some who imagine that there are three options—namely, the status quo, devolution and complete independence. He said that the middle one was not on. I disagree. I think that it is the first that is not on. The status quo is no longer a tenable position in Scotland. I only wish that my hon. Friend, who I understand was born and brought up in Scotland in a town not far from where I was born and brought up, would visit my constituency and his native homeland more often. If he did, he would be able to gauge more accurately the feeling of the Scottish people.
I remind my hon. Friends that we are talking not just about the wishes of the Scottish people but about the wishes of the whole Labour movement. It is untrue for the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) to say that the Labour movement has been bulldozed. It has not. There has been democratic discussion and debate at successive Labour Party Conferences. We have now reached the position when the Labour Party, the Scottish Council of the Labour Party, the TUC and the STUC are all in favour of devolution but utterly reject separation. I appeal to my hon. Friends, especially those who are always crowing about keeping manifesto commitments, to support the Government tonight in order to keep this manifesto commitment.
There is one more reason for supporting the guillotine—namely, that this is probably the last chance that this Parliament will have of giving meaningful devolution to the people of Scotland. The proposals within the Bill make provision for a referendum. I appeal to my hon. Friends to take cognizance of that fact. We have already had my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) describing his stance on Second Reading. He said that he would support the Government on Second Reading and on the guillotine motion but would campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum. I disagree with the stance that he says he will take in the referenlum campaign. However, I believe that it is an honourable course of action to take.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that that is not the parliamentary way of solving things. Well, democracy did not begin in this place—
—and it will not end in this place. Despite the fact that my hon. Friend's course of action may not be the orthodox parliamentary way of solving the problem, nevertheless it is a democratic way of solving the problem. I applaud my hon. Friend for putting forward that option to some of my hon. Friends.
Let us respond to the wishes of the people. Let us give the people the opportunity of expressing an opinion. This is a historic opportunity. It is probably the last opportunity that this Parliament will have of responding to the wishes of the people of Scotland. The time for talking has finished. Now is the time for action, and the best action is to support the Government tonight.
The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) does not appear to recognise that federalism and devolution are completely separate matters. The trouble with the Bill is that it completely rules out the federal or quasi-federal option. That greatly increases the risk of confrontation between the Assembly and the House of Commons.
It is no coincidence that in 1706 the Scots Commissioners asked for a federal constitution. They were refused it at that time, but something along those lines was echoed in 1949, when more than 2 million people in Scotland signed the Covenant. The key sentence was as follows:
We pledge ourselves in all loyalty to the Crown and within the framework of the United Kingdom to do everything in our power to secure for Scotland a Parliament with adequate legislative authority on Scottish affairs.
Some hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr, Cook), who is one of my constituents and who made a tremendously good speech on Monday evening, believe that this issue can be killed with the referendum. I am not sure that it is right to make the Bill a hostage to fortune in that way.
It must be said that very few people write to us on this subject. I have not received more than a dozen letters on devolution since becoming a Member of this place. Half of them are one way and half the other. However, the fact that nearly two-thirds of the Scottish electorate signed the Covenant in 1949 is a sign that the problem is unlikely to go away. A way of dealing with the matter that would preserve the Union and make for better government in a way acceptable to all parts of the United Kingdom is not to rule out the federal option but to consider a fully federal constitution with a Bill of Rights and a supreme court.
I know that the Lord President rules that out at present, but if the Bill fails I suggest that the setting up of a constitutional conference to consider all the options from Douglas-Home to federalism should be considered very seriously.
It is a substantial objection to the Bill that in practice we shall have virtually no freedom of choice. It is this Bill or nothing. The House and Parliament has helped establish approximately 30 constitutions throughout the world, and in virtually every case there is a constitutional conference beforehand. By taking a short cut and removing that process it seems that an unacceptable risk is being taken. I suggest that we would be much wiser not to rush constitutional reform but to ensure that we get it right.
There are two or three issues that have emerged in the debate that require some clarification. More than one speaker has suggested that the difficulties that resulted from the Mark I Scotland and Wales Bill were the result of filibustering. I asked my right hon. Friend the Lord President earlier this afternoon whether that was so and he reassured the House that, whatever disagreements we may have had on the Bill, there was no question of filibustering by hon. Members. Those who suggest that filibustering took place must have missed the many occasions when there was a real creative attempt in discussion to work through a complex Bill.
If we are to believe what others have said this afternoon, it seems that this Bill is an improvement. The Leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), said that it is a considerable advance over the previous Bill. I think that the right hon. Gentleman made too many claims for the present Bill, but he did itemise many things that he now sees that were not in the original Bill.
Whether we accept one view or another, it is important that one myth should be dealt with immediately. A great deal of concern was expressed and requests were made for clarification when the previous Bill was considered, but it is my view—apparently it is my right hon. Friend's view—that there was no question of filibustering. The need for the guillotine is based on grounds other than filibustering.
My right hon. Friend did not say precisely what these other grounds are. I join with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who made a very fine speech, when he made a personal plea to my right hon. Friend to withdraw this guillotine Motion. My right hon. Friend has a responsibility over and above the work that he is seen to do within the context of his political party. As the Lord President, surely he has the need to care for and nurture the feelings and views of Members from all parts of the House about the way in which Bills are presented and the guillotine used. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he has not protected the interests of many of us who have the gravest anxiety about the way in which this House is now proceeding.
I respect my right hon. Friend's knowledge of and his competence in Parliament. All that is on record. However, we must judge him as he is now and not necessary by what he said five years, 10 years or 15 years ago. He is the man in the driving seat, and he should have some regard to the anxieties of many Members. He should proceed with a degree of sensitivity.
I am bound to say that my right hon. Friend should take into account that many of us have been caused some distress. Having given him the opportunity to go ahead with the Second Readings on Monday and Tuesday, he should have had the understanding, intelligence and sensitivity to say "I am not prepared to let these bills go to a guillotine." There is no reason why he should not have said that after the successful outcome of Monday and Tuesday nights. He could say it even now.
Surely we have given the Bill a chance to be debated but we do not want the discussion to be put into a straitjacket. Although there have been different interpretations of what a guillotine is likely to achieve, it nevertheless means that we are placed in a tight time limit. It will limit areas of the subject. It will make it impossible to explore some of the complications of the Bill and its many implications for England.
I am reminded of how much we need the discussion, of how much we need the time, by what happened yesterday. I mean no disrespect to the Chair when I say that it was a classic example of the fact that the English connection in this subject of devolution has been lost. I understand that many of my colleagues from Wales wanted to speak yesterday, and I am impressed by the fact that the House heard the representatives of Montgomery, Newport, Pontypool, Merioneth, Barry, Aberdare, Pembroke, Swansea, East, Carmarthen, Bedwellty and Wrexham. We are glad that they were heard. Indeed, the House was addressed by many more Welsh Members, but I cannot pronounce the name of some of the other constituencies.
There is an English interest in the subject. When will the English association be brought in? Although the Scottish National Party Members were inclined to mock before the time previously taken in the earlier Bill, we did need that precious time because the English people, through their parliamentary representatives, had to explore the subject in some detail. I am not prepared to accept the SNP's interpretation of the needs of devolution in Scotland. We in England must discuss devolution with our colleagues in the House. It is very important to remember the English connection when we allocate time for the debate. It should not have the limits that a guillotine motion imposes.
I am not impressed by the argument that perhaps all future legislation should be timetabled. I should be more impressed by those who advance that argument if they were prepared to say that every piece of legislation should be so treated now and did not concentrate on the Scotland and Wales Bills, which have considerable constitutional implications.
In the past I have supported the use of the guillotine as a legitimate device when there are serious political implications and the two sides of the House have an understandable confrontation. This is not such a case. It differs from previous Bills that have been subject to such action, first, because a major constituional change is proposed. Secondly, although it is a Government Bill, neither the Government nor the Opposition are united in their support for it or in their opposition. Many of those who have listened carefully to the arguments and have gone into the Government Lobby have nevertheless had the gravest reservations about the value of the Bill. The uncertainty extends to the English, who, despite all that has been said, have not really been consulted.
One of my hon. Friends said that devolution was a major commitment by the Labour Party and had been adequately dealt with by the 1976 annual conference. I attended that conference. The debate lasted for 52 minutes, and my right hon. Friend took about 24 of them. Surely that is not what is meant by serious consideration within a major party.
The case for the guillotine has not been made out. Let us not confuse the issue. Those who are anxious to share in decision-making in Scotland do not necessarily want this form of devolution. There is a natural desire throughout the United Kingdom to have a bigger say in how decisions are made, not only in local government but in industry. It is a mood that we in Parliament all understand. Those who are opposed to the Bill are not necessarily opposed to the grand concept of sharing in decision-making.
There are certainly more urgent matters for which the House should give time, but not at the expense of a full and free discussion of the serious constitutional issues involved in the devolution Bills. I again appeal to my right hon. Friend that even at this late stage it would be sensible for him to recognise that there is no point in having the sort of debates that we have had this week if he fails to take into account the fears and anxieties expressed about this Bill. The case put by those who support my right hon. Friend should worry him.
I shall not take up in detail the points made by the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman), because I wish to be brief. However, as another English Member I am glad that an English voice is now coming into this guillotine debate.
I must add my voice to the expressions of total abhorrence of my right hon. and hon. Friends over the new procedure that is being established tonight in handling such legislation. When the Lord President was asked when last a major constitutional Bill had had a guillotine introduced before the Committee stage had even begun, we watched a great deal of twisting and turning at the Dispatch Box. In the end he came up with the Representation of the People Bill, which he told us was passed in the 1931–32 Session. What a ridiculous comparison that is with a measure of the kind that we are discussing, which seeks fundamentally to change the constitutional balance in this Chamber and to set up another sub-Parliament in one part of the United Kingdom!
The unique feature of this Bill is that it combines a great number of big constitutional principles with a great deal of important detail. It is this that makes the timetable proposed by the Lord President, of 17 days for the whole of the Committee, Report and Third Reading stages, inadequate.
Let me list some of the big questions that must be dealt with in Committee. Some were mentioned in the debate on Monday, particularly what has come to be described as the West Lothian question—the rôle of Scottish MPs here. I shall not go into that in detail, because it was debated exhaustively on Monday and the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) deployed the argument very effectively earlier today. The argument will not go away but will recur throughout. It will be no use brushing it aside and squeezing it out in Committee under a strict timetable.
Further, there is the question, which I accept is different, of the strength of representation in this House by Scottish Members. When the Scotland and Wales Bill was before us we had a discussion on whether a Speaker's Conference should be set up to look into the question. That is another issue that is by no means dead. If such questions are squeezed out of the Committee stage discussion proposed by the Lord President under a guillotine, he is lighting a fuse that before many years are out will ignite an explosion that could blow this whole place to pieces.
There are other big questions, such as that of the Assembly itself, its form, its size, its term of office, whether we should put some limitations on the procedures that it adopts, whether we should allow it to pass legislation in one day or should make more stipulations in that respect There is the big question of the method by which elections to the Assembly are to be conducted. Many right hon. and hon. Members—I am not among them—are concerned to see a system of proportional representation. That is a major question that will still demand good and thorough debate in Committee.
There is the whole question of the amendments and proposals concerning the executive, its size and rôle. There are questions of the remuneration of Members of both bodies. In this unstable situation there is still a demand for a Bill of Rights to protect those who are caught up in these proceedings. Most of these issues were never even reached during the Committee stage on the Scotland and Wales Bill.
There is also the whole area of the financial provisions, the block grant, how we are to survey the use to which the money that we raise is to be put, how the grant is to be negotiated and fixed, how the position of the English regions is to be protected when it comes to the allocation of resources to them, not only the English regions, but Wales if, in any eventual referendum, the people of Wales vote not to have the provisions of the Wales Bill applied to them.
Will the hon. Gentleman, having given us this catalogue and obviously having thought out the matter in detail, tell us how many days he thinks would be appropriate for discussion of the Bill as an alternative to the Government's proposal?
I am prepared to answer that question, but, with the hon. Gentleman's permission, I shall do so at the point at which I was planning to mention it, after I have detailed more of these points which must be exhaustively discussed in Committee.
There is the question of the referendum—its timing, whether there is to be one or more than one question and the form of that question or questions and the preamble. The Lord President said that he was anxious to proceed on a basis that commanded support in all sections of the House.
There is the question, posed by some Labour Members on Monday and today, of what would constitute a valid turnout in such a referendum. Are we to take a 30 per cent. turnout as adequate, or are we to specify something over 50 per cent.? We must go into that question very carefully.
There is still the question—it has not gone away—whether this issue can be disposed of purely in a referendum of the Scottish people and, of course, in relation to the Wales Bill, of the Welsh people. There is still a demand throughout the United Kingdom for a referendum on legislation fundamentally affecting the whole of the United Kingdom. That issue has not gone away. It was not disposed of and pushed out of sight in the discussions that we had on the Scotland and Wales Bill. This matter must be raised again. If not, it will have to be raised exhaustively in other places.
Can all these matters really be covered adequately in a guillotined Committee stage debate of the length proposed? I shall come to the question posed by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) shortly.
There is the whole aspect of Orkney and Shetland, which is brought out very well in the amendment, of which the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) gave notice yesterday and which appears on the Order Paper today. That, again, is a matter of great constitutional significance. If the people of Orkney and Shetland decide that they do not wish the provisions of the Bill to take effect, they should be given the chance to opt out. Is that to be brushed aside in an hour's or a half-hour's debate while we are going through the limited time devoted to the referendum provisions in the Bill?
In passing I point out that the last referendum legislation—the Referendum Act 1975—in addition to its Second Reading, had two days in Committee and one day for its remaining stages. The complexities and questions raised by the referendum proposed in this Bill are just as complicated as those. I cannot see discussion on the referendum proposed here taking any less time than the discussion on the referendum on the question of our membership of the European Community.
There is also the question of what is getting through under cover of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), on a point of order on Monday, referred to Clause 35 which grants power to make changes in United Kingdom law consequential on legislation in the Scottish Assembly which could be rubber stamped in this House by a simple resolution on one day or even late at night. You, Mr. Speaker, in your ruling referred to the incidental effects of legislation effected in the Scottish Assembly. Many people in England and, indeed, in Wales—when Wales takes the chance, if it gets it, to opt out of the legislation—gravely fear these incidental effects. We feel that we are being offered a blank cheque to sign without being given any indication of how United Kingdom legislation of great importance in England and in the regions will be affected as a fall-out result of what is undertaken in the Scottish Assembly.
There is a lot of small print at the end of the Bill. I doubt whether many hon. Members have yet had a chance to go through and work out the implications of all that is printed there. I shall pull out one or two examples in the brief time available to me.
There is the proposal to break up the British Waterways Board. That is a matter of grave concern to the Inland Waterways Association, some of whose friends and supporters have already tabled amendments to protect it. Surely a matter of that kind is worthy of at least one day's debate in this House.
There are similar effects on forestry, but even more on the British Tourist Authority. There are proposals that it should cease to discharge certain functions and that it should be re-constituted in a way which many tourist interests in England believe would gravely damage tourism in a number of our regions. The first body to object was the Northumbria Tourist Board. Other tourist boards came in as well, including that for South-East England, which includes the area, that I represent.
Surely these matters are normally worthy of a day's debate and a proper Committee stage discussion: or are we simply to nod them through the back door in a severely guillotined Committee stage discussion on a Bill of this kind? As an English Member representing a constituency in the South-East, I am not prepared to accept such a situation. I cannot see how the guillotine provisions spelt out in the motion could possibly allow sufficient discussion for all these matters.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East asked how many days I thought would be adequate. I should like to put the question in another way.
Do the Government think that in one bite they can deal with a Bill which raises so many issues of principle and contains in the small print so many matters of detail affecting existing legislation of the United Kingdom? I suggest that it cannot be done in one bite. If there is to be a chance of getting it through, they will have to be far less ambitious in the target that they set.
English and Welsh Members of Parliament are being asked to agree to guillotine proper discussion of a Bill which would let through all manner of matters which are vital to their constituencies and regions. I predict that if, by any misfortune, the motion should be carried tonight, it will not be very long before they all bitterly rue the day.
I shall break with the tradition of the House and be exceedingly brief.
I want to make two simple points, but, before doing so, I should like to allude to what was said by the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner). The hon. Gentleman talked about the necessity of considering in detail the rules for a referendum. I was the Minister partly responsible for the Referendum Act 1975. I ask that we be preserved from the agony of considering those rules again and again whenever we are to have a referendum. I certainly do not strongly believe in the desirability of referendums, but, if we are to have them, let us at least stick to the same rules.
The first of the two points that I want to make is that before we look at the debates that we had last year we should look at the seven days in 13 months that we spent debating devolution in this House. We debated it on 3rd November 1975. We debated it again on 31st July when the Select Committee on the Bill began at 8.53 p.m. and ended at 4.15 the following morning. We debated it for four days in January 1976.
I have checked those who spoke in these debates. I must say that we have some remarkable Rip Van Winkles in the House. I did not find in the lists of those who spoke the hon. Member for Reigate; nor did I find my hon. Friends the Members for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) and Basildon (Mr. Moonman). They did not speak in those debates and it is therefore a little late to complain of the time that we are being given for debate.
I shall not give way to my hon. Friend.
There is no doubt that if we do not carry the guillotine motion, we shall adopt a new principle in the House. It will mean that it is impossible to carry a substantial constitutional provision in this country, because there will be endless debate, which will ensure that it cannot be passed in one Session. That would be a deplorable situation. I hope that the House will pass this and the succeeding motion with a resounding majority.
The excellence of this debate argues in favour of short speeches. I hope that the House will learn from at.
We are not discussing the merits of the Bill itself. It is primarily a House of Commons matter. We are asked to decide whether we wish discussion to be curtailed according to the Government's decision. We are deciding that and nothing else. This is underlined by the fact that the views in the House go across party lines. It is not a partisan matter. I hope that everyone will vote carefully according to what he feels and what he believes is best for the House.
It is not part of the Opposition's argument to say that there should never be a timetable motion on any Bill. I have never said that and no hon. Members on this side of the House would make that case. It is up to the Government of the day to justify any application that it makes for a timetable motion on a major Bill.
The Leader of the House never looked more uncomfortable and uncertain of himself than when he was trying to justify this motion. We all know his history and that he has advocated the importance of hon. Members' liberty. We should have brought a birthday cake for the Leader of the House. This is the afternoon when he reaches double figures. This is the tenth motion for a timetable that he has produced.
If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, I was not impressed by his argument. First, he could have argued—but he did not—that the measure had been filibustered in the past. He made no such charge, neither in his speech the other day nor today. Therefore, there is no case for the guillotine motion on the basis that discussion has been overlong, tedious or repetitious. I do not argue that case. The debates on the Bill have been effective and good.
Secondly, the Leader of the House could have argued that the Bill is so simple, obvious, clear and well construed that it does not need much debate. To do him justice, he did not argue that. Therefore, the Bill stands as being extremely complicated, far-reaching, important and difficult. That argument has not been made this afternoon and we are faced with a timetable motion on a Bill which is admitted by all to be far-reaching, important and complicated. It is a Bill which the majority do not say has been obstructed by excessive discussion or anything else. The charge against the Government is that they are producing this motion without a shred of normal justification for it.
What is the effect of the guillotine? From what has been said I do not believe that it is clear to all hon. Members. I do not believe that it is all that important that the time for discussion on such a Bill is so limited, although it is undesirable for such a long and complicated Bill. The vital point is that once there is a guillotine, the Government of the day and the Ministers in charge of the Bill have no incentive whatever to make any concession to any views or on any amendment at any time. That is the important point.
I say to those on both sides of the House and on both sides of the argument who have doubts about the Bill, its practicality, its drafting and its other aspects, that if we pass the motion it means not only that we shall have our discussions curtailed but, unless the Government are very exceptional, that there will be no concessions to any argument at any stage of the Committee. That is what sticks in my throat.
The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) made a plea for timetable motions to be attached to all Bills. If all Bills were guillotined there would be no point in having an Opposition, except in a formal sense. Unless the Opposition have a chance of demonstrating that a Bill is not fit to be passed, they have no job to do.
To all Members who have strong feelings and doubts about the provisions and details in the Bill I say that they must face up to the fact that if the motion is passed, this afternoon will be the last afternoon of any meaningful debate which has a chance of altering anything of substance in the Bill. The House must assert itself against the party system. I have no hesitation in advising the House that it would be disastrous if such a complicated constitutional measure had a timetable motion attached to it.
It is not as if there is a shortage of time. About 30 weeks of the Session lie ahead of us. Even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Government could not say that the Queen's Speech is so full of vital measures that nothing could be dropped to make room for the devolution Bills. Let us vote so that the House may debate this subject with an open mind.
The Government are not only anxious to the point of concern to get the Bill through as quickly as possible but they dare not face the reality of the arguments that will be made against the Bill. They dare not face them because they know what happened the last time, when the Bill had many supporters at the outset but few when it finished when last Session's guillotine motion came along. I therefore have no hesitation in asking the House to look at this matter as a House of Commons matter and not as a party matter, to look at it as a matter for which individual hon. Members will have to answer.
I conclude with a reference to the referendum issue. I hope that no one will think that he can take action this afternoon with which he is not happy on the grounds that a referendum will put everything right. I have two points to make to hon. Members who believe that they can. No one can say that the referendum will go as he thinks it will. All sorts of things can happen. What do those hon. Members plan to say if they travel the country, as I understand is intended, recommending their constituents to vote "No" when the first question to them will be "Why did you vote 'Yes' to the Bill?"
I therefore say that this is the time above all others to be a House of Commons man rather than a party man, and I hope that we shall throw out the guillotine motion for what it is.
The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) is a pleasant man, but I find it hard to take even from him the notion that the House should adopt an independent House of Commons spirit on this issue when he represents the party which has imposed a three-line Whip on its Members tonight—[Hon. Members: "So have the Government."] The difference is that I am not making sanctimonious appeals to the independent nature of hon. Members.
While we are on the subject may I say that I very much regret what has happened to the hon. Member for Ayr by which his association with the urban guerrilla of Scottish politics has led him to abandon the commitment to devolution which he has had for many years. He remembers well how he has shared platforms with me when arguing for devolution. Even the urban guerrilla had to declare at the end of his speech that his party was in favour of the principle of devolution.
The speech by the hon. Member for Ayr was suitable for someone who opposes the whole concept of devolution; but he does not. Just what the Conservative Party supports is far from clear. I know and the Conservatives know that 75 per cent. of the Conservative Party is totally opposed to the principle of devolution—I suppose, genuinely and sincerely. I think they are sincerely wrong. What happens to the other 25 per cent., however, is important because they have some perception of the need to maintain, enhance and improve the unity of the United Kingdom.
The main purpose of this debate is to justify the Government's timetable motion. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) gave us lurid descriptions of electric chairs, the end of our liberties and the end of the trusteeship of Parliament, along with all the cant that is trotted out during every guillotine debate. It is trotted out by both major parties and has to be listened to, and that means that most timetable debates are deadly affairs, because many hon. Members find them too much to take. They find it difficult to listen to the parallels and analogies drawn by the Front Benches. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) about this matter, although this Bill is, I am glad to say, the only thing I agree with him about.
The main charge by the Opposition Front Bench was that there was something unusual, peculiar, undemocratic and unfair about introducing a timetable motion before we had embarked upon Committee stage. What is regarded as fair and reasonable? Apparently, if 10 days are allowed to go by and then the timetable motion is introduced, which would necessarily leave much shorter time for discussion, that is fair and reasonable. I ask the Conservatives who think that there is something in that argument to read the speech of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) who, as my right hon. Friend the Lord President reminded us the other day, is always here, whether physically in his place or not, as a reminder to the Conservative Party of some of the views it once held. He made it clear that he felt it necessary to have an ordered and structured discussion of the Bill.
If we were to allow the Bill to run on without a timetable motion for several more days it would be a reasonable assumption that the Committee stage would take the same shape as the Committee stage of the Scotland and Wales Bill. We know also that, if we were to proceed at the pace we were achieving then, we would pass this Bill some time in the 1990s. We spent 10 days on just three clauses of the earlier Bill. That is a reasonable assumption, and I defy the Conservatives to say that it would not happen on this occasion. Obviously therefore, if that were to happen the Bill would not pass in this Session. The Government would then come forward with a timetable motion at a later stage and there would be less time for detailed discussion and scrutiny of the clauses and schedules.
The sensible thing for the House of Commons to do is to examine the Bill carefully, to test Ministers on the arguments they put forward. Hon. Members can do that only in an organised way if there is some structure to the discussion, and that is what the guillotine motion provides.
I know that some Governments have been unreasonable in the past. The hon. Member for Ayr said that the trouble with timetable motions was that once they were passed Ministers would not give way on points made to them. He said that the Bill would therefore, be unchanged, and the House of Commons would have been denied some of its fundamental rights. The only example in recent times of any Bill which went through the House of Commons and the House of Lords—that great guardian of our liberties—without being changed from Second Reading was the European Communities Bill. Who were the Government who took that attitude to that Parliament? Who was the Chief Whip who tried to defend it by saying that it was a decision of the House? We were not born yesterday. That clear decision was taken by a Conservative Government. They resolved not to accept any amendments in either House. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire wishes to deny that.
I notice that the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to deny the charge that his Government had deliberately decided not to accept amendments.
The House of Commons must have the capacity to act as well as to argue. We are not a talking shop to embark on endless discussion of interesting points about Bills. We are a legislative Chamber and we have an obligation to come to decisions and to act upon them. It is not as though devolution was hurried into the House of Commons last week and was being rushed through in some fleeting way. Devolution has been under discussion in Scotland and Wales since 1968, if not before. The present proposals began to take shape with the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution.
This is a difficult issue for Conservative Members, because they have been calling for a constitutional commission without having any proposals to put to it if it were set up. They refer to the need for us to discuss these matters, but I doubt the practical possibilities of their meeting us and doing so.
Essentially the Bill is designed to bring into the constitution of the United Kingdom a recognition of the Scottish dimension, that Scottish dimension that is reflected in Scotland's culture, history and its institutions, way of life and outlook —[Interruption.] The fact that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) says "Rubbish", even though he proposed such an assembly in October 1974, shows his insensitivity to the Scottish mood and to the idioms and way of life of Scotland.
Equally, we must preserve the unity of the United Kingdom. I am a passionate defender of the unity of the United Kingdom and of stopping false differences arising between the peoples who make up the United Kingdom. I want to seek to strengthen it as well. When Opposition Members talk about maintaining the unity of the United Kingdom, they are unnecessarily defensive in the phraseology that they use. I would prefer that we sought to enhance the unity of the United Kingdom and to improve it.
I believe that a unity that is founded on a recognition of the diversity of the different peoples who make up this United Kingdom, which does not try to put them all in the same legislative straitjacket, and which allows other institutions to flourish as well as this House of Commons, has a much greater chance of being maintained. Of course, that is very much a matter of judgment. But the Conservative Party has not even got to the elementary stage of making up its mind about even the framework in which it would reach decisions about it. Therefore, it has fallen to a Labour Government to put devolution high on the political agenda.
Last Session we brought forward the Scotland and Wales Bill. I very much regretted the failure of the House to pass it on that occasion. We have brought forward again, right at the start of this Session, the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill, and both Bills have been approved in principle by substantial majorities of
I have no intention of answering hon. Members who have not even attended most of the debate.
The matter before us is whether the House of Commons has the capacity to act on this occasion. I believe that we have a responsibility to make sure that the Bill is properly, carefully and adequately discussed, but at the same time a decision must be taken. I believe that the House must now follow up the agreement which it gave to the Bill in principle on Monday night, with a convincing majority, by making sure that the timetable motion is carried tonight.
If the motion is carried, I believe that this will be one of the most significant days for the history of Scotland and for the history of this United Kingdom. I hope that tonight the House of Commons will rise to the challenge presented to it with some imagination and some perception of the real forces at work in this country.
|Division No. 9]||AYES||[6.42 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund|
|Anderson, Donald||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Dempsey, James|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Campbell, Ian||Doig, Peter|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Canavan, Dennis||Dormand. J. D.|
|Ashley, Jack||Cant, R. B.||Douglas-Mann, Bruce|
|Ashton, Joe||Carmichael, Neil||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Carter, Ray||Dunn, James A.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Dunnett, Jack|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cartwright, John||Eadie, Alex|
|Bain, Mrs. Margaret||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Edge, Geoff|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Clemitson, Ivor||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Haywood)||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)|
|Bates, Alf||Cohen, Stanley||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)|
|Bean, R. E.||Coleman, Donald||English, Michael|
|Beith, A. J.||Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Ennals, Rt Hon David|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Concannon, J. D.||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Corbett, Robin||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)|
|Boardman, H.||Crawford, Douglas||Faulds, Andrew|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Crawshaw, Richard||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cronin, John||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Cryer, Bob||Flannery, Martin|
|Bradley, Tom||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Davidson, Arthur||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Ford, Ben|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)|
|Buchan, Norman||Deakins, Eric||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N 'w 'd)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Freud, Clement|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|George, Bruce||Mackintosh, John P.||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Maclennan, Robert||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Ginsburg, David||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Golding, John||McNamara, Kevin||Sillars, James|
|Gould, Bryan||Madden, Max||Silverman, Julius|
|Gourlay, Harry||Magee, Bryan||Skinner, Dennis|
|Graham, Ted||Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)||Small, William|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Mahon, Simon||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Marks, Kenneth||Snape, Peter|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central File)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hardy, Peter||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Maynard, Miss Joan||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Meacher, Michael||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Hatton, Frank||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Stoddart, David|
|Hayman, Mrs Heiene||Mikardo,Ian||Stott, Roger|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Strang, Gavin|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Henderson, Douglas||Mitchell, Austin||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Hooley, Frank||Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)||Swain, Thomas|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Molloy, William||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Horam, John||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Moyle, Roland||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Huckfield, Les||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Thompson, George|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C (Anglesey)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Newens, Stanley||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Noble, Mike||Tierney, Sydney|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Oakes, Gordon||Tinn, James|
|Hunter, Adam||Ogden, Eric||Tomlinson, John|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||O'Halloran, Michael||Tomney, Frank|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Orbach, Maurice||Torney, Tom|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Tuck, Raphael|
|Janner, Greville||Ovenden, John||Urwin, T. W.|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Padley, Walter||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Palmer, Arthur||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|John, Brynmor||Pardoe, John||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Park, George||Ward, Michael|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Parker, John||Watkins, David|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Parry, Robert||Watkinson, John|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Pavitt, Laurie||Watt, Hamish|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Pendry, Tom||Weetch, Ken|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Penhaligon, David||Weitzman, David|
|Judd, Frank||Perry, Ernest||Wellbeloved, James|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Prescott, John||Welsh, Andrew|
|Kelley, Richard||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Kerr, Russell||Price, William (Rugby)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Radice, Giles||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Kinnock, Neil||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Whitlock, William|
|Lambie, David||Reid, George||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Lamborn, Harry||Richardson, Miss Jo||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Lamond, James||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornh'ch)|
|Lee, John||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Robinson, Geoffrey||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Roderick, Caerwyn||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Litterick, Tom||Rooker, J. W.||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Roper, John||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Luard, Evan||Rose, Paul B.||Woodall, Alec|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Woof, Robert|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|McCartney, Hugh||Rowlands, Ted||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|MacCormick, Iain||Sandelson, Neville|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Sedgemore, Brian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|McElhone, Frank||Selby, Harry||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Sever, J.||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Abse, Leo||Banks, Robert||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Adley, Robert||Bell, Ronald||Bottomley, Peter|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)|
|Alison, Michael||Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Benyon, W.||Bradford, Rev Robert|
|Arnold, Tom||Berry, Hon Anthony||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Biffen, John||Brittan, Leon|
|Awdry, Daniel||Biggs-Davison, John||Brocklebank-Fowler, C.|
|Baker, Kenneth||Blaker, Peter||Brooke, Peter|
|Brotherton, Michael||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Neubert, Michael|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Newton, Tony|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Haselhurst, Alan||Normanton, Tom|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hastings, Stephen||Nott, John|
|Buck, Antony||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Budgen, Nick||Hawkins, Paul||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hayhoe, Barney||Osborn, John|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Michael||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hicks, Robert||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Higgins, Terence L.||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Carson, John||Hodgson, Robin||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Holland, Philip||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Channon, Paul||Hordern, Peter||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Percival, Ian|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Clegg, Walter||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Cockcroft, John||Hurd, Douglas||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cope, John||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Corrie, John||Jessel, Toby||Raison, Timothy|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Critchley, Julian||Jopling, Michael||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Crouch, David||Joseph, Rt Hon. Sir Keith||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kershaw, Anthony||Rhodes James, R.|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Kimball, Marcus||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knight, Mrs Jill||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Lamont, Morman||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Dunlop, John||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Durant, Tony||Lawrence, Ivan||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lawson, Nigel||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Leadbitter, Ted||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Elliott, Sir William||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Emery, Peter||Lloyd, Ian||Scott, Nicholas|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Loveridge, John||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Eyre, Reginald||Luce, Richard||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||McCrindle, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Farr, John||McCusker, H.||Shepherd, Colin|
|Fell, Anthony||Macfarlane, Neil||Shersby, Michael|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||MacGregor, John||Silvester, Fred|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Sims, Roger|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McNair-Wilson, P (New Forest)||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Forman, Nigel||Madel, David||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Speed, Keith|
|Fox, Marcus||Marten, Neil||Spence, John|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mates, Michael||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Fry, Peter||Mather, Carol||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Maude, Angus||Sproat, Iain|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Stainton, Keith|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mawby, Ray||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stanley, John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Mayhew, Patrick||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mendelson, John||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stokes, John|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mills, Peter||Tapsell, Peter|
|Goodhew, Victor||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Goodlad, Alastalr||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Gorst, John||Moate, Roger||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Molyneaux, James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Monro, Hector||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Montgomery, Fergus||Thomas, Rt Hon P (Hendon S)|
|Gray, Hamish||Moonman, Eric||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Grieve, Percy||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Trotter, Neville|
|Griffiths, Eldon||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Grist, Ian||Morgan, Geraint||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Grylls, Michael||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Viggers, Peter|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Wakeham, John|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mudd, David||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Hannam, John||Neave, Airey||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Walker-Smith, Bt Hon Sir Derek||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William||Younger, Hon George|
|Wall, Patrick||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Walters, Dennis||Winterton, Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Warren, Kenneth||Wood, Rt Hon Richard||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)||Mr. Michael Roberts.|