Debate on the Address

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 7:04 pm on 25th June 1987.

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Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 7:04 pm, 25th June 1987

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) evidently understands the country of his birth considerably better than do many of his hon. Friends. The result of the general election in Scotland was very different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom. Like the hon. Gentleman, I believe in the United Kingdom. I want to see it remain in one piece, but the hon. Gentleman was right to say that if the Government whom he supports are as insensitive as they appear to intend to be—judging from the content of the Queen's Speech—the future of that United Kingdom could be in some peril.

The hon. Member for Moorlands has done a wise thing for a Scottish Conservative—he has gone south of the border to find himself a seat in Parliament, but he is certainly renowned in the House for delivering coded attacks on the Government. How on earth he gets away with that when he is trying to defend the Government's record in his constituency is a matter for him, but. I welcome his constructive and thoughtful contribution to the important Scottish aspect of the debate.

It was nice—I suppose—to hear again from the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). My last recollection of her and her hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) was back in 1979. I remember both of them scuttling into the Lobby beside the then Conservative Opposition and voting the Labour Government out of office, thus putting devolution off the agenda and doing themselves out of seats in Parliament. A few days or weeks of quiet reflection on the part of the SNP might he appropriate, given the treatment that it received in the polls. The hon. Lady is welcome to hold a Conservative seat if she likes, but I am delighted that the Labour party has retained its seats and regained the Western Isles and Dundee, East from the tartan Tories.

This has been an almost unreal debate from the point of view of the people whom I and my hon. Friends represent in Scotland. One would think that the general election campaign and its result had not happened. There is no recognition in the Queen's Speech or in the speeches of Conservative Members of the grim division that now exists between one part of the United Kingdom and another. There is no recognition of the obliteration of the Conservative party north of the border. It would be useful if certain people could make themselves visible in the Strangers' Gallery: Sir Alex Fletcher, Anna McCurley, Michael Hirst, John MacKay, Michael Ancram, Peter Fraser, Albert McQuarrie, Gerald Malone, John C'orrie, Alexander Pollock and Barry Henderson, to name but 11. Those people have had an awful doing north of the border, and I wonder whether their colleagues have learned anything from what has happened. The Prime Minister has indicated that she intends to go on inflicting her poisonous programme on Scotland as if' nothing had changed. She wants to continue with the privatisation, the cuts and the closures. She wants to go on with the intolerable level of unemployment in Scotland and to continue to suppress local democracy there.

One of the first measures to come before the new Parliament will be yet another order affecting the freedom of elected local authorities in Lothian, Clackmannan and Edinburgh to deal with their own affairs. The Government still intend to ride roughshod over local democracy in Scotland. That is not on.

The figures for the election in Scotland show that 1,258,132 people voted Labour and that no fewer than 2,245,058 people voted against the Conservative party in Scotland. Only 713,099 people voted for the Tory party in Scotland on 11 June — only 24 per cent. of the electorate. Yet the Government think that they can carry on as if nothing had happened. On any analysis that result represents a potential constitutional crisis. The attitude expressed by the Prime Minister today is calculated to ensure that that constitutional crisis will come to a head sooner rather than later if she is not careful.

If the Government chose to be sensitive there would be a possibility of avoiding the sort of confrontation to which I am referring. If they decide to be insensitive and to ride roughshod over the clearly expressed views of the people of Scotland, that could be a recipe for the destruction of that union about which the hon. Member for Moorlands spoke. No member of a responsible party wants that to happen.

The hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) referred to the position in Scotland, saying that he regarded the anomalies that would arise in Scottish Question Time as a bit of a joke. If those people were to pursue their logic to its conclusion, they would have to say that what they really want is to abolish the Scottish Office and simply incorporate the government of Scotland into the Whitehall Government machinery and make it part of England. I wish they would be honest and do that because then they would have to face the music in Scotland.

As things stand, the Government have no mandate in the Scottish context, yet they have the effrontery to say that they want to suggest further legislation. The Queen's Speech today referred to further legislation for education and housing in Scotland. If it was conciliatory legislation or legislation that was going to lead to the building of more houses to deal with the housing crisis I dare say that there would be a measure of support on both sides of the House. However, I am afraid that the Government's track record on that is not encouraging. If the Government want to legislate in Scotland I would love to know how they will do it because they have only 10 Members of Parliament left in Scotland. including the Secretary of State for Defence.