Constitutional Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th February 1992.

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Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill 12:00 am, 26th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has had concerning the constitutional future of Scotland.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

In the past six months, representations received about constitutional issues have comprised 141 letters or postcards, of which 55 were in favour of devolution, 39 were in favour of independence and 47 were opposed to either.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill

In the past four days since the Prime Minister made his extraordinary remark about taking stock after the general election, has the Secretary of State for Scotland got around to clarifying what was meant by that?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

The Prime Minister, like the leaders of all political parties and like all candidates in the election, will be taking stock the day afterwards. My right hon. Friend will be taking stock of the increased number of Members representing the Conservative party. A more appropriate phrase for the Opposition would be "licking wounds".

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

When the Secretary of State considers constitutional change, will he disregard the position of the SNP? Having listened on Monday for a fairly long time to the SNP pleading to leave the Union, I noticed that the leader of the parliamentary group, the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), could not get down to Westminster quick enough to sit beside the heir to the throne at a dinner. If that is not near the the United Kingdom establishment, I do not know what is.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Far be it from me to intervene in family squabbles between two members of two socialist parities. I content myself with standing firm on the only piece of strong ground in the constitutional argument, which represents those who believe in the maintenance of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom. That is the position to which we are committed.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I call Mrs. Margaret Ewing—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Lady was mentioned.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

Leaving aside the rather sour comments of the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing), may I ask the Secretary of State whether he believes in the Meccano engineering ideas propounded as a way to resolve the constitutional issue in Scotland—such as the Scottish Grand Committee meeting more often in Scotland, or even the Cabinet meeting in Scotland? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that that would be viewed by the Scots as tinkering with an unacceptable solution? Will he deal with the fundamental issue that the Scottish people have placed firmly on his doorstep, which is the need for a facility to establish the right of the Scots to self-determination?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I do not believe in tinkering with the constitution and that is where I part company with all the parties on the Opposition Benches. Whether they would deliberately break Scotland free from the remainder of the United Kingdom, which is the policy of the hon. Lady's party, or do that by degrees and in disguise, which is the policy of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party, the end product would be the same. The only protection of Scotland's place within the United Kingdom is the sovereignty of this United Kingdom Parliament.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

Although I recognise that the West Lothian question remains to be answered, some of those who have listened to the arguments for more than 20 years still find the arguments of our right hon. Friend Lord Home rather more seductive than the argument of our right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). Is not it a cause of some concern that ever since 1975 support for our party in Scotland has been declining? Has not our party always been in favour of decentralisation? When my right hon. Friend returns to office, as he will in the next Government, will he initiate some discussions that will enable us to arrive at a solution to the problem that satisfies all parties?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is right to identify the principle of devolution as important to our party. That is why we devolved power from the Government to the people; that is why we devolved power from the centre to the outlying parts. However, my hon. Friend's memory of history is a little shaky. If he reflects, he may recall that after the last occasion on which the constitutional question was directly addressed in a referendum in 1979, the strength of the Scottish Conservative party rose considerably in the subsequent Parliament. In that referendum campaign, support for a devolved assembly fell from 70 per cent. at the beginning to just above 30 per cent. at the end.