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Governance

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th June 1992.

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Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East 12:00 am, 24th June 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list those organisations which he had met as part of the Prime Minster's taking stock exercise in relation to the government of Scotland; and when he expects to come forward with proposals.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what further stock he has taken on the future governance of Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

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

We are continuing our consideration of arrangements for the governance of Scotland and will report back to the House in due course.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

Is not it true that the Government have no new ideas or proposals and are not willing to put the constitutional issue to the voters of Scotland? If private industry took as long over stocktaking as the Prime Minister does, it would end up bankrupt. Is not "taking stock" a cynical exercise in doing nothing at all?

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

No, it is not. After 13 years in office, the Government are bubbling over with new ideas in all areas of policy, as the hon. Gentleman will see if he reads our general election manifesto. The Government are indeed taking stock and we shall present our proposals, which I am sure will interest the hon. Gentleman, when they are ready.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

Having padlocked our steel industry today and having already murdered our coal and shipbuilding industries and decimated our engineering industry, the Government do not even have the guts to face the people of Scotland in a democratic test at the ballot box—a referendum. Why are the people of Denmark and France to be given a democratic referendum to decide their constitutional future in Europe, yet we in Scotland are denied the chance of a referendum on our democratic future? Why do we not have a referendum on Maastricht and Britain's future in Europe—and on Scotland's future in Britain? Why do the Government not have the guts to face the music in a democratic test?

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

The hon. Gentleman speaks with all the authority of a rave promoter at a time when raves are going out of fashion. If attendances at his raves continue to fall at the present rate, he will soon be able to hold them in his back garden. The Government had the guts to face the electorate in a general election. That was our multi-option referendum—and the electorate of the United Kingdom turned their backs on separation and devolution—[Interruption]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Has the Secretary of State finished his answer? I could not hear.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

Will my right hon. Friend use this opportunity to assess what subsidiarity offers him in regard to the scope and discharge of his duties? In view of the widespread interest in this topic, will he ensure that he reports back to the House before we return from the summer recess? Above all, will he confirm that he will assess subsidiarity in relation to Scotland on the basis that Scotland is an historic nation state, not a cap-in-hand Euro-region?

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

My right hon. Friend need have no doubt about the Conservatives' recognition of Scotland's importance, both in historic national terms and in terms of its part and place within the United Kingdom. All our consideration of proposals will take place against a background of determination to uphold both Scotland's place within the United Kingdom, and the integrity of the Union.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Is it not strange that the Opposition parties daily betray their obsession with the idea of the Government taking stock, while at the same time arrogantly dismissing the greatest stock-taking exercise of all—that undertaken by the people of Scotland in the general election? Will my right hon. Friend remind the Opposition that, when the Scottish people took stock, it was the Conservatives who increased their vote and their representation?

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A substantial majority of the Scottish electorate voted for parties that support the Union. The difference between the Opposition and the Government is that we regard the constitution of the United Kingdom as something to be cherished and guarded, while they regard it as a political plaything to be used to their advantage.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Will the Secretary of State remind his hon. Friends that, in the recent general election, three quarters of Scottish voters rejected the Tory Government and supported parties that were committed to the establishment of a Scottish Parliament? Let me take the right hon. Gentleman back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway). Why is he so reluctant to accept that the most democratic way of taking stock would be to let the people decide in a multi-option referendum? Is he afraid that the outcome of such a referendum would show overwhelming rejection of the status quo, and overwhelming support for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament?

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

The hon. Gentleman forgets that before polling day his party was opposed to a referendum on constitutional matters. Labour Members planned to force through the establishment of a Scottish Parliament without such a referendum; only since the election have they changed their tune. They planned to take power with a minority of votes, and to use that as a basis on which to force their policies through, without engaging in the consultation that they now regard as essential.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, during the general election campaign in my part of the country —where there is not a single Labour Member—the number of people in my constituency, including a large number of Scots who had taken advantage of the historic Union to come south and make their fortunes—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I have stopped other hon. Members who have not put their question. I am now waiting to hear the question that the hon. Gentleman is about to ask the Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was widespread support for the Union of the United Kingdom, and will he comment?

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that that support was reflected in the general election result. The Labour party proposed devolution throughout the United Kingdom, but it was in Scotland, where the proposal was most detailed, that the swing against them was most substantial.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

If there is a continuing dispute about the opinions of the Scottish public—which there clearly is—why does not the Secretary of State consider a referendum as a way of deciding the issue, given that he is so confident that he is right?

The Secretary of State will recall the pledge made by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Minister of State, Scottish Office. Lord Fraser said that the Government were committed to constitutional change that was "substantial and not cosmetic". Does he still stand by that? If the Secretary of State is indeed bubbling over with new ideas, will he tell us when just one of them—however modest —will be allowed to creep into the public domain?

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

I know that the hon. Gentleman used that quotation in good faith, but I have to tell him that it is a misquotation. I shall be happy to explain to him afterwards, at greater length and in detail, why and how that is so. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, however, that the Government are taking stock of the matter and will bring forward proposals and lay them before the House when they have considered them fully.