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Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st October 1992.

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Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East 12:00 am, 21st October 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received since 9 April relating to the government of Scotland.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to improve the governance of Scotland.

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

Since the general election, I and my right hon. Friends have undertaken a range of consultations relating to the government of Scotland. We are considering ways of making government more responsive to Scotland's needs within the Union.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

Does the Secretary of State accept that the magnificent campaign currently being waged by the National Union of Mineworkers demonstrates that this Tory Government will react to only one kind of pressure—extra-parliamentary pressure? Therefore, does he agree that if the people of Scotland want self-government, they will have to exert extra-parliamentary pressure by turning out in their thousands to support the mass lobby of this undemocratic Parliament on 26 November and the mass demonstration at the Euro summit on 12 December? Where will he be on that date—skulking in his constituency, frightened to show his face to the Scottish people because he has so blatantly let them down in this place?

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

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was taking part in extra-parliamentary activities when he set up Scottish United, along with his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway). They claimed that thousands were rallying to their cause, but at every meeting the numbers fell by 1,000 or 2,000. I do not think that they are campaigning at all now, are they?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The Secretary of State referred to bringing forward proposals responsive to Scotland's needs. Does he accept that another feature of democracy is having proposals that are responsive to the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Scotland? What wish has he identified for privatisation of our water supplies? Does he believe that taking away local control of the water industry in the teeth of overwhelming opposition is a good exercise of proper democratic government?

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

I think that the hon. Gentleman is a month or two premature with his question. The Government do not have a policy that commits them to water privatisation. We are considering a consultation document that will set out a range of options for the future of the water industry in restructured local government. I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's representations when he has had a chance to read the consultation paper and consider the answers to the questions that must be addressed.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

My understanding is that most of the proposals for changing the governance of Scotland would result in Scottish Members spending more time in Scotland than here in Westminster. Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although losing some Scottish Members would be of benefit to Opposition parties in the House, we on the Conservative Benches would be sorry to see them spending less time here?

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right to recognise that this is the Parliament of the United Kingdom, in which Scottish Members, English Members, Welsh Members and Northern Ireland Members all have equal rights.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Kingdom's unwritten constitution and Parliament are the finest safeguards that the Scots can have to ensure that their interests are looked after? We have only to consider the occupancy of the Government and Opposition Front Benches to realise that Scots, with less than 9 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, always enjoy much more representation—probably more than 25 per cent.—on those Benches.

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Scotland enjoys advantages from its membership of this United Kingdom Parliament. Scotland's economy enjoys advantages from its membership of the United Kingdom. Nothing in our consideration will undermine Scotland's place as a full partner in the United Kingdom.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

Listening to the smirking arrogance of the Secretary of State for Scotland, we would scarcely believe that just under 25 per cent. of Scottish electors voted for him at the general election six months ago. Having listened to the humbug that he uttered a few moments ago, no one would believe that probably about half those electors would vote in that way again if they could have the general election again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) asked the Secretary of State a question. What will he be doing when thousands of Scots are down here lobbying Parliament? Will he undertake now to meet the lobbyists who come to press Scotland's case for self-determination? Will he name two of the hirelings sitting next to him to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East and myself in a public debate in any constituency in Scotland? We shall then see what the Scottish people think of his case and ours.

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

The hon. Gentleman's figure was incorrect. He talks of humbug and calls for meetings in this Parliament. Yet on 8 July—this appeared in the Daily Record—the hon. Gentleman called on his Scottish colleagues to boycott Scottish questions which would leave Scottish Secretary Ian Lang to address an empty Chamber. It seems that the hon. Gentleman's ruse does not work.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Will the Secretary of State now admit that in the disastrous months since the election, it is his stock, his party's stock and London government stock that has nose-dived in Scotland? Can he name any group of Scottish workers—fishermen, miners, nurses or teachers—who have any remaining confidence in his government of Scotland?

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

As the leader of a party who promised to win 37 seats and ended up winning three, the hon. Gentleman knows all about nose-diving. I believe that the vast majority of people in Scotland recognise the success that the Government have achieved there in the past few years in helping our economy to diversify and strengthen and in preparing it now for emergence from recession, when we shall continue the process of sustained growth and the development of new prosperity.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

Does the Secretary of State accept that the Opposition are used to broken promises on the part of the Conservatives, but that we are not used to the Secretary of State betraying the true interests of Scotland? Will he tell the House and the Scottish people when the constitutional farce, popularly called "Taking stock of the governance of Scotland", will end? Does he agree that Scots are treated with contempt when they are lectured about getting closer to the people from the cosy confines of the Monday Club in Brighton when every decision taken by the right hon. Gentleman rides roughshod over public opinion on every conceivable issue?

Is he also aware that while our European colleagues are taking the issue of subsidiarity seriously we have the spectacle of the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister using it to cover cracks in the Conservative party? Why is he not using subsidiarity to better the government of Scotland? Does he accept that 75 per cent. of Scots want costitutional change? There is a compelling case to be made for a voice for Scotland so that our aspirations and our priorities can be met much more effectively. When will he stop treating the people of Scotland with contempt and, more importantly, when can we expect to see some leadership?

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

I would never treat the people of Scotland with contempt. I put my case to the people in the general election just as my party did and we won re-election as the Government of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman asked me about subsidiarity, but he does not seem to be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Chancellor Kohl of Germany have been the two leading figures within the European Community who have driven the principle of subsidiarity forward.