Orders of the Day — Scottish Business

– in the House of Commons at 9:59 pm on 11th July 1994.

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Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale 9:59 pm, 11th July 1994

I beg to move, That with effect from the beginning of the next Session—

  1. (a) Standing Orders No. 93 (Public bills relating exclusively to Scotland), No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee), No. 96 (Scottish estimates) and No. 97 (Matters relating exclusively to Scotland) shall be repealed, and the following Standing Orders A to H below shall have effect;
  2. (b) Standing Orders No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees) and No. 91 (Special standing committees) shall be amended as set out below; and
  3. (c) other Standing Orders shall have effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this Order.
A. Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business)(1) There shall be a standing committee called the Scottish Grand Committee, which shall consist of all Members representing Scottish constituencies; and of which (subject to paragraph (6) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) the quorum shall be ten.(2) The business of the Committee shall include—
  1. (a) questions tabled in accordance with Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer));
  2. (b) short debates held in accordance with Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates));
  3. (c) ministerial statements proceeded with in accordance with Standing Order D (Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements));
  4. (d) bills referred to it for consideration in relation to their principle, in accordance with Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle));
  5. (e) motions relating to statutory instruments or draft statutory instruments, referred to it in accordance with Standing Order F (Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c));
  6. (f) motions for the adjournment of the committee, notice of which has been given in accordance with Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)); and
  7. (g) motions for the adjournment of the committee, to be made after the interruption of business, as provided in Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)).
B. Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)(1) Notices of questions for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee by Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.(2) Notices of questions given under this order shall bear an indication that they are for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee.(3) No more than one notice of a question may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the taking of questions.(4) On any day so specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), questions shall be taken at the commencement of the sitting; no question shall be taken later then three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of the proceedings thereon; and replies to questions not reached shall be printed with the Official Report of the committee's debates for that day.(5) Notices of questions under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which an answer is desired:Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph.C. Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)(1) Notices of subjects to be raised in short debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.(2) Subjects of which notice is given under paragraph ( I) of this order must relate to the official responsibilities of Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers.(3) Not more than one notice of a subject may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the holding of short debates.(4) On any day so specified such debates shall be held the commencement of the sitting or, if the order under paragraph (1) specifies also the taking of questions on that day, immediately after questions.(5)(a) No member of the committee except the minister or law officer replying to the debate shall be called to speak later than half an hour after the commencement of the first such debate.(b) The Member who gave notice of the subject and the minister or law officer replying to the debate may each speak for five minutes. Other members of the committee may speak for three minutes.(c) The chairman may direct any member of the committee who exceeds the limits in sub-paragraph (b) to resume his seat forthwith.(6) Notices of subjects under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which they are sought to be raised:Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph.D. Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)(1) The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement, of which prior notice has been given to him, and to answer questions thereon put by members of the committee.(2) Ministerial statements may be made for the purpose of—
  1. (a) facilitating the questioning by members of the committee of the minister or law officer, as the case may be, about a matter relating to his official responsibilities as provided in the second column of the eleventh sub-paragraph of paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 130 (Select committees related to government departments), in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion not later than three-quarters of an hour after their commencement; or
  2. (b) announcing the policy of the Government on a matter relating to Scotland or the response of the Government to an event relating to Scotland, in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion at the discretion of the chairman.
(3) Ministerial statements may be made—
  1. (a) at the commencement of a sitting; or
  2. (b) if questions are taken, immediately after the conclusion of proceedings thereon; or
  3. (c) if short debates are held, immediately after the conclusion of those proceedings.
(4) A minister or law officer making a statement under paragraph (1) of this order, who is not a member of the committee, may not do so from the body of the committee; and such a minister or law officer shall not vote, make any motion or be counted in the quorum.E. Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)(1) After any public bill has been first printed, the Speaker shall, if of the opinion that its provisions relate exclusively to Scotland, give a certificate to that effect:Provided that a certificate shall not be withheld by reason only that a provision of that bill amends Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 or Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975.(2) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill so certified, a motion may be made by a member of the Government (or in the case of a private Members' bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), 'That the bill be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee'; and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business:Provided that such a motion may be made by a private Member only with the leave of the House.(3) A bill so referred to the Scottish Grand Committee shall be considered on a motion, 'That the Committee has considered the bill in relation to its principle;' and, when the committee has considered that question for a total of two and half hours (whether on one or more than one day), the chairman shall put the question necessary to dispose of the motion, and shall then report accordingly to the House (or shall report that the committee has come to no resolution), without any further question being put thereon:Provided that a member of the government may, immediately before the motion 'That the Committee has considered the bill in relation to its principle' is made, make without notice a motion to extend the time-limit specified in this paragraph; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith.(4) A bill in respect of which a report has been made under paragraph (3) above shall be ordered to be read a second time on a future day.(5) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill to which paragraph (4) above applies, a motion may be made by a member of the government (or, in the case of a private Member's bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), 'That the bill be committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee)' : and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.(6) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time, and shall stand committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee).F. Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c.)(1) Where—(a) a Member has given notice of a motion for a humble address to Her Majesty praying that a statutory instrument be annulled, or of a motion that a draft of an Order in Council be not submitted to Her Majesty in Council, or that a statutory instrument be revoked or be not made, or that the House takes note of a statutory instrument, or(b) a Minister of the Crown has given notice of a motion to the effect that a statutory instrument or draft statutory instrument be approved,a motion may be made by a member of the government, 'That the instrument (or draft instrument) be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee'; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.(2) The committee shall consider each instrument (or draft instrument) referred to it on a motion, 'That the Committee has considered the instrument (or draft instrument)'; and the chairman shall put any question necessary to dispose of the proceedings on the motion, if not previously disposed of, not later than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings thereon; and shall thereupon report the instrument or draft instrument to the House without any further question being put.(3) If any motion is made in the House of the kind specified in paragraph 1(a) or 1(b) of this order, in relation to any instrument or draft instrument in respect of which a report has been made to the House in accordance with paragraph (2) of this order, the Speaker shall put forthwith the question thereon; which may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.G. Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)(1) On each of the days specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the Scottish Grand Committee, such motions of which notice has been given in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3) below shall have precedence.(2) A member of the committee giving notice of a motion for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall—
  1. (a) also give notice of the subject to which he intends to call attention on the motion for the adjournment of the committee, and
  2. (b) give such notice of motion and of the subject in writing not later than ten sitting days before that on which the motion is to be made:
Provided that the subject to which attention is called must relate to Scotland.(3) The days specified for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall be allocated as follows—
  1. (a) six at the disposal of the government;
  2. (b) four at the disposal of the Leader of the Opposition; and, in respect of parties other than that of the Leader of the Opposition,
  3. (c) one at the disposal of the leader of the largest opposition party; and
  4. (d) one at the disposal of the leader of the next largest opposition party:
Provided that a day specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) on which business is to be interrupted at or after half-past three o'clock shall, if no business other than that to which this order applies is set down for consideration on that day, be deemed to be two days for the purposes of this order.(4) For the purposes of this order, the 'largest' and 'next largest' opposition parties in Scotland shall be those parties, not being represented in Her Majesty's Government and of which the Leader of the Opposition is not a member, which have the largest and next largest number of Members who represent constituencies in Scotland, and of which not fewer than three Members were elected to the House as members of those parties.H. Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)(1) A motion may be made by a member of the government providing (or varying previous provision) for the Scottish Grand Committee—
  1. (a) to sit on specified days at a specified place in Scotland, the sitting commencing at half-past ten o'clock, and proceedings being interrupted at such hour as may be specified;
  2. (b) to sit on other specified days at Westminster at half-past ten o'clock;
  3. (c) to take questions under Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)) on certain of the days specified under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) above;
  4. (d) to hold short debates under Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)) on certain of the days so specified; and
  5. (e) to consider substantive motions for the adjournment of the committee under Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) on not more than twelve of the days so specified.
and the Speaker shall put forthwith the question on such a motion, which may be decided after the time for opposed business:
Provided that nothing in this order shall prevent the committee from considering further at a sitting at Westminster business adjourned at a previous sitting in Scotland, nor from considering at a sitting in Scotland business adjourned at a sitting at Westminster.(2) The provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees), so far as they relate to the naming of a day in respect of business by the Member appointed chairman and the committee's appointment of future days in respect of business not completed at a sitting, shall not apply to the Scottish Grand Committee.(3) Other than as provided in paragraph (1) of Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)), the government shall determine the precedence of the business appointed for consideration at any sitting of the committee.(4) The chairman shall interrupt proceedings at the time specified in relation to the sitting by an order made under paragraph (1) above, or, in the absence of such provision, at one o'clock, subject to paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees).(5) At the moment of interruption, proceedings under consideration and not disposed of shall stand adjourned (except substantive motions for the adjournment of the committee under Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) which shall lapse).(6) After the interruption of proceedings, a motion for the adjournment of the committee may be made by a member of the government, and, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees) the chairman shall, not later than half an hour after the motion has been made, adjourn the committee without putting any question; and in respect of business taken under this paragraph, the quorum of the committee shall be three.That Standing Orders be amended as follows—(i) Standing Order No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), by adding at the end of line 91 the words—(11) A private Member's bill to which the provisions of paragraphs (2) to (6) of Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) have applied, and which has been considered by a Scottish Standing Committee (or by a special standing committee), shall not be set down for consideration on report so as to have precedence over any private Member's bill so set down which was read a second time on a day preceding that on which the bill was reported from the Scottish Grand Committee under paragraph (3) of that Standing Order";(ii) Standing Order No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees), in line 1, by leaving out the words "Standing Order No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee)" and inserting the words "Standing Order A (Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business))"; and(iii) Standing Order No. 91 (Special standing committees), by inserting at the end of line 13 the words—Provided that, in the case of bills certified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) and committed pursuant to paragraph (5) thereof to a special standing committee, the three morning sittings may be held in Scotland". I am glad to have the opportunity to put before the House this evening the changes to Standing Orders—[Interruption.]

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

Order. Will those Members who are standing and having a conversation please do so outside or sit down?

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

I am glad to have the opportunity to put before the House the changes to Standing Orders, which relate primarily to the work of the Scottish Grand Committee, and were envisaged in the White Paper, "Scotland in the Union: A Partnership for Good", published in March last year. The changes will substantially complete the implementation of the proposals made in the White Paper, which have been, and will be, beneficial for Scotland.

The White Paper followed a serious and detailed consideration of Scottish constitutional issues and of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom, following a pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister shortly before the 1992 general election. That was the process that became popularly known as "taking stock."

In the White Paper, we reaffirmed our belief in the importance of the Union to Scotland and of Scotland to the Union. At the same time, we acknowledged that, from time to time in Scotland, there has been real concern that the Union may not have been functioning as effectively as it might, and we faced up squarely to the need to make the proposals address such shortcomings. The White Paper sought to identify new ways to build on the existing strengths of the Union, recognising that that was a part of a continuing process with the overall aim of strengthening Scotland's place in the Union—an aim which few in the House will challenge.

I shall summarise the main elements of our proposals, so as to bring the House up to date on the most significant changes, before turning to the Standing Order changes.

The White Paper emphasised our commitment to Scotland's place in Europe. We have met our commitments to secure substantial representation for Scotland on the Committee of the Regions and to host a Europartenariat, which was held in December 1993. Scottish Ministers and Scottish Office officials continue to attend meetings of the Council of Ministers when a discussion has a clear bearing on Scottish interests, and positive steps have been taken to further Scottish links with other parts of Europe.

The White Paper did much to bring to Scotland more decisions affecting Scotland, and much work has been done to transfer certain functions and powers to the Scottish Office. I shall draw attention to two particularly important examples.

First, the transfer to me of responsibility for the Scottish Arts Council took effect, as planned, from 1 April this year. It is now established as an independent body with its own royal charter, and I am confident that the council will serve the Scottish arts world well. With the creation of the new council, there is, for the first time, a unified funding structure for the arts in Scotland—all central Government support coming from the Scottish Office.

Secondly, I also took over responsibility for training policy in Scotland on 1 April. We already had in place unique institutional arrangements for the delivery of Government-funded training programmes with the establishment of Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Island Enterprise and the local enterprise companies, leading to a better understanding of local economic demands and of the training required to meet them. My assumption of responsibility for training policy builds on that.

Significantly, it also rounds out my capacity to influence industrial development by enabling me to consider education and training in an integrated way. It accords well with the additional responsibilities that I recently assumed for funding the universities in Scotland—Scottish institutions, with United Kingdom and international stature, and an important part to play, along with other elements of the education and training system, in the enhancement of the skills base that is vital to our economic success.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

The Secretary of State will know that, as a member of the Select Committee on Employment, I have followed developments—as has his Parliamentary Private Secretary—in local enterprise councils and training and enterprise councils, which developed from the experience of Boston private industry councils. In the Boston PICs, a responsibility was placed on the training manager to place people in employment, which is something that we welcome.

Given the present recession, does the Secretary of State accept that the quotas that he is demanding that those providing training should meet should not apply to those who are training people with special training needs or with physical or mental disabilities? A number of companies—especially those connected with the Scottish Association for Mental Health—are experiencing increasing difficulty in having their contracts renewed because of the quota arrangement.

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

I understand the specific point that the hon. Gentleman is making. If he wishes to pursue it with me, I shall be happy to look into the details. In general, however, I think that the local enterprise companies have a vital role to play—just as the training and enterprise companies do in England—in co-ordinating and delivering training schemes in the enterprise company areas for which they are responsible. Members of LECs, more than anyone else, know the specific needs of their areas, and know how schemes can be adapted and made more flexible to suit particular requirements.

Those are just one or two examples of the many improvements in the handling of Scottish affairs that flow from the White Paper. Overall, the Government have a highly creditable record of success in delivering what the White Paper promised, improving the way in which the Union works and bringing important benefits to the people of Scotland.

In that context, and in the same vein, let me deal with the formal business that we are discussing—the changes being made to our Standing Orders to implement the proposals in chapter 6 of the White Paper "Scotland in the Union". Let me remind the House briefly what they are designed to achieve.

As the White Paper acknowledged, the criticism has often been made that there is too little time in our crowded Westminster schedule for Scottish affairs to be discussed fully and properly. We could debate that criticism at length, but I do not propose to do so; it would be hard to argue that there is too little time for Scottish business when we recently devoted 178 hours to the Committee stage of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill, and two and a half days to Report and Third Reading.

For many years, under Governments of both complexions, there has been a solid programme of Scottish legislation. That programme has given the House opportunities to debate Scottish issues, either on their own or within the framework of United Kingdom debates to which they are relevant. More recently, the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs—also established by a Conservative Government—has provided a forum for particular issues to be examined in depth.

The Government have decided, however, that, in the spirit of Scotland in the Union, it is appropriate to seek ways of increasing the opportunities for parliamentary discussion of Scottish affairs. I emphasise that our measures are in no way intended to diminish opportunities for Scottish business to be taken on the Floor of the House; it is the Government's firm intention that matters which merit debate in the Chamber should continue to be given that opportunity. The changes that we are making are intended to provide additional opportunities, rather than a diversion of what we have now.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

According to records that I have obtained from the Library, the Scottish Grand Committee last met in Edinburgh on 1 February last year. Why have no sittings taken place in Edinburgh since that debate on local government reform?

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

The question when the Scottish Grand Committee should meet and the question when estimates should be debated are the subject of negotiation between the usual channels. Part of the reason is that there has been less pressure than normal for meetings to take place in Scotland. I hope, however, that the measures that I am announcing will provide more opportunities for such matters to be debated not only in Edinburgh, but elsewhere in Scotland.

The Standing Orders are designed to produce the improvement that I have described from the beginning of the next Session. Our approach turns on providing an expanded role for the Scottish Grand Committee: in effect, we would be creating for it a mini-Order Paper, modelled, in many respects, on the procedures of the House.

The Committee will be able to conduct general debates and debates on Second Reading of Bills, as now. In addition, it will have the opportunity for a question time; the opportunity to hear statements and take evidence from Scottish Office Ministers, including, where appropriate, those who sit in the other place; the opportunity to consider statutory instruments relating to Scotland; and the opportunity to have short Adjournment debates. We are also proposing a new procedure—unique to the Grand Committee—for short debates, with short speeches, on particular subjects raised by Scottish Members.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

New Standing Order D, entitled "Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)", states: The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office Minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement, of which prior notice has been given to him". How much prior notice must be given to the Chairman?

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

Clearly, sufficient prior notice would be required before a Committee sitting took place as a result of a motion on the Order Paper, unless such notice had already been tabled in a sessional order or an order that had laid down the precise dates throughout a particular term of the Session. The point of the exercise is to act by consent and agreement across the Floor of the House, so the usual channels would be involved in negotiating precise details.

The Standing Orders provide a framework within which a calendar can be laid out at the beginning of each Session—or, more likely, each term. That might set out the dates of meetings in Scotland and at Westminster and identify those meetings at which questions, short debates and general debates are to be taken. The objective would be to achieve, by agreement through the usual channels, a satisfactory pattern of business that avoided difficult clashes with the other parliamentary demands on hon. Members' time. A calendar of that sort should ensure that days available for general debates in the Scottish Grand Committee were deployed to best advantage.

Our key change from the present arrangements would be the replacement of the present pattern of up to six estimates days and up to six matter days by provision for up to 12 general debates. It has been clear for some time that the present distinction between estimates debates and matter days debates is largely artificial. Both are in effect general debates on issues of current concern.

In addition, the present arrangements have led to difficulties and uncertainties over timetabling, which has created problems. That has been a particular feature of the estimates debates, which have traditionally tended to be bunched together in late June and early July. Those debates are at the discretion and disposal of the Opposition, who, for whatever reason, have not had full advantage of them in recent years. The minority parties have been particularly disadvantaged in that regard.

It is against that background that we propose the move to up to 12 general debates, to take place on substantive motions for the Adjournment, as provided under new Standing Order G. Of those general debates, four will be at the disposal of Her Majesty's Opposition, and one each would go to the two next largest Opposition parties in Scotland, provided that they have not fewer than three hon. Members. In providing for days to be available in that way, we are following the principles that relate to Opposition days in the House, which work successfully.

I envisage that some of the general debates will be on matters that arise regularly: the "hardy perennials", such as public expenditure in Scotland. The timing of those debates and the way in which they count against each party's allocation of time would, as for other aspects of our proposals, be settled by agreement through the usual channels.

I do not propose to dwell at length on the technical details of the new arrangements. There has been ample opportunity for consultation with the Opposition parties, and the text of the Standing Orders, together with a detailed explanatory note, has been available in the House of Commons Library since 10 February.

The intention of the new procedures is not to displace the Second Reading of major Bills from the Floor of the House, but to provide an alternative route that may be more appropriate for measures such as law reform Bills, which are often squeezed out at present. The intention is also, in certain circumstances, to enable private Members Bills relating exclusively to Scotland to have a proper Second Reading debate.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The Secretary of State is aware that a Bill to enact many of the recommendations of various reports on legislation affecting children in Scotland would enjoy considerable cross-party support and might lend itself to some of the procedures that he is suggesting. Can we expect such a long-overdue measure in the next Session?

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

As the hon. Gentleman will know, I cannot anticipate the Queen's Speech, but I note what he says, and I take from that his party's willingness to contemplate the Second Reading of such a Bill in those circumstances.

In drafting the Standing Orders, the opportunity has been taken to simplify some of the complex and confusing procedures relating to the reference of business to the Scottish Grand Committee, and to the handling of Bills that have a Second Reading there. Those are explained in more detail in the companion to the Standing Orders, which has been in the Library since February, and I am sure that the procedures will be found to be simpler and more effective.

Overall, the proposed changes will contribute to making the Scottish Grand Committee a more effective forum for debate.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Although the Scottish Grand Committee may well become an effective forum for debate, can the Secretary of State explain how on earth that will extend democracy in Scotland? What is the use of having another talking shop if the Scottish Grand Committee will not have an effective vote on the principle of legislation? Surely one cannot have credible democratic scrutiny and accountability if one cannot vote.

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

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that democracy is confined to voting, he does not understand what democracy is all about. It happens to be quite a lot about debating and talking. The word "Parliament" derives from the French word "paler".

It may be appropriate to say a word about what I envisage for the Committee's sittings in Scotland. I think that areas other than Edinburgh should occasionally have the opportunity to host the Committee's meetings. I have asked my officials to provide assistance to the House authorities, who are ultimately responsible for making arrangements for sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee, to identify suitable premises.

I should also mention briefly the other changes to the Standing Orders proposed tonight. The main one is the amendment

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Does the Secretary of State recognise that if the Scottish Grand Committee goes on tour, it is even more important that we have proper notice of the meetings of the Committee? One of the greatest criticisms over the years has been of the idea that Members of Parliament are sitting around with free Tuesday and Thursday mornings waiting for the Scottish Grand Committee to meet. That is not true. Notice has been lamentable, especially this Session.

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

I absolutely agree with the right hon. Member. I recall that, when I was the Scottish Whip many years ago, that was a complaint he had then, and he still has it now; he has been consistent in the matter. I am happy now to be able to meet his concern by bringing forward proposals that will give him precisely the predictability he seeks. Except in the case of occasional statements, which may have to be made at relatively short notice, the programme will be laid down well in advance.

I refer especially to the amendment to Standing Order No. 91, which deals with Special Standing Committees. It will enable Special Standing Committees on Scottish Bills to meet in Scotland for the three sittings of oral evidence for which the Standing Order provides.

As I have said, I believe that the changes will provide a fuller opportunity for Scottish affairs to be debated in a Scottish context, although at the same time fully within the framework of the procedures of this House and the existing constitutional arrangements, which have served Scotland well. I commend them to the House.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State 10:16 pm, 11th July 1994

The amendments to the Standing Orders derive, as the Prime Minister said, from the exercise that has become, he claimed, "popularly known"—I believe unpopularly named—as the "taking stock" exercise. It was embarked on by the Prime Minister in response to widespread public concern in Scotland about the fact that, in the 1992 general election, 75 per cent. of the people voted for parties in Scotland calling for one form of constitutional change or another and only 25 per cent. of the electorate voted for the Conservative party—a party that was pledged and committed to making no serious change in the constitutional arrangements relating to Scotland inside the United Kingdom. That left a serious problem of credibility for the Government—a problem that remains.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that everyone who voted for his party, for the Liberal Democrats or for the Scottish National party voted exclusively and solely for constitutional change?

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State

No, I am not saying that. I am saying that they voted for those three parties, and that it was integral to the programme of those parties that there would be constitutional change and that there would be a Scottish Parliament. It is a bit rich of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) to say that. Shortly after the general election, he was appointed vice-chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland. Its support went from 25 per cent. of the electorate in the general election to 2.3 per cent. of the electorate in the Monklands, East by-election two weeks ago in which the hon. Gentleman played a starring role. The hon. Gentleman is not in much of a position to speak as he does here.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I hope to be helpful to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). I was interested in the intervention by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson). Is the hon. Member for Hamilton aware that, in the most recent opinion poll that tested these matters, no fewer than 51 per cent. of Conservative supporters were in favour of some form of constitutional change? Admittedly, it was a very small sample.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I find myself in the astonishing position of thanking the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) for an intervention. I know that he has problems of his own inside his party and that may be why he is being helpful on this occasion. I notice that Mr. Jim Sillars, the former Member of Parliament for Glasgow, Govan, said that the result in Monklands, East was a protest vote. He continued: anyone who denies that is denying reality, so in a sense it almost didn't count. However, I still welcome the comment of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan. In that opinion poll, 48 per cent. of those who said that they supported the Scottish National party supported a Scottish Parliament inside the United Kingdom, which is the policy of the Labour party. The party of government had at that point a serious problem of credibility and sought to address it through a taking-stock exercise.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

If a future Labour Government did not have a majority of seats in England and did not have a substantial vote of support in England in percentage terms, as the hon. Gentleman has quoted, does that mean that a future Labour Government would make no constitutional changes affecting England?

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

The cheque is in the post.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

That is not an expensive question at all. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that if, in the next general election, the Labour party puts forward a prospectus calling for a Parliament in Scotland, an Assembly in Wales and, ultimately, regional assemblies throughout England, we shall pursue that prospectus because we believe in decentralisation in the United Kingdom. The reality of the vote in 1992 was that 75 per cent. of the population—convincing by any standards—voted for parties which called for major constitutional change, yet we were faced with a Government who said that the answer to that was no change at all.

I recall that in March, in a profile of the Secretary of State for Scotland in The Guardian, he acknowledged the dilemma that he faced. He acknowledged that he led a party in Scotland which did not have a majority, as part of a Government elected by United Kingdom figures. He said that that had led him to deal with problems with a little circumspection. Of course, the difficulty is that there is precious little circumspection in any of the policies that the Government are now following.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I have given way enough in this brief debate. Welcome though visitors to the debate are, I should move forward.

In the light of that problem of credibility, in the light of that result in 1992, the new Standing Orders are a pathetic and totally inadequate response—

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) has just referred to visitors in the Chamber. Is not this indeed the Parliament of the United Kingdom? Can you confirm that there are absolutely no visitors in the Chamber tonight?

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

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Every hon. Member here is a democratically elected Member of this House. All hon. Members have a right to speak in the House and I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman brought that point of order to my attention.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I agree with you, Madam Speaker. However, I do not think that the use of the word "visitors", or even of the word "passengers" could be possibly ruled out of order. I have never been one to say that anybody should be denied the right to speak, but hon. Gentlemen who are coming to such debates for the first time do not have a proprietorial right to intervene on any speech that happens to be made, however much respect I have for the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), who may have had a greater interest in the previous debate.

The new Standing Orders are pathetic and a totally inadequate response to the overwhelming public demand for a directly elected Scottish Parliament in Scotland. That is what is wanted, that is what is needed and that is what the people of Scotland have repeatedly asked for. The Secretary of State's opening speech underlined the need for that Parliament by describing the new powers which have come to him as a result of the exercise. He has taken upon himself responsibility for the Scottish Arts Council. He has taken upon himself the powers over training policy and the way in which that is to be integrated into industrial policy. He has taken upon himself the control of university finance in Scotland. The panoply of powers controlled directly by the Secretary of State for Scotland has increased dramatically and the only accountability that we are being offered is through the new Standing Orders.

The Standing Orders in no way remove the obligation to look much more radically at what the people of Scotland want, especially in the light of the further collapse of Conservative support from 25 per cent. at the previous general election to under 14 per cent. in the regional council elections and in the European elections. Let us not overlook the fact that Conservative support in the most recent by-election dropped to a mere 2.3 per cent., the smallest proportion and the lowest absolute vote scored by the Conservative party since, I believe, 1874. Surely Conservative Members should be concerned about that. Conservative Members must regard 1992 as the halcyon days when their party was achieving a 25 per cent. share of the vote. No doubt they think back to that time with considerable nostalgia.

The proposals before us will improve the handling of Scottish parliamentary business and, therefore, are to be welcomed. There will be greater opportunities to question Ministers. We shall be able to cross-examine Ministers in the other place. These measures constitute a small but valuable step forward. Other improvements are the ideas of structured and timetabled Grand Committee debates on pre-determined issues, Adjournment debates and Special Standing Committees in the context of specific Scottish Bills. I welcome those concepts and look forward to the negotiations that will take place between all the parties to try to establish a timetable and a framework that will be to the convenience of us all. It is not just the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), who has now left the Chamber, who has been inconvenienced by the way in which previous debates were arranged.

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the representation of Scottish Labour Members this evening—about 20 per cent.—is representative of the attendance that we might expect at future Scottish Grand Committees? That would be in line with the most recent Scottish Grand Committee, which was held at Edinburgh, when Labour attendance was poor.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

The hon. Gentleman should put the matter to the test at a Scottish Parliament in which real legislative powers are vested. That would be the ultimate test. The proposals before us represent only a small move forward, but one which I am willing to welcome. They do not, however, take us anywhere near what the Scottish people want and deserve.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

I am grateful to the hon. Member for allowing me to intervene, whether he describes me as a visitor or a passenger.

It is a legitimate English interest to explore a little further what the Labour party means by a Scottish Parliament. If it means that a Scottish Parliament will, for example, be debating and deciding upon Scottish education or Scottish health, we in England, much as we shall miss the representation from Scotland, which takes such an interested part in our debates on such large matters, will be unwilling to hear Scots debating matters here that we are not allowed to debate in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

The hon. Gentleman comes from Kent, yet another part of the country which voted Labour in the European elections. I am sure that that is part of his interest in the wider debates that are taking place here.

We do not have a neat arrangement in the United Kingdom. We do not have something that would easily be described in the neat checks and balances of a written constitution. There are obvious problems. The hon. Member for Mid-Kent is sitting behind the Secretary of State for Scotland, who exercises huge powers over specifically Scottish legislation. As has been said, the Government are in the process of ramming through a measure to reorganise Scottish local government. The Bill, in all its manifestation, is bitterly unpopular in Scotland. That is one of the reasons for the Conservative party being so unpopular north of the border. It is dropping down almost out of sight in electoral terms. The Secretary of State is able to proceed, however, because a majority of Members come from south of the border. Such is the nature of the United Kingdom.

The creation of a Scottish Parliament with accountability for the decisions taken on Scottish legislation, with the involvement of the Scottish people, would produce yet another facet of the developing union that the Government talk about with such great pride. I believe that such a Parliament would strengthen that union. If the Secretary of State examined the proposal in greater detail, I believe that he, too, would welcome it.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I was moving to a lengthy point, but in the light of that, I will accept an intervention.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Perth and Kinross

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that, if a Scottish institution produces Scottish legislation that affects England and all other parts of the kingdom in respect of road traffic, safety or health, we shall be creating a schismatic situation which will destroy the Union, not strengthen it?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I entirely disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. I remind him of an incident a couple of months ago when he attempted to speak in the First Scottish Standing Committee which was considering sheriff courts fees. A conspiracy of Whips and others prevented the hon. and learned Gentleman, as a Scottish Member, even expressing a view in that Committee. At the end of that Committee, the hon. and learned Gentleman expressed anger and disgust at the fact that a measure had been pushed through without a Scottish Conservative voice being heard. That is an anomaly which the hon. and learned Gentleman is apparently willing to swallow. Therefore, I do not see why he should not be willing to accept that the democratic will of the Scottish people, through a Parliament inside the United Kingdom, should have just as much validity as what he swallowed on that occasion.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Will the hon. Gentleman give wavy?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

No, I cannot give way at this point. It would be unfair to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and to others if I were to accept this as a dialogue between Members rather than a brief speech.

Labour, and I personally, have consistently argued for the early implementation of these changes to the Standing Orders. Agreement was reached between the parties in the House at the end of 1993 and I have sought, through correspondence and conversation, to make the Government introduce the changes earlier. By contrast, the Secretary of State has done his level best to hold them up. Only after endless delays and excuses about so-called non co-operation is he now grudgingly bringing the changes before the House.

People will remember the answer that the Secretary of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). He said that democracy is about more than voting. That is very true when the Conservative party has dropped right out of the scale of voting in Scotland and has virtually no support among the population of Scotland.

The Government behave without circumspection but with complete arrogance, and that behaviour will consign them to being almost permanently on the margin of Scottish politics. As the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said, this is a Government in office but not in power."—[Official Report, 9 June 1993; Vol. 226, c. 285.] They have lost, decisively, comprehensively and perhaps permanently, the support of the Scottish people.

Like the old, near-senile rulers of the old eastern European regimes, the Government strut around the Scottish stage without backing, consent or popular authority. Just like those relics of the past, when they cannot win elections, they blame the electorate. Apparently the electors got it wrong. They have been confused, bemused or taken down blind alleys by other political parties. The Government never admit that they have got it wrong and that they should change.

Just like the Brezhnevs of the past, manipulating small families and huge families, the Scottish Tory family simply takes those who have lost elections and places them on the quangos that are increasingly running Scotland. Scarcely a quango, large and powerful or small, is complete without a failed Tory candidate and now, of course, there is no other version. Just like the eastern European relics, they will be consigned to the museum.

Let me be constructive as well as critical of the Government. As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has rightly pointed out, we have missed out and the people, and especially the vulnerable children, of Scotland have missed out because no comprehensive legislation has been introduced in Scotland to mirror the Children Act 1989, which applies to England and Wales.

The Government's promised Children's Bill should have appeared last year, but it was pushed aside for local government reorganisation. Scotland is already five years behind England in its reform of laws for children. The Government, however, are apparently still arguing that there will be no time for the Bill even in the next Session. That is scandalous. No attempt has been made by Ministers of any variety to deny the stories about that which have appeared in the press. A Children's Bill that was properly drafted to ensure cross-party support could be referred to the new Scottish Grand Committee and to the new procedures that we will agree tonight. I therefore challenge the Secretary of State to choose the route of cross-party co-operation in the interests of Scotland's vulnerable children.

The Opposition offer our support for such a Bill. The Government may put Scotland's children in second place to the gerrymandering of Scottish local government, but the Labour party puts children first. That is why we make it clear tonight that we shall give our co-operation to such a Bill being considered in Scottish Grand Committee, thereby avoiding the pre-empting of precious parliamentary time.

There will be other opportunities to use those channels to raise issues that we have been unable to raise under the present procedures. We shall be able to consider the Rosyth naval base and the betrayal of its work force. They were given promises repeatedly but now, apparently, they are to be withdrawn, cavalierly and brazenly, by a Government who treat promises with absolutely no faith. The new procedures will also allow us, I hope, to interrogate, once again, Lord Fraser about the Fyfe-Peterken row. Perhaps we shall get closer to the truth than any Government statements up to now have allowed us to get. I notice that Lord Fraser does not even bother to attend Scottish Question Time now to hear the answers to questions put about his Department. That will change, to the slight benefit of Scottish democracy.

The tide of history will see the cosmetic changes offered as purely tinkering at a system that needs radical change. They are, and will be seen as, a superficial and unconvincing—although perhaps in the short term welcome—attempt to hide the depth of the centralisation that is sapping our national strength. A new Government are coming, who, with a Scottish Parliament as the first stage to a decentralised United Kingdom, will usher in a new and revived spirit of a vibrant, growing and democratic United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South 10:37 pm, 11th July 1994

Given the strict time limit on the debate, I shall be brief. I know that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, will keep me to the point.

I welcome the debate and the terms of the motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It is worth recalling briefly, as the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) did, the background to the debate on our standing orders.

In the days immediately preceding the general election of April 1992, in Scotland we were told almost daily by the media and by each of the Opposition parties that the Scottish Conservative party was facing electoral annihilation. We were told that we would be down to two Members of Parliament, if we were lucky, and that more than 50 per cent. of our fellow Scots wanted outright secession from the Union. We were told that, frankly, the days of the Union were numbered. We were also told that to be an unionist was to have a death wish and that what our opponents called and still call the status quo could not last. We read that by our perceived intransigence it was we unionists who were threatening the Union.

Without doubt there is some truth in the thinking that argued that rigid, dogmatic, almost doctrinaire adherence to the status quo was and, indeed, is dangerous. As the party of the Union, it falls uniquely to us to fight for and preserve the historic bond between our two countries. If we do not, no one else will. It is up to us to make the Union positive and relevant and to make it work. My right hon. Friend moved his motion in that spirit.

A valid and proper question that must be asked is whether to be a unionist today is to be a defender of the constitutional status quo and to say no—no to change, no to any change, no to every change. I remind the House of the fate of the last Member in this House who said, "No, no, no."

The Union of 1707 has changed and will change. To survive, it must change. That is what we are debating tonight. Unionism is not blind, unquestioning adherence to present constitutional arrangements.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

If I catch the hon. Gentleman's drift correctly, the former right hon. Member whom he mentioned said "Yes" to the Rosyth naval base. How does the hon. Gentleman feel about that?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I shall stick to the issue in question. The hon. Gentleman may be able to fit that matter into his own speech.

By its very nature, the status quo must change. The Union that we have today is not that of 1707. How could it possibly be? It has constantly adapted to changing circumstances, moved with the times and been flexible. The partnership between Scotland and England is not stagnant but dynamic, and my right hon. Friend is asking the House to embrace that dynamism. Freeing the Scottish Grand Committee from the shackles of meeting only in Edinburgh and London, giving it new powers and enhancing its role is the next step in the Union's evolution.

To answer the question that I posed, Conservative Members are not frightened of change, but we differ from each of the Opposition parties—which, to be fair, also offer change—because to any change, however great or small, we always apply a fundamental, non-negotiable criterion: will it strengthen or weaken the Union? If it passes that test and truly enhances the Union, we shall be found right behind it, battling hard for it. But if it fails the test and weakens or threatens the Union, we shall fight it to the end with every conviction and every sinew of our being.

That is why we oppose the plans proposed by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) and all the Opposition parties and support my right hon. Friend. The Scottish National party wants to destroy the United Kingdom and consign it to history. At least that is honest. The Liberal Democrat and Labour parties offer a half-way house which is untenable in the long term and offers nothing but chaos, instability and misery in the short term.

It is hard to see how a directly elected tax-raising Assembly could ever pass the test of whether the Union would be strengthened. The one offered by the constitutional convention certainly does not: under it, Scotland would become the most highly taxed part of the kingdom, driving out jobs and investment. Political tensions would be great when dilemmas like the West Lothian question became real issues rather than mere academic debating points. The regional imbalances within Scotland would result in an Assembly dominated by central Scotland, with no sensitivity to the north and north-east. Policies would be tailored for the central belt and paid for by Grampian.

We oppose the unilateral devolution on offer, not because it comes either from the convention or our opponents, but because in the short term it threatens the Union and in the long term will destroy it completely.

As a Unionist party, we have never been frightened to question how and if the Union is working, and to look at its failings as well as its strengths. The changes envisaged by my right hon. Friend are fundamental, radical and visionary—[Interruption.] Opposition Members may scoff and sneer, but what do they have to fear in allowing the Grand Committee to meet in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness or their own constituencies? Are they concerned that their constituents might see Scottish Members debating Scottish matters which affect them? Are they frightened that the Grand Committee will take on a new relevance, or that their constituents might demand their attendance and—horror of horrors—their participation?

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

The Scottish people should see the Opposition Benches now, with only six Labour Members present. Is that not representative of Labour Members' attitude to the future of Scotland and their interest in what goes on in this place?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

My hon. Friend raises a valid point. As he said earlier, the last time the Grand Committee met in Edinburgh only half the Scottish parliamentary Labour party bothered to turn up. Do the Opposition parties oppose what we are doing tonight because they fear change themselves? Do they believe that we are about to deny them our greatest weapon?

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State

I hate to interrupt such a polished speech, but the hon. Gentleman has clearly failed to spot the fact that we support these changes today. I know that that might cut out a large chunk of his speech, but he should change it if he does not want to look absolutely ludicrous tomorrow.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

The hon. Gentleman may support what we are doing tonight, but has he heard his colleagues jeering in the background? Has he seen them shaking their heads at what he said or what my right hon. Friend said? If they are supportive, why is there only a one-line whip? Why are they not whipped in the House to vote for the measures?

Is it simply that Opposition Members know that we are right and agree with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), the shadow Chancellor, when he wrote in The Herald on 3 May 1993: I think we are making a great mistake if we just assume there is huge enthusiasm for home rule in Scotland. In conclusion, Scotland's place is as a full and equal partner in the United Kingdom. Only the Conservative party is committed to that. The Scottish people have shown time and again that they do not want to see the saltire ripped from the Union flag. The Union has endured because it can change and it will endure. It is dynamic and has changed, and it will change again. These reforms are an important staging post in its history. In time, if not tonight, they will be seen as just as important as previous reforms, such as the creation of the Scottish Office and the position of the Secretary of State, and the setting up of the Select Committee—as important as the creation of the Grand Committee itself. As a unionist, I have no hesitation in supporting the reforms and commending them to the House.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 10:46 pm, 11th July 1994

We have just listened to what I suspect is the authentic voice of Tory unionism. If what we are being asked to support this evening is a measure of dynamism and vision, heaven help Scotland. I accept that they are pragmatic measures and measures which we, indeed, will support, but they fall far short of anything that will address the malaise within the Union arrangements.

When I heard the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) say that, if anything threatened the Union, he would use every sinew—or words to that effect—to defend the Union at all costs, I am sure that those are the sort of words that were spoken from the Tory Benches in 1912 and 1914 when Liberal Governments tried to introduce measures for the government of Ireland. Of course, it was that type of attitude that led to the one event that we have had in this century where the Union broke up. The Conservatives achieved the break-up of the Union by their unwillingness to endorse and embrace some genuinely and visionary measures which would sort out the government of this country.

When people talk about anomalies that might arise, I do not recall, during the years before Stormont was abolished, that many Tory Members objected to the fact that they had the support of Ulster Unionist Members of Parliament, albeit that matters affecting the domestic affairs of Ulster were dealt with at Stormont and Ulster Members were still free to debate, come to this House and vote on all other measures affecting other parts of the United Kingdom. That was an anomaly. It is an anomaly which would be cured by federalism. However, it is clearly an anomaly which Tory Members were prepared to accept as long as it suited their own book.

Both the Secretary of State for Scotland and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) have referred to the taking-stock exercise which, after a long gestation period, produced a mouse. When one looks at what has happened in the interim, even if the announcement of taking stock was a disappointment, the subsequent events have been something of a disappointment, too. We are told, and we now know, that there are facilities for people to make local telephone calls to ask the Scottish Office questions. What is the point of asking questions if one gets answers which reflect the minority view within Scotland?

We also heard from the Secretary of State—indeed, he paraded it as one of the great achievements—that he has responsibility for training in Scotland. As I recall, paragraph 7.5 of the document "Taking Stock" says that training will be done within the framework of overall strategic priorities, initiatives and policies developed by the Secretary of State for Employment in consultation with colleagues and collectively agreed.

As one who is always willing to give credit where credit is due, I acknowledge that on 7 February this year the Secretary of State made an important announcement that he heralded as a further step in developing the policies set out in the White Paper "Scotland in the Union: A Partnership for Good". On that day, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), he proudly announced that, with the agreement of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, formal responsibility for the administration of treasure trove in Scotland had been transferred from the Treasury to the Scottish Office.

The body politic in Scotland is still quaking after the dynamic, visionary and radical decision made that day. If they are still looking for the treasure, it is not to be found in the White Paper—

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

If the people of Scotland followed the hon. Gentleman's recommendation of a Scottish Parliament, with all the implications that that might have for increased taxation, would they regard being probably the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom as treasure?

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I have never accepted the proposition that a Parliament would necessarily lead to higher rates of tax. Taxation powers are important if any legislative body is to have some means of fiscal discipline—[Interruption.] As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) reminds me, that was precisely Lord Home's argument before the 1979 referendum.

The power to raise taxation also involves the power to lower it. If Scotland wanted to gain some competitive advantage, it might reduce taxes—a possibility that Tory Members refuse to countenance because it undermines their other arguments.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

No. I am trying to make some progress.

We were told in the document that the Government's objective was to find ways of handling Commons business relating to Scotland, including legislation which maximises the involvement of Members of Parliament for Scottish constituencies and increases the responsiveness of the system to Scottish considerations. In this Session, there have been two important measures affecting the criminal law of Scotland and police powers. They were essentially English Bills to which Scottish provisions had been tagged on. On the Committees that scrutinised those Bills, only two Scottish Members were able to serve—yet one of them concerned an important issue for Scotland about which we have all received many letters: aggravated trespass. When the Scottish aspects of that issue were debated, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) rose, kept his head down, and for three minutes read out a truncated version of his brief. Then he sat down. So much for sensitivity to Scottish considerations.

Such Scottish legislation as there is we find often tagged on to whatever will go for England and Wales. A Scottish Parliament would not have defaulted on introducing measures to safeguard and to implement many of the recommendations and reports that have emerged on the welfare of children in Scotland. That was a serious omission from this year's legislative programme. We hope that reports that there will be no such legislation next year either are wrong.

If the Government introduce a Children Bill for Scotland in the next Session, it will receive the support of both sides of the House. We shall of course want to look at the details; a Special Standing Committee of the type to which the Secretary of State referred would offer an ideal mechanism for scrutiny of the legal niceties involved in the welfare of children. I greatly hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take encouragement from this debate to introduce such a Bill soon.

Although we welcome the new Standing Orders, I note that there will be no real votes in the Grand Committee. No matter what we debate, or how passionately we debate it, we will ultimately only be debating whether to adjourn or whether to report to the House that we have considered an issue. I cannot wait for the touring circus to turn up in the old Parliament hall in St. Andrew's, where we will spend two and a half hours passionately debating the economy of Scotland, only at the end to vote on whether to adjourn. If that is the kind of picture that Scottish people will see on location about how Scotland is governed, they will not draw the conclusions that Conservative Members expect people to draw.

I welcome the fact that there will be additional time for questions. It is frustrating to us all that Scottish Question Time occurs only once in every four parliamentary weeks. On a whole range of subjects our English colleagues have an opportunity to question individual Ministers, but we have to pick and choose between all those subjects on one occasion. We will have an opportunity to question the Minister of State in another place and the Law Officers. The last time on which there was a separate period to put oral questions to the Law Officers was in 1987. Since then, there has been the Lockerbie air disaster and Piper Alpha and other important issues which intimately involved the actions of Law Officers. But we have not had a proper opportunity here to ask questions on those matters, and this proposal is particularly welcome.

I warmed to the Secretary of State's suggestion that we might get a calendar for timetabling Scottish Grand Committee meetings. We shall certainly do our best to co-operate to try to achieve that. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) has said, we are not all sitting with empty diaries to slot in meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee at four days' notice.

The distribution of debates is six for the Government, four for the principal Opposition and one each for the other Scottish Opposition parties. That is not exactly proportional representation, but it is probably better than the current arrangement and it is at least a start.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

Perhaps I may intervene to allow my hon. Friend to replenish his supply of water. He mentioned my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel). Does he recall that in, I think, 1965, shortly after he was elected, my rt hon. Friend wrote a pamphlet for the Scottish Liberal party, as it was then, entitled "Out of Control"? That pamphlet contained practically all the Government's proposals.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I do not have a contemporaneous recollection of that: I was only 11 at the time. However, I subsequently read the pamphlet, which is very good. I am sure that the Secretary of State must have had it very much in mind when he presented his proposals. In 1912 Mr. Asquith said that the centre was congested and that it was time to start divesting some of the congestion.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) remembers that.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I do not accuse my hon. Friend of remembering Mr. Asquith. I recall a pamphlet written by the present Secretary of State in the late 1970s which seemed to favour the concept of some sort of devolution. The Secretary of State shakes his head. Perhaps we can look in the files to see whether we can find it. It obviously did not make the same impact upon me as the one written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale. However, I remember that the Secretary of State for Defence made impassioned speeches in the House in favour of Scottish devolution in the 1970s. He may still hold that view but feels that he cannot say so.

Whether we can have ad hoc statements or whether they can be made only on days when there is a meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee is not entirely clear. For example, statements on student grants or on other matters which affect the whole of the United Kingdom are invariably made by English Ministers and Scottish Members do not have an opportunity to ask detailed Scottish questions. It is not clear whether statements on Scottish matters could be made at relatively short notice in the Scottish Grand Committee.

The doubt is that the proposed legislation amounts to anything like that which is necessary to address the needs of the Scottish people. Our party is unequivocally a party of home rule because we believe that that offers the Scottish people the opportunity to elect those who will determine Scotland's political priorities for its domestic affairs while leaving matters such as defence, foreign affairs and macro-economic policy to what we see as the federal Parliament. That is the only way in which the Union can be preserved. Many aspects of the Union are worth preserving, but the one way to destroy it is to make only small adjustments to it or none at all.

As I said, Mr. Asquith thought that the centre was congested in 1912. It is even more congested now, and probably facing gridlock. It would be for the better government of Scotland to divest this place of many of its responsibilities. The measure goes a short way towards improving the government of Scotland, and that is why we support it. But people are kidding themselves if they think that it addresses the central question.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr 10:59 pm, 11th July 1994

I shall be brief, which I am sure all hon. Members will be glad to hear.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on presenting the new Standing Orders and I fully identify with them. I welcome the support generally expressed by Opposition Members, although was disappointed with the negative approach of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson). He did not really deal with the issues, but instead began a tirade about home rule and a Scottish Parliament. He rehearsed the argument that 75 per cent. of Scottish electors voted for those who wanted major constitutional change. He ignored the fact that they actually voted for the retention of the Union. That is an important point.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government lost the last election in Scotland. In fact, they won it in the Union and on the basis—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hamilton should not snigger. He represents a party of the Union, so he should respect the wishes of all the citizens of the Union. The Conservative party stood adamantly against the establishment of a separate Scottish Parliament. Whether or not the hon. Gentleman likes it, the fact is that the Conservative party won the argument throughout the United Kingdom. There will not be a separate Scottish Parliament under a Conservative Government.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

My hon. Friend's argument is strengthened by the fact that, throughout the last general election campaign, Kent was honoured by a whole series of Scottish Members of Parliament preaching the Labour cause. Any suggestion that they were viewed as either visitors or passengers would have been ridiculous.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

I accept what my hon. Friend says. Indeed, if senior members of the Labour party with Scottish seats had not gone to Kent to speak on behalf of the Labour party, there would have been few other senior members available to do so because the party depends so heavily on the Scottish input.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) referred to taxation under a Scottish Parliament. He suggested that it would cut taxes in Scotland. That could be achieved in one of two ways—either Scots would pay less in national taxation or a Scottish Parliament would draw in cash from Scottish local authorities and therefore reduce their cash base—

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Does the hon. Gentleman want to defend the remarks of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland? Can he suggest another way that a Scottish Parliament could cut taxes in Scotland? If so, perhaps he would get to his feet and tell us.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

No; I want to hear from the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish).

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

Where has the hon. Gentleman found a reference to funds for a Scottish Parliament coming from local authorities?

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that a Scottish Parliament would reduce taxes for the Scottish people. I am suggesting two means of achieving that. I am not suggesting that it is written anywhere else.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

How many election speeches has the hon. Gentleman made arguing that lower taxation could increase accrued revenue and that that could be better for the economy?

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Many, and I firmly believe that. I argued the case in national terms, but the hon. Gentleman is suggesting some sort of two-tier national taxation system in Scotland, which is totally irrational. The hon. Gentleman's comments earlier this evening do not hold water.

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

Does my hon. Friend accept that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) has finally admitted tonight that the Liberal Democrats are firmly for home rule? The hon. Gentleman was very cagey about the fact that that would mean increased taxation in Scotland. Is my hon. Friend aware that in my constituency, at the last general election, the message was given loud and clear to the Liberal Democrats that my part of the world would not tolerate being governed by the central belt or a higher rate of taxation with Liberal Democrat or Labour policies in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

I do not know what the Liberal Democrats were saying in Kincardine and Deeside, but almost certainly something different was said in Ayr. That is the nature of the Liberal Democrat party.

I envisage that the new Scottish Grand Committee will reflect the on-going activities of Parliament at Westminster. It will do so with the introduction of Question Time, which I much welcome. Also, my hon. Friend the Minister for State will be able to participate in the Scottish Grand Committee in future, which is most important. I welcome also, together with Opposition Members, the participation of the Law Officers.

I welcome the introduction of short debates and the time limit of five minutes on introductory speeches, including by Ministers, and of three minutes on subsequent speeches, which will produce sharp and interesting debates. I welcome also the provision for mobility. However, I recall the poor attendance at Scottish Grand Committees in the past in Edinburgh—particularly at the last meeting on local government, which was attended by only a few Opposition Members. That meeting was not on a Tuesday or Thursday but on a Monday, when Scottish Members traditionally stay in Scotland. If the Committee meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays in different towns in Scotland, it will create many difficulties for hon. Members who want to participate in debates on wider issues.

The hon. Member for Hamilton referred to local government changes. I bear in mind the criticisms levelled against my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other Ministers—

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

Over raising tax levels?

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

We have no intention of doing that. Our aim is to reduce taxes, not increase them—but that is another matter.

Opposition Members have criticised the speed at which local government reform will be introduced in Scotland. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I hear positive acknowledgement of that. I must express puzzlement, therefore, at the words of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who told the United Kingdom that if a Labour Government are ever elected, they will introduce a Parliament in Scotland in the first 12 months. Given the criticism from Labour Members, that is most surprising.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that there is an important difference? Unlike the local government reorganisation Bill—on which there is no consensus, and which is half-baked and not wanted—a Scottish Parliament will be supported by the overwhelming majority of Scots, and we will implement it at the earliest possible opportunity.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

I do not accept that the overwhelming majority endorse such a move.

The hon. Gentleman, however, has provided me with a means of winding up my speech. He referred to the Government's intention in regard to local government reforms, which was a Conservative party manifesto pledge. We promised single-tier authorities; we are about to deliver them. At the same time, many Conservative Members promised that, if elected, they would move towards the re-establishment of a Scottish Select Committee. That has happened, and I believe that it has provided many valuable means of analysing business in Scotland recently. Above all, Conservative Members promised a review of the Scottish Grand Committee and its involvement. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for living up to those manifesto pledges, and for coming clean with these excellent proposals.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 11:10 pm, 11th July 1994

May I address some factual questions to the Leader of the House? New Standing Order D, on page 4438 of the Order Paper, states: The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office Minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement". Let us suppose that an hon. Member wanted a debate on Lockerbie. What would be the procedure? Would that hon. Member have to persuade whoever was the Chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee, and are we talking about the alternative Chairman who now exists?

Paragraph (4) of new Standing Order D states: A minister or law officer making a statement under paragraph (1) of this order, who is not a member of the committee, may not do so from the body of the committee". What exactly does that mean, and to what extent would the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General be responsible? In what form could written questions then be put to him, as the responsible Minister?

New Standing Order H(1)(d), on page 4440 of the Order Paper, states that it will be possible for the Scottish Grand Committee to hold short debates under Standing Order C…on certain of the days so specified". How would those debates be chosen? If a Government did not want a debate on, for example, Lockerbie, would it not be easy to crowd out a request for one? What would be the rights of Back Benchers—in particular, those whose requests might not be supported by those on the Opposition Front Bench? Is there any provision to allow debates that have been requested but may not be wanted by those on either Front Bench? Both may take the view—quite legitimately—that there are other more important subjects to be debated. I am concerned about requests from Opposition Back Benchers and, indeed, from minority parties with minority opinions. What chance would those of us with minority opinions on, say, Lockerbie have of securing a debate?

It is all very well to say, refer to Scottish Ministers and the Lord Advocate. In what circumstances could a Committee Chairman ask for the presence of a Minister in a United Kingdom Department? Let us again take the example of Lockerbie. I questioned the Prime Minister about the lead Department involved. The answer was that in certain circumstances it was the Crown Office, but that the Foreign Office dealt with other aspects of the Lockerbie crime—for such it was. Can the Scottish Grand Committee ask for a Foreign Office Minister to deal with Lockerbie? I had better not confine myself simply to Lockerbie. What about Rosyth? It might be very important to have a Defence or a Trade and Industry Minister deal with that.

To what extent can the Scottish Grand Committee ask, in reasonable circumstances—as judged by the Chairman—for Ministers from Departments other than the Crown Office or the Scottish Office?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party 11:14 pm, 11th July 1994

I shall make no comment on the interesting questions raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), except to say that I have noticed from some of his recent interventions that he is growing increasingly sceptical of some of the institutions and procedures of the Union, which he once so strongly defended.

The speech of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) interested me, but more for the extravagant use of hand gestures throughout his discourse. The Liberal Democrats seem to regard such gestures with great suspicion, as they are increasingly of the view that they may be directed at them.

I was especially interested in the remarks made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), who said two things that are worth reflecting on. First, he said that the attendance of Conservative Members was very good. It is indeed quite spectacular. I notice seven out of the 11 Scottish Tories on the Conservative Benches. I put that down to the continuing contest to see who will inherit the poisoned chalice from the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he shakes off the mortal coil of being Secretary of State in the next week or so. After reading the SundayPost poll of his constituency, I advise him to devote as much time to constituency affairs as possible during the next couple of years.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South reminded us of his memorable address to this House after the regional elections, in which he assured us that, despite Conservatives falling like ninepins in the rest of Scotland, the Conservative vote was holding very firm in his constituency. I spent some time in the hon. Gentleman's constituency on European election day. I apologise for not giving him notice of that. I could not detect any great upsurge of interest in the Conservative party at the polling stations, despite the doubtless continuing inspirational leadership that he is giving the party in that area.

It is very difficult for the Conservative party to gainsay the assertion that the collapse in its fortunes in Scotland during the 18 months since the "taking stock" was first announced—what the hon. Member for Hamilton (Ms Robertson) described as the halcyon days—has been anything other than dramatic.

I remind the Secretary of State of what he said at the time, in May 1993: We have, to use the vernacular, taken stock—and it's the opposition who are in the soup. I do not know if the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South is in the soup in Scotland, but the Conservative party certainly seems to be boiling in oil, given the collapse in support from the 26 per cent. that it obtained in the general election to 12 per cent. in the regional elections, 14 per cent. in the European election—the Conservatives officially quoted that as a great improvement in its fortunes—and to the 9 per cent. that was cited for Conservative party fortunes in the Gallup poll Scottish sample published last Friday.

Political parties—my own included—have had low points in their fortunes at various times and have been as low as 9 per cent. In the late 1980s, the Social and Liberal Democrats reached such a low figure—

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I am informed that it was lower. I cannot, however, think of any party in government which has sunk so low in the estimation of the people on whose behalf it is governing. Even the Conservatives in Canada, en route to their near total wipeout in the Canadian elections, still obtained between 17 per cent. and 18 per cent. of the vote. It is unprecedented for a party in Government, and claiming a mandate, to be at 9 per cent. in the latest poll of the party affiliations of the Scottish people.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Hamilton in his reflections on the support for constitutional options. I heard what he said about the remaining amount of support for devolution in the ranks of the Scottish National party. I took the trouble to dig out the opinion poll to which I was referring, in The Scotsman on Wednesday 8 June. As far as I know, it is the most recent sounding of the feeling of the people of Scotland about the various constitutional options. I remember it well. I recollected, and can now confirm, that the front page was headed "Poll boost for independence". According to the sample, no fewer than 74 per cent. of SNP voters, 31 per cent. of Liberal Democrat voters, 49 per cent. of Labour voters and even 22 per cent. of Conservative voters agreed with the proposition that Scotland would be better off as an independent country within a European context than as part of Britain. Overall, 48 per cent. of all voters agreed with the notion while 15 per cent. disagreed.

On the straight constitutional question—given the three options of independence in Europe, a Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom and the status quo—the hon. Member for Hamilton was right to note that support for independence among SNP voters was by no means unanimous. It had the support of 55 per cent. of SNP voters but, at the same time, only 51 per cent. of Labour voters agreed with Labour's policy of devolution and only 49 per cent. of Conservatives voters, in an admittedly small sample, agreed with the Conservative policy of maintaining the status quo. I have the figures here if the hon. Member for Hamilton would like to see them. According to this sample, support for independence in Europe was greater even than the exceptionally high levels of support currently recorded for the SNP.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

The hon. Gentleman is good at citing figures and quoting newspaper articles, but what does he have to say about his party's old slogan "Scotland Free in '93"?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Gentleman knows that politics is a continuing process. I can promise him that at the next election I shall not campaign with the slogan, "We'll be in heaven in 1997." Nevertheless, I am extremely satisfied with the 33 per cent. level of support recorded by the SNP in the European elections last month. I should have been extremely disappointed if we had recorded the ridiculously low level of 14 per cent. recorded by the hon. Gentleman's party. Does the hon. Member for Hamilton wish to intervene?

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State

I certainly do, but I am unsure whether we are providing illumination by bandying around the results of opinion polls. I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) to the System 3 poll, which asked a precise question about the preferred constitutional arrangements. It found that 48 per cent. of SNP supporters favoured a Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.

However, I also draw to the hon. Gentleman's attention what Mr. Jim Sillars is reported as saying in yesterday's edition of Scotland on Sunday:I am not sure what the present SNP objective is. People will say: 'Of course it's independence,' but is it? Because if it's independence then you never miss an opportunity of using that word. So when a party uses the language of the Labour party—like 'strong Scottish parliament'—then I've got a question as to whether the objective is independence. Perhaps the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan is using our vocabulary because he knows that the bulk of those who might be inclined to support the SNP support a strong Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom within Europe.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Perhaps Mr. Sillars had the misfortune to believe Labour party press statements about the Monklands by-election. I took the trouble to bring along the SNP by-election address because I had heard the hon. Member for Hamilton make a similar point before. I shall read it to him. Its fairly large headline is The Scotland I want to see". Our candidate in Monklands argued: I want Scotland to be equal with the other nations of Europe. To have our own Parliament which will give a Scottish solution to Scottish problems. With Independence, Scotland will be free to choose her own government, rather than having a Tory government from Westminster foisted upon us. Then we will be able to vote in elections for any party of our choice. The address goes on to deal with benefits for 16 and 17-year-olds—a matter which the hon. Gentleman debated with us last Thursday—and pensions and argues why the concept of independence for Scotland should be favoured by the Scottish people. I should think that there are very few people in Scotland who do not now realise that the SNP stands for full national independence within a European context.

I was, however, interested in the Sunday newspapers and especially in the remarks of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Mr. Hogg) who openly questioned the Labour party's commitment given by all three leadership candidates to enact devolution legislation in the first year of a Labour Government. I noticed that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) used the words "at the earliest possible opportunity" a few moments ago. I do not know whether he is—mediating—

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall make a few more points before allowing him to intervene. I heard him clearly say "at the earliest possible opportunity"—we can check the record.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is mediating between the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and the leadership candidates of the Labour party. All I will say is that I found the matter fascinating, not so much for what the hon. Member Cumbernauld and Kilsyth said, although that was interesting in itself, but for the fact that he identified within the Labour party what he called "devolution sceptics"—opponents of devolution—who would cause enormous difficulties to the progress of a devolution Bill, as he said in a closely argued article. Is the hon. Member for Fife, Central aware who those people in the parliamentary Labour party are? Is he prepared to name them this evening?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

Let me make it quite clear from the Labour Benches that we will legislate for a Scottish Parliament in the first year of a Labour Government. We shall succeed in that first year. Although everyone in the party is entitled to his or her opinions, we can give that cast-iron guarantee. More important, let me ask whether the Scottish National party will support Labour in its attempts to establish a Scottish Parliament in the first year of a Labour Government.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State

If the Scottish National party is here.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) says, if the Scottish National party is here.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Gentleman should refer back to the Usher hall debate during the last election campaign, during which I was asked exactly the same question. I made it quite clear that, just as we shall support these minor changes tonight, the Scottish National party always operates in the interests of the Scottish people. The hon. Gentleman can be absolutely clear that we shall go into an election campaigning for independence for Scotland within Europe. That is the proposition that we shall put before the Scottish people. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I shall be able to be reasonably clear that all the members of my party campaigning in that election will believe in our commitment.

Clearly, I do not know whether there will be a special manifesto in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth at the next election or whether the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, that experienced member of the Labour party in Scotland—who is more experienced than the hon. Member for Fife, Central—will be given a special codicil to exempt him from the general policy. Alternatively, will disciplinary action be taken against the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth for not agreeing with this central tenet of Labour party policy?

I believe that the argument tonight is about the "taking stock" reforms and about whether they can live up to the claim that was made by the Conservative party 18 months ago that the whole exercise was one involving listening to the Scottish people. More than any other single factor, the reason for the plummeting of the Conservative party's political fortunes in Scotland over that period has been the issue of Scottish water—and, in particular, the dramatic illustration in the Strathclyde water ballot of the fact that, far from there being an exercise involving listening to the views of the Scottish people, any excuse and any pretext would be regarded as sufficient opportunity to disregard the views that were being expressed.

I remind the House that in a 71.5 per cent. poll, 1,194,667 people rejected the Government's plans to take water out of local authority control. A mere 33,956—2.8 per cent.—actually supported them. Despite all that, and despite that dramatic demonstration of will by the Scottish people in the Strathclyde region, the Government, far from living up to their promise to listen to the Scottish population, were apparently determined to cast those views aside.

The real test of the proposals was alluded to by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland when he made the distinction between being able to question, debate, ask and listen, and being able to decide. There is absolutely nothing in the procedures that gives the people of Scotland any opportunity to extend the decision-making ability of Scottish representatives, even over the simplest matters of Scottish life—even over areas on which there might be a consensus in Scotland.

I looked through the records of the House and it was significant that I could not find a single piece of Scottish legislation whose progress the Government were willing to entrust to Scottish political representatives. Indeed, the only area in which I could find that there was a majority of Scottish Members—I think mistakenly—was the vote on 1 February when the hon. Member for Hamilton, in some sort of emotional spasm, decided to go into the Lobby with the Conservative party to back the powers of the House and the right of five Conservatives from English constituencies to dictate the progress of Scottish local government and the removal of water from local authorities. On no other issue can I find any consensus among even the unionist Scottish parties. Therein lies the reason why there is no decision-making power within the proposals which is to be entrusted to the Scottish Grand Committee, even in its reformed context.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Shadow Secretary of State

The hon. Gentleman uses the technique of constantly reiterating something which is simply not true. The Labour party voted that night with the other Opposition parties, with the exception of the Scottish National party, to give the Chairman of the First Scottish Standing Committee the power to stop juvenile displays by the Scottish National party, in its attempts to block progress in that Committee. It had nothing whatever to do with the rights of five English Members of Parliament to be on that Committee. The SNP, as ever, decided that it would indulge in a publicity gimmick. Labour Members were not involved in that. We wanted to ensure that that Committee proceeded without a guillotine. The SNP did not. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would be accurate in what he tells the House and the outside world.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Yet again, I have touched a raw nerve with the hon. Gentleman. That vote was significant for two reasons. I cannot remember any other motion in the House of Commons proposed by the Leader of the House the only Front-Bench speech in whose favour was made by the hon. Member for Hamilton. Secondly, the most memorable of the interchanges in that debate was when the hon. Member for Hamilton looked across at the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman)—keen water privatiser that that hon. Gentleman is—and informed him, against the overwhelming view in Scotland, that that hon. Gentleman, representing Stroud, with his privatisation views on Scottish water, had "a perfect right" to be on that Scottish Committee.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall make some progress.

The reason why there are no decision-making powers for the Scottish Grand Committee in the proposals is quite simple. There is no area of policy—I refer even to areas which should be non-party political—on which the Secretary of State for Scotland is prepared to trust the elected representatives of the people of Scotland with effective decision-making powers. It is rather like the events of the past week—an issue of show rather than substance. People in Scotland will long remember that, while—perhaps under the influence of the taking-stock proposals—there was a royal pageant in the streets of Edinburgh, in London the decision was effectively being made to close the Rosyth naval base. What better illustration could there be of the difference between the form and the show of the decision making? There was a sop to the Scottish people while, at the same time, here in London, real decisions and power were being exercised over the Scottish people.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South said that he and his colleagues would look at the proposals in the context of what was good for the Union. My hon. Friends and I will look at them, and any other proposals concerning Scottish business which may come before us, in the context of what is good for Scotland. Our judgment is that such minor, tinkering incremental proposals for the Scottish Grand Committee, although containing nothing of substance, will none the less afford a further opportunity for a questioning process about the wrongs being done to the Scottish people by the Government who, clearly, have no mandate in Scotland. On that basis, we are content to let them go through the House, but with the clear statement that the Scottish National party's campaign is for national self determination and national self respect for the people of Scotland.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow 11:32 pm, 11th July 1994

I shall be brief as other hon. Members wish to speak and time is rushing by.

Before I ask my questions of the Minister, I should say that, no matter how Conservative Members dismiss the idea of growing dissatisfaction with the Government in Scotland, it is palpable. It is certainly the case in my constituency, where many people are deeply dissatisfied with the way in which their lives are governed from what they see as a Westminster Parliament. That cannot be gainsaid. The Conservative party is deeply unpopular in my constituency. There is one Conservative councillor in the whole of Inverclyde district council.

In that regard, I well remember the sensible words offered by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), who once said in this place that we benefit enormously in Scotland from the fact that the secessionist movement in our country is so peaceful and that the dissatisfaction to which I have just referred is vented in peaceable, democratic ways. The hon. Gentleman was right. We are fortunate in that regard, and long may we be so. I think that I echo the hon. Gentleman's words of four or five years ago.

At the same time, there is widespread alienation. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) says that it is right that people should question the way in which Scotland is governed and should question the union between England, Wales and Scotland. It is my experience in the part of Scotland that I represent that more and more people are voicing their dissatisfaction with the way in which Scotland is governed. The proposals before us do not go anywhere near meeting the widespread alienation that is to be found.

I take up the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) about section D(4) on column 4438 of the Order Paper, which provides that a statement can be made by a Law Officer but not from the body of the committee". Does the Secretary of State envisage such a statement being analogous to one made by a Minister to a Select Committee, after which the Minister will be cross-examined? Would the procedure be analogous to that of a Minister making a statement to a European Standing Committee? In those instances the modus operandi is that the Minister makes a statement on which he is cross-examined for a specific period.

It is an important matter because in this context we have not had a Law Officer in the House since 1987. Since then, however, we have had the report of Lord Cullen of Ashbourne on the Piper Alpha disaster. We have also had Lord Clyde's report on the terrible affair on Orkney. In both instances it would have been useful to be able to cross-examine a Law Officer in this place.

Section E is headed "Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)". It states that a Bill can be committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee". Now that the Leader of the House has returned to the Chamber, perhaps he will tell me the position of a Law Officer when a Bill is sent to the Scottish Grand Committee or to a Special Standing Committee, which I think can hear evidence on four occasions before reporting to the House. Presumably a Law Officer could not be part of the proceedings of the Standing Committee, but would he be able to give evidence to a Special Standing Committee? That is important in the context of a law reform (miscellaneous provisions) (Scotland) Bill. When such a Bill comes before a Scottish Standing Committee, or as is envisaged a Special Standing Committee, members of that Committee should have the right to cross-examine a Law Officer.

Section F deals with statutory instruments. What power does the Scottish Grand Committee have to reject an instrument that has been referred to it? If we pray against it, do those praying against it have to specify that it should go before the Scottish Grand Committee?

I promised to be brief, so I will conclude. With regard to what has been described as a travelling circus, who will determine where such meetings will take place other than in Edinburgh and London? Will it be the usual channels or is it to be pre-ordained by Scottish Office Ministers?

I submit that the changes to the Standing Orders are slight. There are some advantages, particularly the right to question Law Officers. I make a plea for something that we desperately need in Scotland—an Act identical, or superior, to the Children Act 1989 which inevitably contains some imperfections. We should demand such an Act, the Second Reading of which should be taken in the Scottish Grand Committee.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 11:40 pm, 11th July 1994

It is well known that the Government are in deep trouble and profoundly unpopular. They are trying to find ways of ingratiating themselves with people all over the country. There is something deeply unconvincing about the present Secretary of State for Employment suddenly discovering a concern about mass unemployment. It is equally unconvincing for the Secretary of State for Scotland suddenly to discover a concern about the accountability of the Government in Scotland.

The trouble is that the amendments to the Standing Orders come from the same stable as the poll tax, the local government legislation and the water quango legislation. There is nothing in the amendments to the Standing Orders to prevent a Government in future from being just as cavalier in their approach to legislation and administration in Scotland. I fear that the changes are little more than window dressing.

The amendments to the Standing Orders may be useful, but they are no substitute for democratic home rule for Scotland. Frankly, they will be short-lived. The Scottish Grand Committee will not operate under the provisions of these Standing Orders for long, because we shall have a Parliament in Scotland to scrutinise the government of Scotland, legislate for the people of Scotland and manage Scotland's budget in future within the United Kingdom.

The changes are far too little, far too late. Since 1979, we have had four general elections and a referendum in which people have made it abundantly clear that they want control of the government of Scotland to be placed in the hands of an elected parliament in Scotland. But what has happened? We have had the poll tax and all the rest over the past 16 years.

The amendments to the Standing Orders started life in the document, "Scotland in the Union: A Partnership for Good." I am afraid that the Government have poisoned that partnership economically and politically to the extent that they have driven their own right-wing supporters to turn in droves to another right-wing nationalist party. The same people who voted enthusiastically for Baroness Thatcher over all those years are now voting for the Scottish National party; and, in a sense, who can blame them? Anyone who wants to keep the United Kingdom together and establish good government in Scotland must follow the line of devolution and home rule for Scotland within the United Kingdom.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

No, there is no time. The hon. Gentleman has had quite enough time already. However, as the hon. Gentleman has drawn my attention to him again, I remind him that he is sitting between two hon. Members—the hon. Members for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) and for Moray (Mrs. Ewing)—whom I vividly remember going into the Lobby to vote to bring down the Labour Government and put Mrs. Thatcher in power. They made it impossible for us to have a Scottish Parliament in 1979. But for them, we could have had one by now.

The amendments to the Standing Orders include the interesting idea of a Scottish Question Time in the Scottish Grand Committee. No doubt the changes offer an intriguing chance to various English Tories to avoid the need to be present in the House to vote on Scottish business in the future. The crucial point, which the Secretary of State tried to brush aside when I intervened in his speech, is that we cannot vote on controversial legislation as it affects Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman tried to shrug off the importance of the vote in our democratic system, but it is crucial.

The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr.Rowe) asked why more Labour Members were not present at sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh.

Mr. Raymond S.Robertson:

Answer.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

I will explain that to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson). Why should the members of the majority on the Scottish Grand Committee go along to its sittings simply to act as an audience to listen to idiotic speeches from the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) or whoever when we shall not even be able to vote on a substantive motion at the end of the debate? Frankly, it is a waste of public money to ask people to attend debates of that nature. It does not achieve anything.

What we want is accountable government in Scotland. If we are to achieve that, effective votes must be cast by the democratic representatives of the people of Scotland on legislation and administration in Scotland. In the past 16 years, Scottish votes have been ignored with impunity and with malice by Scottish Office Ministers. Scotland must have its own Parliament. The amendments to the Standing Orders may be a small step in the right direction, but they are no substitute for home rule in Scotland within the United Kingdom.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife 11:45 pm, 11th July 1994

At this point I am supposed to say that the debate has been interesting, but it would be difficult to suggest that some of the contributions have risen to the dizzy heights that we normally describe.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Like the speech of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson).

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) is still talking from a sedentary position; it is simply astonishing to think that he can still say in the House that the Conservatives and the Unionists are still doing well in Scotland. Does he not realise that the people of Scotland do not believe the Government? They do not trust, nor have any confidence in, the Government and, increasingly, they do not even vote for them. The Monklands by-election was a graphic illustration that proved to the Conservatives that they simply do not matter.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

The hon. Gentleman continues to mouth, so I must remind him that he had a spectacular role—

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. The House knows my views about seated interventions. If the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr.Robertson) seeks to catch my eye on another occasion, I might be slightly short-sighted.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

I would not presume to make a comment after that judgment. Suffice it to say that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South had a simply spectacular role in that by-election as the minder to end all minders. After that recollection, he sits in his place in humility.

It is simply remarkable that, at a time when we are discussing the taking stock initiatives, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), speaking on behalf of the Scottish National party, wanted to talk about Rosyth. His party has done nothing in Scotland to fight for the retention of either the dockyard or the naval base. It is simply hypocritical for him to think that hon. Members on either side of the House can take any instructions from him on that issue.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

No, I will not. We will not allow the nationalists to shed any crocodile tears in the House about one of the most important institutions—

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order, in the course of the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), to ask, through you, where that hon. Member was two weeks ago, when I was lobbying on behalf of Rosyth outside the Scottish Office with some of his colleagues?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

That is not a proper point of order.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

I believe that my comments about the nationalists' role in the Rosyth campaign represent the reality and most hon. Members would nod in agreement.

The interesting point about the debate is that it has revolved around two important issues. First, the Government have presented a minimalist set of proposals, aimed at improving not the government of Scotland in Scotland but the government of Scotland at Westminster. Secondly, the Opposition parties passionately believe that one cannot do anything significant about the governance of Scotland until one introduces a Scottish Parliament, sitting in Scotland, dealing with essentially Scottish business.

In their document published last year, the Government reminded us that we could celebrate the 300th anniversary of the union of the Parliaments in 2007—a mere 13 years away—and that the first Secretary for Scotland was established in 1895, so we could look forward to the 100th anniversary of that occasion in 1995. The point is that the Government are simply betraying those interested in both those changes because their electoral support has plummeted to new political depths. Why will not a party that has been annihilated in regional and European elections and a recent by-election take the governance of Scotland seriously enough to introduce substantial change?

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

I am not giving way.

The Scottish people are simply sick and tired of a Government who provide tokenism at Westminster but no significant change in Scotland. The Labour party believes that, when the gap between the Government and the governed becomes so large, it is a cause for widespread concern. It is a matter not just of processing government in this House but of what is discussed and why it is discussed. Substantial issues that have dominated Scottish politics recently include water. In any measure of public opinion, the Government's proposals on water are simply not wanted. It would not matter if a Grand Committee were held every week in this House or if the Government set up extraordinary procedures to quiz Ministers. Scots simply do not want some of the public policy changes which the Government propose.

When the Leader of the House winds up, will he assure us that, not only will the process of government change, but that the Government will dump the unwanted, badly conceived proposals that lie at the heart of the political crisis facing the Government in Scotland?

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

I am not giving way. On local government—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. There are too many conversations and interjections going on. The hon. Member who has the Floor is perfectly entitled to be heard.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish , Central Fife

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The Leader of the House should be aware that the Government's proposals on local government are not wanted. Will he reassure me that he will think not only about improving the government of Scotland at Westminster but that, when proposals are not only disliked but detested in Scotland, the Government will start to listen?

On the processing of decision making and the discussion of important measures in the House, why have the Government decided, behind closed doors, to close a significant economic unit called Rosyth? That is the point about tokenism and real decision making. The minor changes which the Secretary of State has announced to the Standing Orders will facilitate greater debate. He will agree that it is pointless to change how we debate issues if, on water, local government, the packing out of quangos by Government placemen and issues such as Rosyth, we continue to be given proposals that Scots will not tolerate. That is reflected to a great extent in the Government's parliamentary and political unpopularity.

We believe that Scotland's interests can best be served in this century and into the next by a Scottish Parliament established in Edinburgh. In our attempts to ensure that the United Kingdom has a future, the first step should be to look at measures to introduce a Scottish Parliament. We have given the commitment repeatedly on the Floor of the House that, in the first year of a Labour Government, we shall legislate for a Scottish Parliament. That is what Scots want.

I hope that the Leader of the House will say that he regards the Standing Order changes as only a small first step and that the Government will start to embrace the real need for significant change. When we see the needs and aspirations of Scots going in tandem with the practical policies of the House, we shall regard that as a success, but at present we shall wait and see. Of course, we support the changes being made, but they are a very small step forward.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 11:54 pm, 11th July 1994

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) started his speech by declining to describe the debate as interesting. As someone who does not have the privilege of attending such debates as frequently as he does, I found it extremely interesting. Indeed, it had a special flavour of its own which is rarely replicated in our proceedings in the House. I shall certainly hold it in my mind with the fascination that it deserves.

Apart from the excellent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) and for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), with two honourable exceptions on the Opposition Benches, which I shall come to in a moment, I heard relatively few speeches which appeared to be other than loosely connected with the Standing Orders—athough I accept entirely that they were within the rules of order by definition. They appeared to have rather more to do with fighting longer-running battles—ineed, some of them were resolved at the last general election—which are in the minds of hon. Members in various parts of the House.

I said that there were two honourable exceptions. I would not want to let my short time disappear without making some response to the straightforward questions asked by the hon. Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman).

The hon. Member for Linlithgow raised a number of points, including the seating arrangements for a Minister who is not a member of the Scottish Grand Committee. The provision is simply intended to make it clear that the Minister in question is not a member of the Committee and takes no part in its proceedings, beyond making his statement and answering questions. The seating arrangements will not prejudice his ability to respond to questions or make his statement; they are simply designed to emphasise that procedural point. I hope that that is reasonably clear.

The hon. Gentleman was also concerned about the possibility, as he saw it, that the rules concerning the proposed short debates—an interesting and worthwhile innovation in my judgment—could crowd out Back Benchers. The fact is that the topics of the short debates will be determined by shuffle, like oral questions, so the Government or, indeed, the Labour Front Bench will have no control over the subject matter; it will be determined in the same way as for oral questions. While that will not guarantee the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to raise the subject of Lockerbie, it will certainly mean that he cannot be frustrated in such an intention or such a wish by either the Government or the Labour Front Bench.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have only a few minutes and it would be right for me to respond to the hon. Member for Linlithgow.

As for the initiative in the selection of subjects for a statement by the Lord Advocate—another point raised by the hon. Gentleman—it would be up to the Lord Advocate or the Scottish Office Minister to volunteer a statement to the Committee. The Standing Orders do not provide for him to be summoned or compelled to make a statement on a particular topic, but that is no more than analogous with the position as it applies to the whole House or to Select Committees.

Lastly, the hon. Gentleman asked whether the Scottish Grand Committee could ask to hear from Ministers other than those in the Crown Office or the Scottish Office. The answer—I say this straightforwardly—is no. The Standing Orders provide only for statements from Scottish Office Ministers or Scottish Law Officers, but of course there are opportunities in the House as a whole for the hon. Gentleman or anyone else to questions Ministers with United Kingdom responsibilities.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me for not giving way.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow asked me some questions as well. In particular, he wanted to know whether the Committee would have the power to reject Scottish statutory instruments. Reference to the Scottish Grand Committee is a matter for the House, and the House takes the decision after the Grand Committee debate. That, too, is the same as current statutory instrument Committee procedures here.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow also asked about the position of Law Officers in the SGC or a Special Standing Committee. They can attend, under Standing Order No. 87, at present. They could appear as witnesses before a Special Standing Committee, by invitation and with their agreement, under the proposed new procedures. I hope that that gives the hon. Gentleman some reassurance.

Where the Committee might meet elsewhere in Scotland would be decided on the recommendation of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but he would expect, on this as on many other matters, to consult—through the usual channels—others with an interest in the decision. The physical facilities would have a great deal to do with the decision.

It being Two hours after the motion was entered upon, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [8 July].

Question agreed to.

Resolved,That with effect from the beginning of the next Session—

  1. (a) Standing Orders No. 93 (Public bills relating exclusively to Scotland), No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee), No. 96 (Scottish estimates) and No. 97 (Matters relating exclusively to Scotland) shall be repealed, and the following Standing Orders A to H below shall have effect;
  2. (b) Standing Orders No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees) and No. 91 (Special standing committees) shall be amended as set out below; and
  3. (c) other Standing Orders shall have effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this Order.
A. Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business)(1) There shall be a standing committee called the Scottish Grand Committee, which shall consist of all Members representing Scottish constituencies; and of which (subject to paragraph (6) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) the quorum shall be ten.(2) The business of the Committee shall include—
  1. (a) questions tabled in accordance with Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer));
  2. (b) short debates held in accordance with Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates));
  3. (c) ministerial statements proceeded with in accordance with Standing Order D (Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements));
  4. (d) bills referred to it for consideration in relation to their principle, in accordance with Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle));
  5. (e) motions relating to statutory instruments or draft statutory instruments, referred to it in accordance with Standing Order F (Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c));
  6. (f) motions for the adjournment of the committee, notice of which has been given in accordance with Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)); and
  7. (g) motions for the adjournment of the committee, to be made after the interruption of business, as provided in Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)).
B. Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)(1) Notices of questions for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee by Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.(2) Notices of questions given under this order shall hear an indication that they are for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee.(3) No more than one notice of a question may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the taking of questions.(4) On any day so specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), questions shall be taken at the commencement of the sitting; no question shall be taken later then three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of the proceedings thereon; and replies to questions not reached shall be printed with the Official Report of the committee's debates for that day.(5) Notices of questions under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which an answer is desired: Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph.C. Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)(1) Notices of subjects to be raised in short debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.(2) Subjects of which notice is given under paragraph (1) of this order must relate to the official responsibilities of Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers.(3) Not more than one notice of a subject may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the holding of short debates.(4) On any day so specified such debates shall be held at the commencement of the sitting or, if the order under paragraph (1) specifies also the taking of questions on that day, immediately after questions.(5)(a) No member of the committee except the minister or law officer replying to the debate shall be called to speak later than half an hour after the commencement of the first such debate.(b) The Member who gave notice of the subject and the minister or law officer replying to the debate may each speak for five minutes. Other members of the committee may speak for three minutes.(c) The chairman may direct any member of the committee who exceeds the limits in sub-paragraph (b) to resume his seat forthwith.(6) Notices of subjects under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which they are sought to be raised: Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph.D. Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)(1) The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement, of which prior notice has been given to him, and to answer questions thereon put by members of the committee.(2) Ministerial statements may be made for the purpose of—
  1. (a) facilitating the questioning by members of the committee of the minister or law officer, as the case may be, about a matter relating to his official responsibilities as provided in the second column of the eleventh sub-paragraph of paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 130 (Select committees related to government departments), in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion not later than three-quarters of an hour after their commencement; or
  2. (b) announcing the policy of the Government on a matter relating to Scotland or the response of the Government to an event relating to Scotland, in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion at the discretion of the chairman.
(3) Ministerial statements may be made—
  1. (a) at the commencement of a sitting; or
  2. (b) if questions are taken, immediately after the conclusion of proceedings thereon; or
  3. (c) if short debates are held, immediately after the conclusion of those proceedings.
(4) A minister or law officer making a statement under paragraph (1) of this order, who is not a member of the committee, may not do so from the body of the committee; and such a minister or law officer shall not vote, make any motion or be counted in the quorum.E. Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)(1) After any public bill has been first printed, the Speaker shall, if of the opinion that its provisions relate exclusively to Scotland, give a certificate to that effect: Provided that a certificate shall not be withheld by reason only that a provision of that bill amends Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 or Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975.(2) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill so certified, a motion may be made by a member of the Government (or in the case of a private Members' bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), 'That the bill be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee'; and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business: Provided that such a motion may be made by a private Member only with the leave of the House.(3) A bill so referred to the Scottish Grand Committee shall be considered on a motion, 'That the Committee has considered the bill in relation to its principle;' and, when the committee has considered that question for a total of two and half hours (whether on one or more than one day), the chairman. shall put the question necessary to dispose of the motion, and shall then report accordingly to the House (or shall report that the committee has come to no resolution), without any further question being put thereon: Provided that a member of the government may, immediately before the motion 'That the Committee has considered the bill in relation to its principle' is made, make without notice a motion to extend the time-limit specified in this paragraph; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith.(4) A bill in respect of which a report has been made under paragraph (3) above shall be ordered to be read a second time on a future day.(5) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill to which paragraph (4) above applies, a motion may be made by a member of the government (or, in the case of a private Member's bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), 'That the bill be committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee)': and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.(6) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time, and shall stand committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee).F. Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c.)(1) Where—
  1. (a) a Member has given notice of a motion for a humble address to Her Majesty praying that a statutory instrument be annulled, or of a motion that a draft of an Order in Council be not submitted to Her Majesty in Council, or that a statutory instrument be revoked or be not made, or that the House takes note of a statutory instrument, or
  2. (b) a Minister of the Crown has given notice of a motion to the effect that a statutory instrument or draft statutory instrument be approved,
a motion may be made by a member of the government, 'That the instrument (or draft instrument) be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee'; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.
(2) The committee shall consider each instrument (or draft instrument) referred to it on a motion, 'That the Committee has considered the instrument (or draft instrument)'; and the chairman shall put any question necessary to dispose of the proceedings on the motion, if not previously disposed of, not later than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings thereon; and shall thereupon report the instrument or draft instrument to the House without any further question being put.(3) If any motion is made in the House of the kind specified in paragraph 1(a) or 1(b) of this order, in relation to any instrument or draft instrument in respect of which a report has been made to the House in accordance with paragraph (2) of this order, the Speaker shall put forthwith the question thereon; which may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.G. Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)(1) On each of the days specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the Scottish Grand Committee, such motions of which notice has been given in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3) below shall have precedence.(2) A member of the committee giving notice of a motion for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall—
  1. (a) also give notice of the subject to which he intends to call attention on the motion for the adjournment of the committee, and
  2. (b) give such notice of motion and of the subject in writing not later than ten sitting days before that on which the motion is to be made:
Provided that the subject to which attention is called must relate to Scotland.
(3) The days specified for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall be allocated as follows—
  1. (a) six at the disposal of the government;
  2. (b) four at the disposal of the Leader of the Opposition; and, in respect of parties other than that of the Leader of the Opposition,
  3. (c) one at the disposal of the leader of the largest opposition party; and
  4. (d) one at the disposal of the leader of the next largest opposition party:
Provided that a day specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) on which business is to be interrupted at or after half-past three o'clock shall, if no business other than that to which this order applies is set down for consideration on that day, be deemed to be two days for the purposes of this order.
(4) For the purposes of this order, the 'largest' and 'next largest' opposition parties in Scotland shall be those parties, not being represented in Her Majesty's Government and of which the Leader of the Opposition is not a member, which have the largest and next largest number of Members who represent constituencies in Scotland, and of which not fewer than three Members were elected to the House as members of those parties.H. Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)(1) A motion may be made by a member of the government providing (or varying previous provision) for the Scottish Grand Committee—
  1. (a) to sit on specified days at a specified place in Scotland, the sitting commencing at half-past ten o'clock, and proceedings being interrupted at such hour as may be specified;
  2. (b) to sit on other specified days at Westminster at half-past ten o'clock;
  3. (c) to take questions under Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)) on certain of the days specified under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) above;
  4. (d) to hold short debates under Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)) on certain of the days so specified; and
  5. (e) to consider substantive motions for the adjournment of the committee under Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) on not more than twelve of the days so specified.
and the Speaker shall put forthwith the question on such a motion, which may be decided after the time for opposed business:
Provided that nothing in this order shall prevent the committee from considering further at a sitting at Westminster business adjourned at a previous sitting in Scotland, nor from considering at a sitting in Scotland business adjourned at a sitting at Westminster.(2) The provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees), so far as they relate to the naming of a day in respect of business by the Member appointed chairman and the committee's appointment of future days in respect of business not completed at a sitting, shall not apply to the Scottish Grand Committee.(3) Other than as provided in paragraph (1) of Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)), the government shall determine the precedence of the business appointed for consideration at any sitting of the committee.(4) The chairman shall interrupt proceedings at the time specified in relation to the sitting by an order made under paragraph (1) above, or, in the absence of such provision, at one o'clock, subject to paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees).(5) At the moment of interruption, proceedings under consideration and not disposed of shall stand adjourned (except substantive motions for the adjournment of the committee under Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) which shall lapse).(6) After the interruption of proceedings, a motion for the adjournment of the committee may be made by a member of the government, and, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees) the chairman shall, not later than half an hour after the motion has been made, adjourn the committee without putting any question; and in respect of business taken under this paragraph, the quorum of the committee shall be three.That Standing Orders be amended as follows—(i) Standing Order No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), by adding at the end of line 91 the words—(11) A private Member's bill to which the provisions of paragraphs (2) to (6) of Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) have applied, and which has been considered by a Scottish Standing Committee (or by a special standing committee), shall not be set down for consideration on report so as to have precedence over any private Member's bill so set down which was read a second time on a day preceding that on which the bill was reported from the Scottish Grand Committee under paragraph (3) of that Standing Order";(ii) Standing Order No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees), in line 1, by leaving out the words "Standing Order No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee)" and inserting the words "Standing Order A (Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business))"; and(iii) Standing Order No. 91 (Special standing committees), by inserting at the end of line 13 the words— Provided that, in the case of bills certified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) and committed pursuant to paragraph (5) thereof to a special standing committee, the three morning sittings may be held in Scotland".