First Scottish Standing Committee

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 26th June 1996.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Administration Committee 3:30 pm, 26th June 1996

On a point of order, Madam Speaker, of which you have been given notice.

It is my unpleasant duty to inform the House that, at the meeting of the First Scottish Standing Committee yesterday afternoon, I drew attention to the presence of roseanna Cunningham, the Member for Perth and Kinross, Mrs. Margaret Ewing, the Member for Moray, and Mr. Alex Salmond, the Member for Banff and Buchan, not being members of the Committee, in the part of the Committee Room reserved for the members of the Committee; and the hon. Members having declined to withdraw, the Committee ordered That the Chairman do report roseanna Cunningham, Mrs. Margaret Ewing and Mr. Alex Salmond to the House.

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

I understand that the Leader of the House intends to move a motion relating to privilege.

Motion made, and Question proposed,That the Chairman of the First Scottish Standing Committee, appointed in respect of the Education (Scotland) Bill [Lords], shall have power to order any Member who is not a member of the Committee to withdraw immediately from the Committee Room and the Serjeant at Arms shall act on such orders as he may receive from the Chairman in pursuance of this order.—[Mr. Newton.]

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party 3:32 pm, 26th June 1996

The motion before us is to give the Chairman of the Scottish Standing Committee powers. My argument is that the House should not give the hon. Gentleman such powers, certainly not until such time as the House has debated the issue of the conduct of Scottish business, which has been a running sore in the House for many years.

I intend to be brief, not just to stay within the rules of order, but also because I would not dream of depriving English Members of their right to watch the semi-final of the European championships later this evening.

I start by pointing out some of the precedents for motions such as this, some of which might surprise many hon. Members—because, from time to time during the past 20 years, every Opposition party has been involved in similar circumstances.

The first precedent I want to consider was in 1972 during consideration of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill, when three Liberal Members of Parliament and three Labour Members of Parliament, two of them still distinguished Members of the House, went on to the Committee although they were not members of it.

The Members concerned were the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the late Jo Grimond, the late John Mackintosh, the late John Robertson and the late Tom Oswald.

In conversation with the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber last evening, I reminded him of the precedent, and he remarked to me that that was something that he did as a younger Member of the House. I must take some comfort from the fact that perhaps that implies that I could still be classified as a younger Member.

Those Members in 1972 challenged the fact that Members from Scottish constituencies were not given the facility of serving on a Committee examining an extremely important Bill.

During the first sitting of the Standing Committee scrutinising the Housing (Scotland) Bill in 1988, the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), still a Member of this House, interrupted the proceedings; the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) was also in the Chair on that occasion. Although the Committee was suspended twice, the hon. Member for Springburn did not seek leave on that occasion to bring a motion before the House, and there was no debate in the House.

The argument used at the time by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West was that he was affronted by the fact that Members less qualified than he, from English constituencies, were allowed to debate and decide on Scottish matters, whereas he, a Scottish Member with suitable qualifications, was excluded.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

It seems that I have quite a choice.

Photo of Mr Anthony Coombs Mr Anthony Coombs , Wyre Forest

If the hon. Gentleman's objection is that English Members may vote on the Education (Scotland) Bill, was it inconsistency or hypocrisy that led him and his Scottish National party colleagues to see fit to vote on the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill recently, even though it applied only to England and Wales?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Before I answer that, I must correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. I am not objecting to English Members serving on Scottish Standing Committees. I object to Members from English constituencies serving on them—[Interruption.]—an important difference, which the hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate. Many Members who represent English constituencies are Scots, and some Scottish constituencies are represented by English Members.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I am making the point that people who serve on Standing Committees should have a responsibility to their constituents. Members without a single affected constituent can, it seems, decide key areas of Scottish business.

Mr. Michael J.Martin:

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I do not want to have to appeal to the Chair for protection, but Conservative Members should learn to conduct themselves in an orderly fashion. When I have finished answering the hon. Gentleman, I shall gladly give way to the Chairman of the Committee.

The former, an experienced Member of this House, should know that my colleagues and I make it our practice not to interfere in English business. The most recent example of that was the Family Law Bill. If the hon. Gentleman checks the record, he will find that none of us voted on that measure, because it concerned specifically English business. It was, however, quite clear that the nursery vouchers Bill for England was going to be used to pave the way for nursery vouchers in Scotland.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Administration Committee

I should point out for the record that, when the Committee was reconvened and my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) was present again, I asked him to leave, and he left. So there was no need to come to the House to seek any powers. I say this just in case the hon. Gentleman is implying that he has received different treatment.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Gentleman should check the record, which he may not have with him at the moment. I remind him that he twice suspended that Committee, and then suspended it until the following Thursday. The Committee did not sit on the day in question, because the hon. Member for Falkirk, West was still in his place. The date was 19 January 1988, so the hon. Gentleman should check the record—

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Far be it from me—[Interruption.]

Several hon. Members:

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

Order. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has the Floor, unless he gives way.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I will not give way to the hon. Member for Springburn until I answer his question. The hon. Gentleman should note that, on 19 January 1988, the first sitting of the Scottish Standing Committee could not go ahead because the hon. Member for Falkirk, West did not leave the Committee. I understand that the Chairman of the Committee suspended the sitting until the following Thursday, but did not move a motion to report the hon. Member to the Floor of the House. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has other information.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Administration Committee

I shall put it on the record again: the hon. Gentleman turned up on the following Tuesday. I know that, because we shared an office at the time. I told him that I was going to chair the Committee, and he said that he was going to come and sit there. He turned up on the Tuesday, made a protest, left to go to another Committee meeting, and it was all over.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I think the hon. Gentleman should check the record-he will find that the Committee had to be postponed until the following Thursday. Perhaps, if I shared an office with the hon. Gentleman, I would not be standing here debating these matters on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I have already referred to two precedents, and before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, I shall refer to two more.

The third precedent is the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill in 1989. Again, the Scottish Standing Committee was interrupted by me, by my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) and by the then hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan. We advanced the same argument: Members less qualified than Scottish Members were able to sit and determine Scottish business.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Again, I am spoilt for choice, but I think I should finish referring to my precedents before I give way to hon. Members.

The fourth precedent is the Local Government Etc. (Scotland) Bill in 1994. Again, the Scottish Standing Committee underwent the exact same process, and yet again there was a debate on the Floor of the House.

My point is simple: these examples show that, concerning members across the Opposition parties, there is a running sore in the conduct of Scottish business. At various times and on various issues, Opposition Members have found it unacceptable that Members from English constituencies have been able to determine matters that they could not determine.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. I am thinking back to when the House constituted the Scottish Standing Committee. I do not remember the hon. Gentleman or either of his two colleagues seeking to serve on the Committee. Did he ask to serve on the Standing Committee? In fact, will he remind the House whether he has ever served on a Standing Committee?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

As the record will show, I have volunteered to serve on Standing Committees on Scottish business on every major piece of legislation. My difficulty has been getting on to the Committees—even if sometimes I am ejected from them.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Gentleman says, "No, no." I remember a case when the hon. Member said that he was going to play Parnell with the House of Commons— that he would stand before the Mace. If the hon. Gentleman was still before the Mace, he would be kneeling, not standing.

Before we give powers to the Chairman of the Committee, there should be a substantive debate on the conduct of Scottish business, so that all these issues can be ventilated—so that we can decide whether it is appropriate for Scottish Members, who are responsible to their constituents, to effect these matters on Standing Committees.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Will the hon. Gentleman be specific in his answer to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes)? Did the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and the hon. Member for Perth and Kinross (Ms Cunningham) write to the Chairman of the Committee of Selection asking to be on this Committee? Yes or no?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

If the hon. Member can guarantee me that a letter to the Chairman of the Committee of Selection will result in me and my hon. Friends being offered an opportunity to serve on these Committees, I will gladly write such letters.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

I am sure that my hon. Friends have been happy to serve on Standing Committees. Does the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) speak for Labour Front Benchers in offering us places on the Standing Committees? As he knows, the places are carved up by the Front Benchers.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

In my attendance at the First Scottish Standing Committee yesterday morning, I noted the degree of co-operation between the Labour and Tory parties. I have not witnessed that degree of connivance in any other Committee—or across the Floor of the House, despite the usual channels.

My argument is that we should not give the Chairman powers until there has been a substantive debate on the conduct of Scottish business. Two important precedents should give us cause to consider that point seriously. The first is the question of Welsh business.

A Standing Order of the House allows every Welsh Member to sit on Welsh Standing Committees. I understand that that Standing Order was introduced in the early years of this century. Is not there a valid argument, even in the confines of the unitary Parliament in which so many hon. Members believe, to improve the conduct of Scottish business and grant the same facility as exists for Welsh business?

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Since 1907, Standing Order No. 86 has allowed every Welsh Member to sit on the Standing Committee of a Bill that deals exclusively with Wales. But, as my hon. Friend will understand, the reality is that, as soon as that Standing Order comes into play—for example, during consideration of the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994—the Government move a motion to abolish its powers. In reality, a majority of English Tory Members told us what to do about the Welsh language and local government in Wales.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The point made by the hon. Gentleman is well taken, and it shows that many hon. Members present, who say that the Standing Orders of the House should be observed, are prepared to reinterpret them flexibly, as the Welsh example shows, when they do not suit the objectives of the governing party.

I know, Madam Speaker, that you have often reminded hon. Members, during Question Time and at other times, that we must be conscious of how our debates look to our constituents and to people outside the House. My strong feeling is that people in Scotland do not understand why Members from English constituencies should determine issues such as Scottish education, nursery vouchers and the compulsory enforcement of testing, against the wishes of the Scottish people.

Under Standing Order No. 86(2), it is doubtful that the hon. Members for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) and for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates) should be considered as suitably qualified, not because they are English but because they do not have a single constituent who will be affected by the provisions that are being debated.

I offer one other reason why we should not pass this motion. Last autumn, a facility was introduced to the procedures of the House that we were told would make a substantive change in the way that Scottish business was debated and discussed. My hon. Friends and myself have spent much time, as have other hon. Members on the Grand Committee, visiting various airts and pairts of Scotland on Mondays in the past few months. Indeed, two of my hon. Friends have a 100 per cent. attendance record, a record of which few—probably one or two—Labour or Conservative Members can boast.

My point is that, while the Grand Committee goes on its visitations round Scotland and acts as a mobile press conference for the Secretary of State for Scotland, the real decisions are made in Scottish Standing Committees. They are made not in the Grand Committee by Scottish Members, but in the First Scottish Standing Committee, with a majority secured by the importation of three Members from English constituencies who are the silent majority.

When the Prime Minister speaks this evening about how Scotland gets a good deal in the House of Commons and how the House is sensitive to the conduct of Scottish business, he should answer the substantial charge of hypocrisy. While he makes those comments about sensitivity to Scottish business, he mobilises the majority of English Conservative Members to enforce on Scotland measures that are clearly unwanted by the Scottish people.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I see that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh is not in full agreement with the points that I have made. I wonder how many times he has explained to his constituents why he spends so much of his valuable parliamentary time forcing unwanted measures on a range of policies on the Scottish people and our constituents. I think that the people of Langbaurgh are entitled to a full-time Member of Parliament, as opposed to one who spends so much time facilitating the conduct of Scottish business.

Several hon. Members:

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

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman giving way?

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

In that case, the hon. Members must resume their seats.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Despite the precedents to which I have referred, and the fact that hon. Members from all Opposition parties have made similar points—often in the manner in which I have described there are those who would say that seeking to attend Standing Committee meetings against the wishes of the Chairman is not the way to deploy our grievances.

I noticed that the leader of the Labour party in Scotland, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), claimed in today's press that such actions represent a challenge to the sovereignty of the House of Commons. It occurs to me that the hon. Gentleman and all his hon. Friends signed a document, "The Claim of Right", which was a challenge to the sovereignty of the House of Commons.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, so I assume that he did not sign it.

I have no problem with challenges to the sovereignty of the House of Commons. However, I think that it is interesting that people who sign documents in Scotland are prepared to employ totally different arguments when they are in London.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key , Salisbury

The hon. Gentleman said that he would be brief. I am beginning to suspect collusion between the Scottish Nationalists and the Government Front Bench to prevent us from hearing the words of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman).

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I had intended to be brief, so as not to disrupt the hon. Gentleman's viewing of the football semi-final this evening. However, I have been diverted by his intervention and by those of his hon. Friends. My only sin has been to give way too generously to hon. Members, and to expect them to make more substantive points than they have been able to manage.

The conduct of Scottish business in the House would be deployed better if we had a serious debate on the Floor of the House about a specifically Scottish Bill. The legislation under consideration is no ordinary Bill—it is one of the few measures certified by the Chair as a specifically Scottish measure. Under those circumstances, and before we give draconian powers to the Committee Chairman, should we not debate whether such legislation could be facilitated by allowing Scottish Members of Parliament to decide the matter?

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As a Scot, I have a great deal of fellow feeling for his dissertation. I think that Scotland in these circumstances gets a rough deal, and I hope that that is rectified in future Parliaments. But I have to say, in making a positive and helpful contribution, that it is time the whole question of the composition of Committees was examined profoundly in this House of Commons.

I have been here for 30 years. I have detailed knowledge of a limited number of subjects, but if ever I have applied for a Committee on which I might have made a positive contribution, have I been accepted? I could name the Committees—but I do not want to bore the House. If one's face does not fit, if one is not a mate of the Chairman of the Committee of Selection—and I certainly was not—and if one did not have the right contacts with one's Whips Office—we have all had happy and less happy experiences in the past 30 years—one does not stand much chance of selection. This whole question needs to be profoundly re-examined.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Gentleman tempts me to stray somewhat wider than the motion under consideration. I can understand why many Committees might be somewhat wary of the hon. Gentleman's formidable debating skills and his experience in the House of Commons over many years. He expresses his frustration, and reminds us that it is not only Scottish Members of Parliament who are frustrated in these matters. I am sure that he would be the first to recognise—as he said—that there is a specific matter—

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

This is a filibuster.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I have tried to be generous to the hon. Gentleman's colleagues. Every item of Scottish business is not only filibustered but gerrymandered in this place by his right hon. and hon. Friends, who dictate Scottish business against the wishes of the Scottish people.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as I realise that he was about to conclude.

The hon. Gentleman said—and rightly so—that the Bill in question is a purely Scottish measure. Will he go back to the answer that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), and say why he voted on an equivalent English Bill, which he said had implications for Scotland? If the Bill that we are debating upstairs in Committee is a purely Scottish measure, what were those implications that were so important that he and his hon. Friends voted?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

We received representations from many organisations in Scotland, including the teaching unions, saying that we should take a look at the measure, because, in so many ways, the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland were trying to take Scottish education in an anglicised direction. The measures that he supports today in England are exactly the same as the ones that will be introduced in Scotland tomorrow. On that basis, given the representations that were made by the teaching unions and others, we deemed it appropriate to vote against it.

Any examination of the record will show that my hon. Friends and I do not vote on specifically English matters as a matter of course. Indeed, I have been criticised in the House for not exercising a vote on specifically English matters. The Minister should note that, if he wants to anglicise Scottish education, he will have to accept that Scottish Members must take note of what his colleagues are doing south of the border, because what is being done to fragment and divide the education system south of the border is what will be done to fragment and divide it in Scotland later on.

My substantive point is to draw attention to the anomaly whereby specific Scottish business, certified by you, Madam Speaker, is not decided by Scottish Members who are responsible for their constituents. As I have pointed out, there have been many precedents in the past 20 years or so involving hon. Members of all Opposition parties in the House, which shows that we are debating not an isolated incident but a running sore in the way in which the House of Commons debates and takes decisions on Scottish business.

Before Labour Members go into the Government Lobby, they should reflect that, many times, their own constituency Members have made similar points. Surely the House is generous enough, before proceeding with the motion, at least to concede a debate on the substantive concern that all Scottish Members should have about the conduct of Scottish business in this place.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 3:57 pm, 26th June 1996

I was minded to support the motion of the Leader of the House before I heard the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). Having heard him, however, I am even more convinced that the motion is absolutely necessary. His speech was extremely revealing, and gave us no good reason to vote against the motion.

I intend to be brief, unlike the hon. Gentleman, because I personally regret the fact that the House has to spend time debating this motion when we could be debating the motion on the health service, which applies to Scotland as well as England. If the hon. Gentleman had read his Order Paper, he would have realised that what he is doing today is ensuring that time is taken from a critical debate on health, which affects Scotland as much as England.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The hon. Lady seems to be suffering from a misapprehension. My hon. Friends and I do not decide when these motions are brought to the Floor of the House. That is a matter for the Leader of the House, no doubt in concert, through the usual channels, with the hon. Lady.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman should have thought about that before he disrupted the Committee yesterday. If he does not know enough about procedure to realise that his actions yesterday would lead to this motion, he is obviously not very well informed on the procedures of the House. It struck me while he was speaking that he had one concern about today, and it was not the health service debate. There is a football match later this evening. If that is his priority, so be it, but I do not think that it is the priority of the people he represents.

Hon. Members take different opportunities to make their points in the House, and it is legitimate that they protest about the activities of the Government or other hon. Members. The House has many procedures and safety valves—points of order and other mechanisms—allowing hon. Members to raise issues, and disruption of a Committee of the kind that we saw yesterday is extremely juvenile behaviour. If hon. Members choose to protest in that way, they must take the consequences, and today's motion is a direct consequence of what happened yesterday.

The hon. Gentleman's argument was strangely convoluted. For instance, he did not say why he had chosen to disrupt that particular Committee at that particular time, rather than disrupting any other Committee dealing with Scottish affairs. If he were consistent, he would disrupt every Committee of which he is not a member—I gather that there are quite a lot of those.

Moreover, if the hon. Gentleman was so worried about the membership of the Committee, why did it take him six sittings to work out that it included three English Conservative Members? What was he doing during all that time? I have not followed the Committee's proceedings very carefully, but I do not imagine that the English Conservative Members were making a tremendous contribution. Nevertheless, I would have expected the hon. Gentleman to notice their presence before now.

As for the interest that the hon. Gentleman and his two hon. Friends have taken in the Bill, I note that, on Second Reading of the Bill, a succession of Labour Back Benchers spoke, one after the other. I do not think that you, Madam Speaker, would have called them if members of other parties had sought to catch your eye. I think we can be certain that this was no more than a simple device.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

My hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) spoke on Second Reading. But am I right in thinking that the Labour party did not vote against Second Reading, although both the Liberals and the SNP did so?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Again, the hon. Gentleman should do his homework. He should remember the reasoned amendment we tabled on that occasion. As for the fact that one member of the Scottish National party spoke, what a big deal! After all, the measure affected Scotland, and, as I have said, there was scope for other hon. Members to intervene. There was a succession of Labour speakers; had members of other parties wished to speak, they could have caught the Speaker's eye.

I am pleased to note that the hon. Gentleman has decided that in future he wishes to participate in Standing Committee sittings. It has been brought to my attention that, since he entered the House in the 1987–88 Session, there have been 51 Standing Committees on Bills affecting Scottish legislation, which have had 227 sittings. The hon. Gentleman is so keen on contributing to discussion of such affairs that he has managed to attend one sitting of one Committee.

I am afraid that the record of the hon. Gentleman's party is not always terribly good. No member of the SNP could find time to serve on the Committee considering the Deer Bill—enacted in 1991—the last for which membership was requested.

The real problem is that my hon. Friends were doing far too well on the Standing Committee for the Scottish nationalists' liking. The Scottish nationalists were making no substantial contribution. Their tactics were wrong, and they had no real ideas about the legislation. In order to mask their ineffectiveness, they staged a silly juvenile prank. I do not believe that the House will, on this occasion, have any sympathy with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and his colleagues. They were foolish yesterday, and they must accept the consequences.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside 4:04 pm, 26th June 1996

I rise to support my right hon. Friend's motion, and the House may well ask why—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]—a Scottish Member of Parliament, having listened to the tirade from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), would do so. We must support the Chairs of Standing Committees. The Chair of a Standing Committee has the onerous task of ensuring that legislation proceeds in an orderly manner. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan made a revealing speech, and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) added to the revelations.

It is interesting that some hon. Members do not serve on Standing Committees and give their service to the House, but not surprising, because they do everything they can to undermine the House and its workings. The Scottish National party is all about doing that. The actions of SNP Members yesterday were designed to produce this debate, and for them to pretend otherwise is humbug.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

I do not believe that the House wants to take lectures from the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) about humbug. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back to the last Parliament, when he single-handedly prevented a Scottish Select Committee being established to monitor the work of the Scottish Office during the whole of that Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman is so loyal to the Chairs of Committees, why is he not backing the Chairman of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

I would have preferred the hon. Gentleman not to bring up that matter, because it is embarrassing to his party, not to me.

You are well aware, Madam Speaker, of the matter about which you have written to me, concerning the chairmanship of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. It was not my intention to mention that matter today—or the apology that had to be made by the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland in respect of matters affecting that Committee. The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) has done his party a great disservice. Before the hon. Gentleman criticises me in relation to rules, procedure and behaviour, he should do his homework a bit more carefully.

We are seeing today a disagreement between the Scottish National party and the Labour party, dressed up—for that is what it is—as a pretence that principle is at stake. We all know that Standing Committees reflect the majority party, whichever it might be. We know that, if the Government of the day are to have their way, they must have a majority in Standing Committees—reflecting the composition of the House.

It is nonsense for the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan to pretend that his behaviour and that of his colleagues yesterday had anything to do with principle. He claimed to be making a point about the conduct of Scottish business and the composition of Standing Committees considering Scottish Bills.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury pointed out that the hon. Gentleman is in no position to make such a claim. As a Member of Parliament who has served all the hours on Standing Committees that the hon. Lady mentioned, I have noted the absence all his time in the House of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan from Standing Committees. It is clear to me that hon. Gentleman is in no position to comment on the composition of Standing Committees.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I remind the hon. Gentleman that he has voted three times over the past few years to eject me from Standing Committees considering Scottish business.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

And I shall be doing so again today. The hon. Gentleman has clearly demonstrated to the House why it is right to do so.

What we saw yesterday and what we have seen today is a foretaste of what a Scottish Parliament would be like. I am delighted that this has been brought to the attention of the people of Scotland, because it clearly demonstrates that the left-wing socialists of the SNP fell out in Committee with the socialists of the Labour party in Scotland.

Those of us who were in the Committee know that the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh)—to put it kindly—was miffed. He and Labour Committee members had words, which was partly due to the fact that the very able but inexperienced Labour Front Bencher leading for the Labour party—[Interruption.] Yes, the hon. Member for Monklands, East (Mrs. Liddell) is very capable, and she was very impressive in how she handled the matter. But she is not fully aware of the House's rules and conventions, which seems to be a common failing of hon. Members from the Scottish Labour party.

The hon. Member for Monklands, East upset the hon. Member for Angus, East because she publicly—I thought unwisely—drew attention to the fact that she disagreed with him, and suggested that he did not understand the rules. That is a paraphrase, but that is roughly what happened.

The hon. Member for Angus, East felt that he had to do something about that. Because of that, we are all suffering today. That is why I believe that it is right that the House should support the Chairman of the Committee. If we do not support the Chair, we will never conduct our business properly.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 349, Noes 5.

Division No. 157][4.11 pm
AYES
Adams, Mrs IreneBottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Ainger, NickBottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Bowis, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Aitken, Rt Hon JonathanBradley, Keith
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Brandreth, Gyles
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Brazier, Julian
Alton, DavidBright, Sir Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Arbuthnot, JamesBruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Budgen, Nicholas
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyBurden, Richard
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Burns, Simon
Austin-Walker, JohnByers, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Callaghan, Jim
Baldry, TonyCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Barnes, HarryCarlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Barron, KevinCarrington, Matthew
Batiste, SpencerCash, William
Bayley, HughChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Beggs, RoyChapman, Sir Sydney
Bellingham, HenryChidgey, David
Bendall, VivianChisholm, Malcolm
Benton, JoeClapham, Michael
Beresford, Sir PaulClappison, James
Betts, CliveClark, Dr David (South Shields)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Body, Sir RichardClarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Booth, HartleyClarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Boswell, TimClarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHannam, Sir John
Coffey, AnnHanson, David
Cohen, HarryHargreaves, Andrew
Colvin, MichaelHarman, Ms Harriet
Congdon, DavidHaselhurst, Sir Alan
Conway, DerekHawkins, Nick
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hawksley, Warren
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Heald, Oliver
Cormack, Sir PatrickHill, Sir James (Southampton Test)
Corston, JeanHill, Keith (Streatham)
Couchman, JamesHinchliffe, David
Cousins, JimHoey, Kate
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Home Robertson, John
Dalyell, TamHood, Jimmy
Darling, AlistairHoram, John
Davidson, IanHowarth, George (Knowsley North)
Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth)Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Hoyle, Doug
Day, StephenHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Deva, Nirj JosephHughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Devlin, TimHunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Dewar, DonaldHunter, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian HHutton, John
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenIllsley, Eric
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesIngram, Adam
Dowd, JimJamieson, David
Duncan, AlanJenkin, Bernard
Duncan Smith, IainJenkins, Brian (SE Staff)
Dunn, BobJessel, Toby
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethJones, Dr Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dykes, HughJones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Eagle, Ms AngelaJones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Eastham, KenKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Eggar, Rt Hon TimKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterKennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Key, Robert
Evennett, DavidKhabra, Piara S
Faber, DavidKirkwood, Archy
Fabricant, MichaelKnight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Fatchett, DerekKnight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Knox, Sir David
Flynn, PaulKynoch, George (Kincardine)
Forman, NigelLait, Mrs Jacqui
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Foster, Rt Hon DerekLawrence, Sir Ivan
Foster, Don (Bath)Leigh, Edward
Foulkes, GeorgeLennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe)
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)Liddell, Mrs Helen
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerLidington, David
French, DouglasLilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fyfe, MariaLloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Gale, RogerLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Gallie, PhilLord, Michael
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeLuff, Peter
Garnier, EdwardLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Gerrard, NeilMcAvoy, Thomas
Gill, ChristopherMcCartney, Ian
Gillan, CherylMacdonald, Calum
Godman, Dr Norman AMcFall, John
Golding, Mrs LlinMacKay, Andrew
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairMcKelvey, William
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMackinlay, Andrew
Grant Sir A (SW Cambs)Maclean, Rt Hon David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)McLeish, Henry
Greenway, John (Ryedale)McLoughlin, Patrick
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gunnell, JohnMaddock, Diana
Hain, PeterMadel, Sir David
Hall, MikeMahon, Alice
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Maitland, Lady Olga
Hanley, Rt Hon JeremyMalone, Gerald
Mans, KeithShersby, Sir Michael
Marland, PaulShort, Clare
Marlow, TonySkeet, Sir Trevor
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Soley, Clive
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Spearing, Nigel
Martin, Michael J (Springburn)Spellar, John
Martlew, EricSpencer, Sir Derek
Merchant PiersSpicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Michael, AlunSpink, Dr Robert
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Spring, Richard
Milburn, AlanSproat, Iain
Mills, IainSquire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Monro, Rt Hon Sir HectorSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Montgomery, Sir FergusStephen, Michael
Morgan, RhodriStevenson, George
Mudie, GeorgeStott, Roger
Murphy, PaulStrang, Dr. Gavin
Nelson, AnthonyStreeter, Gary
Neubert, Sir MichaelSumberg, David
Newton, Rt Hon TonySutcliffe, Gerry
Nicholls, PatrickSweeney, Walter
Norris, SteveTapsell, Sir Peter
O'Brien, William (Normanton)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Hara, EdwardTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Olner, BillThomason, Roy
O'Neill, MartinThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Ottaway, RichardThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Page, RichardThornton, Sir Malcolm
Parry, RobertTouhig, Don
Patten, Rt Hon JohnTownsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Pawsey, JamesTredinnick, David
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTrend, Michael
Pickles, EricTrickett, Jon
Pickthall, ColinTwinn, Dr Ian
Pike, Peter LTyler, Paul
Pope, GregViggers, Peter
Porter, David (Waveney)Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelWallace, James
Powell, William (Corby)Waller, Gary
Prentice, BridgetWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Wareing, Robert N
Purchase, KenWaterson, Nigel
Quin, Ms JoyceWatson, Mike
Radice, GilesWatts, John
Randall, StuartWells, Bowen
Raynsford, NickWhitney, Ray
Reid, Dr JohnWhittingdale, John
Rendel, DavidWilkinson, John
Richards, RodWilletts, David
Riddick, GrahamWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Robathan, AndrewWilshire, David
Robertson, George (Hamilton)Wilson, Brian
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Winnick, David
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Roche, Mrs BarbaraWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Wise, Audrey
Rooker, JeffWood, Timothy
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Wright, Dr Tony
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Yeo, Tim
Sedgemore, BrianYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertTellers for the Ayes:
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford)Mr. Michael Bates and
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Mr. Roger Knapman.
NOES
Cunningham, RoseannaWigley, Dafydd
Ewing, Mrs MargaretTellers for the Noes:
Salmond, AlexMr. Andrew Welsh and
Skinner, DennisMr. Cynog Dafis.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the Chairman of the First Scottish Standing Committee, appointed in respect of the Education (Scotland) Bill [Lords], shall have power to order any Member who is not a member of the Committee to withdraw immediately from the Committee Room and the Serjeant at Arms shall act on such orders as he may receive from the Chairman in pursuance of this order.