There have been six pieces of Government primary Scottish legislation and 977 instruments passed in the past three years; no central record of the number of repeals is held.
Although the Government's deregulation initiative is going very well, is my hon. Friend aware that, since 1970, 220,000 pages of additional law have been added to the statute book? As a Scottish Minister, will he take the lead and, in addition to the qualitative test of debating measures on the Floor of the House, introduce a quantitative test whereby, when any new Scottish law is introduced, the identical amount of legislation is repealed, so that a balance is achieved and no additional laws are added to the statute book without the repeal of others at the same time?
It is right that my hon. Friend maintains pressure on all Departments, including the Scottish Office. As we have heard, he has great style However, as he is aware, the Government have passed 44 deregulation orders resulting in savings of more than £100 million per annum. Last year alone, 228 statutory instruments were passed; 105 produced savings for business by repealing some 500 existing regulations.
Does the Minister recall that there was no greater supporter of the legislation to impose the poll tax on Scotland and the rest of Britain than the current Secretary of State for Scotland? That legislation was repealed within five years and cost the taxpayer £14 billion. Does the Minister also recall that the Secretary of State for Scotland wasted months of legislative time in Scottish Standing Committees forcing through measures in respect of opted-out schools in Scotland—legislation that has been ignored? Does he recall that the Government imposed local government reorganisation on Scotland, creating the crisis in Scottish councils today? The measures were unwanted, expensive, unnecessary and wasteful. If I had a pound for every wasteful piece of legislation passed through the House, I would not have to buy a ticket for the national lottery tonight.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman takes the same venom and passion to Scottish local authorities and encourages them, in the same way he has berated me, to collect the outstanding £750 million in uncollected poll tax and council tax.
Does my hon. Friend accept that many of the increasing number of pages and volumes of legislation being generated throughout the United Kingdom and particularly in Scotland come from the European Commission and the European Union and, furthermore, that the policies pursued by the Scottish nationalists and the Scottish Labour party giving in to federalism in Europe will increase that volume of legislation and place a terrible burden on the Scottish people?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Opposition parties seek, each in its own way, to sell Scotland short and to sell Scotland out to the bureaucrats in Brussels. My hon. Friend will be pleased that we have succeeded in getting the Commission to look at ways of cutting the burdens placed on business by the single market legislation.
Are not the past 18 years important—not the past three years of legislation—during which the Government have attacked the unemployed, the homeless, local authorities and trade unions in Scotland? Is it not a matter of having a general election within weeks rather than months, so that a Labour Government can begin to repeal some of that legislation and introduce a Scotland Bill so that, for the first time in hundreds of years, the people of Scotland can have a say in their destiny? Finally, is it not the case that the one thing that the Government have passed, on which everyone will agree, is their sell-by date?
The Scotland that the hon. Gentleman describes would not be recognised by anyone who lives or works in Scotland. In reality, Scotland is prospering and booming, and the quality of life there is second to none. It is not worth a Scotland Bill from the Labour party.
I hope that the Minister will accept that there is one piece of legislation that both sides of the House want to get through Parliament before the general election—the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, which will tighten up the law on handguns. Will he join me in condemning the action of unelected hereditary peers who seek to dilute, weaken and sabotage the Bill, which has the backing of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members? As the Opposition will offer the Government our full support in their confrontation with the upper House, can the Minister reassure us that this valuable and valued measure will be on the statute book before the general election and that the 200,000 handguns in Britain will be taken out of circulation?