Orders of the Day — Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 22nd May 1997.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor Conservative, Rochford and Southend East 4:21 pm, 22nd May 1997

For the Government; my apologies. The Minister must be aware that a fundamental constitutional change is taking place, which will cost a great deal of money and involve a great deal of change. How would he feel if such a proposal were put into practice on the strength of 21 per cent. voting yes, 19 per cent. voting no and the rest of the community in Wales saying that they could not care less?

The Government should be aware of another point. Older people such as myself were told passionately by the media that everyone was excited about and very much taken with the idea of devolution, and then, when the referendum was held in Scotland, we found out that a large proportion of the population were not remotely interested in the issue.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the Government because they are going through exactly what Sir Edward Heath's Government went through. They have adopted the principle of devolution. I am ashamed to say that, in our case, I gained the impression that we adopted that principle not because we believed in it but because we thought that it would help us as a defence against the Scottish nationalists.

I have a horrible feeling about the attitude of Labour Members to devolution. I mean this in all sincerity: I am not trying to attack politicians. The impression that I have gained from speaking to the majority of Labour Members, with a few exceptions, is that they are not at all keen on this business. They envisage huge problems, and they say that they adopted the proposal for the same bad reason that we did—because they believed that it would help to cope with Scottish nationalism. The House of Commons must appreciate that although there is a good and strong case for independence for Scotland and for Wales—although it is one with which I personally disagree—there is no argument whatever for devolution, which will lead to horrendous mistakes and will increase confusion and the pressure for separation.

I believe that the great majority of Members of Parliament do not believe in devolution. If a Scottish Parliament has no tax-raising powers, people in Scotland will blame London or the English for everything that goes wrong. Hon. Members will be well aware that the same occurs in relation to county councils—when things do not get done, people blame the Government. If anything goes wrong, those involved in a Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly will say that it is because they are not getting their share of the cash.