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

How right the hon. Gentleman is to mention Europe. I am not blaming Europe, but I shall refer to my recent surgeries in Southend. I am sorry to have been distracted, because I promised to make a short speech. At my surgeries, people have asked me to campaign and vote against the export of live animals. I have had to say, "I am terribly sorry, but even if every Member of Parliament voted to ban such exports, nothing could be done. The power is gone."

In a neighbouring constituency, a pile of candidates representing all parties went to see fishermen at Leigh and all gave them great assurances. The fishermen then came to me and said, "Will you stop these nasty Spaniards coming here?" I had to say, "I am terribly sorry, but there is nothing that we can do. Even if every Member of Parliament wanted to do something, the power has gone."

I was visited by ladies from an Asda superstore, who complained about something that I did not understand—VAT on items of feminine hygiene. I do not know what they are, but I was asked if we could take VAT off them. I had to explain that Parliament does not have that power. So much power has been taken away from our democracy already, and we are now proposing to share it out among even more Parliaments. It will make a terrible mess.

If I am right—and I think I am—the Government now regret proposing devolution, but what can we do to help them and the United Kingdom? Of course, I may be wrong and the Government may be wildly enthusiastic about devolution. Frankly, on the basis of private discussions—which I will not repeat—I think that the great majority of hon. Members are now sorry they ever thought about devolution.