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

The first thing we can do is simple—so simple that even the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), who claims to be a democrat but supports the European Union, will understand it. Will he accept a simple proposition, which I hope the Government will accept? If people are dead keen on this business, what could be lost by having a 40 per cent. rule? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] What is wrong with that? Unless 40 per cent. of the people of Wales or Scotland—50 per cent. would be even better—want devolution, we should not proceed with it.

Devolution will create terrible problems, lots of extra expense and a great deal of administration. Why not say to the people of Scotland, "If you are as keen on it as the minority in the Labour party argues, why not have a rule whereby, if 40 per cent. of you vote for it, it can go ahead, but not otherwise"?

I hope that hon. Members—particularly our delightful new Secretary of State for Scotland, who used to discuss the matter with me many years ago on Scottish television—will think about the real problems that the United Kingdom will have if we create a monstrosity whereby Members of Parliament such as the Secretary of State can vote on education or health Bills in England when English Members of Parliament will not have the equivalent power in Scotland. The issue has been raised time and again by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who takes his job in the House of Commons more seriously than many. Is not there something democratically dangerous about it? Why should Scottish Members have that entitlement when Scotland will have more representation than the rest of the United Kingdom? Unless we face up to that question we shall create a democratic nightmare.

We shall not always have a party with a huge majority on one side of the House and a party with a small number on the other. I do not know which parties will survive in future, but the numbers will be closer. Other parties may take over. Indeed, we may even find that the Referendum party will suddenly lift off—anything could happen. If, in future, the position in the House of Commons were tight, Labour Members would not be happy to be outvoted by colleagues from other countries, when they will have no power over legislation in those countries.