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 hon. Lady's point would be valid if she were a nationalist. I would agree absolutely with what she said if I believed that Scotland should be an independent sovereign state. I would then say, "What the blazes are these guys in London doing deciding for us?" However, we are part of the United Kingdom, so all United Kingdom Members of Parliament should determine those issues. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire)—she must be one of the new arrivals—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, she is not."] I apologise, I am half-blind. The hon. Lady should ask herself the simple question: what is the logic of legislation applying to England being voted on by people in other countries? It is wholly wrong and undemocratic. If there were a political divide in this country whereby English Members could not control their administration whereas a separate Scottish Parliament could, it would be an appalling democratic outrage. Something must be done about that.

Some hon. Members, particularly those who favour more subsidies for everything, will say, "What does this matter? Isn't this silly? Why should we bother about it?" We must bother about it if we believe in democracy. Some of my hon. Friends and I have therefore tabled an amendment, which I hope the Government will accept. It simply says that we should face up to what we now call the West Lothian question and have a minimum percentage voting for the scheme.

I was a Scottish Member of Parliament for several years, then I ceased to be one, as have many other Conservatives in Scotland. I gained the impression that if an opinion poll was conducted and the average Scot was asked, "Do you want a Scottish Parliament?", most of them would say yes. There is no doubt about that. If, however, Scots were asked, "Would you like a Scottish Assembly that would have partial control of part of Scotland's affairs, that would add to public expenditure," and so on—if one explained the whole thing to them—the vast majority would say, "No, we don't want that at all."

I get the impression that if a proper referendum discussion was held, we would find—despite the smiles and smirks on the faces of some hon. Members—the great majority of people, who are not daft, would wake up and realise that they had been offered not a package for better constitutional government, but a package that would create frustration and add to the pressures for Scottish independence.

Let us discuss seriously and carefully among the people of Scotland and Wales whether independence is a good idea. There is a good argument for it, and it can be discussed logically and fairly, but devolution is a load of constitutional rubbish. It will create resentment, add to costs and create problems between the different democracies and administrations. It will create no good for Scotland or for Wales.

I may be wrong, as I am sure that some of my colleagues would agree that I may be wrong on other things. I hope, however, just in case I am right, that the Government will accept the simple propositions that I have advanced in the amendment. Why should there not be a minimum percentage? Will the Government say what on earth we can do about the West Loth: an question? If they do not face up to it, we shall create a serious problem in the future for other Parliaments and other Members of Parliament.

The Government should remember that the issue is what is best for the people. What we are doing today is not good for the people of Scotland, not good for the people of Wales and certainly not good for the people of the United Kingdom.