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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 22nd May 1997.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague Conservative, Richmond (Yorks) 6:23 pm, 22nd May 1997

We have had an interesting debate over the past day and a half. What a good job that there were a few minutes for the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) to make his speech, and to say that it would be good if the principles were properly tested in debate and that, if people had an opportunity to think about these matters rationally, they might do something different. His words revealed something important about the Bill—something on which I intend to concentrate in the minutes available to me.

The debate has been graced by a number of maiden speeches, including those from the hon. Members for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith), for Cardiff, North (Ms Morgan) and for St. Ives (Mr. George), who had an endearing way of saying cheers at the end of his speech. I am not sure whether that will become a tradition in the House.

The hon. Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) also made her maiden speech. Many Conservative Members will appreciate the tribute that she paid to the courtesy, humour and dignity of Michael Forsyth, her predecessor. Her speech and that of the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Ms McKenna) yesterday explain why we meet so many traumatised cabbies in London at the moment: confrontations between Scottish Members of Parliament and the taxi drivers of London are turning into something to be believed.

The Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), said during business questions today that not too much time need be spent on the Bill, because it was simple and straightforward. It is a simple Bill in terms of the amount of paper that it occupies, but it is not simple or straightforward in its implications.

In a memorable speech yesterday, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said that awkward, difficult questions had to be faced. The difficulty for the House is that awkward and difficult questions have been asked in the debate, but they have not been answered by the Government. The Secretary of State for Wales will have an opportunity in a moment to answer those questions.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow asked important questions. He asked what he now calls the Bury, North question, about how Scottish Members can continue to be elected by 55,000 voters, but English Members by 68,000 voters. He recognises that the Bill has implications for England—something that the Government seem to want to deny. It is not possible, and it is not wise, to ignore completely the implications for England and the United Kingdom of the measures that the Government are now proposing.

The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), the new Under-Secretary of State for Wales, opened our proceedings today—