Power to Prevent or Require Action

Part of Orders of the Day — Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 10th February 1998.

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Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour, Dundee East 8:45 pm, 10th February 1998

I shall not follow the remarks made by the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). Indeed, I doubt whether any hon. Members present could do so.

When the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) introduced this group of amendments on behalf of the Opposition, he said that the key to understanding them was the definition of "international obligations". One of the keys to understanding the amendments, as well as the clause, is the definition of "any action proposed". Clause 54(3) states: 'action' includes making, confirming or approving subordinate legislation and, in subsection (2), includes introducing a Bill in the Parliament. That tells us what the definition includes, but it does not tell us what is excluded. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State replies, I hope that he will be clear about what is meant by "action". Does it refer only to subordinate legislation—to Bills of some sort—or can it refer to any sort of action taken by the Scottish Executive, or indeed, the Scottish Parliament?

I shall give an example. Let us pretend that the Scottish Parliament is already in existence and that, in the middle of this international crisis in the Gulf, the First Minister has decided to hold a debate on the crisis and to put forward a resolution for the approval of the Parliament that would condemn any military action in the Gulf either by the United States of America or by the United Kingdom. That is an action that the Prime Minister in this Parliament could well define as being opposed to international obligations undertaken by the United Kingdom Government. Obviously, we are under some sort of obligation to support the Americans in any military action in the Gulf. Could the UK Prime Minister overrule the Scottish Parliament and stop it holding such a debate?