Scottish Parliament (Steering Group)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1999.

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Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton Labour, Glasgow Cathcart 12:00 am, 27th April 1999

If he will make a statement on the work of the consultative steering group on procedures for a Scottish Parliament. [80991]

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

The consultative steering group on the Scottish Parliament held its final meeting on 12 March. I have written to the Secretary of State outlining the group's further recommendations on the matters considered, including recommendations on the code of conduct for Members of the Scottish Parliament and the relationship between the Parliament and the media.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton Labour, Glasgow Cathcart

First, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as this is his last Scottish questions, on the sterling work he has done over the past few years. In particular, I congratulate him on the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and on the victory that he and the Labour party will win on 6 May.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on the work done by the consultative steering group in looking forward to a new, democratic, open Parliament for the 21st century, rather than looking back, as some people do, to some mythical Parliament of 1707. Does he agree that the innovative use of new technology that has been proposed for the Parliament, including electronic voting, should set an example that this place would do well to follow? Does he agree that if it is possible to introduce electronic voting in such an old building, which will be used only temporarily, it should be possible to do so in this place as well?

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

I agree with everything my hon. Friend has said. The Scottish Parliament will be fit for the information age and it will have new technology. In the longer term, it may influence other institutions in the United Kingdom. On 1 May 1997, the United Kingdom voted for a Parliament. On 11 September, we in Scotland voted for a Parliament. On 6 May, the Labour Government will deliver a Scottish Parliament to the Scottish people.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party, North Tayside

What implications do today's revelations that secret deals have been struck in London to carve up the Scottish Parliament have for the cross-party consensus that has underpinned the work of the consultative steering group? Is not that further evidence that Scotland's Parliament under new Labour will be Scotland's Parliament taking London's orders? Scotland needs a Parliament run by Scotland's party, delivering for the people of Scotland.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

That pathetic contribution reflects the fact that the hon. Gentleman's party is not doing well in the current election campaign in Scotland. We had an all-party consensus on the work of the consultative steering group, which should be welcomed on both sides of the House, but suggesting that one party is Scotland's party shows contempt for the Scottish people. Scotland will decide on 6 May which party it wants to deliver the Parliament, and I am in no doubt that the Labour party will be chosen in those elections.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Opposition Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs, Scotland and Wales)

Perhaps I should begin by apologising for not congratulating the Secretary of State on anything much at all. Has the Minister explained to the consultative steering group why there is no provision for recounts at regional level in the Scottish elections? [Interruption.]

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office

My hon. Friends, from a sedentary position, suggest that we might not need them. This has been explained to the Conservatives, who say that we did not address the issues when they were raised. The reason is sensible and straightforward: one simply cannot have the recount that they envisage for an additional member system. More to the point, the election will be fought hard by the Scottish people on 6 May. We have no doubt that they will take it seriously—and it is high time that, if the Conservatives in Scotland are taking it seriously, the Conservatives in this House did so as well.