Scotland Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 29th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 7:15 pm, 29th February 2016

My Lords, following my noble friend Lord Higgins, I add my support for my noble friend Lord Forsyth. We are in danger of forgetting that this is, as the noble Lord, Lord Empey, said, a treaty between the sovereign Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Scotland, who, we must recognise, are composed of a party whose sole raison d’être is the destruction of the United Kingdom. That is a perfectly legitimate view to hold, but that is the view it holds. We have here a document that, as my noble friend Lord Higgins has just said, is of enormous, far-reaching significance, and it has to be debated in Parliament in some detail.

In another context, a few weeks ago some of us remarked that Governments are accountable to Parliament and not Parliament to Governments. Here, the Government have come to an agreement and are expecting us to more or less put it through on the nod. It has very far-reaching implications. My noble friends Lord Lang and Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market have both made powerful, brief speeches indicating how vital it is that this matter be properly discussed.

It is the fault of no one in this Chamber that we have had to wait so late for this document. We have not had the chance properly to analyse it. It is full of extraordinarily vague statements and, at the end of the day, a review which will be entirely at the whim of the Government of Scotland, rather than the Government of the United Kingdom. I believe passionately in the United Kingdom, and equally passionately in parliamentary democracy. Neither is being served by debating this far-reaching document in such an unsatisfactory manner. I very much hope that, even at this late stage, my noble friend the Minister will acknowledge that each House of Parliament should have the opportunity to debate this document at some length. At the end of the day, it will probably be endorsed. But then, as my noble friend Lord MacGregor said, it will have been endorsed by Parliament and we will have a degree of responsibility for it.

This is a mess. It is a wholly unsatisfactory situation. We are deeply indebted to my noble friend Lord Forsyth for the calm and analytical way in which he spoke in moving his amendment, which deserves considerable sympathy and support.