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4. Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to make public funds available to groups campaigning in the forthcoming referendum in Scotland. [6693]

Mr. McLeish: The Government made it clear during the debates on the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill that no state aid will be provided to any party or organisation for the purposes of campaigning at the referendum.

Mr. Letwin: I thank the Minister for that reply. Is there an intention to distribute widely in Scotland leaflets describing the White Paper, as has been reported in the press? If so, what arrangements will be made to guarantee their neutrality in the light of what he has just said?

Mr. McLeish: I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that any material published and produced by the Government in relation to the referendum campaign will be totally objective. The Government intend to assist the voters in the referendum, first, through an absent voters campaign targeted at people who will be away from home or unable to attend a polling station on the day of the referendum. Secondly, a detailed White Paper will be published shortly. Thirdly, a summary of the White Paper will be made available to all households in Scotland.

Mrs. Fyfe: Does my hon. Friend agree that we should be grateful to the Scottish Constitutional Convention for preparing the ground for the White Paper with its proposals? Does he also agree that gratitude should be expressed to it for bringing forward proposals to ensure that women of mettle in Scotland play an equal part in that Scottish Parliament when it is formed? It is a disgrace that other parties are not willing to do the same.

Mr. McLeish: I am very pleased to associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend. The Scottish Constitutional Convention has done an excellent job in preparing the way for the Scottish Parliament. It should be applauded for the preparation it has done towards the White Paper and the subsequent Bill. Of course, our White Paper will be based substantially on the document produced by it.

In response to the final part of my hon. Friend's question, we hope that the political parties in Scotland will listen carefully to what she has said today. We want to see a move towards equal representation. Of course, it is up to the political parties to try to achieve that.

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Scottish Parliament

5. Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about his proposals for tax-varying powers for a Scottish Parliament. [6694]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar): As stated in the Government's manifesto, Parliament will have defined but limited power to vary revenues. The details will be set out in a White Paper to be published shortly.

Mrs. May: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for confirming that, despite some recent uncertainties, the Government retain their commitment to impose 18 tax rises on the people of Scotland compared with the 17 tax rises announced in the Budget for the rest of the country.

Will he confirm that the summary of the White Paper, which the Minister has just said will be distributed to households in Scotland, will include details of the tax-varying powers? Will it explain why the Government feel that it is necessary to impose that extra tax when the Prime Minister consistently said to the people of the country prior to the election that there would be no tax rises? Will the right hon. Gentleman provide an explanation in that paper about whether the Scottish Parliament will have full tax-varying powers or whether, as the Prime Minister suggested before the election, it will simply be like a parish council?

Mr. Dewar: I congratulate the hon. Lady on her assiduous repetition of propaganda from central office. I commend the White Paper to her when it is published. Perhaps she could start, however, by visiting Scotland and talking to people there. As I am sure she will know if she reads the papers even in a cursory fashion, the polls show an increasingly healthy majority support not just for the concept of a Scottish Parliament but for the need to give it the discipline and responsibility of having powers to vary some of its revenue.

Mr. Dalyell: What is the answer to the question put in yesterday's leading article in The Scotsman as to who pays for the new Parliament building on Victoria quay, which apparently the Secretary of State has discovered he now needs?

Mr. Dewar: The one thing that I have always enjoyed about my hon. Friend is his precision, but I can assure him that on this occasion he has fallen short of his normal high standards. Consideration is being given to various options, the reasons for which I think anyone who knows the Royal high school building will appreciate. We will be looking for a scheme that gives value for money, combined with effective government and an effective working environment for new members of the Scottish Parliament. I think that there will be widespread support for that.

Mr. Wallace: Although the Labour party has suggested that it would not necessarily use any tax powers given to the Scottish Parliament in the first term of that Parliament, can the Secretary of State confirm, having consulted his officials and the Inland Revenue, that those powers will be available for use by that Parliament in its first term if

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the Parliament wishes to make the necessary additional investment in education and health that some of us think is needed?

Mr. Dewar: That is the intention. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for precisely drawing attention to the difference between an existence of the power and the use of it.

Mr. McAllion: Does my right hon. Friend agree that a directly elected Scottish Parliament will have a democratic legitimacy that cannot be matched even by the Scottish Office? It will therefore be a far more significant player in the annual public spending round than any Whitehall-based Department. It will therefore be better placed to defend levels of public spending in Scotland and to build upon that with its tax-varying power. Will my right hon. Friend therefore join me in recommending all those who want to see better public services in Scotland, which are better funded, to go out at the referendum and vote yes, yes?

Mr. Dewar: I certainly endorse what my hon. Friend says about the need for a good turn-out and to maximise the enormous potential support that exists, as almost every opinion poll has shown. The most recent one showed that eight out of 10 Scots, in the sample polled, felt that a Scottish Parliament directly elected in the way we suggest would produce policies more attuned to the needs of Scotland. There is an essential democratic case at the very heart of our argument for a Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Ancram: The Secretary of State is always keen to remind the House that the tax-varying power means downwards as well as upwards, so can he confirm the statement made in the other place recently by Government Treasury spokesman Lord Haskel--that, if a Scottish Parliament lowered the standard rate of tax by the permitted 3p in the pound, the Treasury would cut the Scottish block by £450 million to make up the lost revenue? On that evidence, can the right hon. Gentleman still claim that the tax-varying power, to reduce or put up tax, is good for the Scottish people? Will they not suffer either way from this half-baked tartan tax idea?

Mr. Dewar: The right hon. Gentleman will want to read the White Paper with care. I congratulate the noble Lord, who seems to have gone some way to educating Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen about the proposals. If we reduce taxation, that will have an obvious impact on the subvention from the United Kingdom Exchequer--it would be extraordinary if it did not. I hate to imagine the assault that would be mounted on us if we proposed otherwise.

White Paper

6. Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to publish his White Paper on his proposals for the Scottish Assembly. [6695]

Mr. Dewar: The White Paper will be published on 24 July. This will allow both Houses proper opportunity to debate it before the summer recess.

Mr. Spring: Why has the White Paper been so long in coming? Surely, after all the years of discussion and

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debate about devolution, it would have been far better to produce specific proposals immediately after the general election.

Mr. Dewar: That shows a remarkable degree of naivety. For the hon. Gentleman's sake, I am glad that he is on the Opposition Benches; he will have some time in which to learn about the realities of government. If he were truly interested in what we have promised, he would know that we have said definitively, from the beginning, that we would publish a White Paper before the House rose for the summer recess. We have met that promise exactly, just as we shall meet many other promises in the time that lies ahead.

Mr. Hood: Does my right hon. Friend welcome the support of tens of thousands of former Conservatives for the White Paper, even before it is published? Will he comment on the decision of Arthur Bell, a leading Scottish Conservative, who has decided to dump that lot opposite us because they are anti-Scottish, anti-British and anti-Conservative?

Mr. Dewar: I do not want to intrude on private grief by discussing the internal state of the Conservative party. There is, however, substantial polling evidence to show that many Conservative supporters will vote yes in the referendum. That is perhaps not surprising when we recall how attractive the concept of devolution was to many distinguished Conservatives now sitting on the Opposition Front Bench.

Mrs. Ray Michie: If the White Paper includes the option of a new building for the Scottish Parliament, will the Secretary of State consider making it our celebration of the millennium--not a dome or a museum, but a building that reflects the best traditions of Scottish culture and architecture? It should be a living and working building, serving all the people: a truly exciting Scottish experience.

Mr. Dewar: I have a great deal of sympathy for what the hon. Lady says. For one horrible moment I thought that she was about to suggest that the Parliament should be housed on a hill above Oban, where, the House will recall, there is a building that might be turned into a dome with a bit of new roofing. I agree with the hon. Lady; the start of the new Parliament will, we hope--it depends on the vote of the Scottish people--almost coincide with the millennium, and I should very much like to think that it will catch the spirit of the time and will usher in a new era. I want an environment and a building that is worthy of that.

Mr. David Marshall: If the Royal high school building in Edinburgh is no longer suitable for the Scottish Parliament, does that open up the debate about where the Parliament will be located? Does it need to be in Edinburgh? Will the Secretary of State's proposals include consultation with local authorities, especially Glasgow, to ascertain what suitable alternative buildings and sites may be available to house the new Parliament?

Mr. Dewar: I thank my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to make the position clear. The Government have not ruled out the Royal high school, but we are conscious

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of its shortcomings as a possible site, and we want to look at other options. To stop many hearts a-fluttering and rumours a-running, I should say that we shall not be looking beyond Edinburgh.

Mr. Ancram: Given that, on his own admission, it has taken the right hon. Gentleman a quarter of a century to bring the proposals to fruition in a White Paper--and it has taken the Labour party 18 years, the convention eight years and the Cabinet three months to bring the White Paper to fruition--does not he think that he is treating the Scottish people with contempt by asking them to make a sensible and valid judgment on the proposals in less than two months? Would it not be right, even now, for him to show some respect for the importance of his White Paper and postpone the referendum until the Scottish people have had a chance properly to consider and understand the highly complex issues, over which, we understand, even the right hon. Gentleman's Cabinet colleagues are falling out among themselves?

Mr. Dewar: I understand why the right hon. Gentleman wants more time to try to invent a few arguments to put to the people in Scotland. I realise that, through no fault of his own but through electoral mischance, he has been removed from the debate for a long time to come. If he is in Scotland more often, as doubtless he will be with his new responsibilities, he will find that, after the lengthy period of discussion, the mood in Scotland is that it is time for action. That will be confirmed by the referendum vote, and I look forward to making progress rapidly thereafter.

Mr. Ernie Ross: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the speed with which he was able to bring forward the White Paper is based wholly on the fact that, for the past eight years, the Labour party has been engaged in detailed discussions, rather than--as it could quite easily have decided to do--telling the people of Scotland what to do? We have been discussing with all the parties that have been prepared to sit down with us in the constitutional convention; even at the last moment, the offer was still open to Conservative members to join us. That discussion has allowed my right hon. Friend to produce the White Paper within such an excellent time scale.

Mr. Dewar: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the discussion over recent years laid a valuable foundation on which we were able to build when we came to power in May this year. I do not want to sound complacent, but we have made good progress in getting the White Paper ready for publication within a tight timetable. To be fair to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), I am sure that, with his knowledge of government, he will accept that. People have worked hard, and with great skill and commitment, to achieve that end.

Mr. Salmond: As he is talking about recent years, does the Secretary of State recall that he was the co-author and signatory of the Claim of Right, which asserted the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall his Minister of State endorsing, in front of 25,000 people, the democracy declaration that stated that the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament was no longer acceptable to

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Scots? Does the Secretary of State still hold those beliefs and will they be reflected in the White Paper, or has the Home Secretary told him to change his mind?

Mr. Dewar: The hon. Gentleman always puts it so endearingly. Of course I signed the Claim of Right. I was pleased to do so--proud to do so, almost--and I do not regret having done so. The fallacy in what the hon. Gentleman has put to me--we have had this debate before--is that he makes the arrogant assumption that that right of the Scottish people has to be exercised in a specific way. In my view, however, they could exercise that right as they think fit. I feel that they will want to exercise it in favour of the devolution proposals within the United Kingdom that I am advancing. The referendum puts that to the test, and I hope that, afterwards, we can move ahead with the minimum of further delay.

Mr. John D. Taylor: Before the Government finalise the contents of the White Paper, will the Secretary of State ensure that it addresses the issue of Scottish representation in this Parliament?

Mr. Dewar: It is a comprehensive White Paper. I have no intention of revealing its detailed provisions, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is a well-founded and well-formulated scheme, which I know he will read with great interest.

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