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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am being encouraged into temptation. I cannot swim, and my noble friend Lord Sewel does not wish to.

Lord Campbell of Croy: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate.

First, the question of abstentions was raised by my noble friend Lord Renton and by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. I have known him for many years in another place and here. He has told us that as he has been resident for some time in England he will not be able to take part in the referendum. I consider that the Scottish people--as they are referred to--would be incomplete without the noble Lord, Lord Howie. So I am sorry that he and others will not be able to take part in the referendum.

I referred to Amendments Nos. 50 and 83, and the general debate on abstentions can be continued under those amendments. If the principles are accepted, the numbers of those who voted for and against will assume greater importance than they did in 1979 and greater importance than any abstentions. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, also referred to the matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, said something with which I agree. It is that there is a moral obligation on the Government who put forward a Bill and arranged a referendum. The noble Lord agreed with the whole purpose of my amendment, which is to obtain confirmation by a government spokesman that the referendum is advisory to Parliament.

In the Second Reading debate, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, had to reply to many points and he did so very adequately, in my opinion. But he did not deal with this matter, which I mentioned in my speech. That was one of the reasons for ensuring that it was raised today.

My noble friend Lord Mackay referred to the 40 per cent. threshold in the Labour Government's Bill of 1978. I have the Act here and can tell him that Section 85(2) required the Secretary of State to repeal the Act if the threshold was not reached.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for his reply. He has given a clear statement as I understand it, and it was in order to obtain such a statement that I put down the amendment. It is especially needed because of the possible conflict which has appeared a great deal in the Scottish press and media, but which may not be apparent to all Members of the Committee. It is the conflict between the two concepts: first, the sovereignty of this Parliament and, secondly, that sovereignty in Scotland lies with what is called "the Scottish people". Therefore, this debate and the statement by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, have been helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 6, leave out ("in Scotland").

The noble Earl said: I wish to take this amendment with Amendments Nos. 9, 27, 32, 42, 84 and 87. It may not appear clear to everyone why in Amendment No. 3 I propose to:

    "leave out ('in Scotland')".

However, it becomes clear when we reach Amendment No. 42, which states that any electoral area should be the whole of the United Kingdom.

I have been rather depressed by the debate, not only by remarks from the Government side but also, I regret to say, from my own Front Bench. One would assume from the arguments that the alteration of the United Kingdom constitution is solely of interest to the Scots and the Welsh. That is not true. When the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, intervened to say: "All Scots say that this must happen", I thought to myself: "How narrow-minded the Scots have become compared with the days of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, of Locke, Hume and Adam Smith". They were outward looking. But no, there is a kind of "whinge fest" going on north of Hadrian's Wall. We English--and I use the word advisedly--consider it is also our United Kingdom. My country goes from the borders of Loch Foyle to Cape Wrath, to Lands End, to the mouth of the Thames and to the edges of Norfolk. That is my country. It is the country of those who live in Aberdeen and those who live in Caerphilly. But for some reason, the majority of the United Kingdom's citizens will not be allowed any say in their constitution. That is sloppy thinking. It also means that when the chickens of this devolution come home to roost and the English wake up, the Scots and the Welsh will be much more unfairly blamed than they are now.

It has been brought to my attention--and I admit that this is the yob end of nationalism--that youths are now going around draped in the cross of St. George saying: "Something the Union Jack". That is a sign of incipient English nationalism and I had hoped that I would never see it, but the Scots and the Welsh--though the Welsh to a lesser extent than the Scots--complain so much. I give an example. I happened to be in Scotland only a month ago, talking to a charming Scots doctor. He said: "Of course we don't have any waiting lists in Scotland because we get 12.5 per cent. more money per patient in Scotland than you do in England". I think no one in the United Kingdom would begrudge differential resources, but if you have cakes to be eaten, differential resources and separate parliaments, as night follows day you will set the Scots against the English.

If we were to have a straightforward referendum--and I shall come to it later--on whether Scotland wishes to be independent, that would be a different matter altogether. If the Scots do not wish to be a member of the club, that is fair enough. But if you want to be a member of the club, the other members--the 87 per cent. of the other members--have a say in what the club's rules are.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that there is a 70 per cent. turn-out in the referendum--not an unfair assumption; let us assume for the sake of argument

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that 60 per cent. of the 70 per cent. are in favour and 40 per cent. against. That is 42 per cent. of the Scottish electorate or 4.2 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom deciding to ruin the British constitution. It is not a question of "Oh, rubbish!": it is a fact. That is the most depressing aspect; that we English are not allowed any say in what happens. That is why I beg to move Amendment No. 3.

Earl Russell: The amendment is superficially plausible. It rests on a considerable series of misapprehensions. The noble Earl illustrated the first of the misapprehensions quite early in his speech when he began by saying, "We English", and said, "I use that word advisedly". Then he said, "My country goes to Cape Wrath". There is a certain tension between the two statements.

The Earl of Onslow: What I also said, advisedly, was that my country means that the person who lives in Aberdeen as a Scot feels, or should feel, towards the United Kingdom what I feel as an Englishman. That is the point I was making. I was not saying that England and Britain are the same thing. They are not.

Earl Russell: I entirely accept that point, to which I was coming. All I said was that there was a certain tension between the points, and that the noble Earl will not deny. There is here a real misunderstanding, especially south of the Border, about Britain. It was illustrated vividly by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, a couple of weeks ago. She said that Britain is a sovereign nation. That was two errors in two words--a peculiarly high strike rate, even for the noble Baroness.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, will agree with me that Britain is not a nation. Britain is a union of several nations. I shall not particularise the number because I do not intend to debate Northern Ireland. Wales is clearly a nation; Scotland is clearly a nation. They have been independent nations; they are united by different processes. That is one of the aspects that puts the basic tension into the subject.

Britain is not only not a nation; it is not in fact in the Diceyan sense, a sovereign country. If one looks carefully at the Act of Union 1707--I re-read that Act with care only last week--one sees that it is not an incorporating union. It does not set up a single sovereign state. Above all, it does not set up a uniform system of law. That is one of the most important facts about the Act of Union with Scotland.

The union with Wales was based on conquest, but the union with Scotland was a union with a separate and equal sovereign state under a common authority. From the very beginning, the English always had very great difficulty absorbing that that was the case. Right back, immediately after the Union of 1603, Sir John Stanhope, Vice-Chamberlain of England, discovered to his utter horror that the king also had a vice-chamberlain of Scotland. He was so shocked and insulted by that information, that he refused to come to court for a period of six months.

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That belief that there is a single sovereign nation is the basis of a great deal of the misunderstanding about the Union. If the Scots whinge, as the noble Earl put it, it is because they say that the type of union which has hitherto existed is not the type of union which the English believe it to be and that the English have in fact simply failed to recognise that there is a union of sovereign states on the basis of equality.

I passionately hope that the Union will continue. South of the Border we have learned a very great deal from it and I hope that we shall continue to do so. But it will not continue unless it is recognised that it is a union of equals and a union of sovereign states, each with its own dignity, rights, laws and pre-eminences.

I agree with the noble Earl that we can only have a union if it rests on a basis of consent. That is where there is a superficial plausibility about asking the English to vote in a referendum. But it appears to me to be clear that in both Wales and Scotland there is no consent to the existing system. So, were the English to vote for the existing system, they would be voting for something which, in effect, could only be imposed by a power of conquest exercised from Westminster. That is something to which I for one am not prepared to give my support, except in the event--which I do not expect, but anything can happen--that the people of Wales and Scotland should vote for it in a referendum. Should they vote for the status quo, then it would be an option.

But it is a convention that, when issues are put to the people in the clearest possible terms in a general election, we accept the result. In particular, it is a convention that we in this Chamber accept the result. So it is my belief that, were England to vote on the referendum, we could not put the status quo as an option in favour of the English. I could not be a party to that.

If, after the Scots and the Welsh have voted for devolution, the English were to find it absolutely unbearable to accept that they are not the only pebbles on the beach; that they do not exist in a national sovereign state but, like practically every other state in Europe, they exist in a system of power sharing, where sovereignty is distributed in several parts and several places, then it would be their right to say so. But it would amount to saying, "Stop the world, I want to get off". I hope that they do not do it.

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