Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Campbell of Croy: The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, kindly wrote to me to explain the logicality of his amendments. As he indicated, the Parliament of Scotland was apparently adjourned in 1707. That seems to be the situation still. It stands adjourned. He has suggested that, with the new parliament that is proposed, there could be two parliaments operating in Scotland at the same time. I hope that the Minister, reinforced by legal interpretations, will be able to tell us what the situation is.

Whether "re-establishing"--the wording in these amendments--is the correct solution I do not know. It might increase the confusion. Although the Scottish Parliament of 1707 was fairly democratic compared with other parliaments at that time, to revive it now would not be a move towards further or greater democratic governance. I would remind the Committee that it consisted of the three estates; the peers, the landowners and the burgesses, who were broadly town dwellers. Those who attended were usually chosen or regarded as representatives and most of the work was done by a central committee. At least one distinguished ancestor of the noble Earl participated and I am glad to see in his place my noble friend Lord Belhaven, whose ancestor was also a leading member of the 1707 Parliament and, incidentally, was one of the leaders opposed to the union.

I fully understand from an historical point of view the reasons at that time for some supporting the Union and others opposing it. But there are some nationalists in Scotland--I refer to the SNP and others: this is not a matter concerning the Liberal Democrats--who call for that Parliament of 1707 to be resumed on the basis that it is still there and should be brought back. I hope that the Minister can, with legal interpretation, settle this matter of the adjournment once and for all.

1 Jul 1997 : Column 129


5.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: I am totally foxed by this amendment. Either the Scottish Parliament exists or it does not exist. If it does not exist, what is the object of the amendment? If it does exist, the only way constitutionally that the parliament can be dissolved is by a Royal Proclamation. The noble Earl said--I accept with much interest everything he said--that it was dissolved. Well, then, it does not exist. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy said that it stands adjourned. That is quite different from being dissolved. If the noble Earl says that it was dissolved, it was dissolved. In any event, if it was not dissolved and still exists, it is a matter for the Queen and a Royal Proclamation. This amendment appears to me--I say this with the utmost respect--to be wholly misconceived.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: The noble Earl has told us with, I think, fairly good historical authority, that the Parliament was dissolved. For that reason alone I would entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in what he has just said. But there is another reason why I would be very sorry to see the word "re-establishment" occur in the Bill. That is because, as I understand it, not having seen the White Paper in a dream or anything like that, the parliament that is on offer from the present Government is quite different from the old Scots Parliament. The old Scots Parliament made all the laws concerning Scotland. There was no area which was not its province. What is on offer now is a parliament which would not have any control over the making of laws concerning foreign affairs, defence, fiscal matters or, we are told, social security and possibly other areas. It would therefore be very misleading to put the word "re-established" into the Bill. I might just add that my ancestor was a prominent member of that old Parliament and he, too, was against the union.

Lord Rees-Mogg: As the only Member of the Committee who seems not to be descended from one of the Peers of the Scottish Parliament, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl on an amendment of the utmost importance, even if that requires that I should clash with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, who has been so helpful to us in the debate. It seems to me that that goes to the heart of the matter. The old Scottish Parliament was a Parliament. It was an independent Parliament of an independent nation. It had no natural limitation on its powers except in so far as there were powers reserved to the Crown or to the Scottish legal system.

The proposed parliament--which, like the proposal for Wales, might be called an assembly--will not be a sovereign parliament as I understand it--that is to say, it will be a subordinate body of the United Kingdom Parliament with certain powers devolved to it.

If we were to accept this amendment, it seems to me that we would be implying that the parliament that was contemplated had either the power or potentially could acquire power, similar to that of the original Scottish Parliament. We would be going back to a full,

1 Jul 1997 : Column 130

independent parliament which, when matters came to a head, would have the right to contradict the Parliament at Westminster.

But my understanding is that that is not to be the situation of the proposed Scottish parliament; that it is to be given certain functions, with perhaps certain taxing powers as well, but all the other functions of the parliament are to be retained in Westminster. Ultimately, I suppose, what Westminster has given to the Scottish parliament by statute could in theory be redeemed by a subsequent Westminster Parliament. It seems to me that this amendment has to be rejected because we would be doing something quite different from what is proposed by the Government. Nevertheless, it points to the very question which we have been discussing in terms of sovereignty, which is the central question; namely, what sort of parliament is proposed?

Lord Howie of Troon: Like the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, my forebears played no part in the Treaty of Union. They had no vote and nor did anyone think of giving them one. I suppose some of us have got one now.

I do not know whether the Parliament was adjourned or dissolved, but for the sake of this debate I am prepared to assume that it was adjourned, although there is some contradictory evidence in the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, who introduced the debate.

Two things strike me and the first is this: if the Parliament is adjourned and this new parliament is established, it can remain adjourned. The problem then resolves itself and disappears. It will remain adjourned for all eternity. However, if the Parliament is adjourned and then re-established, there is the possibility of having two parliaments in Scotland. I can see that as a confusing situation, but it resolves one difficulty which I have in my understanding of the Government's proposals for the new Scottish parliament. Although the White Paper is not before us as yet, as I understand it the new parliament is to be uni-cameral. I do not really care for that.

If we have two parliaments, we shall resolve that difficulty and the re-established Scottish Parliament would then become the equivalent of the House of Lords. It would take up the revising duties which we carry out for the United Kingdom and which it appears we shall be denied doing for Scotland in due course. I incline towards the view of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, said, put his finger on a very significant and important constitutional point.

Lord Hughes: I am sorry that I cannot follow my noble friend in the way he regards the possibility of re-establishing the Parliament. Instead I find myself in total agreement with the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, wrote to me, as he did to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, pointing out that his amendment was not intended to be in any way against the establishment of a Scottish parliament, which the

1 Jul 1997 : Column 131

Bill aims to set up. My interpretation is that, if the Scottish Parliament is re-established, the noble Earl is giving the SNP its case in one amendment because the Parliament which existed then, as has been pointed out, had sole power. It was an independent Parliament and the English had nothing to do with it. So if it is re-established, the SNP will be inviting the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, to become the president.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton: I am a bit puzzled by this amendment. Who is going to sit in this adjourned Parliament? As far as I can see, it will be a parliament of ghosts. Who is going to start it off? Is there anyone still alive who was alive in 1707? I do not believe that there is.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: They might be dead, but their heirs are alive. The noble Lord is one of them.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: It would be an impertinence to follow the noble Earl into Scottish history. It would be all the more impertinent to do so in the presence of the noble Earl, Lord Russell. In addition, I do not feel confident to discuss the constitutional position. I deprecate this amendment because it will only lead to confusion.

I shall be moving an amendment shortly, so perhaps I may say where I stand in general on this Bill. I am generally in favour of devolution because it assists in moving decision-making nearer to the people who are affected. I well understand the opposition view based on the slippery slope and the thin end of a wedge argument. A very perceptive political thinker, Hugh Cecil, who I believe was a great uncle of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, once said that the British constitution is full of the thin ends of wedges, which the good sense of the community refrained from driving home. But the trouble here is that we cannot rely on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, mentioned the Scottish National Party. It wants to drive home that wedge and it is a very real danger. For my part, I believe that the danger of not accepting the Bill, which I hope can be improved, is greater than the danger which I have just mentioned. My noble friend Lady Saltoun mentioned the fact that the Scottish Parliament was sovereign, subject to the doctrine of sovereignty lying in the hands of the people. At any rate, it had all-embracing jurisdiction. It had jurisdiction over defence and foreign affairs. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has left the Chamber so he need not be inflamed. As I read Anglo-Scottish history, foreign policy had a distinctly Anglophobe colour. If we use the word "re-establish", it will be perceived that we are recommending to the voters the establishment of a parliament with similar powers to that which existed before the Act of Union. But that is not the intention at all. As I understand it, the intention is that there is a comparatively limited jurisdiction to be conferred on the Scottish parliament. In general, it is to be such functions as at present are devolved on the Secretary of State for Scotland and specifically Scottish matters like Scottish law and,

1 Jul 1997 : Column 132

I suppose, perhaps, the Scottish Church. Therefore, if we accept the amendment we are inviting the driving home of a wedge, and a very dangerous wedge.

Another matter adverted to was that before 1707, the Scottish Parliament was bicameral. It had a House of Peers. We do not know because we have not been told--and it is one of the many things that we have not been told--

6 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will give way. The Scottish Parliament was unicameral and there were the three estates who sat in it. Those were the Peers, the burgesses and the clergy--the Church. But it was unicameral.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page