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Let us consider this proposition. Let us assume for a minute that in Scotland the power of the educational institutes of Scotland and the progressive establishment were still to be considerable after devolution and that in Scotland they were not going to make this policy change, but were to stick resolutely to mixed ability classes. Here, however, the
That is the West Lothian question. I thought today when listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that this education point puts the matter in stark reality. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, makes the very valid point that we ought to know. If we are going to know where we are with tax raising powers--the Government have left themselves open on this matter--after the referendum, why should we not know where we are with the West Lothian question? Indeed, why should we not know about a lot of other matters after the referendum?
The West Lothian question is very important. It is well encapsulated in education, health and so on. Scottish Members of Parliament could come to Westminster and influence decisions affecting England which they would not be able to influence in Scotland. Often the West Lothian question is portrayed wrongly. It is looked at from the point of view of English Members. It is nothing to do with them but with Scottish Members and, if it comes to it, Welsh Members. It affects more particularly Scottish Members because the Scottish parliament will have much more power than the Welsh assembly. Will those Scottish Members be able to take decisions for English people that they cannot take for their own constituents? If so, the responsibility link between a Member and his constituency will be broken.
We shall return to this when we get the devolution Bill--if it comes to a Bill--but, for the moment, I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has posed an interesting and valid question. The Government ought to consider taking it on board and posing to the Scottish people the question of what they, the Scottish people, want to do about their MPs' continuing role at Westminster.
Lord Desai: I find this doctrine rather strange. I had always thought that, irrespective of where MPs come from, they will make up their minds on an issue according to its merits. Therefore, Welsh and Scottish MPs can speak on English topics while English MPs can speak on Welsh or Scottish topics. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree with the Burkean aphorism that an MP is there to give his or her views on any question. However, that is no longer the case. We now have regional representatives. Perhaps I should say that we have "national" representatives in view of the sensitivities of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, with regard to calling Scotland a "region". The noble Earl gets quite excited about that. I can see that if there were so many MPs from Scotland that they could overwhelm or out-vote the English MPs
I have always felt that the West Lothian question is put in a very peculiar way. It is as if Scottish MPs could have nothing to say about England just because they do not represent an English constituency. English MPs have had a lot to say about Scottish matters for a long time. In some matters I believe that we should still think of this United Kingdom as a single entity about which, wherever they come from, people have a right to speak on different matters.
To follow the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, perhaps I may say that had the noble Lord been a Scottish MP, he may well have felt oppressed by fellow Scottish MPs in Scotland, given his views towards mixed ability teaching, but he could have come down here to vote against it. Wouldn't that have been nice for him? We should think about this matter not in terms of regional representation, but in terms of what we are asking our MPs to do. Is it not their job to speak about matters in general? If mere numbers were all that was important and if English MPs felt oppressed because Scottish MPs were against them, could we not consider having qualified majority voting? Those days may well come.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: As this is a Committee stage, perhaps I may join in some discussion of this point with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, in order to clarify the position for the Minister who will have to reply. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, and I normally cross swords on weightier matters, if I may put it that way, relating to economics. I am only sorry that in the past few days the Government have not given us the opportunity to discuss the Budget and, among other matters, the penal taxation policies that are being imposed on important Scottish and English pension funds. However, I gather that towards the end of the month we shall have an opportunity to discuss such matters when the Second Reading of the Finance Bill will be brought to your Lordships' House. I am sure that the noble Lord and I are greatly looking forward to that. Certainly, I am looking forward to it because I want to know whether the noble Lord will manage to support his own Government. The noble Lord is what I might call a radical and free thinker. He is not usually bound by the Whips or by anybody else.
The noble Lord rightly said that we should continue to be one United Kingdom. I absolutely and wholeheartedly agree. That is why I think that all the propositions that are before us are fundamentally flawed. I believe that one United Kingdom should be governed from one Parliament. However, if it is not, the question really is: does a Scottish Member of Parliament fall within the Burkean view that a Member's constituents are owed his judgment, if I recall it correctly? The answer is: yes, if at the general election his judgment will make any difference to his constituents. However, if the kind of scenario that is painted in this amendment comes about and there is devolution along the lines proposed that MP will not have any responsibility to his constituents. Therefore, his judgment will be of no interest to them, because in the case to which I referred he will have no say
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Can the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, explain to the Committee how it is that a Member of Parliament for a Scottish constituency, for example that of the former Secretary of State, in a country where by agreement between the employers, the local authorities and teachers there is a maximum class size, can come down to Westminster and vote on proposals affecting the funding of education in England and Wales and deliberately thwart the desire of people in England and Wales to have maximum class sizes? This has occurred in the past 18 years. I believe that the Scottish term is "the red book". There has been an agreement on maximum class size. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us a little more about why in Scotland the maximum class size is a good thing, but in England and Wales it is not.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The only red book of which I am aware, along with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is that which is published at the time of the Budget, except that it now seems to have changed to the white book--perhaps because the colour red has connotations for the Labour Party that it now wishes to put behind it. The point made by the noble Baroness is an interesting one. The reason why it has been perfectly reasonable in the past to do it is that the Scottish Member on issues like education, which are different north and south of the Border, has along with his English colleague had a say in education both north and south of the Border. Therefore, if Parliament decided, as it did, to impose certain class sizes in Scotland--
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My understanding--perhaps the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong--is that the English Member of Parliament has had no say. It has been a Scottish Secretary of State who has given approval to an agreement internal to Scotland.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Up until 1st May and even today the Scottish Secretary of State holds that office by virtue of the majority in the United Kingdom Parliament where all Members are the same. Therefore, if one goes to the other place which is considering a piece of Scottish legislation at Second Read or Report stage--not Third Reading, because the other place does not have a Third Reading as we do--all Members of Parliament can vote. Therefore, the Scottish Member of Parliament can vote on English education matters and the English Member can vote on Scottish education matters. If we go down this road that will change. That is the point that I seek to make. The Scottish Member of Parliament will come down to England and will be able to vote on English matters. Let us suppose that he can vote to ensure that
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