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Lord Monkswell: I believe that we are in danger of departing from the Bill before the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, makes a very interesting case about what may or may not be in the devolution proposals. We have before us a Bill to determine a very simple referendum asking the Scottish and Welsh people whether or not they want some form of devolution as yet unspecified. We have heard from the Government that there will be a White Paper to determine the form of that devolution once we have finished dealing with the Bill. People will then be able to make up their minds.
I raise two points. I take issue with the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. To be quite honest, they are very complicated. If one reads the amendment, by and large--
Lord Monkswell: I do not underestimate the intelligence and experience of the Scottish electorate, but we must recognise that within the electors there is a vast range of experience and expertise in terms of judging public affairs.
One of the difficulties with the amendments is that they prejudge what will be suggested in the White Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, introduced the West Lothian question in a rather convoluted way. There are two plausible mechanisms for dealing with it. The first is to ensure that the people elected to the Scottish parliament are MPs for Scotland, in which case there would be no question that MPs for Scotland should not determine Scottish affairs. As representatives of UK constituencies they would be fully entitled to determine UK affairs. That is one solution to the West Lothian question.
Another solution to the West Lothian question is that the proposals put forward for Scotland and Wales (and, I believe in a different context, for Northern Ireland) should be made available also to the English regions and London. Although the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is an astute and capable debater in this place, I suspect that he has mislaid his direction when considering the substance of the matter before us, which is the referendum Bill.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention. We are debating the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on Scottish MPs. I have probably said as much as I needed to say about education and the education question posed this afternoon, at least to me, by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, when she announced that mixed ability classes had been a massive mistake. I wonder whether all those people who told me
The point is still a real one, because education is one of the devolved subjects. It could cause difficulty. It will cause difficulty for Scottish MPs in a way I shall come to in just a second. It could also cause difficulty in a Parliament where, as has happened, the majority of English MPs represent one party, but that is changed by the representation from Scotland and Wales. I know that it has not happened yet. We have to look at what happens if it does.
The other point I make in conclusion is the point made by Mr. Robin Cook in l992 when he was Shadow spokesman on health. He said that if devolution came about he, as a Scottish MP, could not be the Health Secretary in England and Wales, because he would have no responsibility for the health service in his own constituency of Livingston. That is a telling point. I wonder how many members of the Government currently who are Scottish MPs--it almost looks like a Scottish mafia--will have to make the same decision. That is why the question is so serious. I am not sure that the noble and learned Lord is right that it should be addressed in the referendum, but it most assuredly must be dealt with in any substantive Bill.
Lord Sewel: This has been an interesting and, if I may say so, finely timed debate. It takes me back to the first amendment we discussed in Committee; that the ballot paper should be limited to one sheet of paper. I am grateful that we did not lose that amendment because the questions contained in this amendment would result in ballot papers almost the length of those experienced in the United States.
There is a serious issue, which I recognise, called the West Lothian question. I shall not go into its wider details at this stage; I shall focus purely and simply on the terms of the amendment. It is important to remember that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has firmly and historically set its face against the concept of a two-tier
Furthermore, it would create some incredible practical political problems for the management of the business of government. In such a situation we could easily see a government with a majority in the House of Commons, and therefore enjoying the confidence of the House, but being totally unable to secure their legislative programme over a large number of areas. Of course, that would be an extremely difficult matter to resolve in the longer term.
What I ask Members of the Committee and in particular, given his background, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, to consider is a situation in which, for the sake of argument, and only for the sake of argument, social security were not a devolved subject. But social security would clearly be a matter which would affect Scotland. Who would vote? Would Scottish MPs vote on social security in a Westminster Parliament, despite the fact that social security had not been devolved and had been reserved to the UK Parliament? According to this amendment, they would not. I hope that in those circumstances, at this stage, the noble and learned Lord would feel able to withdraw the amendment.
It was a Scotsman who taught us that it is demeaning to ascribe to others motives less generous than one's own. But I have made it plain for some time now that in spite of my having been--and in fact still being--in favour of devolution, I have been increasingly concerned that a noble theme is being besmirched by the very lowest of an immediate political consideration. Therefore, I am bound to ask why the Government should oppose something which is so obviously as fair as the solution to the West Lothian question. The answer appears to me to be obvious. How attractive it is to have a Labour majority in the Scottish Parliament and at the same time being able to use those constituencies' votes in Westminster on purely English matters.
The noble Lord postulated social security not being devolved. If it is not devolved, it is not an exclusively Scottish matter; and quite obviously nor is it an exclusively English matter; and quite obviously Scottish MPs can participate and make their influence felt.
And then the noble Lord said, "What about a government who have a majority in Westminster? Think of the practical difficulties". But a majority in Westminster sustains a government because it grants supply to the government and nobody has proposed that supply should be a devolved subject. So there is nothing in that.
I am not asking for a solution to the West Lothian question, although I think it has appeared this evening. I am merely asking for an exercise in democratic participation, in popular consultation. When the West Lothian question comes before us, I want to know what the Scottish people think about it and what the Welsh
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