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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Will the Auditor General for Scotland, who is mentioned in Clause 66, be disqualified? I appreciate that I have not tabled an amendment in relation to that.

Lord Sewel: I would be most surprised if the Auditor General for Scotland were not disqualified. If it turns out that he, she or, indeed, it is not disqualified I shall certainly write to the noble Earl.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: I wish to ask a question in relation to Amendment No. 85C. If the Minister is saying that it is permissible for a retired judge or Lord in Ordinary to sit as a member of the Scottish parliament, surely there should be a bar on that person sitting as a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It is not just a question of it being inappropriate, there should also be a bar. That person, he or she, will have a conflict of interest or will be unable to exercise impartiality in the consideration of any relevant matter which affected the Scottish parliament.

Lord Sewel: The selection of the judges to determine vires cases on devolution matters would be carried out by the senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. It is absolutely beyond belief that the senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary would choose a retired judge who was an MSP to hear such a case. It is not something that could or would be contemplated.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful to the Minister for his detailed explanation of why the Government do not believe that the various amendments are necessary or desirable. I remain of the view that if it is good enough for the House of Commons it is good

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enough for the Scottish parliament. But, clearly I cannot persuade the noble Lord about that and there is no point in trying at this time of night.

I am always surprised by the noble Lord's desire to allow European citizens to have the kind of voting rights in this country that he would not have in other countries. But I suppose, as my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon said to me, it is not so much quota hoppers as voter hoppers on which the Government are keen.

However, we shall read with considerable interest what the noble Lord has said, compare it with the situation in the House of Commons and see whether there is anything to which we should like to return on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 85A to 86 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Exceptions and relief from disqualification]:

[Amendments Nos. 89 and 90 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I wish to raise a brief point about Clause 15. Line 28 reads:


    "he is a peer (whether of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England or Scotland), or".

I believe that that is in the wrong chronological order and that, judging by the precedence, the order ought to be England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

Lord Sewel: I am obliged to the noble Earl.

11.30 p.m.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Effect of disqualification]:

[Amendments Nos. 91 to 94 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Judicial proceedings as to disqualification]:

[Amendment No. 95 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Presiding Officer]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 96:


Page 9, line 12, leave out ("Presiding Officer") and insert ("Speaker").

The noble Lord said: This series of amendments basically does two very simple things: it takes two very inelegant titles and changes them into more elegant titles which the population will understand.

"Presiding Officer" seems to me to be even worse than "First Minister". When I first read the Bill, I thought that we were talking about the chap who sits at the polling station. It turns out that that is not the case. We are talking about the person who presides over the parliament.

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All over the English-speaking world, in national parliaments and in provincial parliaments, where they have them, they call the person who sits in the chair the "Speaker". That is done in Canada, Australia and America--everywhere. Why the traditional name of "Speaker" has been created is lost in history and has no relevance to those countries, but it has become the accepted name for a person who chairs a parliament. It is quite simple. The person who chairs a parliament is called a "Speaker".

Indeed, already one sees that when articles are written in Scottish newspapers about this issue, they refer to "Presiding Officer or Speaker". I gather that there are one or two people who quite fancy themselves as "Speaker" or "Presiding Officer" of the parliament. If we are serious about it being a serious parliament, let us not beat about the bush. The man or woman is going to be called the "Speaker". We shall not get away from that simple proposition. Why do we not accept it?

As regards the first minister, I can see why the Government do not wish to use the title "Prime Minister". On balance, I believe that they are right. But they must choose a title that will stick. Interestingly enough, although I have not brought it with me, I received a briefing note from one of the various pressure groups which briefs us about issues from time to time, dealing with an issue not directly connected with this Bill. It dealt with something else. In its midst, reference was made to that man or woman as "First Minister (Prime Minister)".

At the risk of hearing some laughter from Members of the Committee, perhaps I may point out that I remember a time when a previous government attempted to call something a name by which the rest of the population did not wish to use for it. Despite the best endeavours of the previous government to call the community charge the "community charge", it very rapidly became the "poll tax". After quite some time my noble friend Lady Thatcher fell into the trap of referring to it herself as the "poll tax" and it then became the universal language of describing what in legislation was called the "community charge".

I know it is not a political issue of quite that regard, but this is a good indication of the fact that governments should be mindful that it is quite difficult to describe something in terms which are different from the public perception. The public perception will be of a "Speaker" and if we can get it to stick, I prefer the title of "Premier". I think that will be accepted because, occasionally, the Prime Minister of Britain is called the "Premier". It is not common usage, but the title is used. We should be well advised to use that term.

It is not a great point of principle, but it seems to me an indication that we are taking this parliament seriously. The Government keep telling me that they are taking it seriously, as do the Liberal Democrats. They keep telling me that I should take it seriously. I am taking it seriously. I believe that the person who presides over the parliament should be called the "Speaker", as happens in so many other parts of the word and that

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the first minister should be called the "Premier" as also happens in so many other parts of the world. I beg to move.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: Our amendment, Amendment No. 256, is grouped with this amendment. I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, about the term, speaker. Presiding officer is quite ridiculous. Speaker is known throughout the world and does not cut across any particular office which could give offence to this Parliament here. Prime minister I am not sure about. It always makes me think of "prime beef" and that is perhaps not the best indication. I do not mind first minister but the whole point of our amendment is that the Scottish parliament should decide. It should pick all these names. Obviously, it will consider the susceptibilities for the Prime Minister of Great Britain and everything else, but it should select the names of its officers. Speaker will be one of them. There are other Scots names in common use, such as convenor. That might be used, although I do not like it. But it is for the Scottish parliament to decide. That covers the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. I recommend Amendment No. 256.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The important point here is that the name should make plain to people from the start what the role of that person is. If the presiding officer was known as the speaker that would be absolutely plain. I do not think that any confusion at Westminster would arise because it would be the speaker of the Scottish parliament.

First minister I do not mind so much. It describes fairly clearly that person without creating confusion with the Prime Minister. Premier is possible. I am not sure that this matter should be left to the parliament. On the face of it, it might look a good idea. However, because the distinction is so important and because we want to know right from the start, even before the parliament is convened, what these people do, and to make clear to the public what they do, I believe they should be on the face of the Bill. I think that speaker is an excellent idea.

Viscount Thurso: I support my noble friend. I had intended to put down an amendment which would have been grouped with these amendments because I thought that the term presiding officer was not descriptive, would not be understood and is not particularly Scottish.

I was recently called upon to chair a meeting of a body set up under an 1841 Act of Parliament. I shall not mention it here because I have made a pact with the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, not to do so during the course of this legislation. However, when the clerk read out the notice convening the meeting, the first thing that was required was that a "precess" needed to be elected. That is apparently a term in Scottish legislation for someone who presides and it is quite widely used in Scottish affairs dating from that period. I had thought to put down an amendment changing presiding officer to precess. On seeing my noble friend's amendment, Amendment No. 256, however, it seemed perfectly clear

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to me that the principle which should rule is that the Scottish parliament should be allowed to choose whatever is appropriate.

We only need a term for the purpose of passing this legislation which allows us clearly to understand the powers we are giving to a particular person. Whatever the name may be, it is for that purpose of passing clear legislation that we need it at this stage. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said, popular usage will determine what these people will be known as. In future, if the Scottish parliament wishes to change the names, then let us allow it to do so. The most sensible solution, for the sake of clarity, is to use the terms we have in the Bill for the moment and then enable the Scottish parliament to make a change at a later stage.


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