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Lord Carter: Although I was out of the Chamber when the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, first spoke, I was watching the proceedings on the screen and came here in a hurry. I entirely understand what he is saying and I sympathise. He will understand my problem as Chief Whip. I have been given a Northern Ireland Bill as a part of the peace process. As we all know, that Bill must receive Royal Assent before we break for the Summer Recess. We agreed through the usual channels when we would break for the summer. We can find time to finish the Committee stage in the first week of August, as the noble Lord knows, but I entirely understand his wish not to do so.

I apologise for the time at which we are starting the Bill tonight. The Bill is important, but the fact is that I have had to juggle the Northern Ireland Bill against this Bill. We have more time--until eleven o'clock tonight, which is another two-and-a-half hours away. However, I understand how the noble Lord feels. It is a matter for

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the usual channels. We offered extra time in the first week of August. The noble Lord decided not to take that, which I understand. I think that the best thing now is to get on with the Bill and to see what progress we make. I suspect that we shall keep on talking about it from now until 31st July.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Sewel: With Amendment No. 122, the noble Earl is attempting to restrict the parliament to setting up committees which, in his words,

    "address subjects relevant to the Parliament".

I am not sure how the noble Earl would define what is "relevant" to the parliament. I suspect he means that committees should be able to discuss only devolved matters. This would, of course, be an unacceptable restriction of the parliament's day-to-day working.

The Government intend that the Scottish parliament will be able to debate the full range of issues which are of interest and concern in Scotland, whether devolved or reserved, just as this House debates issues about which it does not legislate. The parliament will also be able to investigate any matter, also including reserved matters, through its committees. It will be for the parliament itself to decide on its committee structure and what powers and functions they should be given.

With this Bill, we are creating a framework in which the Scottish parliament will be expected to operate. The noble Earl's amendment, is I am afraid, unwarranted interference in the proper decision-making powers of the parliament. How the parliament operates within the framework that we are establishing is a matter for the parliament to decide.

With Amendment No. 128, the noble Earl is intending to pave the way for non-MSPs to be members of the committees. The Government believe that it is right that the Scottish parliament's committees and sub-committees will be composed of members of the parliament. Special provision is made in the Bill for the case where the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General are not members of the parliament, but that is an exception. They need to be able to participate in the proceedings of the parliament because they are Scottish Ministers.

Apart from that special provision, we consider it appropriate that only members should have the right to deliberate and vote when committees take decisions. It is difficult to see how it could be otherwise. MSPs will be accountable to the electorate for all their actions. I raise the question, simply and bluntly: who would non-members be accountable to?

However, as we made clear in the White Paper, we want the Scottish parliament to be accessible, open and responsive. Involvement by organisations and individuals in decision making will be encouraged and advice from specialists will be sought as appropriate. But that is fundamentally different from being full members of the committees and sub-committees of the parliament.

The contribution which non-MSPs could make to the work of the parliament and how best to organise this is being considered by the Consultative Steering Group

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chaired by my honourable friend Henry McLeish, the Minister responsible for devolution. The CSG has commissioned research on the experience of other parliaments. We are looking to deliver imaginative, innovative solutions as to how non-MSPs can become involved in the work of the parliament to ensure that the parliament has access to a wide range of expertise and opinion when considering an issue. But--and this is the important point--that must be in ways which do not blur the accountability of MSPs for the decisions of the parliament. Therefore, we are keen to involve outside organisations in the parliament in appropriate ways but I believe that the way offered by the noble Earl is fundamentally misconceived. I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the Scottish parliament will be able to discuss all issues which arise in Scotland. In the event of a Scottish parliament taking a view on a reserved matter, would I be right in thinking that the parliament will be able to pass a resolution and then send that resolution to the Parliament of the United Kingdom? Has any procedure yet been thought of as to how such resolutions would be received by the UK Parliament?

Lord Sewel: My understanding is that the parliament would just take a view on a reserved matter and that would be the end of the matter.

The Earl of Dundee: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee for their contribution and to the Minister for what he said. I acknowledge that my amendments are probing amendments. What I had in mind was to listen to what the Minister had to say about his interpretation of the provisions of the Bill with regard to ensuring a balance between parliamentarians and the executive in the committee structure arising from the standing orders in Schedule 3.

The Minister reassured us that all subjects relevant to the parliament will in fact be considered by parliamentarians within the committee structure as matters already stand. I accept the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that if we followed the route of co-opting persons who were not members of the parliament, this would then risk producing two classes of citizen on the committees: those who voted and those who did not vote. With those various comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I must remind the Committee that if Amendment No. 123 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 124 and 125 because of pre-emption.

Lord Thomas of Gresford moved Amendment No. 123:

Page 61, leave out lines 38 to 43.

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment and speak to other amendments in place of my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood.

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The structure of this particular part of the Bill is interesting, particularly for those of us who have been involved with the Government of Wales Bill where the setting out of standing orders and committees is gone into much more fully. In this Bill, Clause 21 merely provides that:

    "The proceedings of the Parliament shall be regulated by standing orders",

in accordance with Schedule 3. In Schedule 3, there are only the very bare bones of directions to the parliament as to how those standing orders should be formulated.

Indeed, a moment ago, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, criticised the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, as being an attempt to restrict the scope of committees. He said that that was unacceptable. Amendment No. 123 seeks to remove a restriction on the parliament in the formulation of those standing orders. We seek to remove subparagraphs (2) and (3) of paragraph 4 of Schedule 3, which we submit are restrictive in themselves. The first of those paragraphs is mandatory:

    "The standing orders shall include provision for ensuring that, in appointing members to committees and sub-committees, regard is had to the balance of parties in the Parliament".

Sub-paragraph (3) is discretionary and states:

    "The standing orders may include provision for excluding from the proceedings of a committee or sub-committee a member of the Parliament who is not a member of the committee or sub-committee".

We simply ask why the Scottish parliament, duly elected, should not decide for itself what the balance of a particular committee should be.

Should those sub-paragraphs remain, we move on, in our Amendments Nos. 124 and 125, to consider the position of regional committees and regional sub-committees which may be set up.

Regional committees and sub-committees, as I understand them, are advisory only. They are not to set policy but to advise the parliament on the particular problems that appertain to a region within Scotland, however those regions are defined and drawn up by the parliament itself. It is argued that it would be inappropriate, on a regional committee, simply to achieve the party balance that obtains throughout the whole of the parliament, that members from other areas in Scotland should be members of that regional committee.

If one takes one area which, on the results of the last election, would be adverse to my party--perhaps the area east of Glasgow, where there is no Liberal Democrat representation--why, in a regional advisory committee, should there be representation by a Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish parliament who comes from an entirely different part of Scotland?

In the case of the Highlands and Islands, why should members come from another part of Scotland simply to maintain, let us assume for a moment, a Labour majority on that regional committee? In order to obtain a Labour majority on the regional committee for the Highlands and Islands, based upon the results of the last election, it would be necessary to import Labour members from another part of Scotland to sit upon that regional

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committee. Therefore, our argument is that, in the regions, the balance that appertains in the region itself should be maintained on the committee and not the balance in the parliament overall.

I move on to Amendment No. 126, which deals with the scrutiny of European legislation. In this Chamber we are familiar with the scrutiny of European Commission documents or European Union legislation. Members of the Committee will appreciate instantly that that does not involve taking policy decisions in relation to European Union legislation and documents. Scrutiny means scrutiny: looking at it and reporting to the parliament about the effect of that legislation and those documents upon the economic and social life of Scotland.

In that context and in that context alone, we propose that elected members of the European Parliament who are elected in Scotland should be entitled to contribute their expertise and act as a link between the parliament in Scotland and the European Parliament. There is a huge volume of legislation to be looked at, scrutinised and reported upon. We believe that elected MEPs have the experience to advise and assist the Scottish parliament on those issues.

If one looks at the way in which other countries handle scrutiny in their own domestic parliaments, one observes that in Belgium there is a scrutiny committee in its national parliament which consists of 10 Members of the European Parliament and 10 Members of the Belgian Parliament. In Germany, in the Bundestag, there are 50 elected representatives involved in scrutiny, of whom 39 are directly elected to the Bundestag, with 11 of them actually being Members of the European Parliament. In Greece, there are 31 Members who scrutinise European legislation for the benefit of the Greek Parliament but, of those, 10 are Members of the European Parliament. Spain has joint meetings, France has a mechanism whereby Members of the European Parliament are invited to give evidence, while in Ireland and Italy Members of the European Parliament attend scrutiny meetings.

Moreover, in Finland, Luxembourg and Portugal similar links are created so that the domestic parliament has the advice and experience of members of the European Parliament who are elected to the same areas by the same electors to assist in the scrutiny process. It will not surprise noble Lords to learn that the UK has no formal arrangements with its Members of the European Parliament and no direct links. The scrutiny given to European legislation is, to a great degree--and, one has to say, successfully--confined to the non-elected Members of your Lordships' House. It is our argument that the European Parliament should have this direct link with the Scottish parliament by having its elected members for the Scottish regions on the Scottish parliament's scrutiny committee. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: As regards the first three amendments to which the noble Lord has spoken, I wonder what he thinks local government is for. I cannot support the idea of imposing on this parliament the need

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to set up committees for regions when we have local government, recently reorganised, which is extremely keen to relate to the new parliament. I imagine that that local government will be relating to the new parliament very much as it now relates to the Scottish Office. It will be constantly negotiating, recommending and trying to persuade the parliament to give it more money, and so on. Indeed, that is the job of local government.

The noble Lord mentioned the west of Scotland around Glasgow as a possible region. One of the reasons we now have smaller councils in Scotland than we used to--for example, we used to have Strathclyde region--is that it was a very unbalanced negotiation between the west of Scotland and the Scottish Office. Indeed, it would be very unbalanced with the Scottish parliament. I have to say that it is a strange idea. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who knows a great deal about how Scotland works, is making this suggestion. Quite frankly, I cannot see it working at all.

As regards the notion that Members of the European Parliament might actually be members of such committees, I should have thought that that, too, would confuse the situation. However, I can see no reason why they should not be invited to come, give evidence and assist the committees if they wish to do so; in fact, that will probably happen. I agree that that works in other countries where there is a closer link in that respect. But this parliament will have limited responsibilities for European affairs. It is not the parliament which will be dealing directly with the European Union. That will be reserved for the Westminster Parliament. Quite honestly, I believe that the amendments would cause great confusion and I would not be able to support any of them.

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