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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, made clear, Amendment No. 178 would have the effect of deleting the reference to "funding" in paragraph 6 of Part I of Schedule 5. This would mean that legislative competence on the funding of political parties would be devolved to the Scottish parliament. The Government cannot agree to that approach. As we all know, the funding of political parties is a sensitive matter which is currently being considered by the Neill Committee. It is intimately linked to the conduct of elections and related matters. We believe it is important to ensure that it is reserved, as are other matters relating to the constitution and elections.

I very much agree with the conclusions of the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater. Any legislation on the funding of political parties will be brought forward by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the light of the conclusions reached by the Neill Committee which is due to report in the Autumn. I expect that any legislation will apply in Scotland. It will clearly need to take account of the existence of the Scottish parliament and other devolved bodies.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, referred to Short money and asked whether the Scottish parliament could provide financial support to opposition parties in the parliament. The Government are sympathetic to the argument that some support needs to be provided to opposition groups to ensure that they can work effectively. The Scottish parliament could, through the SPCB, provide assistance in kind, such as property and staff where that is considered

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necessary for the purposes of the parliament, but as matters stand at present it could not provide financial support. However, this whole subject is under consideration by the Neill Committee and legislation on the matter would be better dealt with as part of that overall package. I suggest we leave this matter until the Neill Committee has presented its report. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not too sure whether I am much further forward, but I suppose I am a little further forward. It seems that the noble Baronesses, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale and Lady Linklater, are particularly interested in who funds the parties and the Neill Committee. I shall not go into that in any great detail but, frankly, I think the matter of who funds the parties in Scotland ought to be a matter for the Scottish parliament.

I do not understand this obsession with waiting for the Neill Committee. The Bill is here before us setting out the position as regards devolution. We are told that it is the most important piece of legislation we have and the Government want to make it tidy and neat and yet we are to leave this bit kicked into the long grass, as it were, until the Neill Committee reports and until the other place legislates on this matter. If I tried that argument in relation to some other issues, I should be told that I do not believe in devolution. So I find it interesting that it is now being turned on its head and tried on me.

At least it was interesting to hear, when we came to the second head I mentioned--namely the short money--that there seemed to be appreciation that it could be dealt with only in the Scottish parliament. However, I do not see how that could be the case if the funding of political parties is a reserved matter. My deep suspicion that this provision paves the way to the funding of political parties in their campaigning role was not addressed at all.

It is late, and I do want to continue the argument. I am not satisfied. I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

12.15 a.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 178) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 18; Not-Contents, 37.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Balfour, E.
Byford, B. [Teller.]
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Courtown, E. [Teller.]
HolmPatrick, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Montrose, D.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Rowallan, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Sempill, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stair, E.
Torphichen, L.
Weir, V.

NOT-CONTENTS

Alderdice, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dubs, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hoyle, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lockwood, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Monkswell, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Sewel, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Whitty, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

21 Jul 1998 : Column 862

12.23 a.m.

[Amendment No. 179 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 179A:


Page 65, line 5, at end insert--
("( ) "Assisting" in sub-paragraph (2) includes, where a Minister of the Crown deems it appropriate, attending with, and participating in, the United Kingdom delegation to any international forum, including the Council of Ministers of the European Union.").

The noble Lord said: This is an important amendment to the schedule which deals with the reserved matters, in the section dealing with foreign affairs, in particular with the European Communities and their institutions, but also with other organisations, regulation of international trade--which I presume means organisations such as GATT--international development assistance, and so on. While all these matters are reserved, subparagraph (2) does not reserve obligations under the Human Rights Convention and under Community law. The second part of that subparagraph provides that subparagraph (1), which relates to the Community, regulation of international trade, and so on, does not reserve,


    "assisting Ministers of the Crown in relation to any matter to which that sub-paragraph applies".

I am trying to put some flesh on the bones of what "assisting" means and therefore my amendment defines "assisting" as,


    "Attending with, and participating in, the United Kingdom delegation to any international forum, including the Council of Ministers of the European Union".

While my argument is relevant for almost any international body, I want to make it in particular with regard to the European Union and the Council of Ministers. It introduces the important issue of the Scottish parliament--the Scottish executive--and its relationship to Europe and other international bodies, in particular to decision-making at the EU level, both at official and Council of Ministers level.

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I was surprised that this amendment was not grouped with other amendments to be moved later, but perhaps it allows me to make a speech tonight, to see how we get on, and we will come back to the issue later in the Committee stage. We addressed this issue at considerable length on the Government of Wales Bill. Frankly, the outcome was thoroughly unsatisfactory. It is best explained by looking at some of the matters which are devolved to the Scottish parliament--that is the important point--yet are largely determined at European level. The two that specifically concern me, and I expect concern other Members of the Committee, are fisheries and agriculture. They are important because the whole fisheries structure in the United Kingdom and in a devolved Scotland is only capable of working within the framework of the common fisheries policy. Equally, in agriculture the same is true. In agriculture the vitally important matters of price, support payments and so forth are all determined at Community level. In fishing, important issues like the total allowable catch and technical conservation measures are also determined at European level.

The position therefore is quite clear: if the interests of Scottish farmers and Scottish fishermen are to be properly represented, we must look at how they are to be represented at European level. Currently the position is this. The Scottish Office, the fisheries Minister and the agriculture Minister--they happen to be here in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel--discuss with their equivalents in MAFF matters of agriculture and fishing relevant to Community meetings and so forth. For some time I was the Scottish Agriculture and Fisheries Minister and therefore have first-hand knowledge. My noble friend Lord Lindsay, at Second Reading, made perfectly clear how it worked and what his anxieties were. I do not want to go over that in detail, but it is worth quickly recapping how it works currently.

The officials in the two departments--whether it is fisheries or agriculture; that is, in MAFF and the Scottish Office--discuss what is coming up; what issues they want to raise and so forth. Often agreement is achieved at official level without Ministers meeting. But occasionally, and certainly on major issues--one of the major issues is certainly the annual December meeting of the Fisheries Council, and I know the Minister attended last December, where critical decisions are made for all the fishermen in the UK--Ministers meet to discuss what the policy ought to be and what lines they ought to pursue.

Sometimes--it may not have happened last December--in my experience there are disagreements between Ministers and departments and they have to be resolved, usually by a sub-committee of the Cabinet. The Secretary of State for Scotland plays a vitally important role in that because, to my recollection, if it was a meeting in which I was involved as an Under-Secretary (no doubt the same is true of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel) one had to trot across to MAFF in order to have the meeting because the Minister at MAFF was a Minister of State, which at that time was a cut above myself; and even if the Secretary of State, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was involved, he was definitely a cut above me. But if it was

21 Jul 1998 : Column 864

a meeting at Secretary of State level, the MAFF officials had to troop across to the Scottish Office because the Secretary of State for Scotland is further up the pecking order than the Minister of Agriculture.

So the Scottish position on agriculture and fisheries was clearly and importantly defined. When difficult and important decisions had to be made at Secretary of State level, they were often made in Dover House. If they went higher than that, they perhaps went to a Cabinet sub-committee. Then, having agreed all that, and sometimes quite easily, and more importantly having agreed a kind of shopping list of priorities--where we would give a little and where we would not give, and where we were prepared to trade, because that is what it comes down to in Europe--we all went off to Brussels, where we battled away. Indeed, Scottish Office Ministers sat alongside the MAFF Minister and took part in the discussions. On a number of occasions I took part on behalf of the whole United Kingdom because at that stage Michael Jopling, who is now my noble friend Lord Jopling, was the Minister, and he was in the chair. We were in the chair of the Council of Ministers and therefore I, so to speak, batted for Britain. That was easy to do because I was a member of the United Kingdom Government and I was answerable to the other place for my decisions; to people, whether they were in Wales, Northern Ireland, England or Scotland.

The fact of the matter is that, often in the middle of the night, complicated deals had to be put together and some quite difficult decisions had to be made about what was acceptable and what was liveable with in exchange for whatever we really wanted as a higher priority. I have no doubt that that has not changed. In fact, my noble friend Lord Lindsay, who was in that position until very recently, confirmed it at Second Reading. Then we returned to the United Kingdom and we reported to the other place--and to this place if a Statement was requested--and we answered to all the Members of Parliament of the United Kingdom. That was the position.

What really puzzles me is what will happen now. I can appreciate that officials can discuss the matters. I can appreciate that Ministers in Edinburgh and the Minister at MAFF can discuss these matters. I am not entirely sure how they will resolve internal disagreements between them; but that is really my first question.

My second question is: how will they resolve the so-called wish list that Ministers always have when they go to Brussels? Furthermore, who will go to Brussels? Will the Scottish Minister go? Will he send his officials? Will he be allowed into the Council chamber, or will he just be in the interesting little suite of offices that the United Kingdom delegation has? I suppose that it would be something if he were there because he would at least be taking part in the discussions in the middle of the night.

When it comes to coming back here, who will report, and to which parliament? How will collective responsibility operate if the Scottish Minister is not too pleased about the decisions that have been made? The White Paper was perfectly clear that in some magical

21 Jul 1998 : Column 865

way, even though he was not a member of the Government of the United Kingdom, collective responsibility would be all-embracing. That is an interesting concept which I suspect will break down in the real political world when everyone in the Scottish parliament is shouting at the poor man for the decision he took in Brussels and he is having to defend a collective decision taken, frankly, by another government. So that is difficult.

Then, what do the Scottish Ministers do? There was a great pretence during the referendum that Scottish Ministers could represent the United Kingdom. I found that impossible to believe. How can they, as they cannot speak for any part of the United Kingdom other than Scotland and they are not Ministers of member states?

We have asked often for the Government to give us some examples because over 18 years none of the Ministers in the previous administration was ever conscious of anyone being at the table of the Council of Ministers who was not actually a Minister of a member state. We were never conscious of a Minister of any provincial parliament--or lander in the case of Germany--being at the table. Therefore, during the proceedings on the Government of Wales Bill, in order to help, I demanded examples.

The examples I received were contained in a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. Perhaps I may read it out. It states:


    "The more obvious instances which have been identified relate to the German Lander. Because of its particular expertise, Bavaria, for example, has represented the German government at EU meetings where cultural issues have been the main agenda item. Similarly, members of the Catalan autonomous government have attended meetings on behalf of the Spanish, where language issues were under consideration. I trust this information goes some way to removing your scepticism that in practice it would not be possible for an assembly member to be part of a UK government delegation, nor indeed to lead such a delegation, if that was the view reached by the UK government".

If that was supposed to bring comfort and bring the fishermen and farmers of Scotland comfort, it is certainly pretty cold comfort. Cultural and language matters may be very important, but they are not the subject of European legislation and rules and regulations in the same way as farming and fishing. To compare the two appears to me to be unbelievable. If that is the best that the Government can do, I suggest that they try to re-think this whole issue.

My suggestion here is to try to put into the Bill what "assisting" means. It is attending and participating in any international forum, including the Council of Ministers and the European Union. We shall return to this in connection with other amendments, including Liberal Democrat amendments, which I shall discuss when we get there.

If this kind of thing does not go into the Scotland Bill--my goodness, the Ministers involved with the Welsh Bill resisted it all the way--I am left with a suspicion that I and all my noble and right honourable friends who have attended Council of Ministers meetings over 18 years are right and what we have from the Government is just a smokescreen to cover the fact that on vitally important issues such as farming and

21 Jul 1998 : Column 866

fishing, where the decisions of the European Council of Ministers actually impinge on the living of farmers and fishermen in Scotland, Scotland will have to make do with concordats and being allowed into the chats; perhaps being allowed to see the wish list, and maybe just being allowed into the ante-room during the night, but, frankly, never being at the Council table.

The fishing industry is concerned about this. In a note to all parties recently, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation described the Government's policy like this:


    "there is a large element of 'suck it and see' over what will happen in practice when Devolution comes to pass. In recent weeks the Federation has gone to considerable lengths, without success, to obtain assurances that the negotiating position of the Scottish Fishing Industry will not be diminished, as we fear, under the new constitutional arrangements in which the Scottish Fisheries Minister will come from a Scottish Parliament and will be subject to the over-riding competence of a MAFF minister from the United Kingdom Parliament, with this relationship governed only by a non-binding Concordat; our view quite simply is that the position of Scotland must rather be enhanced in the new context, and we see no evidence of that in prospect, and rather fear the contrary".

It goes on to talk about,


    "an inherent contradiction between relationships with the EU as a reserved power and fisheries as a devolved matter. The federation remains deeply concerned over the prospect of the status of the Scottish Fisheries Minister being downgraded from his present Constitutional right of access to, and involvement in, the decision-making process".

That encapsulates it.

I know enough about newspapers to know that I should not believe entirely everything I read in them. But in the Scotsman on Friday, 9th January this year, it was reported that the Government are proposing to allow MAFF to veto policies of the administration in the Scottish parliament. I presume that meant over European matters. In reality that is what will happen. MAFF is the powerful ministry; it has the Gatling gun; it is the United Kingdom Parliament; and its Ministers will be representing the United Kingdom. Frankly, if there is a conflict, let us say on fishing, between the interests of the Devon and Cornwall fishermen and the South-East and South-West of England and the fishermen of the northern North Sea and the MAFF Minister (man or woman) who makes the decision, Members of the Committee do not have to be up late at night or get up early tomorrow morning to work out which view will prevail.

I am deeply and genuinely concerned about the fishing industry. I am also genuinely concerned about the farming industry, and I know that many farmers are as well. I have rather heavily used the example of the fishing industry because 70 per cent. of the UK fishing industry is in Scotland and it is much more Scottish-driven than agriculture.

Many farmers are concerned. The NFU does not seem to mind, but, frankly, I believe that its leadership has a political agenda regarding this parliament which perhaps takes priority over looking after the interests of farmers into the future and safeguarding their position when the Scottish parliament comes about. That is certainly the view of a number of farmers to whom I spoke earlier today. I am afraid that the NFU's silence on this is more a refection on the NFU. The fishermen's federation is

21 Jul 1998 : Column 867

not opposed to the parliament. It accepts the will of the Scottish people, as I do, but it wants to be assured that the lines of communication and responsibility are very clear and that "assisting" at least means what my amendment suggests. I beg to move.


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