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Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: I listened with great interest to the comments of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, in particular in relation to the various appointments after devolution, and the careful way in which he compared the present position in which the Lord Chancellor consults him as Lord Advocate and the way in which in future the Lord Chancellor will consult Scottish Ministers. This is perhaps a foretaste of debates to come. I am aware that Scottish Ministers under the Bill are defined as including the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate.

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Can the noble and learned Lord provide us with a sneak preview of whether or not, when he refers to Scottish Ministers, he is referring to himself as Lord Advocate who will therefore have knowledge of the Scottish legal profession, and therefore relevant knowledge for the purpose of making these appointments, or to a person who is not legally qualified and may not have the kind of specialised knowledge which the Lord Advocate can at present bring to bear on these appointments?

Lord Hardie: As usual, the noble and learned Lord asks a very pertinent question. Referring to the position after devolution, it will be for the Scottish executive and in particular the first minister to determine the distribution of functions other than those of the Law Officers and the Lord Advocate. At devolution all of the ministerial functions, including those of the Lord Advocate which do not relate to his independence as a prosecutor and as a Law Officer, will go into the melting pot with all of the other ministerial functions. Immediately after devolution and the appointment of first minister in discussion with his other Ministers, he will determine the distribution of those functions.

To answer the question shortly, although I cannot give the noble and learned Lord an assurance that these functions will revert to the Lord Advocate, I hope that, whoever he or she may be, the Lord Advocate will make an appropriate case to the first minister for the re-transfer of those functions, and perhaps functions other than ministerial functions, to the Lord Advocate. Therefore, if these come back to the Lord Advocate we will be in the same position. If not, I anticipate that whichever Minister has responsibility for advising the Lord Chancellor will involve the Lord Advocate in any consultation process. I take the point that has been made by the noble and learned Lord that a Minister who is not involved in the legal profession in Scotland may have difficulty in identifying appropriate candidates. But it would not be impossible for a Minister to make appropriate inquiries of professional bodies and of the Lord Advocate as to various candidates who might be considered for appointment. I anticipate that perhaps next week this matter will be addressed in greater detail.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for his comprehensive reply, and in particular for going a long way to meet the purpose of this amendment by saying that the intention is to use Clause 59 by way of orders to ensure that Scottish Ministers have a say in both appointments and procedures. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that concession and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 186A:


Page 67, line 14, at beginning insert--
("Elections for membership of the House of Commons, the European Parliament and the Parliament, including").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 186A and 186B are technical and are simply intended to make clear that what is reserved by Section 3 (elections) of

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Head 2 of Schedule 5 are elections for membership of the House of Commons, the European Parliament and the Scottish Parliament, and that the reservations of Acts currently referred to in that section extend so far as those Acts apply to such elections. This represents no change of policy on our part and is consistent with the line that we have taken throughout on matters concerning elections. However, we believe that this redrafting makes the intention of the reservation clearer and I submit that it is therefore worth making. These amendments also give us the opportunity to make explicit in the Bill the status of elections to the Scottish parliament by confirming that they are reserved. The amendments do not change the position in relation to local government elections which, with the exception of the franchise, remain devolved. The wording, however, requires to be changed with the re-casting of this section. I hope that the Committee accepts that this is a useful and clarifying redrafting of the Bill, and I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I should like to put two questions on these allegedly technical amendments. Whenever a Minister gets to his feet to say that an amendment is purely technical, inquiry seems necessary. It is obvious that elections for membership of the House of Commons and the European Parliament must be a reserved matter. However, what is meant by the inclusion of "the Parliament"? Recently, we had a discussion as to whether or not the names of the regional candidates would appear on the ballot paper. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, replied helpfully that the Government did not have a completely closed mind on this matter and it was to be referred to the working committee in Edinburgh dealing with electoral matters.

Of course, for the first election to the Scottish parliament there is nowhere else to determine these matters other than at the Parliament at Westminster. Once the Scottish parliament is up and running, surely the details of electoral administration should be a matter for the Scottish parliament. I hope that the Minister can clarify the position.

As to Amendment No. 186B, in the rewording as drafted the words "local government elections" disappear as a matter exempt from reservation. I trust I am not misinterpreting this, but by limiting the exemption to the franchise at local government elections, I hope that does not exclude the possibility that the Scottish parliament, in the fullness of time, may decide that local elections in Scotland in future should be conducted on a proportional representation basis. It would be wrong that a measure of that kind should come back to this House or the other House. Will the Minister clarify these two points?

6 p.m.

Lord Sewel: The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, is suspicious. That may be a result of his spending far too long a time in another place.

As to the local government question, it is fairly straightforward. As far as I can see, nothing in the Bill in the reservations would prevent a Scottish parliament

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moving to a different system of election for local government. The only thing that is reserved is the franchise. It cannot mess around with the franchise; that remains reserved.

As to the noble Lord's first point about the nature of the elections to the Scottish parliament, the whole framework--the franchise, the electoral system--is in the Bill and will remain reserved. It will not be open to the Holyrood parliament to change the structure of the electoral system as set down in the Bill.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I shall press the Minister a little further. If an Order in Council is made in future, once the Scottish parliament is up and running, on details of design of ballot papers and that sort of thing, surely that will not come back to Westminster. It must be within the competence of the Scottish parliament to deal with it.

Lord Sewel: It is difficult to draw the line where you move from something which looks relatively inconsequential and minor to, say, the design of the ballot paper. It is something which starts creeping up and changes the nature of the electoral system.

My understanding is that the rules of conduct of elections will be for Westminster to legislate on. Clearly in minor matters it would do so at the behest of the Scottish parliament.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 186B:


Page 67, leave out lines 19 and 20 and insert--
("so far as those enactments apply, or may be applied, in respect of such membership.
The franchise at local government elections.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 187:


Page 67, leave out lines 24 to 31.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 187. This is by way of a probing amendment. We are now at Section 5, which is headed "Entertainment". It does not tell me that is what we are providing this afternoon but that the subject matter, the Video Recordings Act 1984 and Sections 1 to 16 of the Cinemas Act 1985, will be reserved. It goes on to explain about the classification of films etc.

I am puzzled by this. As I understand it, local government can have some say, not in the classification of films but certainly in whether films should be shown in a local government area. If local government can be trusted to make decisions of that nature, then the Scottish parliament should have control over all entertainment matters, including film classifications. Perhaps the Minister can explain why film classification should be reserved and not devolved.

In the other place, on entertainment, the Government removed the subject matter of the Hypnotism Act 1952 from the list of reserved powers. They gave that to the

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Scottish parliament. When I read in the press that the Government are keen to promote the Scottish film industry, they are not sending out a good signal if the parliament taking over these responsibilities is not considered worthy of making decisions about the classification of films. I would be grateful for an explanation.

As to videos, I am not sure what the Video Recordings Act does, but I am sure that the Minister will explain to me why that should not be devolved to the Scottish parliament. A parliament which is a bit nearer the ground, so to speak, might look with a good deal more scepticism on some of the nastier parts of the video market than we have done from the grander heights of Westminster. I beg to move.


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