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Lord Sewel: I shall try to respond to the points made by noble Lords. I am enormously gratified that the amendment has helped the throbbing head of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie. His comments have added to my throbbing head. He invited me to write to him over the Recess and that is an invitation that I take up with alacrity. If he does not mind, I will leave the point there.

As to the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, I accept the commonsense attraction of what the noble Lord said. Again, it is a matter upon which I would like to write to the noble and learned Lord.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, asks why Clause 54 does not require or prohibit executive action in relation to the interests of defence and national security. We consider that it is appropriate to have powers of intervention in order to protect the interests of defence and national security from the possible adverse effects of Acts of the Scottish parliament or subordinate action made by Scottish Ministers. That is what the amendments set out to do. The powers therefore match those in relation to the possible adverse effects of legislation on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters. We do not consider that it is necessary to provide the Secretary of State with powers to prevent or require action in relation to the interests of defence or national security to match those which are available for international obligations.

Clearly, a judgment has to be made about the extent of the powers of intervention. We have concluded that it would go too far to extend the power of the Secretary of State in relation to defence and national security to executive action by the Scottish Ministers. It is a matter of judgment. I take the noble and learned Lord's point. I would like to revisit the matter and give it another round of judgment.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: While the Minister is doing so, he may wish to consider Amendment No. 263. As I read it, the amendment seeks to eliminate the anomaly to which the noble and learned Lord drew attention. As I construe it, it seems to write certain provisions into Clause 54. I may be wrong about that.

Lord Sewel: It is the difference between subordinate legislation and executive action. We are covering subordinate legislation but we are not insisting on the prohibition of executive action.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sewel moved Amendments Nos. 244 to 247:


Page 16, line 35, leave out from ("which") to ("which") in line 37 and insert ("make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and").

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Page 16, line 39, leave out ("an enactment") and insert ("the law").
Page 17, line 2, leave out ("and").
Page 17, line 5, at end insert--
("( ) if a reference is made in relation to the Bill under section 32, the period of four weeks beginning with the reference being decided or otherwise disposed of by the Judicial Committee").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Stages of Bills]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 248:


Page 17, line 12, leave out subsection (1) and insert--
("(1) Each Bill shall be considered by the Parliament at the following stages--
(a) a general debate on the principles of the Bill;
(b) a stage during which a committee of the Parliament may hear evidence on and shall consider representations received from interested parties on the subject matter of the Bill, and at the conclusion of which, the committee shall report to the Parliament on the evidence and representations it has received;
(c) a stage for a further general debate on the Bill, in the light of the report prepared in terms of paragraph (b) hereof, with an opportunity for members to vote on the general principles of the Bill;
(d) a committee stage for members of the Parliament to consider and vote on the detail of the Bill;
(e) a report stage to consider any amendments subsequent to the committee stage in paragraph (d);
(f) a final debate and vote on the Bill, at which the Parliament can either pass or reject it.
(1A) A period of not less than three calendar months shall separate the stages of the Bill mentioned in subsections (1)(c) and (1)(e) unless otherwise provided for by a resolution of the Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 248 is grouped with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Balfour, Amendment No. 249. The Committee will remember that on the first day of Committee we had an interesting debate about the second Chamber. The Government indicated very firmly, including in the Division Lobbies, that they did not want a second Chamber. They also indicated--as they have done all along when we have discussed these matters--that somehow or other the Scottish parliament would deal with its business, especially its legislative business, in a different way. The implication was, of course, in a better way than the House of Commons. Therefore the need for a second Chamber would not be there and a case could not be made for one.

We see in Clause 34 what the standing order shall provide as regards the procedures dealing with a piece of legislation, a Bill. It is interesting that we keep on being told that all such details should be left to the parliament to work out for itself. However, every now and then--on every other clause, I suspect--up come some details which are not to be left to the Scottish parliament, but to be set out in legislation. This is one of those occasions when the Government's usual line has been stood on its head.

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The proposals in Clause 34 sound remarkably similar to the way in which the House of Commons deals with Bills. There is first to be a general debate on the Bill. That is to be followed by detailed consideration of it. There is then to be a final stage at which the Bill can be passed or rejected. That sounds awfully like Second Reading, Committee stage, Report and Third Reading. Furthermore, there is to be no second Chamber for the Scottish parliament. I was under the impression--I was continually told--that there would be different procedures in the Scottish parliament. Even if the Scottish parliament wants to have different procedures, Clause 34 ties it down to a system that looks remarkably like that in the House of Commons.

As we all know, even if the House of Commons is not hurrying through the legislation, a Bill takes on average about three months to complete all its stages. One of the advantages of your Lordships' House is that a Bill also has to take roughly about the same amount of time passing through. Often by the time a Bill reaches this House, various outside organisations with an interest in it have caught up with what the Bill actually does and they then lobby Members of your Lordships' House to change the Bill. That is certainly what happened on some of the major legislation in which I was involved at the Department of Social Security.

In my amendment I suggest an alternative to what I might call "the House of Commons pattern" as outlined in Clause 34. In Amendment No. 248 I suggest that there should first be a general debate on the principles of the Bill--a bit akin to Second Reading. Then, as the amendment states in, I hope, reasonably plain English, there should be a stage during which a committee of the parliament goes out to take evidence, to meet people who are interested in the subject matter of the Bill, and generally to listen to what is being said. That is not dissimilar to procedures that have been used in your Lordships' House on one or two occasions when a committee of your Lordships' House has held hearings, not just here in London, but also in Scotland. It is certainly true as regards one piece of Scottish legislation. I meant to check before the debate, but I believe that certain deer legislation went through that procedure and that some of my noble friends went to the Highlands to take evidence from the people directly involved.

I envisage a similar sort of operation, except that it would apply to every Bill. I believe that we have attempted to apply such a procedure only to Bills about which there has not been a great deal of political controversy. In some ways, however, I believe that it is more important that it is done for politically controversial Bills. During that stage, outside bodies could make representations to a committee of the parliament and suggest amendments. At the end of the period, the committee should report to the parliament on the evidence and the representations it has received.

At that point, there would be considerable input from outside the parliament. That suggests to me that the parliament would be "inclusive". I now come to some buzz words so beloved of government Ministers. The Bill would "involve" the people of Scotland. It would be "non-confrontational." Given those words, so beloved of

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Ministers, I hope that the Government will accept my amendment, at least in principle. I accept that it could probably be worded better, but it is the principle with which I am really concerned.

There would then be a further general debate, a kind of Second Reading mark two, when members would have before them the evidence and representations made to the committee. That would give members of the parliament the opportunity for a better informed debate than may have been the case the first time round. We would then move to a Committee stage in the normal way. I have teased out that the final stages might look more like those in your Lordships' House than in the House of Commons. There would be a Report stage, at which any amendments suggested subsequent to Committee stage, could be considered. There would then be a final debate and vote on the Bill--a sort of Third Reading--when the parliament could either pass or reject the Bill.

I have made clear in what would be new subsection (1A) that there should be a period of time between those two events so that the parliament is not rushed in its consideration of legislation, given that it is unicameral, and to ensure that Bills should take the same amount of time to go through the only House of the Scottish parliament as they do to go through both Houses of this Parliament.

I suspect that many Members of the Committee will offer variations on the theme of how the Scottish parliament ought to legislate as a unicameral legislature. I gather that unicameral legislatures around the world deal with such problems in different ways. However, it seems to me--as I am sure that it must to many Members of the Committee--that Clause 34(1) does not sound at all innovative. It sounds and reads very like the House of Commons procedure translated to the Scots parliament in Edinburgh. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lyell): It may be convenient if I advise the Committee that if Amendment No. 248, in the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is accepted, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 249, which stands in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour.


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