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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I understand the argument he is making, as I indicated I did in my original remarks. However, he seems to be avoiding the point that as a direct consequence of the next subsection, the electoral quotas in Scotland will increase from 54,000 to 69,000. That must have an impact on the boundaries drawn for the new Scottish consistencies. That may have an impact on the Western Isles.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I am aware that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is very keen on quotas and, indeed, the equal size of constituencies, on which I am sure we shall hear from him later. But the point is that the difficulty about the Western Isles is already covered by Rule 6 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986. That allows the commission to depart from the application of the rules on electoral quotas and the boundaries of local government areas if specific geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency, appear to the commission to render a departure desirable.

I have confidence that in looking at its task in the future the Boundary Commission will be very much aware and seized of that rule.

Viscount Dunrossil: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving us such a detailed and well thought out reply. The problem which we have raised has exercised his mind considerably. However, I feel that we are faced with two misunderstandings. I believe that the misunderstanding may persist for a long time, eroding some of the confidence which the people of the Western Isles have; namely the misunderstanding that somehow or other they have missed a trick and that those wily people down south have tricked them once again.

That may not be rational politics but it is politics and it is psychology. We may share the Minister's confidence that we have a special case but it is quite clear from his considered remarks that he is giving away nothing in substance. Therefore, I should like to see whether we can still further reinforce our little building up in the north-west against the changing winds. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

9 Nov 1998 : Column 556

6.12 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 34) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 134.

Division No. 2


Ackner, L.
Ailesbury, M.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Balfour, E.
Bethell, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Brentford, V.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clyde, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Dunrossil, V. [Teller.]
Eames, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elton, L.
Fookes, B.
Forbes, L.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Greenway, L.
Harlech, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Henley, L.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hope of Craighead, L.
Hylton, L.
Inchcape, E.
Jeffreys, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kenilworth, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Kintore, E.
Kitchener, E.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mersey, V.
Milverton, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Moran, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Newall, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pender, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rees, L.
Renton, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. [Teller.]
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Shuttleworth, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stair, E.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L.
Sudeley, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Vivian, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wilson of Tillyorn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Wynford, L.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Burlison, L.
Calverley, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gilbert, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Jacobs, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Northfield, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thurso, V.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Warner, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9 Nov 1998 : Column 557

6.21 p.m.

The Earl of Dartmouth moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 40, line 36, at end insert (", subject to any increase made under subsection (4A) below.
(4A) In applying rule 5 for the purposes referred to in subsection (4) above, the Boundary Commission for Scotland shall increase the electoral quota to take account of the fact that Scotland does, and England does not, have a devolved Parliament.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, we have just spent 40 minutes discussing the boundary of only one parliamentary constituency; namely, the Western Isles--I shall spare the House my rendition of its Gaelic name. That clearly entitles me to spend 640 times 40 minutes discussing Amendment No. 35 which addresses the boundaries and electoral quota for all the Westminster constituencies. I know that that is something to which your Lordships will look forward in three or four days' time; mercifully, my remarks will be brief.

9 Nov 1998 : Column 558

I have every expectation that this amendment will be characterised as being somehow anti-Scottish. But nothing could be further from the truth. That is assuredly not the case. The amendment concerns fairness, equity and the continuing survival of the Union in anything like its present form.

On the 1997 electoral roll there were 3.9 million electors for Scotland and approximately 3.77 million for the area of Yorkshire and the Humber--the area for which I have the honour to stand for my party in the June Euro elections. In what I am about to say I do not represent the views of my party as a whole; indeed, I am speaking only for myself and for the electors of Yorkshire and the Humber for whom these are matters of deep concern.

In the 1997 general election the 3.9 million electors in Scotland elected 72 MPs; the 3.77 million electors of Yorkshire and the Humber--only 130,000 fewer people--elected only 56 MPs; that is to say, 16 or 28.5 per cent. fewer. That is extremely unfair and even more unfair in the context of the Scotland Bill as a whole.

To give credit where credit is due, I am glad to say that the Government accepted--albeit grudgingly and insufficiently--the principle behind this amendment. Indeed, there is one small genuflection towards fairness to the English regions in the Scotland Bill; that is, Clause 86 which lays down a parity of electoral quota between Scotland and England. However, that is nothing like sufficient to address the blatant unfairness towards the English regions at the heart of this Bill. What is significant is not what the Bill contains, but what it does not contain.

For example, in the rest of the Bill there is no hint of any reform of the Barnett formula whereby in the fiscal year ending 1996, for example, £871 per head of extra identifiable public expenditure was spent on the residents of Scotland. There is no attempt to reform regional selective assistance grants which induce companies to relocate. They go disproportionately to Scotland, despite the fact that Scotland is second only to the South-East as the richest region in the Union. And even in relation to the minor reform of the electoral quota which the Government conceded, the execution of this slight but urgent reform is not to have any effect until the general election after next. That point is being dealt with in a subsequent amendment.

I return to the central point of my amendment. Even if parity with the English quota proposed by Clause 86 was introduced tomorrow, it would be wholly insufficient. Mere parity with the English quota is not enough. The whole point of the Scotland Bill is that it creates a Scottish parliament with full powers; indeed, no less an authority than the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, a mere 55 minutes ago, pointed out that the Scottish parliament has primary legislative powers; that is, it is a real parliament. By comparison England and the English regions have only Westminster.

It is not sufficient therefore for the electoral quota for Scotland as laid down in Clause 86 to have parity with England. In logic and in equity the quota must be substantially less. Precisely how much less is something

9 Nov 1998 : Column 559

that the Boundary Commission can determine in the normal way on the basis of representations made to it, but with it being statutorily obliged to take fully into account the fact of a Scottish parliament in all its powers.

Amendment No. 35 has been carefully considered. It goes a long way to correcting the inequity--the self-evident and blatant unfairness towards the English and the English regions at the heart of this Bill--and in so doing will help to preserve the Union in something approaching its present form. I beg to move.

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