|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Brightman: My Lords, perhaps I may take a brief moment of your Lordships' time to commend the inclusion in the Bill of Clause 127 on page 61. This clause is an index of the 69 words and expressions used throughout the Bill which have a special meaning elsewhere in the Bill. As your Lordships will see, the left-hand column on page 61 enumerates all the specially defined words and expressions, whereas the right hand column simply states the number of the clause containing the definition. That device is not often used by draftsmen but an index is of immense value, not only to lawyers but also to all officials and laypersons concerned with the legislation.
An index of defined expressions is a wonderful time saver in the case of a long Bill. Unfortunately, it is not put in a long Bill as often as one would wish. I hope that this user-friendly device will continue to find favour in the next Session of Parliament and be more widely used in drafting.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by thanking especially my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon not only for taking, I suppose, half of the Bill--certainly all the legal and rather complicated constitutional parts--but also for all the work he did in scrutinising the legislation beforehand and in devising many of our amendments. I am deeply grateful to him. Indeed, I must say that the number of changes made to the Bill is a tribute to his record as regards the number of hits he achieved. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Courtown, who is the Whip in these matters and, as always, is silent but helpful and, indeed, keeps me in order.
Like others, I too should like to thank the three Ministers involved in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, and myself are old sparring partners from our Glasgow university days. It was a pleasure to be sparring with her again. All three Ministers answered our questions--that is, after the first rather uncertain day--courteously and in some detail. They also sent me a fair number of letters. I suppose that one should add the officials to our thanks because, at one stage, I thought that the entire post of the Scottish Office was directed at me, but perhaps others were also receiving correspondence. I should like to congratulate the three Ministers in particular, because the lack of support from those sitting behind them as day succeeded day was, I believe, very obvious--except in the Division Lobbies on three occasions.
The tribute to what your Lordships have done must be in the something like 350 government amendments which will now make their way down the Corridor when we release the Bill. My understanding from the gossip down the Corridor is that the Commons will have to consider something in the order of 180 groups of amendments. I shall not say that the Bill was ill considered, and so on. Clearly, what happened here was the government Ministers were prepared to listen to the arguments put forward and accept them, sometimes in whole and sometimes in part, and then come forward in many cases with their own amendments either entirely taking on board or partly taking on board what we were saying. In some cases the debate stimulated here caused them to think about other matters in the Bill and bring forward amendments which we had not addressed. That is a tribute to your Lordships' House.
I was about to be a little less charitable to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, but after the kind things he said about the Mackay twins I shall draw back a little. Just occasionally--as he admitted--he showed some impatience at our probing and at our amendments. Sometimes I thought that if this had been left to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, the Committee stage would have lasted half a day and the Report stage a quarter of a day. Dare I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, that I do not believe we would have made the improvements we did if we had proceeded in that way?
The Government's acceptance that the Speaker and his deputy should not belong to the one party was a useful measure. I refer also to the protection gained today for Ministers of the Crown and the acceptance that Ministers in this Parliament cannot be Ministers in Scotland. That is an important step forward. All these things arose from the debates we have had. Not only my noble and learned friend and myself took part in these debates but also all my noble friends behind me took particular interest in these debates. It is fair to say that my noble friends and other noble Lords elsewhere in the House who come from Scotland gave this Bill the kind of scrutiny that it certainly deserved. While many of us are unsure about what may happen in the future we all took part in the discussions in a positive spirit given the election result and given the referendum result.
We look forward to seeing what the Government will do with the 129 members. I very much hope that the other place will appreciate the points that we have made. I do not want to repeat what was said but I believe that if the Bill remains the way it is--or, rather, the way it was, as the Government tried to restore it--they will be stoking up trouble in the future for the Scottish parliament, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and ourselves. The only beneficiaries will be the Scottish Nationalists. I certainly hope that the Government take that into account.
The judges can speak for themselves on the amendment that they made in their impressive manner. Again I hope that the Government will listen to their concerns. I hope that there will be pre-legislative scrutiny. I think that, if anything demonstrates the need for pre-legislative scrutiny, it is the 350 government amendments made to this Bill. I think that we can be pleased with what we have done. However, as the Bill leaves your Lordships' House for the other place I have to say that I watch it launched to the next stage and towards next May with both my hands behind my back and my fingers firmly crossed because, despite all the good nature shown on this Bill and the way we have tried to co-operate, I am still not convinced that this is not the start of the unbundling of the UK. I am still not convinced because George Robertson's phrase that devolution would kill the SNP stone dead has not come to pass. There is no sign of that yet; quite the contrary is the case.
The governing party will now have to defend the new Union. They are the people in a leading position in Scottish politics who will have to defend the new Union. They will have to change their tune markedly from the one they have played over the past 18 years. We heard a little of that today from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, on the Liberal Democrat Benches, who
I must say to them that from my experience of being a member of the party defending the Union that they are going to have to do better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer did last week, because while it might have been a perfectly good argument in the 1970s to say that independence would lead to customs barriers, to extra costs and barriers against trade with England, it certainly is not true now when in fact we are in the European Union. Whatever happens in Scotland we will all continue to be in the European Union and there will not be trading barriers--"new and costly barriers", as the Chancellor called them. Nor, especially coming from the Chancellor, who is so much in favour of the single currency, can you really pray in aid financial transactions in different currencies, because these currency differences may not exist a few years down the line, whatever I or my party may think.
Really this kind of stuff, coming from the Chancellor and from Mrs. Liddell, will not aid the Government in their defence of the Union. If they will take that piece of advice in the genuine spirit in which it is given from somebody who has attempted to defend the Union against the Scottish National Party over very many years and, frankly, also against the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party, at some stages over the last 20 years, then I believe that we might keep the Union together.
What we have to argue is that in this island we have a common heritage, we have a common language and a common culture. Even on the 11th of November, do I have to say we have a common history? We share all those things in this small island. We have intertwined economies and intertwined personal and family relationships. These must be the arguments that we all put forward if we want this devolved system to work and if we do not want to see the Scottish National Party gain advantage and unbundle the Union. As I say, the arguments put forward by the Chancellor and his friends recently simply will not do. New arguments have to be the arguments that are brought forward. I say to the Government that if they use these arguments and use them sensibly, and realise that we in the Conservative Party are with them as far as these arguments are concerned, then perhaps I can uncross my fingers and this will work. However, it is going to take a lot of effort, given the kind of negative publicity and campaigning that there has been against the Union by the other parties in Scotland over the past 20 years.
These are my final remarks and I conclude on perhaps a more optimistic note by saying that I look forward to the various pieces of secondary legislation coming forward and renewing this little battle, if at a slightly lower level than during this Bill.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page