Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: Will the noble Earl be kind enough to give way? Perhaps I may ask him a question. I understand his argument that it would be inappropriate, and I do not pass judgment on this, for Members of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly to participate in matters concerning mainly England. But as the noble Earl will recognise--and this is enshrined in legislation passed by this House--neither in Scotland nor in Wales, or in Northern Ireland, is there any jurisdiction over trends in international affairs. Will the noble Earl recognise the entitlement of those who sit in

13 May 1999 : Column 1420

those parliaments at least to come to this House, and at least to participate in debates and decisions on those matters?

Earl Ferrers: The noble Lord is entirely right. He asks whether I recognise "at least" that they should do that. Yes, of course I do. But the trouble is that it is not a question of "at least". In fact they come and discuss everything. They have a right to discuss everything and participate in everything. I am sorry to return to this, but that is the dichotomy that the Government have failed to address. How do you devolve various matters to different parliaments and keep some for Westminster, yet allow people to come to Westminster from regional parliaments and discuss the totality? That is what I believe to be wrong, and the Government have not come to any conclusion.

With my spectacles now in a state of total disarray, I now turn to Amendment No. 85, which is marginally more controversial. It proposes that,

    "A person who is entitled to vote in elections for membership of the Scottish Parliament is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords". If people have the right to vote for their own parliament, which they have, and they secure the parliament of their compatriots' choice, why should those same people then be allowed to come down to the United Kingdom Parliament and discuss United Kingdom matters?

This provision would be quite severe. It would knock out the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who comes from Wales; it would knock out the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer; it would probably knock out the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; it would knock out my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish--who is so terrified that he has vanished already--and a number of other people. I believe the noble Baroness wishes to intervene.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: From a sedentary position I was merely repeating the conversation that my noble friend the Chief Whip had with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, about the time of his train.

Lord Henley: Perhaps I may assist the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. My noble friend has had to catch a train. He has returned north on the sleeper. That is why I remarked earlier on the timing of this debate.

Earl Ferrers: That is of course the difficulty that these poor people who live in Scotland have.

All these people who have the right to vote for whom they want to represent them in the Scottish Parliament equally have the right to come and speak in your Lordships' House, and to vote upon matters--not the hereditary Peers, no, the life Peers--which reflect entirely the interests of England, and on other matters. This is a sensitive area; it is the West Lothian question unresolved. The only reason I have tabled the amendment is to discover the Government's thinking on this matter.

13 May 1999 : Column 1421

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn (if he is the Minister courteous enough to reply), will address this very serious point. I am all for a few flippant jokes. I do not mind if he also makes some jokes. However, I hope that he will be able to say why people who have been elected to a devolved Parliament can come down to this Parliament and speak to matters in which they do not normally interfere, and equally why those who vote for their own Parliament have the right to vote in the second Chamber. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Lord Elton: My noble friend's amendment draws attention to the desirability of the Government perhaps not pursuing stage two as quickly as they have repeatedly assured us they will because the West Lothian question remains unresolved. I suspect that the relationship between the two Parliaments and the Assembly will not be fully understood until it has been working for a number of years. The Government may tonight propose a resolution of the West Lothian question. However, as matters now stand, Members of another place who are elected in Scotland will have the sole say over Scottish affairs in education, social security, health and so on--a range of matters--whereas Members of another place in this Parliament will have no say over those affairs in Scotland. Members elected in Scotland will have a say over those affairs in this kingdom, but will have no constituency interest whatever in them. My noble friend's amendment does something in gesture politics to redress the balance. In so doing, it illustrates the importance of seeing how the system works before we press ahead too fast.

The Earl of Onslow: I do not like to disagree with my noble friend Lord Ferrers, but on this occasion I do so for the following reason. Your Lordships' House is not a House of territoriality, but of either individuals or power. Therefore, the West Lothian question, serious and horrid as it is, is not addressed by saying that because an individual comes from a certain part of the United Kingdom, he should be barred from its upper House. The West Lothian question is a brutal and very dangerous one as yet not addressed by the Government. If we were to debar from this House Members who live north of Hadrian's Wall, or Members of the Scottish Parliament or of the Welsh Assembly, it would be even more damaging to the Union than the present, rather half-baked devolution experiment that is taking place. I urge my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Mountgarret: I take issue with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. I disagree most profoundly with his observations. I always thought that we operated on the principle of one man, one vote; but here we move into the realm of one man, or one lady, two votes. Frequently, my wife has received electoral papers to be completed in order to vote in both the north of England and London by virtue of two residences. That is illegal. If she had voted in both places there would have been great trouble.

13 May 1999 : Column 1422

I think the same objections apply to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. It is quite wrong. He will recall that some time ago we had quite a ping-pong match over the question of Summer Time in what was then the United Kingdom, but alas is no longer. The trouble was that, although the Bill passed through your Lordships' House, the Scots were unhappy because, quite rightly, they said that things were different in that part of the world than in our part of the world. They have a point. They are absolutely right. Therefore, why should they be able to vote in Westminster on matters relating to England--it is no longer the United Kingdom--and not contain their views to Scotland and to the Parliament to which they have been elected? I support the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

Lord Goodhart: The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has tabled a lot of rather entertaining amendments to this Bill which, from time to time, have brought some light relief to this debate. In his Amendment No. 85 I believe that he is taking the joke a bit too far.

I have a confession to make to the Committee. I had a great-grandmother whose maiden name was Mackay. Therefore, it would be quite impossible for me to vote for any amendment which would have the appalling result of excluding from your Lordships' House those who, I suppose, I must describe as my noble kinsmen, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Mackay of Clashfern and Lord Mackay of Drumadoon. Amendment No. 85 is plainly absurd and not one that is worth taking much trouble over.

Amendment No. 84 raises, as I understand it, the West Lothian question. It seems neither appropriate nor indeed possible in this Bill to answer the West Lothian question, which is something that has been troubling us all for decades. In any event, the matters raised in Clause 84--not only the West Lothian question, but also the dual mandate--are matters that are not appropriate for this Bill. Once again, as with so many of these amendments, this is a matter for the Royal Commission and stage two.

The Earl of Erroll: I think that noble Lords forget that this is still the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It passes laws that affect Scotland and it is able to repatriate to itself powers which are currently devolved to a Parliament in Scotland, which is not a sovereign parliament. Therefore, English Peers and English MPs in this Parliament vote on issues that affect Scotland. That is a matter that works in both directions at the moment.

I recommended and supported the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, earlier because it is essential that there is Scottish representation in this Parliament and not the other way round. The suggestion in Amendment No. 85 that Scottish voters should be disenfranchised totally from the sovereign Parliament in this country is quite ridiculous.

13 May 1999 : Column 1423

On the point of multiple votes, one votes for everything from parish councillors, to district councillors, county councillors, if you are in Scotland a Scottish Parliament Member, an MP and an MEP. So we all have multiple votes.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page