Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


The Earl of Mar and Kellie: The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has introduced another attempt to secure the retention of statutorily guaranteed Scottish representation in the House. As it is largely based on hereditary Peers, it is obviously doomed. However, that does not mean that we should not fight for a continuation of the statutorily guaranteed representation which Scotland has enjoyed since the treaty of 1707 and which, for the sake of the Union and Scotland, should continue. I am concerned that that will be lost by accident.

Finally, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that the success of Scots in government is a tribute to the fact that the United Kingdom is an open state.

Viscount Bledisloe: I should like to ask the noble Scotsmen who have spoken why they have so little faith in those domiciled in Scotland that they are determined to ensure that only 16 out of the 106 Peers they are proposing can possibly come from Scotland and that 90 have to come from somewhere else. I should have thought that any confident Scotsman would expect that out of 106 many more than 16 would be elected. I cannot see why they are determined through this amendment to prevent more than 16 being elected, come what may.

Lord Newby: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gray, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on tabling this amendment. I think it is the third time they have succeeded in having an amendment on the Marshalled List which seeks to do if not exactly identical things then as near as makes no difference. As I have said several times during previous debates, the principle lying behind the amendment--namely, that there should continue to be, as there is now and will be in the transitional House, a good, fair and strong representation of Scots in your Lordships' House--is one which we can wholeheartedly support. We agree with that principle. We disagree with the means proposed to maintain it, partly, if not largely, because we think that during the term of the transitional House it is completely unnecessary. The figures were explained on previous occasions. They have not changed since.

I wish to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, about the English backlash. I do not want to overdramatise any sense of English backlash at the moment because I do not think it is yet a pressing

25 May 1999 : Column 865

issue. However, I do believe that in the way that we look at the reform of this place, in politics more generally and in the conduct of business in Parliament, the role of England and the English regions needs to be given due weight to that of the Scots and Welsh. If one looks at this Chamber, one sees that there is undoubtedly a far stronger Scottish and indeed Welsh component than that of virtually any English region outside London and the Home Counties. I am sure that the Royal Commission will wish to correct that when it looks at the composition of your Lordships' House. But I do not believe that either in the short or the long term the strength of the United Kingdom will be promoted by having entrenched provisions for a limited number of Scottish Peers only.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My noble friend Lord Dundee has done the Committee a great service by raising the matter again. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, the fact that it is being raised for the third time does not in any way diminish the importance of the matter. I say with the greatest respect to him that if his colleagues restrained themselves to making the same point once, a number of your Lordships' debates would be a great deal shorter than they are. It is an important matter and it is right that it should be debated.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, said that it would not be right to have special provision. However, that ignores the history of the matter. In the Treaty of Union there was special provision. Despite the eloquence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, at the Committee stage on 27th April, there remains a serious dispute as to whether it is open to this Parliament not to amend the Acts of Union but to amend the Treaty of Union. I could not be present that day but I read with interest what the noble and learned Lord said in rejecting the views of Lord President Cooper back in the early 1950s. I have to say, with respect, that that view is not universally shared. That is why I suspect that the matter of whether it is appropriate to proceed in this way will be returned to at the Report stage.

I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, about an English backlash. He seemed to think that it is based on the fact that there are a number of Scots in the present Cabinet. He did not suggest who might voluntarily retire from the Cabinet to eliminate the risk of any such backlash. But I am fully confident that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will answer that question when he comes to reply.

It is agreed on all sides that in the transitional House it will be valuable to have Scots Peers on all Benches. It may well be--I do not know what the arithmetic suggests--that for our 10 per cent of the total population of the United Kingdom we are reasonably well represented in this House. Certainly, my own clan does its best to assist in achieving that objective. Some other members of my clan might be of value to the House--if the noble and learned Lord wishes to have a quiet word later on. It is important that Scots voices are heard on all Benches. I hope that when the noble and learned Lord comes to reply he will go one stage further than his noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton

25 May 1999 : Column 866

did when the matter was previously debated. He narrated a list of those who currently serve in the House. I was honoured to see my own name included in that list as one who had incredibly effectively represented Scotland throughout the time I had been there. On the previous occasion when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, mentioned my name, he complimented me on making a speech of commanding brilliance but intense vacuity. Therefore, one must take what he says in his own eloquent and amusing manner with a slight pinch of salt.

I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor not for a categoric assurance but for an undertaking, in making appointments to the transitional House, not merely when the Bill becomes law but in the years when the transitional House is operating before the fully reformed House comes into being, that some regard will be had to the importance of having Scottish Peers in all quarters of the House. That was what the Treaty of Union required: 16 Peers to represent Scotland in this House.

Although the number has increased as a result of the 1963 Act, the basic provision still remains part of the Treaty of Union. No doubt individual Peers may make representations to the Royal Commission as to what should happen in the reformed House when the stage two legislation comes about. But we are dealing with the interim position. My noble friend has done the Committee a service in raising the matter again. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will take it one stage further than his noble and learned friend Lord Falconer did in April.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: Will the noble and learned Lord accept that the composition of the House will certainly include a number of life Peers who will be domiciled in Scotland, and that that will meet the obligations and concerns that he mentions?

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: I hope that the noble Lord is correct. I shall speak as long as is necessary for his noble friends to work out who is to reply to this amendment, which seems to be the purpose of this further intervention. The important point is that there should be a number of active Peers on all sides of the transitional House. In that, I believe that I am at one with the noble Lord.

Viscount Cranborne: Does my noble and learned friend agree that there is a slight further inequity for those of us who are increasingly beginning to feel part of the "English backlash"; namely, that when it is now virtually impossible for an Englishman to stand for the Scottish Parliament, or indeed to migrate to Scotland for political purposes, there is a positive torrent of Scots men and women who are moving south and colonising England politically? This is not confined to another place; it is unquestionably true of this House. One begins to wonder whether my noble friends Lord Gray

25 May 1999 : Column 867

and Lord Dundee are attempting to institutionalise a position from which they can pursue further colonisation on the red leather Benches as well as on the green.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: I regret to inform my noble friend that it is not so much a question of an English backlash, but that the fight-back has begun. The new Scottish Parliament includes an English Liberal MSP. Out of little acorns, great English oaks grow. He is already making his presence felt in the Scottish Parliament. So far as I understand the law, there is nothing to prevent him standing for Parliament. In fact, not only did he stand, but he was elected to the Scottish Parliament. I hope that we might now hear the Government's reply.

The Lord Chancellor: I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on the assiduity with which he is pursuing, as one would expect, the question of special rights for Scottish Peers. It was good of him to observe how the genius of the Scottish nation means that it finds itself with many places in the present Cabinet in London. But the Scots did not exactly do badly either under the previous administration. These advantages for the Scots are not confined to one political party. It is against that background that we must consider whether this claim is perhaps one too many for the Scots in terms of guaranteed peerages.

The position is that, since the passage of the Peerage Act 1963, there has been no special treatment for the Peers of Scotland in this House. The provision of the Act of Union which originally gave rise to that special treatment has been repealed. There has never, of course, been any special treatment of Peers of Great Britain or of the United Kingdom who happen also to be Scottish. We do not believe that it is timely, especially in the light of the great success to which the noble and learned Lord called attention, of the Scots without any special quotas to revert to that historic position today.

Of course Scotland must continue to be properly represented in this House, as must all parts of the United Kingdom. But that has been done through the distribution of life peerages, and Scottish hereditary Peers will be as eligible as any others for election under the terms of Clause 2. If they fare as well here as they do generally when they offer themselves for election, they have nothing in particular to fear.

I know that this is becoming a rather tedious refrain, but the second reason why the noble and learned Lord's proposal is unacceptable is that it would alter the numbers to which we agreed as part of the proposition from the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and to which I believe the Opposition Front Bench assents.

Others may say that the numbers are wrong. We have been offered alternatives enough during our debates today. But those are the numbers that have been agreed, and they are as far as the Government are prepared to go. We are not prepared to add to them arbitrary

25 May 1999 : Column 868

allocations for the benefit of special interest groups, even when the special interest group is as beguilingly defined as "people domiciled in Scotland".


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page