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Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I am a proud and privileged member of the Scottish Peers Association because I believe that the Scottish Peers have made a notable contribution to the affairs of this House. They meet as a group to discuss Scottish affairs and try to reach a consensus on matters affecting the welfare of Scotland. I admire the tenacity of my fellow members of the association who seek to establish the rights of Scottish Peers in the arrangements for the future of the House of Lords. But I say to them quite seriously that if ever I heard a case for a lost cause, this is it.
During the debates in Scotland on devolution, I was not enthusiastic for a Scottish Parliament. I held my peace and occasionally spoke on the subject in the debates in Scotland. At town meetings in which I participated, I pointed out that one of the implications of devolution was the abolition of the House of Lords in Scotland on all matters which seriously affect the daily life of the people of Scotland; education, health and so forth.
However, during those meetings I found little concern for the abolition of the House of Lords and its rights to examine Scottish legislation. Indeed, that is emphasised by the list of people who are invited to the opening of the new Scottish Parliament, on which great occasion there are to be celebrations in the city of Edinburgh. I saw a notable list of football players, comics, singers and others who will join the festivities, but I failed to see a reference to any Member of the House of Lords who would be present at this execution of their powers.
The Scottish people are not rising up in anger about the prospect of Scottish Peers disappearing in the new arrangements. I do not believe that it is a matter of great concern to them. It is a matter of concern to me because I have a sentimental desire to see some of my good friends who are fellow Scottish Peers playing a part in this assembly. Nevertheless, the mere fact that we have enacted a Scottish Parliament and devolved great powers to it makes our special contribution rather irrelevant. I do not believe we can sustain a special place for Scottish Peers in the new arrangements.
As a life Peer from Scotland, I am hopeful that life Peers present and to be appointed will play a continuing and notable part in the proceedings of this House. There is no reason why life Peers should not continue to play that part and keep an eye on matters of concern to Scotland. But I tell your Lordships that if you incorporate in this Bill special provision for so many Scottish hereditary Peers as such in this House, that will add to the backlash that is taking place in England now in relation to Scottish power in national affairs. After all, we do not so badly; out of 21 members of the British Cabinet, six are Scotsmen. That is a fair representation and proves the fact that Scotland's voice is being heard somewhere in the centres of power.
I suggest to my good friends that to push this matter and to demand a special category in the new arrangements in the new century, whatever the historical justification in the Act of Union, would be resented in England and would do us no good at all. In addition, I do not believe that the Scots are rising up in anger at the provisions of this Bill. Consequently, I regard the amendment as irrelevant and not acceptable.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, although I am no longer secretary of the Scottish Peers Association and have not been for the past two or three months, I should like very much to correct the impression which I certainly gained from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, that the Scottish Peers Association was in some way connected with this amendment. That is not the case. This amendment was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Gray, but there are no amendments on the Marshalled List sponsored by the Scottish Peers Association. I have risen to say that in a great hurry because I do not see any of the officers of the association present here tonight. It is very important that the matter stands corrected. Having said that, I entirely support the amendment spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Gray. If he chooses to press it to a Division, I shall certainly support it.
Lord Forbes: My Lords, I have a little difficulty with Amendment No. 28A. Whereas it follows the lines of the Treaty of Union that Scotland should be represented by 16 Peers of Scotland in your Lordships' House, that came about after a time when Scottish Peers crossed the Border only to slaughter the English. Before the Union, few had the temerity to live in England. Today, thanks to the Union, many Peers of Scotland are domiciled in England, even in London.
As things stand today, I believe that my Front Bench should put any weight that it may have behind the more appropriate amendments moved by my the noble Lord, Lord Gray. His amendments deal with persons of the peerage domiciled in Scotland representing Scotland in your Lordships' House.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, it is for the Government to indicate how there will be a reasonable representation of Scottish Peers in this House in the future. I have listened to the very powerful argument of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, and of my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. It is right to say that at present a substantial number of Scottish hereditary Peers and a limited number of Scottish life Peers attend this House regularly.
I should like to know how the Government visualise that representation continuing in the future. They may well say that it is inconceivable that there will not always be a sufficient number of life Peers from Scotland domiciled in Scotland, which is the important word, to represent the Scottish view in this place.
We have to bear in mind what has happened over recent weeks. The Leader of the Scottish Parliament, Donald Dewar, has indicated that there will be United Kingdom legislation accepted in Scotland and passed
If the Government feel that the duties of this House will be much reduced, they must accept the principle behind the West Lothian question and that the duties of the Westminster Scottish Members of Parliament will also be substantially reduced. They must get on with asking the Boundary Commission to press ahead with resolving the number of constituencies in Scotland in the future. The general feeling is that the number will be cut from 72 at present to around the low 50s.
There appears to be no enthusiasm in the Government to get on with that. Indeed, we called for that over a year ago. Had the Government listened to us then, they could have had the Boundary Commission organised in time for the next general election. As the Government rely on their huge Labour majority in Scotland to maintain their majority in Westminster, they are likely to be unenthusiastic about reducing the number of constituencies in Scotland.
How will the Government ensure that there will be sufficient life Members of Parliament in this House to carry out such Scottish legislation as will come through the two Houses of Parliament in the future? I know that there will be a considerable number of hereditary Scottish Peers, led by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, in the House, but there is nothing on paper that will guarantee that there will be full or adequate Scottish representation in the House if amendments such as that proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Gray and Lord Mackay, are not accepted. I look forward to hearing what the Government have to say to ensure that there will be sufficient representation here to fulfil our duties relative to Scotland in the future.
The Earl of Perth: My Lords, I well recall how in 1953 I fought in a by-election and won by a close margin as there was a tie. It was a most spectacular affair. The event took place in public in the Long Room where portraits of all the Kings of Scotland are to be found--some of them historical and some of them, I dare say, imaginary--but it was a moving procedure.
I have listened with the greatest interest to the legal arguments that have been put forward. They have impressed me. I was upset by the Act of 1963 because it seemed that it killed all our hopes of maintaining the idea of special Scottish Peers to represent Scotland. I and several others opposed becoming United Kingdom Peers for the reason that we foresaw just the sort of argument that we are having today. I for one tried very hard, but I did not have the full support of all the Scottish Peers and that was the cue for the Government--and it was a Conservative government--to say, "Well, you haven't got all your old troops with you." There it was.
I think the most important argument is that we do not know what is going to happen with the new Scottish Parliament and the English or the Westminster Parliament. It may well be that there is a real role for the equivalent of the Scottish Peers to play. I do not know in detail what form it should take, but it is not enough to know that there will probably be some Scottish Peers by the fact that they are life Peers unless it is somehow stated by the Government that they will ensure that this happens. That is my first point.
My second point is to ask the Government not to get involved in the legal arguments for or against. I do not fully understand them but I think they were powerfully put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Mackay and Lord Gray. I ask the Government not to overrule them, as it were, but to keep the situation open. I, for one, would hope that the Government might give us that assurance and say, "We are not going to commit ourselves one way or the other at the present time: we do not necessarily accept the arguments put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Mackay and Lord Gray, on the legal side, but we see the force of ensuring that there is some representation coming from the Scottish Parliament."
That, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is the part that we have all played in the Scottish Peers Association. We would wish to have something like that. I believe myself that in the years to come the Scottish Parliament itself would welcome some form of Scottish representation, whether by right or by the practice of ensuring that there are a certain number of life Peers. I do not know but as things stand it is perfectly possible that over a period of time there would be nobody to talk for Scotland, and that would be tragic.
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