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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I personally would regard a reasonable time as sufficient to give a calm reflection to the electorate in Wales. Whether that is to be one or two weeks is a matter of judgment at which the Government will arrive and announce in due time.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: We have had an interesting short debate. I believe that my noble friend Lord Rees has just put his finger on the point. If the Welsh need clear time, I have to tell the Minister that, whatever the result of the Scottish referendum on, say, Thursday 4th September--although we cannot be given that information--I suggest that for the next few days thereafter, and certainly over the weekend and well into Monday and Tuesday, the national UK press (which I am told is so important in Wales because it penetrates so much of the Principality and upon which everyone depends, ignoring the TV points made by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, and so on) will be dealing with the result. Indeed, for days after the Scottish referendum, the Minister should understand that the national press--that is, The Times, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian, the Mirror, though perhaps not the Sun because it has a Scottish edition which will deal with those aspects--will be concentrating on the aftermath of the result of the Scottish referendum.
If the answer is genuine, it is not a week that the Minister should be asking for; it is three or four weeks so that there can be two clearly differentiated campaigns. I accept and appreciate that the Minister's clever way of picking on the second amendment in an attempt to show contradictions might well convince juries in courtrooms throughout the country, but I doubt whether it will convince the jury in this Chamber tonight.
I listened to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and then to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, who I believe comprehensively demolished them. When they looked at the Liberal Democrats, it seemed to me that the Government Front Bench should have been saying to themselves, "God protect me from my friends; I can look after my enemies myself". However, perhaps they were not saying that because the Minister then seemed to agree.
As I said at Second Reading, I cannot understand how the Government and the Liberal Democrats can possibly think that the noise in the press, and especially in television broadcasts, as regards interest in the Scottish referendum will so dominate life in Wales that the Welsh people will be unable to realise that they have a separate referendum campaign going on in their own country--
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I have tried to explain that, and perhaps I can just go over it again. I tried to explain that the chances are that in the week's interval which the Government and their friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches so want, the aftermath of the Scottish result, whichever way it goes--I ask the Committee to be in no doubt about this--will dominate the United Kingdom-based papers. If the noble Earl really wants clear blue water--or perhaps clear yellow water--between the two referendums, he should be proposing four weeks: that is what he should do. But frankly, as the Liberal Democrats have failed to put down any amendments bar one about re-establishing a parliament that has not existed since 1707 I am not surprised by the absence of any proposal to that effect.
Lord Tebbit: Will my noble friend allow me? I apologise both to him and to the Committee. I was delayed in coming back into the proceedings on the Bill and I may have missed the most vital part of the discussion. Has the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, explained why it is so essential in his judgment that the Scottish referendum should be first?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: No, indeed he has not: not at all. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, as always--I must warn the new Ministers that this is something they will have to watch--has told us exactly why the decision has been made by the Government to hold the Welsh referendum a week after the Scottish one. I would have more respect for the Government if they actually advanced that argument instead of trying to put all these "pretend" arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, knows do not hold water.
The reason why the Government want it this way is quite simple. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said, they think--and opinion polls certainly bear this out--that it is possible they will get the result they want in Scotland but they are very, very uncertain of Wales. Even the poll in the Western Mail which was drawn to my attention is not exactly the kind of poll that you would be inclined to put the rest of your fortune on regarding the result of the referendum in Wales. So the reason they want the referendum in Wales a week later has nothing to do with the press or anything else; it has everything to do with the hope that they can persuade the Welsh to do the same as the Scots--to ignore the actual issue before the Welsh people and just do the same as the Scots. I find that thoroughly unsatisfactory. The other place had no chance to discuss this important matter. I therefore think I should test opinion.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.