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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I shall be brief. Far be it for me to move away from the amiable atmosphere at the end of this Session, but I am desperately worried that we should be discussing the White Paper tomorrow, it not having been discussed previously. What has happened is that we have had an amiable debate. It has not been a very constructive one. It has been rather tedious at times and there has been a good deal of shadow boxing because the substance has not been there. It will not be there even tomorrow. I have read the White Paper and I shall not go into it. I protest against this form of debate. I hope that the substance will be before us on any future occasion before we have to consider what is, yes, a simple Bill but a skeletal Bill with no substance.
I wish to make one other point, again briefly. It is perfectly plain that the Government wish a "Yes" answer to the first question. But surely they want an authentic and a true answer. What they have done is to devise a form on the first ballot which is bound to give--I do not say "intended to give" because that is an unkind and unnecessary allegation and I do not make it--a flawed answer. We know, and we knew before what was said by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, about the Scottish Nationalists. We knew long before that they would vote "Yes" because, although they are separatists wanting independence, they would see it as a step towards their goal. There can be no way that the votes can truly be segregated to produce an authentic and fair result which the
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene in the debate between the Campbells. In this Third Reading debate I do not regret that we are not debating tomorrow's subject today. I am purely in favour of debating today's subject today. What we are debating today is the Third Reading of the referendums Bill on Scotland and Wales. Perhaps I may say with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that he never seems to spoil a good argument by getting it accurate. There was a whole host of inaccuracies in the noble Lord's submission to your Lordships today.
I intervene in the debate to offer my warm and sincere congratulations because it is right and proper that we on this side of the House should do so. I offer them to my noble friends Lord Sewel and Lord Williams of Mostyn for the way in which they have conducted the debates throughout the consideration of the Bill.
My noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn and I were introduced into your Lordships' House on the same day. I knew as we were taking part in the rehearsals that my noble friend was headed for the highest heights. Anyone who moves from chairman of the Bar Council to the high and elevated position of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Home Office must have made progress.
I knew that my noble friend Lord Sewel was headed for the highest heights, too. Anyone who can move from the Faculty of Medicine and Law at Aberdeen University to become Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Scottish Office is headed for the highest heights.
I have enjoyed the debates on the Bill and I believe that my two noble friends in particular deserve eternal credit. Furthermore, my noble friend Lady Farrington, who has acted as Whip on the Bill, deserves credit for the way she has conducted the proceedings.
I have always recognised the debating skills of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I have never doubted them. The one thing that I have doubted about the noble Lord is the quality of his amendments. As the Bill has passed through your Lordships' House, there has been no doubt in my mind that those amendments have reduced in quality. We heard about the Italian waiter in Glasgow; we heard all about the noble Lord's daughter in Italy; we heard about the sliding scale thresholds in the referendum; and we heard about the unfranked ballot papers. There was a stage during our debates when I came firmly to the conclusion that the noble Lord was quota hopping in red herrings!
Be that as it may, no one can say that your Lordships' House has not considered the Bill seriously. Therefore, it returns to the other place for consideration of the amendments that have been made. More importantly, it goes to the Scottish people, who in my view will record a resounding "Yes, yes" vote. In my view, the people of Wales too will record a resounding "Yes" vote.
On Thursday of last week I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, saying that he hoped that at this time next year we were not bogged down in controversial legislation. As I look around your Lordships' House I can say with some confidence that most of us would express the hope that we are here at this time next year. Whether or not we are bogged down in controversial legislation, at least we shall be here!
I look forward to a resounding, "Yes, yes" vote in Scotland and to this time next year when we shall have Royal Assent for the primary legislation which will lead to the creation of a Scottish parliament. I make no secret of the fact that for more than 30 years that has been my ambition. I am not in favour of referendums, and in that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, and I share the same view. I believe that it is alien to the British constitutional way of life. I am not in favour of referendums, but that is the chosen path, and therefore I shall support it.
Perhaps I may return to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, about the Scottish National Party. I agree with Gordon Wilson, the Vice-President of the SNP, for reasons different from those which he quoted. He says that the SNP should have stayed out of the campaign because he believes that it will damage the SNP. I believe that the SNP should have stayed out of the campaign because it will damage the campaign. I believe that it will damage a "Yes, yes" vote. I say now that I shall not share a platform with any Scottish National Party member in the referendum campaign.
Therefore, I agree with Gordon Wilson that the SNP should have stayed neutral and should have stayed out of the campaign. I am not in favour of referendums in any shape or form. But in my view this Bill has been conducted brilliantly by my noble friends on the Front Bench and I am honoured today, from these Back-Benches, to place on record my tribute to my noble friends Lord Sewel and Lord Williams of Mostyn, and also to Lady Farrington, who acted as a Whip on the Bill.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, I did not think that the Bill was necessary. I did not want it but because of a promise made by the Government, I have backed it all the way through. I cannot join in the love-in between the Front Benches. We have wasted the most enormous amount of time. I am extremely glad that it is over. Some good arguments have been put forward, even by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. But the amount of time that we have spent on a simple enabling Bill has been quite ridiculous. It is a good Bill because I hope--in fact, I am sure--that it will lead to better things. But for me the best thing to come out of it is the fact that "referendum" is now an English word and we talk about "referendums" instead of "referenda".
I say that it is a demeaning Bill. In the first place, it is unnecessary. That was declared roundly on Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and was repeated on a number of occasions by other Liberal Democrats subsequently. Today, I believe for the first time, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, with whom I generally agree, seemed to think that this is a useful Bill. On the other hand, he was followed by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, who considers that it is not worth discussing at all. It is worse than useless. It is demeaning because time and again issues have been fudged. They have been fudged in order that the vote of the Scottish National Party shall be added to those who support the limitations of the White Paper and to secure an overwhelming vote. That overwhelming vote, which is hoped for in Scotland and which I think is likely, will then be used to bully the Welsh into following suit.
Of course, everybody knows that an earlier election can influence a later one. American primary elections are a very good example of that. But we had our own example in this country. At one time the general election was held over a period of days--I think it was a week or 10 days. But it was found that the earlier results unacceptably influenced the later ones. Therefore, we now have a general election with all votes cast on the same day without difficulty. This Bill has been improved by stipulating that the two elections shall be on the same day so that neither can influence the other.
The other major improvement is the insertion of the words "income tax". The Government wish to have tax-varying powers because the Scottish National Party want to erect customs offices along the Border which will then be a frontier. Therefore, members of that party will vote for tax-varying powers but they may not vote for income tax-varying powers because that is a limitation.
Therefore, in those two respects, the Bill has been improved although I am afraid that it is still full of fudge and political intrigue. The hand of the back-room boys is very strong on this Bill--those who have achieved influence by mounting the back stairs: the spin doctors.
It is pleasant to turn from that to those noble Lords to whom we owe so much. In the first place, that is the two ministers. My recollection of debating goes back to Winston Churchill, Michael Foot, Crossman and Iain Macleod. I hope I may say without seeming impertinent that although the technique of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, is different from those others, he gave a consummate example of how what I regard as a weak case can be put forward attractively.
I should like to pay a particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. Unfortunately, I was not present last week but I read his speeches with considerable emotion. What he seemed to do was to breathe into what is now known as "vacuant Blairism" a warmth, a conviction and a pride in the country which ennobled the whole of the theme with which we are now concerned.
From the Cross-Benches, I must say also how much we owe to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, in his conduct of this Bill. I am sure that he was right about what he said about referendums or referenda, and for once, I disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. I believe that they have a place in a democratic parliamentary constitution. But it needs to be thought out. That was the first thing that should have been done as we approach the various constitutional matters. Instead of wasting our time on what the Liberal Democrats almost unanimously said is an unnecessary Bill. We should have thought out in what circumstances a referendum, particularly an immediate post-election referendum, can be justified; how far pre-legislative referendums are justified; and how far it is an advantage, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said, to have a post-legislative referendum. After all, when one comes to think of it, that is by far the most democratic expedient.
There is one other noble Lord whom I must mention: the Chief Whip. Chief Whips are universally unpopular. From the Cross-Benches, I must say that we have been done proudly by the noble Lord, Lord Carter. He has given us time to debate this measure which is the concomitant of your Lordships allowing a government to get through their business. I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, reciprocated so that that business was dealt with on schedule.
The last thing that I should like to say is how much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that what we have missed is the English dimension, which is very important. I said that that was the last thing, but I should like to add something else. I believe that the supporters of the Bill have altogether underestimated their danger from the Scottish National Party. Any body of radicals is always liable to be outbidden by those who are more radical. One has only to think of the deputies from the Gironde at the French Revolution--all their radicalism and all their commanding gifts did not prevent their being bundled into the tumbrils and having their necks severed at the guillotine.
I am sure that the Government's supporters in the Scottish parliament--which I think we shall have--will find themselves in the very uncomfortable position of being constantly taunted for not standing up to Westminster, for not fully implementing their powers, and so on. I am very glad that the Conservatives are going to take their place in that parliament. That will make it very much easier for those who support the White Paper.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I am rather relieved that my noble friend Lord Beloff has left the Chamber and is no longer seated immediately behind me. I say that because he may feel that, in thanking the Ministers for the way in which they have handled the business, I am somehow joining in a love-in. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Ministers for the courteous and sometimes disarmingly charming way in which they responded to debates. However, they had every reason
However, having thanked the Ministers for their charm and courtesy, I should like to make a few further points. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, might have been better placed at Headingley over the past few days rather than in this House. He certainly plays with an extremely straight, defensive bat; indeed, he was so straight and defensive with his bat when responding to one particular amendment that I felt moved to press it, even though I never intended to do so when entering the Chamber. In all my time in Parliament, I do not think that I have ever received such a non-response to points made.
I should tell the noble Lord that, if another Bill comes to this House after the referendum, he will not be able to get away with that again. If that happens, we shall expect our debates to be responded to in detail. Quite clearly, if the people vote for an assembly, we would accept that verdict. However, that does not mean that we would have to accept everything that the Government chose to offer and that we would not be free to criticise the Bill, to examine it and, if necessary, to amend it. I should like to make it absolutely clear that, if we were to get another Bill, I shall be doing just that.
The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said that I was in some form a Welsh nationalist. I should tell the noble Lord that, certainly in the non-political sense, I am proud to be a Welsh nationalist, just so long as I am able to be equally proud of being a British nationalist. If the intended legislation after a referendum were to go through, I fear that the Britain I love might be disrupted. I believe that we are on a course which is extremely dangerous.
One of the most fascinating aspects of our debates in recent weeks has been the revelation of the strength and character of the new Lib-Lab alliance. We no longer share the Benches on this side of the House with the other opposition party. Now that its leader sits in a Cabinet Committee, clearly it has sold its soul. It has displayed an extraordinarily strong support for the Government during recent weeks; indeed, a stronger support than we saw from almost any Member on its own Benches.
However, having said that, I should add that I was extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, for acknowledging one point; namely, that the accusation made that quangos were unreasonably packed could not be made about my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir or myself. In fact, in this House of all places, it would be rather hard to sustain the charge. I say that because we have here two examples of "quangdocracy". We have one or two representatives on the Benches opposite who represented the old Labour quangos before we came to power and who sat on those quangos without almost anyone else but Labour colleagues. In the days of Lord Haycock, that was the way that things were done.
We also have on the Benches opposite--and I am delighted to see him here today--my noble friend, as I persist in calling him, Lord Parry of Neyland, who was renewed in his chairmanship of a quango by me after I had taken office; just to prove that we have an open mind on such matters. However, that is something for debate on another occasion.
I have one further thought to put before the House. I should like to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, who commented that we had debated the matter for longer than was the occasion in 1978. Well, of course, we have done so. On that occasion we were tacking a referendum on to a Bill which set out the detail of what was being put to the people. We were dealing then with a post-legislative referendum; what we are confronted with today is a pre-legislative referendum. I agree with everyone who has criticised the principles of pre-legislative referendums. In my view, they are entirely wrong in principle and should not be pursued again; indeed, I hope that they will not be.
So we come to the end of these proceedings and we shall debate the White Papers tomorrow. It seems to me to be wrong that the White Papers should have been introduced into this House so late in the Session. Both White Papers, which will be crucial to the understanding of the electorate when it comes to vote, were presented so late that they cannot be properly debated in Parliament. There has, of course, been a debate in another place: but it took place on a Friday, which meant that it had to end at 2.30 p.m., and thus 12 Welsh Members were unable to speak. Nonetheless, that debate produced some notable speeches. I hope that everyone in this House--and, indeed, the electorate of Wales--will read the two distinguished contributions by Mr. Alan Williams and Mr. Denzil Davies. They are two of the most powerful speeches that I have ever read on the subject and were delivered by two very experienced former Ministers. If anyone thinks that the Government have an easy ride ahead of them, he should read those speeches.
As I said, tomorrow we shall debate the White Papers in this House. When I last checked the speakers' list, I counted 35 names upon it. In my opinion, it is a disgrace that Parliament should be treated in this way and that, during the last week before we rise for the Summer Recess, we should be forced to have a debate on such an important constitutional matter--a debate which, by its very definition, will be inadequate. If I have praised the Ministers for their charm and courtesy, I must also point out to them that they have a pretty tough case to defend when it comes to the manner in which the Government have handled the whole affair.
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