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Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I think there are some points that are worth considering in relation to a second chamber. Like other noble Lords in the Chamber I have fair experience of legislation in another place both when in opposition and when in government. The Scottish parliament will have 129 members and of course a number will have official positions and will not be available to sit on committees. I am not aware of how the scrutiny committee will scrutinise Bills. I do
Another point that I think is worth bearing in mind is the following. The House of Commons has more than 600 members and this House has perhaps 300 or 400 regular attenders. There is an enormous breadth of experience in this Parliament which cannot possibly be equalled by the experience of the 129 members of the Scottish parliament. They may welcome advice from experts in a second chamber on a whole host of issues of which they perhaps do not have much practical knowledge themselves.
Noble Lords on this side of the Chamber have made an important point; namely, that we are not asking for a second chamber to be set up, but rather to be given the opportunity for it to be established if that is found to be necessary. There is no reason why that point should not be discussed now. I do not know why the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, thinks that discussing that now is any more likely to make Scotland seek independence than is the case under the present proposals and under the present Labour Government. I hope that the Minister will give some thought to this measure as a constructive and helpful way of promoting good legislation in Scotland rather than thinking of it as being critical, as Members on the Government Front Bench seem to think.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, this amendment is attractive to a degree but it defeats the purpose of working for a more consensual approach in the Scottish parliament. This United Kingdom Parliament is far too busy and definitely needs a second chamber. Procedural devices in the other place such as guillotine Motions and the absence of the right to be heard are well known to allow legislation to be passed with many clauses not being considered. That was certainly the case with the Bill we are discussing.
I do not believe that the Scottish parliament will be that busy. Provided the promised pre-legislative process is seriously adopted and the various stages of scrutiny are not limited by time and all members of the parliament are able to be heard, I believe that the need for a second chamber will not be established. I may prove to be wrong and no doubt many people will point this out to me if that occurs, and the Scotland Act may have to be amended subsequently, but I do not believe that we should plan for such a failure at this time.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, people always wanted to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, when he was in another place and the same is true of this Chamber. He commands great experience and wisdom and he is much respected in your Lordships' House on this subject. I was, however, surprised to hear him make a speech purporting to limit the functions of the Scottish parliament. All this
When all is said and done, this is an amendment which the Government would be well advised to accept in the interests of strengthening rather than weakening the Scottish parliament to give it all the powers they possibly can.
Lord Stewartby: My Lords, I had not intended to intervene but the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, prompted me to say a few words. Having had responsibility for taking a number of long and complex Bills through another place I do not think this is a matter of being consensual. The legislative process--Bills these days are so complex--requires a second stage of consideration, whatever kind of scrutiny committee one might set up in advance. I do not wish to repeat comments which have been made by other noble Lords except to say that I believe almost all the legislation which I have had anything to do with over the years has benefited from consideration by a revising chamber partly because issues arise, often for the first time, when legislation is brought before another place, but also because the very process of discussion in another place generates a degree of external interest and comment which cannot normally be taken into account in advance until those issues are properly debated in the legislative chamber.
I cannot foresee how detailed legislation will be in Scotland or whether it will differ from the nature of Westminster legislation. However, on the evidence that we have on the Bills that we consider I should have thought it almost essential to have a second stage, unless we can work out an entirely different approach to getting the text of Bills right before they are enacted. After they are enacted it is much more difficult to reverse them, because in order to do so new primary legislation is needed.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I should make it absolutely clear from the start that the adoption of these proposals would be incompatible with government proposals as described in the White Paper and overwhelmingly endorsed by the Scottish people in the referendum last September.
We have to ask ourselves simply: what is the purpose of the Bill? Its purpose is to lay down the structure, function and powers of a Scottish parliament. We have reached that stage after a long process, indicated and alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth; namely, the work of the constitutional convention and the commission that worked with it. The proposals that came out of that consultation were clearly
It is not as though the constitutional convention and the whole consultative process somehow put to one side the issue of a second chamber. They did not. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, reminded us, they deliberately examined the case for a second chamber. They studied it, scrutinised it, and rejected it. I believe that they were right to do so.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. He mentioned that the referendum endorsed proposals for the Scottish parliament. The referendum was not on the question of whether the parliament should be a single chamber or bicameral. The Scottish public have never been consulted on the matter. They have no idea.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I am afraid the noble Earl is in error on that point. In the referendum the Scottish people were asked to endorse the proposals contained in the White Paper. It was not a minor publication which came out at dead of night and was forgotten. At the time it was a best-seller in Scottish bookshops and the biggest seller that Her Majesty's Stationery Office in Scotland has ever had. The scheme was explicit. It was subject to debate in the Scottish media. People knew what they were buying. There was no doubt at all that the people of Scotland knew in detail the type of parliament that they were being invited to endorse.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, says it is not his intention to impose a second chamber; that this is a permissive or enabling power to give the parliament the ability if it wishes to create a second chamber in the future. That is dodging the issue. Either we are in favour of a second chamber for a Scottish parliament or we are against it. That should be made clear in the Bill. It is not right on a major issue regarding the structure of the parliament to try to weasel our way out by providing for its possible creation through an enabling provision. Although flexibility is important, it has its limits--as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, is often only too happy to remind us. A proposal which deals with a fundamental aspect of the settlement should either be explicit in the Bill or be excluded from the Bill. We have reached the stage of placing before the House the clear, detailed proposals on the structure of the parliament. As I have said, they were the result of a major process of consultation over a period of years in Scotland--indeed for some of us it was a period of decades.
However, there was always recognition that there would be a need to involve what have been referred to as the checks and balances in the process, and to do so in a way that was not necessarily derived from the Westminster model. We were able to look elsewhere. We were able to examine the satisfactorily functioning unicameral parliaments, particularly in the Nordic countries--Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Finland--all of which are mature, successful democracies functioning without a second chamber. The majority of the German Lander are also single-chamber parliaments.
When we examine how those parliaments address the business of legislation, we find some very interesting developments. The Finnish Parliament has operated with a unicameral system since early this century. The Swedish Parliament adopted such an approach more recently. In both cases the parliaments ensure by means other than a separate second chamber adequate opportunities to scrutinise legislative proposals. In the Finnish Parliament, for example, the subject committees play an important role in examining legislative proposals and consult with non-government bodies on them. That is the approach that we have tried to capture for the Scottish parliament. It is a new and different approach from the one we have traditionally taken to our business at Westminster.
That is why we have set up the consultative steering group established by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. The steering group has already recognised the importance of putting in place procedures to facilitate and encourage prior consultation on legislative proposals. It has endorsed the concept of ensuring that there are strong committees in the parliament able to scrutinise effectively any legislation that is brought before it. I have no doubt that the steering committee's report and recommendations will provide for the appropriate checks and balances to ensure that the parliament works effectively as a second chamber.
We have no difficulty with the very important idea of ensuring that there is an appropriate, effective and workable means of ensuring scrutiny of the executive's legislative proposals and to offer the opportunity for revision. But to have that it is not necessary to have a second chamber, as we have seen through the mature and established working examples of the Nordic parliaments.
I admire the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, for his political gymnastics from time to time. I should perhaps therefore resist the temptation to make a point when he occasionally falls flat on his face. However, perhaps I should not resist that temptation today. I remember that one of the main arguments advanced as to why we should not have devolution was that Scotland was in danger of being over-governed; that there was a danger of building a massively expensive structure that the people of Scotland did not want. That argument sits oddly with the proposal for enabling a second chamber--another level of government; and, no doubt, a more expensive one--to be established.
Over a long period of time a large number of people involved in the public life of Scotland considered the whole issue of how a Scottish parliament should be structured and the powers and functions that it should have. Those proposals were subject to discussion and debate within Scotland. They were encapsulated in the White Paper that was placed before the people of Scotland and endorsed by them. Those proposals clearly indicated the character of the parliament. That parliament was deliberately conceived as a unicameral one which would establish a strong committee structure, thus enabling the scrutiny of legislation to take place, which would hold the executive to account and which,
I believe that the Government have got it right and that there is no need for a second chamber. Attempting to achieve that through the provision of an enabling power is ducking the issue. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
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