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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the noble Lord's information about Scotland is not correct. The figures relating to prosperity in Scotland do not match those for Wales, as he described it. However, perhaps that is another point.
I do not know what my noble friend on the Front Bench will say, but I believe that it is increasingly recognised in Scotland that there is a degree of unfairness in the representation at Westminster. There was a good deal of concern about how things would work out for Scotland because, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate said--or perhaps it was the noble Lord, Lord Sewel--when it comes to voting about social security, for example, the whole membership of the Westminster Parliament will need to be involved because the Bill will also involve Scotland. How the Government or the Boundary Commission will sort it out I do not know.
We must bear in mind that the mystique about the length of time the Boundary Commission is bound to take to come to its conclusions is invented by politicians. The Boundary Commission simply has to calculate a number of sums. If it incorporated my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish on its strength, it would do it quite quickly. He has everything at his finger tips and I dare say the commission has also. There is something in the amendment because it could all happen quicker than the Government seem to think is required. I do not believe that the people of Scotland will mind it. They believe it is fair, they know that the Boundary Commission is fair, they understand it. They are interested in having the Scots parliament and, in fairness, at Westminster. That is because a great deal of Scottish business will still be decided at Westminster and they understand that clearly. There is a lot to be said for the amendment. We shall see what happens to it in this House and whether people support it, but let us not discard it.
The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, is singularly ill informed about Scotland and it is the Scotland Bill that we are discussing. Just for the record, I mentioned in my earlier remarks on Amendment No. 35 as a question of fact that Scotland is per capita the second most prosperous region in the United Kingdom, after the South East. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, might bear that in mind, should the subject ever be discussed again when he is in the Chamber.
I wish briefly to address my remarks to the amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. It was a Labour Prime Minister, the late Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, who, like me, had roots in the Huddersfield area, who coined the term: "A week is a long time in
Earlier, on Amendment No. 35 in my name, the Minister characterised my suggested changes to the quota as being offensive. However, the principle of change in the quota has already been agreed by the Government. To give credit where credit is due, it is a gracious concession to English priorities and English sensibilities. But that gracious concession of principle has a great deal taken away from it if the execution is delayed for the time proposed. That is, something akin to seven or eight years. It will not be executed until the parliament after next.
In closing, in support of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I should say that if there is sufficient good will to change the quotas, there should and must be sufficient good will to change the quotas in a timely fashion.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I start by trying to outline what we are agreed about on all sides of the House. As outlined in Clause 86(4) which we have already discussed, it is that the electoral quota in Scotland, as a result of devolution, ought to rise to the same as the electoral quota in England. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate kindly confirmed, it would mean that the electoral quota in Scotland would rise to 59,500 and the number of seats would decrease to about 58.
The reason the Government have come forward with the suggestion, and the reason I agree with them, is that the position after devolution will be markedly different from that pertaining at present. I do not wish to enter another argument, we have had plenty on the Welsh Bill with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. Up to now we have had a unitary parliament. One part of the country has been like every other part, with Members from one part involved in the business of every other part. The argument put forward sounds like the argument we heard in the mid-1980s and 1990s that the Tories have no mandate to govern Scotland. It is an entirely nationalist argument put forward by people who think the country should be divided because even if there were devolution and a Conservative Government in the United Kingdom many matters would be governed by the Conservative majority in the United Kingdom. I wonder whether the noble Lord would then say that the Government had no mandate to govern Scotland or Wales. It is a dangerous trail for noble Lords to go down unless they wish to sign up for either the Welsh National Party or the Scottish National Party. Otherwise, they should not use that argument.
After devolution, the position will be different. Many important legislative matters will be devolved to the Scottish parliament, much more than to the Welsh assembly. The Government have rightly recognised that that was an inevitable consequence on the number of MPs represented in the other place who come from Scotland. They have agreed with that. I agree with them entirely and with subsection (4).
It seems to me that if subsection (4) is to come into play in five years' time, there is no argument against it coming into play almost as quickly as it can after the May elections. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, is not here. My understanding at the times when we have debated it in the past is that he and I agree entirely on it. I think I am right in saying that he believes that, as an immediate consequence of what happens next May, the number of Scottish seats should go down to 58.
Ministers will tell us that it takes the Boundary Commission much longer than 12 months. It need not. It could be done much more quickly. The commission could start now and be ready next May to put out its proposals. It could be that at the next general election for the UK the situation which the Government agree should pertain in the election after that would pertain from the next election on. It seems to me that if it is right for the future, it has to be right for the immediate future. I therefore support the amendment. A similar amendment was tabled in my name at an earlier stage but we were rather late in the evening to come to it and I thought that it should be discussed at a better time.
I cannot understand how the Government can say, "Yes, we are going to do this, but not yet". I cannot remember which saint had an expression about that, but one of them certainly had an expression about sin. The Government should not get into sin on this matter. If it is right that it should be done, it is best done as quickly as possible after the Scottish parliament comes into being. I am happy to support the amendment.
Viscount Thurso: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, referred to my noble friend Lord Steel, who is not in his place today for reasons to which the noble Lord has referred on previous occasions. It is absolutely true that my noble friend Lord Steel supports the thrust of the amendment and believes that we should move to 58 Members, or whatever the number will be, as soon as possible after the Scottish parliament has been created. However, one point has come up today on the Boundary Commission to which I should like briefly to refer. It comes very much from the previous amendment brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, on the percentage numbers. The point I wish to raise is the need for rules for the Boundary Commission to follow in order to achieve the result which I think noble Lords on all sides of the House would like to see achieved.
I am reminded of a saying in computing. It is GIGO--garbage in, garbage out. Therefore, if the rules governing the Boundary Commission are such that it is not permitted to come to the right result, it will never get there. The one element that is missing before such time as we can come to the right result is definitely the need to review the rules in respect of, particularly, the
Perhaps I may make one other point. The noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, had a spirited go at my noble friend. At one point I was slightly reminded of the ant climbing up the tail of the elephant, but I will go no further on that. The noble Earl is wrong in one regard. One point about Scotland is that there are large regional variations. If, as I do, you come from an area such as Caithness, you will know that the per capita income is considerably lower than in most other parts of the United Kingdom. Unemployment is considerably higher and the prospects for the future are not particularly good. Therefore, in many of the rural areas of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the noble Earl's point is simply not true.
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