§ Mr. Sproat
I beg to move Amendment No. 384, in page 46, leave out line 21.
This is a probing amendment. I do not believe that it is the intention of my right hon. and hon. Friends to press it to a Division unless some new unexpected horror is displayed, as has happened so often in the past. We have often started with the mildest gentleness only to be suddenly confronted with a new monster in our path. Assuming that no such monster lurks in this schedule, we shall not press the amendment. I apologise to the Minister if I have to leave the Chamber before the end of the debate.
Our purpose is to discover from the Minister the precise safeguards from interference by a Scottish Assembly with institutions incorporated under Royal Charter. Will the Minister spell out exactly how the Crown's consent will be exercised? We have had one or two interesting debates, which were extremely 1186 difficult to follow, in which we sought to discover exactly how the chain of consent will operate. In this case I am not suggesting tacitly or implicitly that there is anything peculiar but I should like the Minister to spell out the situation.
Why is it felt necessary to deal with the provision in this particular manner? Why is it not included in Schedule 10(2), for instance, since that schedule deals with referred powers?
When one examines the schedule, one cannot help being struck by the remarkable number of bodies in Scotland that are incorporated under Royal Charter and which are opposed to this Bill root and branch. They are opposed to the Government's plans for a Scottish Assembly as set out in the Bill. They are also opposed to any plans for a similar Scottish Assembly. They are particularly keen to know what safeguards there are in the Bill to protect their position. They have made it publicly known that they are opposed to what the Government are doing and they fear that they might incur the wrath of any future Scottish Assembly.
Whichever public opinion poll one studies, one sees that there is a falling away of support for a Scottish Assembly. Each poll shows a different level of support. One of the reasons for the diminishing support is that each of the Scottish institutions which studies the Bill comes to the conclusion that it will affect them ill. The opposition to a Scottish Assembly which began in the institutions will spread to individuals. The shift from support for an Assembly will grow.
Four vital pillars of Scottish life contain institutions incorporated under Royal Charter. I shall mention only these four, because they have made representations to me and my colleagues at various times and in different ways. The first is medicine. Among the medical institutions incorporated under Royal Charter are the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Royal Blind Asylum. Only yesterday there appeared in the Scotsman the following report:All branches of the medical profession in Scotland have come out against further devolution in health matters.… This was claimed yesterday by Mr. James Kyle, chairman of the devolution group of the Scottish Council of the BMA, who said the profession believed that administrative devolution would not be to the advantage of medicine.… Scottish doctors did not think the Scotland Rill would bring 1187 any improvement to health care in Scotland.… Moreover, the interference "—we come back to that word again and again—of a Scottish Assembly could well delay progress in the health field.Naturally, those incorporaed under Royal Charter are extremely keen to know exactly what safeguards they have against precisely the interference that they fear and that described by Mr. Kyle.
The second pillar is education. All four new Scottish universities—Stirling, Heriot Watt, Strathclyde and Dundee—are incorporated under Royal Charter, as are the Educational Institute of Scotland and a number of other bodies, ranging from Dundee High School to the Royal Zoological Society. The Scottish vice-chancellors made clear as long ago as 1974 that they were totally against any devolved powers over university education and against a separate Scottish University Grants Committee. They have reaffirmed that position again and again, as first the Scotland and Wales Bill and now this Bill have wended their weary way through the House. In 1975 the Association of University Teachers also made clear where it stood, making a strong plea for university autonomy, for universities not to be put under the control of a Scottish Assembly.
Another pillar is banking, a typical pillar of Scottish life in so far as it sums up and contains so many of the qualities, traditions and characteristics that we are proud to think of as particularly Scottish. The Royal Bank of Scotland, the Institute of Bankers and the Faculty of Actuaries all have Royal charters, and are naturally concerned about exactly what safeguards they will have under the schedule. Although for various political reasons the banks have understandably not come out publicly and jointly as saying they oppose the Bill, I think that it is common knowledge, and would be accepted even on the Government Front Bench, that the banks in Scotland are against a Scottish Assembly.
Another very important pillar in the life of Scotland is business and commerce. The CBI is incorporated under Royal Charter. I emphasise that not only is the CBI in the United Kingdom as a 1188 whole totally opposed to this Bill and the Wales Bill but the CBI in Scotland is totally opposed to the Bill and any Bill like it. Indeed, the Chairman of the CBI said in a speech the other day that nothing but interference and extra cost could come from the Bill and from any Bill like it. The CBI might be taken to represent only the big battalions of business, but the chambers of commerce are also opposed to the Bill. Every chamber of commerce in Scotland has come out against it. Not all chambers of commerce are under Royal charter, but Leith and Glasgow are, and no doubt there are others. Only last week the President of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce said:We must view the prospects of a disruptive and divisive directly elected Assembly, which everyone expects as a real prospect, with utmost alarm, both for the sake of our businesses and for the sake of the community as a whole. It is for this and so many other reasons that this Chamber has once again joined with all the other Chambers of Commerce in Scotland and with the CBI in declaring "—I hope that the Minister will note these words—its unremitting and wholehearted opposition to the enactment of the measure before Parliament.There is no way in which one can indicate one's opposition more strongly than the CBI, the chambers of commerce and the three other pillars of life in Scotland have. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance on the matter and spell out exactly how the position of those bodies that I have mentioned will be protected. Perhaps he could also say whether there are any implications for local government because of the Royal charters of Royal Burghs, or whether that has all been swept aside in the past. I admit that I do not know the implications, but doubts and queries have been expressed.
The main point is to assure all the influential and powerful bodies that I have mentioned, particularly those opposed to a separate Scottish Assembly, that their rights would be protected if any such Assembly ever came into being.
§ Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) missed out some pillars of Scottish life such as the Church of Scotland, which is not unimportant, and the 1189 Scottish TUC, which also is not an unimportant organisation.
§ Mr. Sillars
We all know that, but the hon. Gentleman could have mentioned them in passing, and he neglected to do so.
The hon. Gentleman also neglected to point out that under the Bill the universities are not devolved. Therefore, I wonder exactly what they are complaining about. Later in our consideration of the Bill there will be considerable complaints from hon. Members in various parts of the Committee who wonder why the universities are not devolved. One of the most insulting reasons given by some people in the universities is that they do not believe that the Scots are capable of handling a university system without infringing academic ability or academic freedom. But that is an argument for a later stage.
I can well understand the anxiety of the Institute of Bankers and business and commerce generally to prevent the establishment of a Scottish Assembly, which will one day lead to a Scottish Parliament. Through that medium, they will become for the first time ever responsible to the people of Scotland for their day-to-day conduct of our financial, business and commercial affairs The day when Charlotte Square is brought under the scrutiny of a Scottish Parliament is one that a number of folk in business and commerce do not want to see, but it will be welcomed by the ordinary working people of Scotland.
Those in the business and commercial sector exhibit the symptoms of an old Scots disease which may be mentioned after 11 p.m. tonight—a lack of self-confidence. Our business men do not believe that if they are stood on their own feet in the Scottish context they will be able to manage as they do now under the patronage and tutelage of people in the Westminster setting. They might be surprised by their own ability at the end of the day.
I find what the hon. Gentleman said about Scottish medicine the most interesting thing of all. His quotation did not really lend weight to his argument but simply illustrated total ignorance of the Health Service on the part of the man 1190 he quoted, because we already have administrative devolution in the Scottish Health Service and we have had it since the establishment of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. I would argue with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South or with any member of the British Medical Association that that has been to the considerable advantage of the Scottish community.
In passing, I might say that, if the hon. Gentleman has an opportunity to reply at the end of this debate, I hope he will say why Scottish members of the BMA feel as strongly as he suggests when they insist on having a Scottish Council of the BMA within the BMA in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Sproat
I did not say, and neither did Mr. Kyle, that he was against administrative devolution. He said that he was against further administrative devolution.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Sillars
There will be no further administrative devolution. It will be further legislative devolution. The future administration of the Scottish Health Service will be determined in Scotland in future as it has been in the past.
Still on the subject of the Scottish Health Service, when the hospital service was established there were quite distinct characteristics north of the border from those in the South. North of the border, because of the historical commitment of the teaching hospitals to the community, we had no such bodies as boards of management for teaching hospitals. The hospitals were part and parcel of the board of management set-up, which redounded to the benefit of the people of Scotland. It meant that the centres of excellence were not elitist centres and were in touch with community medicine. More importantly, community medicine could as of right within the same group call upon their expertise, which meant that relationships were built up between the best consultants and people who regarded themselves as ordinary consultants in the Health Service.
That is not the case south of the border, where, because of a different pattern of development, different thoughts and different attitudes, there are teaching hospital boards of management distinctly different from other hospital boards of management. We therefore have evidence 1191 before us already that administrative devolution in the Health Service can be to the benefit of the Scottish people, and that will be so in the future as well.
If that is the best argument that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South and the Scottish Council of the BMA can put up against devolution, I anticipate the "Yes" vote rising increasingly as more and more representatives of the council appear on television to tell us that they cannot do this and that they cannot do that when they have been doing it for a number of years.
On the other hand, if my hon. Friend the Minister of State had come forward on the Bill and said that in the general administrative reshuffle in the United Kingdom the Government were doing away with administrative devolution in Scotland in the Health Service and putting it into the United Kingdom as a whole, there would have been blue murder at every meeting of general practitioners, hospital consultants, hospital boards of management and all the rest. They know that they are on to a good thing.
We have a fairly good Health Service at the moment. The great difficulty in it is that it is not accountable in public terms on a day-to-day or year-to-year basis because people are appointed and not elected. It may be that one of the anxieties of some people in the medical profession is that, once a Scottish Assembly is established in Edinburgh, it may think of making the Health Service a democratic organisation in which people who formulate policy may be required to be elected. It may be that the Scottish Assembly would say that the health function should return to the local authorities, as it was before the war, or it might decide to do something different.
But that is not a reason for not proceeding. The potential for the democratisation of the Health Service in a Scottish form operating on a policy prescribed by a Scottish Assembly is one of the better reasons for supporting this Part of the Bill.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I wish to raise a question concerning the Scottish universities. As I understand it from the title of Schedule 6, it is 1192 envisaged that there will be provisions in Assembly Bills which affect the provisions of Royal charters.
It is not my concern to argue whether the universities should be devolved. My own view is that, if we are to have this type of devolution at all, we ought to devolve the universities along with the rest of education. However, we have not done so.
As the Committee knows, there are two types of university in Scotland. There are the four universities to which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) referred, established under Royal charter. There are four older ones, each of which was established in different circumstances and in a rather complicated manner.
The University of St. Andrews, in the town in which I was born, was originally founded by a charter from the archbishop. That was confirmed by a papal bull but, unfortunately, from the Pope in Avignon, whose powers were disputed. The university was turned upside down in the reformation of the Scottish Parliament, which then virtually abolished the powers of rector somewhat later in that century—in my view, as a former rector, a mistake. It was reformed again in 1689 and eventually, after a prolonged commission of the Scottish universities, it acts largely today under an Act of this Parliament. Unless one goes back to its very first stages of the archiepiscopal charter, it has never had a charter.
The other three old Scottish universities are in roughly the same position. Their powers today are due largely to an early nineteenth century Act of Parliament.
As I understand it, if a university feels that some provisions in an Assembly Bill go beyond the powers which have been devolved and affect it, it has certain remedies under earlier clauses of the Bill. This schedule clearly envisages that this might happen, and we have discussed what happens if it is considered that the Assembly goes outside its powers.
My first question is, what steps does a university take? If it is one of the universities whose powers flow from a charter, who is to deal with the matter? When it says that it requires the Crown's consent, how is that sought and how will it be discharged?
1193 As for the older universities, I understand that that line of objection or question to an Assembly Bill is not open to them. They have no charters and, therefore, the provisions of any such Bill could not affect a Royal charter and it would not arise. So they would be left with the earlier provisions in the Bill and would have to rely upon the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think that this may happen.
It is fairly clear that what happens in Scottish education generally will also affect the universities. We have also heard mention of medicine in this connection. The development of Scottish medicine might well affect university teaching. One can think of many other areas in which provisions properly devolved to the Scottish Assembly might affect the universities.
It appears that the new universities will have two lines on which they may question the powers of the Assembly. The first is when a matter affects their charters. The second is that they may in appropriate cases question whether any proposal is within the powers of the Scottish Assembly. But the older Scottish universities which have no charters will have to rely upon the Secretary of State for Scotland or someone else. They are not devolved—wrongly, in my opinion. Who is to look after them? Who will deal with questions where their teaching could well be affected by changes in Scotland arising from actions of the Scottish Assembly?
This seems to be a proper Committee point. I am not disputing the fundamental functions of the Bill. I merely ask for clarification on this point because I think it is important for those who run these institutions that they should be quite clear where they stand.
§ Mc. Dalyell
The guillotine window is extremely small, and there are other very important clauses to discuss. So I shall confine myself to two questions.
First, the answer to this debate will be given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland responsible for health matters. It is fair to ask him, in the light of the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Mr. Sproat), and in the light of my point of order at the beginning of our proceedings, precisely what the Government say when Mr. 1194 Kyle, a distinguished Aberdeen consultant, speaks on behalf of the Royal charter institutions and says all that he has against devolution. When the doctors come out as strongly as they have done, and when their unease has been known for a long time, the Government cannot shrug their shoulders and say "Oh well, it is just them".
§ Mr. Sillars
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the same type of people came out against the establishment of the NHS, and does he agree that too much weight should not be given to the political views of doctors?
§ Mr. Dalyell
I read the distinguished biography of Aneurin Bevan, Volume 2, by the Lord President of the Council. It shows that Aneurin Bevan went to great lengths and was involved in endless discussions with representatives of the doctors in 1947 and 1948. It was out of those discussions, and not out of a guillotine situation, that the National Health Service emerged. I must tell my hon. Friend that he is not on a very good point there.
My second question concerns universities. It is true that they are not devolved, but can anyone imagine that if an Assembly is set up, the Assemblymen and the Assemblywomen will not want to get their claws on the universities? Within months they will say that to have a coherent Scottish education system they must have control over the universities. I see the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) assenting to that. If he is a member of the Assembly he will lead the campaign for control of the Scotttish universities. Do not let the universities, the vice-chancellor or anybody in the universities delude themselves. If the Assembly is ever established none of the safeguards that we are supposed to be discussing have a hope of coming into operation.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
I cannot understand the drift of this debate. As far as I can see, the amendment is a procedural one referring to the ability of the Scottish Assembly to alter the conditions affecting institutions that might have a Royal charter. The suggestion is that paragraph 5 of the schedule should be taken out. If there is to be any argument, it should be on the powers of the Assembly and what is to be devolved 1195 and what is not in relation to Schedule 10, but not in relation to Schedule 6. We are making a mountain out of a molehill, and for once I agree with the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that there are many more important matters in the Bill than this amendment that require our attention.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I, too, have one or two questions to put to the Minister which I hope he will be able to answer, because, as n-:y hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, this is a probing amendment.
Perhaps the Minister can say why we are prescribing the standing orders of the Scottish Assembly. One would have thought that one of the basic things that the Assembly ought to do is to arrange its own standing orders. I conclude that the reason why we are prescribing these standing orders is that we want to keep them out of certain sensitive areas. The sensitive areas are well illustrated in Schedule 6 and include, in paragraph 5,Any provision affecting the provision of a Royal Charter.In effect, what we are saying is that in spite of the provisions of Schedule 10, which set out what the Assembly may and may not do, we must go further and prescribe these standing orders in some detail to keep them out of certain "no go" areas which are set out in Schedule 6. One isAny provision affecting the Crown in its private capacity.I am sure that the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) will be interested in that one. Then there is the provision affecting laws authorising or requiring the withholding of any document or refusal to answer. There is a reference to property of the Crown. There is a provision about imposing duties on members of the Armed Forces—questions of the fire service strike and so on. In paragraph 5 there is a reference to the provisions of a Royal charter. I hope that the Minister will tell us why, if his view that the Bill will provide the Scottish Assembly with genuine devolved powers is correct, the House of Commons needs to prescribe its Standing Orders.
I now turn specifically to paragraph 5 of Schedule 6. My hon. Friend the 1196 Member for Aberdeen, South said that there were four pillars of Scottish life that were covered by Royal charter. I should like to add a fifth, and that is sport. I had some responsibility for this when I was Minister for Sport—whatever that extraordinary title means—in the previous Conservative Administration. I think it is right to recall to the Committee that sport in Scotland, as in England, was set up under a Royal charter which the Government of which I was a member brought in specifically to separate sport from politics.
We decided at that time that the situation in which a Minister sat in the chair and ladled out grants, often on political grounds, to individual local authorities—I remember noticing that the money was often provided to rather marginal Labour areas—was wholly wrong. We decided that we should get the Minister out of the chair of the Sports Council and replace him with an independent sporting figure so that the moneys made available by the Government for sport were dispensed by an independent council of sportsmen and sports administrators rather than handled as a sort of political slush fund by political Ministers.
I think that that was a good decision, and it has been welcomed in the sporting community. Above all, it has been welcomed in Scotland, and there are few nations in the world—here I pay my tribute to Scotland—that are more keenly sporting than the Scots. We might tonight pay tribute to them for having got into the next round of the World Cup whereas the English team has not done so, and they have done it largely because of the number of Anglo-Scots who might find themselves on the wrong side of the border in the future that we survey.
A Sports Council was set up for England and Wales, and another separately for Scotland, under a Royal charter. I had a good deal to do with procuring that Royal charter. It is never easy to get a Royal charter. It is not something that Ministers can just set up. It has to be worked out very carefully, and it must have the consent of the Queen.
Let us suppose that the Scottish Assembly wished to change, in one way or another, the Royal charter setting up the 1197 Sports Council for Scotland. Is it the case that, as a result of the limitation in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6, the Scottish Assembly would not be able to touch that Royal charter for Scottish sport? I believe it must be right to prevent that Royal charter from being amended or changed in any way by the Scottish Assembly.
However, I should like a further assurance because of the way in which the paragraph and the schedule are written. If a Minister of the Crown wished to change the independent Scottish Sports Council back to a political creature, with himself in the chair and once again with his hands in the business of handing out grants, all that he would need to do, if I read the Bill correctly, would be to have a word with his friends in the Scottish Assembly and with the Scottish Secretary, and he would put up a proposal to amend the Royal charter to remove its independent character. Given that the Secretary of State consented to that change and so advised Her Majesty, it would take place. It would take place, as far as I can make out, without any action of the House of Commons and without any accountability to the House of Commons.
Perhaps I should take the Minister through the steps very simply, because this could happen. A Minister of a Conservative or a Labour Government might decide that he wished to change the independent Scottish Sports Council established under Royal charter back to a political body. He would simply telephone his friends in Edinburgh, and the Scottish Assembly would put up that proposal. The Secretary of State would then give his consent and would so advise the Queen. Then it would happen. It would be done.
I do not believe that it would serve Scottish sport, English sport or any other sport well if the Royal charter establishing an independent Sports Council could be changed in that way. I hope that the Minister will be able to give categorical assurances that the independent Royal charter Sports Councils cannot be changed by the back door in the manner that by my reading the Bill makes possible.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, this is a probing 1198 amendment and, in the interests of saving time, because there are many other matters that we want to get on to before 8 o'clock, I want to raise only one point. It is a point that I could have raised equally well either on Schedule 6 or on Clause 24, but I wish to do it at this point to save time.
I cannot understand why the Government have chosen the method of laying down these provisions by means of an instruction that the standing orders of the Assembly should provide for them. It would have been much simpler and much clearer and, as I will show shortly, more effective but certaintly as effective if the Government had just laid down that these provisions had to take effect without specifying that they should be written in the standing orders. Amendments Nos. 420 and 421 to Clause 24, page 12, were aimed at amending Clause 24 with that object in view. If we instruct the Scottish Assembly so to draw its standing orders that these exclusions are made it will work all right but it will be a clumsy way of doing it. It would have been much simpler to lay down that these exclusions shall be made.
A more fundamental objection is this. Would the Minister care to consider what would happen if the Scottish Assembly decided to suspend standing orders at some point in the proceedings which it would be entitled to do just as the House of Commons is entitled to do? If the Scottish Assembly decided to suspend standing orders, all the exclusions which the Minister is writing into the Bill because they are necessary would become non-operative. This is a fundamental objection to this method of proceeding, by instructing that it should be written into the Assembly's standing orders.
I should like the Minister, unless he has a good answer today, to consider the matter carefully between now and a later stage because I do not think that what he is trying to do in this clause and schedule will work if the Assembly has the right to suspend standing orders, as such an assembly obviously would have. What would happen to the schedule and its associated clause if the Assembly suspended standing orders?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) 1199 said, this is a probing amendment. Perhaps it is just as well that it is, because if it were passed it would give the Assembly the power that the Opposition, I understand, do not want it to have. If passed, it would empower the Assembly to interfere with Royal charters and the bodies constituted thereunder. So perhaps it is just as well that this is a probing amendment.
The position at present, and, as we see it, the position as it will be in future, is that a body established under Royal charter and wishing to have changes made to its charter normally applies to the Privy Council. It is very seldom, if ever, that Parliament itself has brought about changes in a charter body or in a charter itself. It normally works the other way round, that the body concerned makes approaches to the Privy Council and, based on those approaches, the changes are then made by agreement with the body because the approach comes from it in the first place.
It is envisaged that this position will continue once the Assembly is in being. In other words, Royal charter bodies which are established in Scotland would, by the same token, make application to or have discussions with the Assembly if they wanted changes in the charter and then the changes would be recommended but would come to the Secretary of State for Scotland because, as we have said so often throughout this Committee stage, there is no direct link with the Monarch and therefore it has to be done through the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The position at present is quite clear. It is a position that certainly we expect to continue in the future. The safeguard is that any changes that are made in Royal charters must come to the Secretary of State whoever he or she may be at that time. So the safeguard that the House of Commons is asking for is included in the statement that I have just made.
I will deal briefly with one or two specific points that were raised. Much was said about the universities. It goes without saying that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, in particular, who I accept cannot be with us at present, was arguing against a proposition that is not contained in the Bill. As my hon. Friend 1200 the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) said, that is a matter for debate on another occasion but it is certainly not one for the moment. That is not a criticism, but obviously as the Bill is set out there is no provision and no proposal to devolve universities. This takes in the point made by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Because there is no provision to devolve universities, if a university established under a Royal charter were to have its Royal charter changed by the Assembly in a way that we do not envisage, equally the safeguard would be that the matter would have to come to the Secretary of State whoever he or she may be at that time.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Of course my hon. Friend is quite correct in what he says as at the present time, but does he realise that some of us take the view, rightly or wrongly, that if the Assembly is established inevitably there will be an irresistible demand from the Assembly men to get their clutches on the universities?
§ Mr. Ewing
What we are talking about is an Act of Parliament. Any extension of the powers contained in this or any other Act is a matter for the House of Commons. However much my hon. Friend may claim that the Assembly would want to get its claws, as he puts it, on the universities, eventually it is a matter for the House of Commons to resolve. That is exactly the safeguard that I have been explaining.
Much was said about the Health Service in Scotland. I do not intend to dwell on this issue too long but, as has been pointed out, I deal with the Health Service in Scotland as well as devolution. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire said, from his knowledge of the Health Service, that we have a different structure in Scotland. The Health Service in Scotland is not organised on the same basis as the Health Service in England and Wales. We did not accept the advice that was given by the McKinsey study team that was accepted here in England and Wales.
Our Health Service is based on a one-tier structure. Indeed, when it came to implementation of consultants' contracts and junior consultants' contracts as they were implemented some 18 months ago, the health boards in Scotland negotiated 1201 their own arrangements with consultants in Scotland. There is a whole range of differences between the Health Service in Scotland and the Health Service in England and Wales. Although I do not deny that the professions in the Health Service are against devolution, with great respect the professions—I deal with them closely and have a good friendship with them—do not speak for the trade unions in the Health Service.
I doubt whether some of the views expressed by those who have taken part in the debate represent the views of the Confederation of Health Service Employees or of the National Union of Public Employees or any of the other trade unions involved in the Health Service in Scotland. It would be wrong to give the impression that the view expressed on Monday was a unanimous view. There are other views.
§ Mr. Sillars
In any representations that my hon. Friend has had from people in the medical profession, has he ever been given any substantial reasons why there should be any deterioration in the standard of care after devolution compared with the present situation?
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ewing
I should have to think long and hard about any good substantial reason given to me by the profession why the standard of care would decline following the establishment of an Assembly. I seriously doubt whether that would be part of the profession's argument. In many ways the standard of care is just as much in the hands of the profession as it is in the hands of the politicians.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Does the Minister accept that two arguments are being advanced? The first, in the context of the block grant, is that the same priority might not be given to health because of the problems and pressures associated with such things as housing in Glasgow. Secondly, bearing in mind that Scotland receives 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. more per head on devolved services than England and Wales, there is real concern that this happy situation might not continue if the block grant had to be separately identified.
§ Mr. Ewing
The hon. Gentleman has raised two points. What the hon. Gentleman calls the block grant is based, first, 1202 on negotiation, and, secondly, on need. It is not necessarily the case that the figures he used in his intervention would not apply during the negotiations. That is a matter for negotiation at that time.
On the question of the Assembly deciding its priorities, that is what devolution is about. There is no point in hedging on this subject. That is why I say so often that on the day an Assembly election takes place the politics of Scotland will be transformed. I hope that hon. Members opposite are listening carefully to this. When the elections take place the SNP will no longer be able to campaign on slogans. It will have to say where it stands on issues such as the Health Service, education and housing. The SNP has not had to say this up till now. It has got away with not saying it. But on the day when elections are held these issues will come sharply into focus and no party will be able to get away—as the SNP has done—with failing to say where it stands on various issues that concern the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
The Minister is making a political point. Does he agree that we have published the policies that we advocate on housing, health and matters of that sort? Whether or not he agrees with them, we have come into the fray in preparation for Assembly elections in the same way as the Labour Party and the Scottish Labour Party. It is only from the Conservative Party that there has been a deafening silence.
§ Mr. Ewing
The policies that are published appear to differ in each part of the country. If it is the policy of the SNP that the Health Service in Scotland should be run by a health commission made up of the profession, not only am I sure that the House of Commons and the Assembly and the people of Scotland will reject it but I think that the SNP may well pay very dear for that kind of policy.
§ Mr. Dalyell
May I make a constructive suggestion? Will my hon. Friend reread pages 102 to 218 of the great book on Aneurin Bevan written by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House? My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) raised questions about the setting up of the Health Service. Will my hon. Friend the Minister 1203 read how these detailed discussions took place in the past? If that analogy is to be made, it behoves my hon. Friend to talk seriously over the Christmas Recess to the doctors about their very real worries and make a statement to the House in the New Year about the results of these discussions. This is not something that can be dismissed lightly. They are real worries, although I shall not go into them now. Discussions ought to take place.
§ Mr. Ewing
All I can say to my hon. Friend is that whenever anyone refers to Aneurin Bevan, the phrase that always comes to my mind is "familiar echoes from the past". We have had familiar echoes from my hon. Friend during these debates. However, I shall have a second look at the book and at the discussions which took place before the establishment of the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
To reassure the medical profession, can the Minister give a simple assurance that if the Assembly comes into effect when the block grant has been fixed, the extra per head of the population given to Scotland for devolved services will not in any way be reduced from the present level of 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. more?
§ Mr. Ewing
I cannot even give an assurance that the amount will not be reduced next year, let alone an assurance about what will happen when the Assembly comes into being. I think that the hon. Member understands that very well and realises that this is not a sensible point.
I wish now to answer other points which have been put to me. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire referred to the debate being about whether the people of Scotland had confidence in their ability to administer their own affairs. My hon. Friend and I have been partners in the devolution issue for some time now, but I do not think that I can agree with him on that score. There is no doubt about the self-confidence of the people of Scotland. We see it all over the world, and, as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) generously pointed out, we saw it on the football field. The debate is not about that issue, and it devalues a debate on devolution to go into that aspect because it does not really exist.
1204 I have answered most of the points put to me—
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I hope that the Minister will not fail to deal with the question about the Royal charter on the Sports Council, which is of great importance to people outside the House.
§ Mr. Ewing
That is no different from the question about the Royal charter on the other bodies in Scotland which are set up on that basis. I felt that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds was dreaming up conspiracies which will never materialise. He was posing the proposition that in years to come some devious Secretary of State might want to return the Sports Council to the status of a political body, and that therefore the initiative would come from the Secretary of State. I do not believe that that position will prevail. Furthermore, it is a hypothetical situation. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that we cannot become involved in such so-called conspiracies and hypothetical situations. There is no apparent reason why such a situation should prevail.
The Government have been in power since February 1974 and no attempt has been made to do any such thing. The previous Government set up the Royal charter. That therefore takes care of the two main political parties. If I am confident of anything, I am confident that we shall never have an SNP Secretary of State for Scotland. The initiative will therefore not come from that direction. If the Liberals were to provide the Secretary of State for Scotland, I doubt whether an initiative would ever come from them. I therefore do not know what keeps the hon. Member awake at night, but it seems that he is about to tell me.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Indeed I am. The hon. Gentleman should take this point more seriously. The current Minister who is responsible for sport has said expressly that he wishes to change the Royal charter so that the Minister can resume his position of political leadership within the Sports Council. That point is on record, and the Under-Secretary should take it seriously.
The question that I and many other people want the hon. Gentleman to answer is this. If a Minister sought to resume his political place on the Sports 1205 Council and to use its funds basically for political rather than sporting reasons, could he not, as the Bill stands, arrange for that change to be proposed in the Scottish Assembly, and consented to by the Secretary of State for Scotland? Admittedly the Privy Council could determine the matter as it wished, but we know that if the Government of the day strongly recommend a course of action it will be accepted by the Privy Council. I believe that that could happen, and I say that with some experience.
I hope that the Minister will not make light of this matter and suggest that it is a hypothetical situation. I say that it is a real situation.
§ Mr. Ewing
This Bill deals with what the Assembly can do. The hon. Gentleman has moved on to what he thinks the Secretary of State in the United Kingdom Government would do. That is not what the Bill is about. It would be better if I restricted myself to what the Bill is about rather than become involved in imaginary situations that might or might not arise.
I turn to the question of the standing orders. Of course the Secretary of State could stop any Bill if there was an attempt to avoid obtaining his consent through the suspension of standing orders. There are therefore safeguards in that mechanism as well.
This has been a short but important debate and the Committee need not be concerned—I do not say that lightly or with any irreverence to those who have spoken in the debate—about the aspect dealt with in the schedule. The schedule deals specifically with those issues which require Crown consent, and that is why the matter is not covered in Schedule 10.
§ Mr. Younger
I hope that the Under-Secretary will not completely shut his mind to the possibility of a fresh look at the method of dealing by standing orders with the issue I referred to. I accept that the Secretary of State can in effect veto a Bill if it is wrong, but I hope that he and his officials will look hard at this matter because the way in which the Minister proposes to deal with it is nonsense. He could deal with it much more effectively if he deleted the provisions about standing orders and inserted 1206 straight-forward measures in the Bill instead.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Schedule 6 agreed to.