§ Again considered in Committee.
§ Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
As I said, it has been suggested that one of the reasons for 364 this amendment was to avoid friction, but I think that the one way of creating friction is to not make clear on whose advice the decision should be made. It is certainly one or the other. If it is left up in the air the problem will not be resolved.
The hon. Member must be aware that there could be circumstances in which the British Government would want the election to be held as early as possible within the four months and the Executive in the Scottish Assembly, perhaps of a different political complexion, would want it held as late as possible. If we have this grand Lord High Commissioner, whose advice should he take? There will be political advice from both sides.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has made the point better than most of us. He said that the Secretary of State would be a political figure and would take the decision of the first election and the timing of subsequent elections before or after a Budget to get the maximum party advantage for his side. What relationship will that Secretary of State have in the subsequent years with an Assembly that feels that it has either triumphed over his politics or been defeated by them?
Is the hon. Gentleman saying, and is the object of his amendment to say, that the Assembly should determine the date of its own election—that it should be the Executive which decides this? That seems to be the implication of what he is saying. He is arguing for a self-governing Assembly with the Assembly Executive deciding the dates of its own elections. If that is what he is arguing for he should have the guts to table an amendment saying exactly that, and not come here to try to persuade members of the Committee that this is an amendment that has no consequences—that it refers only to formal powers, which do not matter. If he wants to say that the Executive should decide, in his amendment he should refer not to the Secretary of State for Scotland but to the Executive. He has not done that; he has tried to give the impression that this is a formal amendment and that it does not matter.
We also have the third question, which was hinted at by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who tried to 365 interrupt his hon. Friend, who was so discourteous to him that his hon. Friend asked who would be the great Lord High Commissioner, this respected person. The hon. Gentleman, knowing so much of Scotland, said that we had a Lord High Commissioner in the Church of Scotland —the very person. What he did not say was what kind of people have been Lord High Commissioners. The last one I saw was one of the most controversial ex-members of a Labour Cabinet, an active member of the Labour Cabinet when I was in the House of Commons. But she was not controversial as a Commissioner because she did not have controversial things to do as Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland.
I say to the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian that if he were to suggest for Lord High Commissioner a person who was an ex-Labour Cabinet Minister and if he were to suggest that that was the appropriate person to be non-political, I would not agree. Whom do we have as Commissioners? Generally we have people who have played a part in politics, or who are peers. I think that it is possible to find a non-controversial peer. Many of us can think of an ideal non-controversial peer. My noble Friend Lord Carrington is an obvious one who comes to mind. But there are many wild Left-wing fanatics, such as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who may be looking for a seat in the Scottish Assembly and who may regard any peer as someone who could not reach an objective decision when the interests of Socialism were involved.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Supposing one found a pure peer, how long would he remain pure? By his very actions he would become controversial.
That is the problem. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian said "Let's do the same as the Church of Scotland." The Lord High Commissioner in the Church of Scotland has a far different job to do. He does not decide whether the Church of Scotland General Assembly shall meet this year or next year, or whether an election for the Moderator shall be held this year or next month. He does not look at the wind, rain or Gallup Poll and decide. His is a far more limited job. Few people can do as he does, paying a courtesy call to 366 the Free Church General Assembly and the Church of Scotland General Assembly and being friendly with both. According to the hon. Gentleman, the Queen in Council will appoint this non-controver-sial person. That is not what I would suggest. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman gave no indication of the kind of person he had in mind.
The hon. Gentleman should be honest and tell us the purpose of this amendment. It is a paving amendment for his later amendments to take the Secretary of State entirely out of Scottish Assembly business, to have it as a self-governing and, I believe, self-financing Assembly. That is the kind of Parliament that the hon. Gentleman wants. If he had been clearer about what he intended—if he had said what his amendment was all about—we could have thrown it out in five minutes, but he tried to cover it with confusion, with lots of ideas that had nothing to do with the amendment.
The hon. Gentleman's real problem is that he has supported all kinds of new Parliaments. There was no more enthusiastic supporter of the European Parliament and direct elections, or of the idea of a Scottish Assembly. The hon. Gentleman will keep on proposing the creation of new Parliaments until he can find one in which his talents will be more appreciated than they are here. His amendment is dangerous and divisive. It will create friction, not abolish it. It is the kind of amendment that we should be careful about accepting in what is already a divisive Bill.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Milian)
In moving the amendment, my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) said that when the original White Paper on the devolution proposals was published there was a great deal of argument in Scotland about the rôle of the Secretary of State in relation to the Assembly. Although I agree with him on that, I do not recollect that that argument had much to do with the kind of matters covered in the amendments.
But it is true that between the two White Papers the Government made certain changes in the proposals for the Secretary of State's rôle after devolution. We shall later come to some of those important matters, such as the 367 Secretary of State's rôle in regard to Asembly Bills where there is a question of the vires of Bills or where there may be disagreements about compulsion and so on. Even on those matters there was certainly never any question, as far as I am aware, of any strong body of opinion in Scotland or anywhere else that we should solve any of these problems, if they are serious problems, by removing the Secretary of State and appointing a Commissioner of the sort recommended in the amendment.
I shall argue later that it is not true that we are dealing only with formal matters. But on the argument about friction it seems to me extraordinary that we should remove the Secretary of State from what are by definition formal matters but leave him involved in what are undoubtedly political matters, and potentially matters of friction, pretending that in doing so we should somehow remove a genuine or serious source of friction between the Secretary of State and the Assembly. It was odd to hear my hon. Friend argue that by removing some of the formal functions of the Secretary of State there would be a considerable gain in improving the general relationship between the Secretary of State and the Assembly.
I shall argue later that the particular matters covered by this series of amendments do have important political aspects. They are not purely formal or nonpolitical. But before coming to that, I want to refer to the Commissioner and to who should appoint him. Although, according to the amendment, the appointment would formally be made by the Queen, my hon. Friend recognised the reality of the situation because he said that the appointment would, in fact, be made by the Government. Of course, if one were to have such a Commissioner the appointment would be made by the Monarch on the advice of the Westminster Government. That alone would pose considerable difficulties if it were intended that the person appointed should be, by definition, completely impartial and non-political.
But there would be other difficulties in finding such an impartial and nonpolitical person. Nothing that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian or by those supporting 368 him was in the least bit convincing or persuasive as to how we could find someone who could fulfil the rôle provided for in the amendments. Even if we could find such a person there would be the question of upon whose advice he would act. This, as has been pointed out by a number of hon. Members, is one of the key questions that would arise if this group of amendments were accepted. If the Commissioner acted on the advice of the Assembly or the Scottish or Welsh Executives, that would be giving considerably increased powers to the Executives or to the Assemblies that would be more consistent with a federal arrangement or some other arrangement that would go beyond the devolutionary proposals of the Bill. I could not accept such a suggestion any more than the Government will be able to accept later amendments that would give an independent right of decision making about the dates of Assembly elections.
If, on the other hand, the Commissioner acted on the advice of the United Kingdom Government, one wonders whether there would be any substantial difference between having a Commissioner and allowing the Secretary of State to exercise the rôle at present provided for him in the Bill. Of course, if the unfortunate Commissioner had to take advice from both the Assembly and the Government and if he received conflicting advice, then, even if the matters involved were strictly formal, he would become involved in political controversy. It seems that the arguments in favour of appointing an independent Commissioner do not stand serious examination.
It is even worse than that. Although one hopes that many of the matters will not be politically controversial, there will be a considerable element of party politics about them. The date of the first election might be the subject of acute political controversy. I believe that that will not be so because the date will be related to the practicalities of holding the first election at a time of year that will be convenient for electioneering.
The matters dealt with in subsection (2) could be acutely controversial if the Secretary of State—in this instance, the 369 Commissioner if the amendment were accepted—exercised the power to vary the date of an election for whatever reason. That subsection is in the clause for good, practical reasons which are related to the United Kingdom Government's interest in a number of matters, including the possibility of a General Election in the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore, by definition, matters of potential political controversy are involved in subsection (2).
Moving through the other clauses to which the amendments relate. one can again see that, although it may be argued that on particular aspects we are dealing with a comparatively formal kind of procedure, considerable political elements are involved. It is completely fallacious and misleading to believe that any of the matters dealt with in this group of amendments could be divorced altogether from political controversy.
I do not believe that we could have a non-political Commissioner who would be able to act in such an area in a nonpolitical way. It seems to me to be utterly fallacious. For that reason alone, I do not believe that these amendments should be accepted.
The fact is that the two Secretaries of State exist. Under the provisions of the Bill, they are to have a continuing rôle in the post-devolution situation. As a matter of practical convenience as well as political reality, the person to exercise the functions under Clause 3—we can argue later whether these functions are adequately or sufficiently defined—is the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Secretary of State for Wales. It seems completely unnecessary to appoint some other individual to exercise functions which can be more effectively, satisfactorily and adequately dealt with by the respective Secretaries of State.
There is one other point which I want to make about the rôle of the Secretary of
§ State in this matter. If the Commissioner were appointed and if the rest of the clause stood as it is now—my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian has not suggested further amendments to it—he would be acting by order, and by order under subsection (4) which is subject to the parliamentary procedure.
§ It is a nonsense to believe that we could have an independent Commissioner who could, by order, be subject to the parliamentary procedure. Who would defend his actions in the House of Commons? Who would speak to the order? Who would deal with the practicalities of it in the House?
§ If we maintain a Secretary of State and readily admit that there are political aspects in the actions which have to be taken by him, it is proper—the Government would argue that it is highly desirable and necessary—that the actions of the Secretary of State, which will have political elements in them, should and can be subject to scrutiny by Parliament. That is why we have subsection (4) in Clause 3 and similar subsections in other clauses dealt with by this series of amendments.
§ By retaining the Secretary of State, we provide an opportunity not only for parliamentary control but for Parliament to attempt to make sure that he acts not in a wholly capricious way, nor in a way which is motivated by party political advantage, but in a way which has some regard to the realities of the situation and to the interests of the Assembly and the Scottish Executive itself.
§ For these various reasons, because I do not believe that the argument for the amendment has been made out, I invite the Committee to reject the amendment.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 26, Noes 293.373
|Division No. 53.]||AYES||[10.20 p.m.|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Beith, A. J.||Kilfedder, James||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Crawford, Douglas||MacCormick, lain||Thompson, George|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Mackintosh, John P.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Pardoe, John||Watt, Hamish|
|Freud, Clement||Penhaligon, David||Welsh, Andrew|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J,||Reid, George|
|Henderson, Douglas||Robertson, John (Paisley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Mr. Gordon Wilson and|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Sillars, James||Mr. Dafydd Wigley.|
|Abse, Leo||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||MacKenzie, Gregor|
|Allaun, Frank||Faulds, Andrew||Maclennan, Robert|
|Anderson, Donald||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Archer, Peter||Flannery, Martin||McNamara, Kevin|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Madden, Max|
|Ashton, Joe||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Magee, Bryan|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mahon, Simon|
|Atkinson, Norman||Ford, Ben||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Forrester, John||Marks, Kenneth|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Bean, R. E.||Freeson, Reginald||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Bell, Ronald||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mawby, Ray|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||George, Bruce||Meacher, Michael|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gilbert, Dr John||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ginsburg, David||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Golding, John||Mikardo, Ian|
|Boardman, H.||Gould, Bryan||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Gourlay, Harry||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Bradley, Tom||Graham, Ted||Molloy, William|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Molyneaux, James|
|Brotherton, Michael||Grant, John (Islington C)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Grist, Ian||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Grocott, Bruce||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hardy, Peter||Moyle, Roland|
|Budgen, Nick||Harper, Joseph||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Newens, Stanley|
|Campbell, Ian||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Noble, Mike|
|Canavan, Dennis||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Oakes, Gordon|
|Cant, R. B.||Heffer, Eric S.||Ogden, Eric|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hooley, Frank||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Carson, John||Horam, John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Carter, Ray||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Huckfield, Les||Ovenden, John|
|Cartwright, John||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Padley, Walter|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hunter, Adam||Park, George|
|Coleman, Donald||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Parry, Robert|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Pendry, Tom|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Perry, Ernest|
|Corbett, Robin||Janner, Greville||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Cowans, Harry||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Cronin, John||John, Brynmor||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Judd, Frank||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kaufman, Gerald||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Kelley, Richard||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Kerr, Russell||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Kinnock, Neil||Rooker, J. W.|
|Deakins, Eric||Lambie, David||Roper, John|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Lamborn, Harry||Rose, Paul B.|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Lamond, James||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Rowlands, Ted|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, John||Sandelson, Neville|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Duffy. A. E. P.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Dunlop, John||Lipton, Marcus||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Dunn, James A.||Loyden, Eddie||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Dunnett, Jack||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Silverman, Julius|
|Edge, Geoff||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Skinner, Dennis|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||McCartney, Hugh||Small, William|
|Ellis, Tom (W exham)||McCusker, H.||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|English, Michael||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Spearing, Nigel|
|Ennals, David||McElhone, Frank||Spence, John|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Tomney, Frank||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Torney, Tom||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Stoddart, David||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Stott, Roger||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Strang, Gavin||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Ward, Michael||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Swain, Thomas||Watkins, David||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Watkinson, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Weetch, Ken||Woof, Robert|
|Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Weitzman, David||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Wellbeloved, James||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Tierney, Sydney||White, James (Pollok)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tinn, James||Whitehead, Phillip||Mr. Alf, Bates and|
|Tomlinson, John||Whitlock, William||Mr. Peter Snape.|
|Question accordingly negatived.|
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
I beg to move Amendment No. 575, in page 2, line 13, after "State", insertprovided that if a Speaker's Conference appointed in accordance with the provisions of section (Speaker's Conference) of this Act has made any recommendation before 1st January 1978, no day earlier than days after the acceptance or rejection of such recommendation by resolution of the House of Commons shall be so appointed".