§ 6. Mr. Trimble
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has received any representations concerning the Scottish Constitutional Convention; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Trimble
The Minister may agree that devolution on a purely Scottish basis might be divisive within the kingdom. However, does he also accept that the existence of the convention shows that there is a wide desire for reform which is not confined solely to Scotland? Will he consider reforming the government of the regions on a United Kingdom basis as that would have the advantage of enabling the Government to apply within the United Kingdom the principle of subsidiarity to which they appeal in their relationship with Europe? It would allow an effective devolution of powers to local authorities and regions.
§ Mr. Lang
Surely it is a strength of our present constitutional arrangements that, with separate territorial departments, the Government can address the different problems of each part of the United Kingdom in different ways. It is not for me to comment on the position in Northern Ireland. However, in Scotland the interest in devolution is considerably exaggerated by those who 279 support it. During the general election the interest in devolution rose from 2 per cent. at the beginning of the campaign to 4 per cent. at the end.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the convention has concluded its deliberations, we can now look at the details? As with all constitutional change, Parliament takes an interest when the details are known. Any proposals that cannot and will not go through this Parliament because they do not receive a majority in the House have no hope of being adopted. Any hon. Member who supports such proposals is either supporting fraud or is fraudulent.
§ Mr. Lang
My hon. Friend puts the point extremely well. Unfortunately, the constitutional convention cannot be the source of detailed information, as it has ducked every serious question relating to devolution. It has not addressed the fact that Scotland would suffer considerably as a result of the creation of separate tax-raising powers. Its additional funding from the United Kingdom Parliament would be in considerable jeopardy.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing
Will the Minister tell me—I promise faithfully that I will not breathe a word of it to anyone else—whether, on this day of all days, he does not wish that he could get the same unity in the Tory party as we managed to get in the convention?
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett
Does my hon. Friend think that the people of Scotland would benefit from having the United Kingdom broken up and that their economy would benefit from it? Would they be better off with a United Kingdom Parliament? What would happen to the Labour party, whose Front Bench is stuffed with Scotsmen speaking on English matters?