§ The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office (Mr. Henry McLeish)
I beg to move amendment No. 509, in page 59, line 8, leave out from beginning to end of line 11 and insert—
- 'Paragraph 1 does not reserve—
- () Her Majesty's prerogative and other executive functions, or
- () functions exercisable by any person acting on behalf of the Crown'.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 486, in page 59, line 8, leave out'(1) Subject to sub—paragraph (2),'.Government amendment No. 510.
No. 487, in page 59, leave out lines 12 to 16.
Government amendments Nos. 511 to 521.
§ Mr. McLeish
Government amendments Nos. 509 to 520 make minor technical amendments to the part of schedule 5 dealing with the constitution. Amendment No. 509 would alter the wording of paragraph 2(1) to extend the Scottish Parliament's legislative competence so that it can make provision for all the prerogative and other executive functions carried out personally or in the name of the Queen in so far as they relate to matters that are not reserved. A key example of its effect as against the present provision would be to enable the Scottish Parliament to confer powers of appointment on the Queen, for example to appoint the Scottish Parliamentary Ombudsman. Not to make this amendment would leave a significant and unnecessary gap in a range of powers available to the Parliament.
§ Mr. McLeish
Amendments Nos. 510 and 511 would adjust the wording of paragraph 2(2) to take into account amendment No. 509. Amendment No. 511 would clarify 904 the fact that the Lyon Court and the Lord Lyon in his judicial capacity are devolved, despite the reservation of the functions of the Lord Lyon in relation to the granting of arms. Amendments Nos. 512, 513 and 514 would amend paragraph 3(1) to ensure that Crown property owned by or held in trust for anyone acting on behalf of the Crown is not caught by the general reservation of the Crown. That is to ensure that the property of the Scottish Executive is covered by this provision. The reference to "government department" in the present version of the Bill could leave that in doubt. Amendment No. 515 would alter the wording of paragraph 3(3) to take that change into account.
Amendment No. 516 would make it clear that the compulsory acquisition of property held by a Minister of the Crown is reserved, so that the Scottish Parliament could not compulsorily acquire property held by Departments of the United Kingdom Government. In general, the law relating to compulsory purchase will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament, but it would obviously not be right for the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Executive to be entitled to purchase compulsorily property held by, for example, the Ministry of Defence or by the Department of Social Security for reserved purposes.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)
Which Department will be responsible for the cost of the maintenance of Holyroodhouse? Will the Scottish Parliament or a Department in London pay that bill? I understand that the annual cost of upkeep is slightly in excess of £1 million.
§ Mr. McLeish
The cost will be borne by the Scottish Parliament and administered from Holyrood.
The general exception for Crown property was not designed to permit such compulsory purchase, and amendment No. 516 makes that clear.
Amendments Nos. 517 and 518 adjust the drafting of paragraph 4 to take account of other changes in drafting, including amendment No. 509. Paragraph 4 makes it clear that property held by the Queen in her private capacity is not reserved—it will be subject to general legislation of the Scottish Parliament on matters such as planning and the environment—but that the regulation of that property under the Crown Private Estates Acts is reserved.
Amendments Nos. 519 and 520 would delete paragraphs 5(a) and (c), which would be redundant if the other amendments are made.
I trust that the House will agree that these amendments are necessary to clarify these matters.
Amendment No. 521 would add an express reservation for the registration and funding of political parties. As hon Members will be aware, the Government will be introducing legislation for a national scheme of party registration, and party funding is currently being considered by the Neill committee. It is expected that such provision will be developed at a United Kingdom level. This amendment would ensure that these issues are reserved along with matters relating to the constitution and elections.
§ Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West)
The Liberal Democrats have two amendments. Amendment No. 486 is a paving amendment. Amendment No. 487 would 905 remove the reservation regarding the function of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in the granting of arms and the honours and dignities apart from his functions. This is not the world's most earth-shattering issue, although the matter of honours considerably excited the Scottish media recently.
Not everyone wants a coat of arms and it is not an important issue, but why should the Lord Lyon King of Arms and his staff be answerable to the Government in London rather than to the Parliament in Edinburgh? There seems to be no logic in that. Surely, if it has been accepted in a Government amendment that the Lord Lyon's legal functions should be dealt with by the Scottish system, all his other functions should as well, for the sake of tidiness. I am sure that the Scottish Parliament would not interfere with the normal way in which the Lord Lyon makes his decisions—although Lord Russell-Johnston, formerly a Member of the House of Commons, recently encountered enormous difficulties relating to his title. I gather, however, that that involved the Garter King of Arms. Certain hon. Members with much more distinguished careers than mine may have a vested interest in the matter; I simply think it tidy and logical for all the Lord Lyon's functions to be dealt with by the Scottish Parliament.
Different Members will have different views about the honours system, but surely, whatever method is used to make recommendations to the Queen—who will eventually grant the honours—that process should go through the Scottish Parliament rather than some Minister in London. Again, our suggestion strikes me as sensible, tidy and logical. It will avoid the difficulties that arose recently, when various parties blamed various other parties. The buck should stop clearly with the Scottish Administration and the Scottish Parliament.
I think that our amendments are worth supporting, and I hope that the Government will consider them.
§ Mr. Dalyell
May I raise a question about the Crown Estate? I know that I am the object of suspicion whenever I say anything about that, but I ask my question in all seriousness and with good intent.
The Parliament building is to be erected on the Holyrood site. Am I right in thinking that the archaeology of the site is almost certain to be extremely important in relation to early mediaeval Edinburgh? Preliminary investigations by Mr. Gordon Barclay and others have produced evidence that there could be important findings under the site. The matter is relevant to the Crown Estate Commissioners, and I do not know under what other part of the Bill I could raise it.
Let me ask the Minister a question, which I do not expect him to answer off the top of his head. If he went to Frankfurt, he would see a remarkable development. After the bombing, a new museum was built on what turned out to be a very important archaeological site on which were Gallo-Roman remains. Those remains were put in the museum.
I know that a good deal of expense would be involved, but when public buildings—let alone parliamentary buildings—are erected, surely those in authority have some obligation to set an example. It is often said in the House that we must look after our archaeology. I do not 906 know how important the findings are likely to be—nor, I suspect, does anyone else—but I should like an assurance that the subject will be taken seriously, that proper inquiries will be made of the relevant authorities in Historic Scotland before there is any question of bulldozers or contractors going in, and that an arrangement will be reached with the contractors regarding what they will do.
The problem is that there could be time slippage. If archaeological work is done properly, it adds to costs. Nevertheless, we have a serious obligation to our history, and to the city of Edinburgh, at least to find out what is there, and not to rush things. We do not want important parts of Edinburgh's past, and Scotland's past, to be obliterated through haste.
What advice have the Government been given about the archaeology of the site and, indeed, the surrounding areas? May we be assured that the subject is being looked at? It is a subject to which some of us will return time and again.
§ Mr. McLeish
Plans for the redevelopment of the Holyrood site include an archaeological examination. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) about the importance of this matter and I am willing to write to him about it. I share his interest in this important issue.
Amendments Nos. 486 and 487 seek to devolve aspects of the functions of the Crown Estate Commissioners. We shall shortly debate the commissioners in more detail, so I shall say no more about the matter now. The amendments also seek to devolve the matter of honours and dignities so that the Scottish Parliament would be able to legislate on the Crown's right to grant honours. The ministerial function of recommending such honours would be transferred to Scottish Ministers.
Unfortunately, the Government cannot agree to those proposals. In our view, it is right that there should continue to be a unified system of dignity and honours covering the whole United Kingdom. However, the fact that that would remain a reserved matter does not mean that the Scottish Executive would be unable to propose who should receive honours. It is important that the Lord Lyon and his court will be devolved and that the function of granting arms will remain a reserved matter.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 510, in page 59, line 12, leave out from beginning to first 'the' in line 13 and insert—'Sub-paragraph (1) does not affect the reservation by paragraph 1 of honours and dignities or'.No. 511, in page 59, line 14, leave out from 'arms' to 'the' in line 17 and insert'but this sub—paragraph does not apply to the Lord Lyon King of Arms in his judicial capacity.() Sub—paragraph (1) does not affect the reservation by paragraph 1 of'.— [Mr. McFall.]
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 21, in page 59, line 17, after 'Commissioners', insert'(except for the rights and powers of the Commissioners in respect of the sea bed in Scotland).'.No. 346, in page 59, line 17, at end insert'with the exception of the right of abolition of the Commissioner's control over the sea bed and foreshore, issues relating to mineral rights and base and precious metal deposits, the forfeited estates, ownership and regulation.'
§ Ms Cunningham
The amendments relate to the Crown Estate Commissioners, and the matter is of great concern in Scotland. Last week the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) presented a ten-minute Bill about the Crown Estate Commissioners. The issue causes cross-party concern in Scotland. I shall listen carefully to the Minister in the hope of finding assurances that the reservation of so many powers that are exercised by the commissioners will in no way limit the new Parliament's ability to legislate effectively for land reform in Scotland. That is a cross-party priority and, if my memory serves me correctly, even former Tory Members have said that changes are needed.
§ Dr. Godman
As the hon. Lady knows, the activities of the Crown Estate Commissioners are critical to our fishing communities. Who are the commissioners and how are they appointed?
§ Ms Cunningham
I hope that we shall get more information about that. It is generally felt that the commissioners constitute one of the most secretive and unaccountable bodies in Scotland. I do not think that anyone would disagree that reform is urgently needed. Every year, the commissioners produce glossy material to highlight the range of their powers and activities. The material gives some information, but it does not tell us a great deal about the commissioners. It states what they think are their powers. One leaflet entitled "Scottish Estate" states:The Estate can broadly be divided into four sectors: Commercial Property, Agriculture and Forestry, Fish Farming and Marine".That is the matter that the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) is concerned about. The leaflet continues:In addition to these four main areas of management, the Crown Estate in Scotland also comprised salmon fishings and mineral rights, including rights to gold.The Crown Estate comprises 1,000 acres in Scotland, including approximately half of Scotland's foreshore and almost all the sea bed around Scotland's coastline. That information comes from another Crown Estate Commissioners leaflet entitled "Marine". Apparently, that ownership gives the commissioners the right to issue and charge forconsents for any activity which makes use of the resource".In effect, what it comes down to is that the Crown Estate controls most activity and development around the Scottish coast. In many cases, it charges excessively for mooring rights, often backdating the charges.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has recently had to deal with a case involving Gardenstown harbour in his constituency, where 908 the Crown Estate claimed ownership of the harbour sea bed and was thus going to charge mooring fees and seek centuries of backdated payments for use of the harbour. It took apparently extensive searches of the records in the national library of Scotland and the translation of a 16th-century Latin grant of land before the commissioners backed off and conceded that they had no rights in that area.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
To elaborate on the point slightly, Gardenstown is a voluntary harbour. It is a small community in my constituency. It is true that we escaped the imposition from the Crown Estate Commissioners—which would have disabled the harbour trust totally—only by coming up with a 16th century Scottish Crown document that exempted the harbour from such dues. The idea that a powerful organisation such as the Crown Estate should subject a voluntary harbour in a small village community to such pressure over so long a period illustrates the point that my hon. Friend makes: reform of what is happening the length and breadth of Scotland is long overdue.
§ Ms Cunningham
Indeed. My hon. Friend makes a fair point. The Crown Estate Commissioners want to take a substantial amount of money out of a small local community simply by exercising an ancient and meaningless Crown privilege.
In many areas, the Crown Estate Commissioners act as a direct barrier to economic development in Scotland with their interference in foreshore developments in particular and their role in the fish farming industry. They boast—I quote again from "Marine"It is difficult to think of many foreshore or seabed activities which do not involve the Crown Estate in some way".Hon. Members representing constituencies from around the Scottish coast will be able to illustrate the full extent and negative nature of much of that involvement. The Crown Estate's multi-million pound income is a drain on Scotland's rural economy and rural communities. It takes much out, but it is difficult to see what it gives in return.
The Scottish Land Commission, which was independently set up several years ago, spent two years investigating proposals for land reform. Much of its work of necessity touched on the powers of the Crown Estate Commissioners. It made sensible recommendations for reform, which would transfer the income powers of the Crown Estate Commissioners to local communities through directly elected land councils.
I know that the issue of land councils has been controversial recently. I understand that the Scottish Landowners Federation is a little wary of there being any community involvement in the issue of land usage, but I suggest that perhaps it needs to accept that the time is coming for change, and that it had best be part of change instead of attempting to stop it.
The moves proposed by the Scottish Land Commission and any attempt to develop industries such fish farming would be out of bounds for the Scottish Parliament if the Crown Estate Commissioners continue to be a reserved matter. As far as I understand it, the far-reaching proposals of the Scottish Land Commission could be barred by the Bill, but more mundane reform could also be prevented.
909 The Scottish Land Commission made proposals on the rationalisation of the ownership of mineral rights, which currently can be split between three owners, none of whom necessarily may be the owner of the land under which the minerals lie. That is nonsense. Reform is urgently required to allow the continued growth of our base and precious metal mining industry.
Similarly, bodies have made proposals for the rationalisation of fishing rights, but, with salmon ownership reserved to the Crown and Westminster, that simple sector will also be out of bounds for any land reform legislation in Scotland. I should like the Minister to explain why it appears that the hands of the Scottish Parliament are being tied in that fashion. I know that he and his colleagues have long talked about the opportunity for land reform in the Scottish Parliament, but, as we have seen, the continued reservation of the Crown Estate Commissioners would mean that the Parliament could adopt only a piecemeal approach to reform. That will not satisfy the expectations and demands for land reform that come daily from the people of Scotland.
I hope that the Minister will not tell us that land reform could be only topsoil-deep and that we shall not be able to legislate for what lies beneath our land; or that land reform will have to stop at the high-water mark, and that our beaches and sea lochs are off limits.
I hope that the Minister will be able to give the necessary assurances that the Parliament's hands will not be unduly tied by that reservation, or that he will at least say that the Government will consider the area, and perhaps table amendments on Report to ensure that if the Scottish Parliament wishes to make radical changes in land ownership and land use in Scotland, it will be able to do so. I believe that such an expectation is widespread in Scotland.
§ 4 pm
§ Dr. Godman
I have long been critical of the Crown Estate Commissioners, especially for their decisions concerning fish farming, which impinge on the activities of our commercial fishermen. I declare an interest. I am an honorary member of the Clyde Fishermen's Association, of which the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) is an honorary president. Incidentally, we receive nothing for that onerous duty, but— [Interruption.] The Minister suggests to me from a sedentary position that the Scottish Parliament might change that type of thing. He obviously knows nothing about the fisherman members of the Clyde Fishermen's Association.
I am making a serious point. I believe that the Crown Estate Commissioners have taken some disastrous decisions regarding the installation of fish farms, especially sea fish farms—salmon farms. Several times, fishing organisations have objected to such decisions relating to the west coast. Given the powers of that secretive body of men—I say "men" because I suspect that there are no women members of the Crown Estate Commissioners, but I may be wrong—it is a matter of great regret that the Scottish Parliament will not have control of strategic decisions that profoundly affect our commercial fishermen.
Something needs to be done about the Crown Estate Commissioners, because their decisions on fish farming developments have harmed game fishermen and 910 fisherwomen over the years. Undoubtedly, there has been a dreadful decline in sea trout on the west coast. I know that rivers and lochs in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have also suffered a reduction in sea trout catches, but I believe that our coastline and the activities there should be controlled by a Scottish Parliament. I regret that they are a reserved matter.
I ask the Minister a question to which I do not expect an answer today, but on which I should be extremely grateful if he would write to me. May I take it that the Fisheries Act 1705 will remain on the statute book? It is colloquially know as, and all hon. Members know it as, "the Queen Anne Act". I was prompted to ask that question by the intervention by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) because, as the Minister knows, the Queen Anne Act has important implications for our fishermen's use of harbours.
At the moment in Greenock, we have a dispute with the Renfrewshire Enterprise Company about the development of East India harbour. When. Mr. John MacKay, then Scottish Fisheries Minister, introduced the Inshore Fishing Act 1984, my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and I were able to persuade him to retain the Queen Anne Act. I hope that the Minister, who has a keen interest in the fisheries, can confirm that, if these reserved powers are left with the Crown Estate Commissioners, the Queen Anne Act will remain sacrosanct.
There will be a gap in powers controlling coastline activities. I think that the Crown Estate Commissioners' powers extend six miles from the low-water mark, and therefore cover some traditional inshore fishing grounds—which could be interfered with by the crass decision making of that secretive body. I have serious concerns about that matter. If we are to have some type of quango protecting our coastline, it should be composed of ordinary mortals—people who have more than a passing interest in coastal fishing and related industries.
I should like the Crown Estate Commissioners to be kicked into touch or to work down here, in England and Wales. Our coastline should be protected by a Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
Our amendment No. 21 would allow devolution of the Crown Estate Commissioners' rights and powers in sea bed matters, and I should like to echo much of what has been said by the hon. Members for Perth (Ms Cunningham) and for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman). On Tuesday last week, I outlined my concerns in some detail in introducing a ten-minute rule Bill. I shall therefore not detain the Committee by repeating all those concerns.
There are serious problems with the Crown Estate Commissioners' activities—particularly in granting sea bed leases; charging rents to the salmon farming industry, which is effectively a tax on production, imposed at a time when the industry is in difficulty; and imposing rents on non-profit making marinas, for mooring charges for small craft. Marinas that have been built up by local fund raising are being subjected to the rent levels imposed on gin palaces and some of the bigger mainland marinas.
Serious problems are also being caused by the Crown Estate Commissioners' charges on piers and other infrastructure. The Scottish Office and the European 911 Union have provided money to build piers and ferry terminals, to assist in maintaining vital transport links in many of the isles. However, the commissioners have come along and lumped a big charge on that infrastructure, taking back some of the money that has been given. An examination of their activities is long overdue.
If the Scottish Parliament had the ability to deal with some of the Crown Estate Commissioners' rental activities, there might be much more equity in the way in which Crown Estate tenants across Scotland are dealt with.
§ Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)
I reinforce the fact that hon. Members—and the Minister, I hope—should understand that the Crown Estate Commissioners are deeply resented in many parts of Scotland, particularly after they suddenly came along with a helicopter to identify and slap rents on little piers and jetties that had no commercial value. Everyone thought that that was appalling.
§ Mr. Wallace
I can readily understand how my hon. Friend's constituents felt. In recent years, Crown Estate Commissioners have taken a much tougher—a draconian—line on the matter. We heard about the case of Gardenstown, where the commissioners attempted to get money from rentals that they had not attempted to obtain for years, decades or even centuries before.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has powers, under the Crown Estate Act 1961, to give directions to the Crown Estate on matters relating to the Crown Estate in Scotland. Perhaps the Minister will tell us how—if the Government reject this group of amendments—those powers might be exercised after devolution.
There is a consultation paper on transferring to local authorities some of the powers to regulate salmon farming—especially environmental regulations—that are currently exercised by the Crown Estate. I am grateful to the Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office for sending me a letter, which I received today, dealing with matters that I raised with him. He said that he does not foresee any difficulty in a transfer of powers meeting the terms of paragraph 3(1) of schedule 5, which states that the reservation of powers does not apply toproperty belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown or belonging to a government department".
It should therefore be possible to extend local authorities' powers in regulating salmon farming.
Such an extension would command widespread consent. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us when it might be achieved, because it is long overdue.
§ Mr. McLeish
I share the concerns about land reform outlined by the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham). While it is not for this House to determine the priorities of the new Scottish Parliament, I sincerely hope that land reform will be an urgent priority of that Parliament and covered by one of the first Bills to come before Holyroodhouse. I hope that that provides some reassurance.
912 I also share the concerns about fishing expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), although I am not sure that fishing should be elevated to the all-embracing passion that he attributed to me. Nevertheless, I am happy to correspond with him about the 1705 Act.
I did send the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) a letter. I apologise for its late arrival, but I hope that it will deal with some of the matters relating to the Crown Estate.
I now deal specifically with the points covered in the amendments. They seek variously to devolve the Crown Estate Commissioners and aspects of their functions and of the property and interests forming part of the Crown Estate itself. In the Government' s view, it would be wrong for the Committee to accept the amendments. Their wording suggests some uncertainty about what precisely will be reserved by the present wording of the Bill. As I shall try to explain, some of the matters that the amendments seek to devolve are not reserved.
It may be helpful if I explain what is and is not caught by the reservation. The devolution White Paper made it clear that the reserved matters would include the Crown, and that is given effect to in paragraph 1 of schedule 5. As hon. Members may be aware, the Crown Estate Commissioners are responsible for managing and regulating the Crown Estate, which is that part of the sovereign's hereditary possessions from which the revenue has, since 1760, been surrendered to the Exchequer as part of the civil list arrangements. That arrangement and the role of the commissioners in it will be reserved matters.
However, paragraph 3(1) provides that paragraph 1 of the schedule does not reserve property belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown. Therefore, the property and interests forming the Crown Estate, as distinct from the Crown Estate Commissioners, is not a reserved matter.
The Crown Estate would be subject to the Scottish Parliament's legislation about devolved matters, such as planning, environmental protection and fisheries. The Scottish Parliament would, for example, be able to legislate to implement the current proposals to extend offshore the role of planning authorities, to cover marine fish fanning. In the context of legislating about a harbour or port, the Scottish Parliament could also extinguish public rights over the foreshore or sea bed affected by it.
The revenues from the Crown Estate, which are passed to the UK Exchequer, would be reserved by paragraph 3(3), which reserves the hereditary revenue of the Crown.
My noble Friend Lord Sewel announced proposals on 10 November for responsibility for planning control in relation to marine fish farming to be passed to planning authorities. We are planning on the basis that the necessary legislation would be made by the Scottish Parliament.
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), announced on 17 December that new statutory procedures for the licensing of dredging of marine minerals in Scotland would be introduced to replace the existing non-statutory procedure.
The current power of direction over the Crown Estate Commissioners, which is shared by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the 913 Exchequer, would not pass to the Scottish Ministers. It is right that it should remain with the United Kingdom Government, in line with the reservation of the commissioners.
I trust that, in the light of those explanations, and particularly of the assurance that the reservation of the Crown Estate Commissioners will not affect the Scottish Parliament's competence over planning, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment, the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.
§ Mr. Salmond
These matters are rather involved and are of great interest to rural communities. I think that I heard the Minister say, in effect, that the devolved Scottish Parliament will have less authority in terms of powers of direction over the Crown Estate Commissioners than is currently exercised by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Did he say that? If so, will he reflect again before Report?
§ Mr. McLeish
Indeed. I have tried to explain that the current position will allow us to exercise power over planning and the environment, but the current power of direction over the Crown Estate Commissioners, which is jointly shared, will not pass to the Scottish Ministers.I am keen to be helpful so I hope to clarify that further for the hon. Gentleman. In the light of my comments and assurances, and in view of that fact that we, too, regard these matters as important, I hope that the hon. Member for Perth will withdraw the amendment.
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
- Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
- Amendments made: No. 512, in page 59, line 18, leave out 'Subject to sub-paragraph (3)'.
- No. 513, in page 59, line 19, leave out 'a government department' and insert
- 'any person acting on behalf of the Crown'.
- No. 514, in page 59, line 20, leave out 'a government department' and insert
- 'any person acting on behalf of the Crown'.
- No. 515, in page 59, leave out line 24 and insert—
- '() Sub-paragraph (1) does not affect the reservation by paragraph 1 of'.
- No. 516, in page 59, line 26, at end insert—
- '() the compulsory acquisition of property held or used by a Minister of the Crown'.
- No. 517, in page 59, line 27, leave out 'Subject to sub-paragraph (2)'.
- No. 518, in page 59, line 29, leave out 'Paragraph 1 does reserve' and insert
- 'Sub-paragraph (1) does not affect the reservation by paragraph 1 of'.
- No. 519, in page 59, line 32, leave out sub-paragraph (a).
- No. 520, in page 59, line 35, leave out sub-paragraph(c).
- No. 521, in schedule 5, page 59, line 35, at end insert—
§ 'Political parties
§ The registration and funding of political parties is a reserved matter'. — [Mr. McFall.]914 4.15 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Donald Dewar)
I beg to move amendment No. 522, in page 59, line 38, leave out from 'European' to second 'and' and insert 'Communities (and their institutions)'.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 72, in page 59, line 45, at end insert—'(c) dealings directly related to international agreements affecting devolved matters'.No. 73, in page 59, line 45, at end insert—'(c) acting on behalf of the United Kingdom in relation to any matter to which that sub-paragraph applies, in respect of which the economic or social interests of the United Kingdom are located solely, or predominantly, in Scotland.(3) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, fisheries and forestry are matters falling within sub-paragraph (2)(c).'.No. 261, in page 59, line 45, at end insert—'(3) "Assisting" in sub-paragraph (2) includes, where a Minister of the Crown deems it appropriate, attending with and participating in the United Kingdom delegation in any international forum, including the Council of Ministers of the European Union.'.New clause 13—Delegations to Europe—
New clause 14—Representative office for Scotland in Brussels—
- '(1) When matters in relation to which the Parliament has competence are being discussed between the United Kingdom and any of the institutions of the European Union, the appropriate Scottish Ministers shall be entitled to accompany United Kingdom Government Ministers and to participate in such discussions on behalf of the Parliament.
- (2) Where the matters to be discussed under subsection (1) are non-reserved matters that only affect Scotland and do not affect other parts of the United Kingdom, Scottish Ministers shall be the sole representatives of the United Kingdom.
- (3) In appropriate cases, on non-reserved matters affecting both Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, a Scottish Minister, with the agreement of a Minister of the Crown may lead the United Kingdom delegation.'.
New clause 15—Secretary of State to consult Scottish Parliament about EU negotiations—
- '(1) The Parliament shall establish a European Union representative office in Brussels.
- (2) The office shall have the functions of providing advice to, and carrying out consultation with, the institutions of the European Union on matters affecting Scotland.'.
- (1) Before any Minister of the Crown attends a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Union at which consideration is to be given to any issue related to devolved matters, the Secretary of State shall consult the Parliament and seek its views on the issue.
- (2) Following a meeting of the Council of Ministers at which any issue related to a devolved matter has been discussed, the Secretary of State shall forthwith make a report to the Parliament on the substance and the outcome of the meeting and shall respond to any questions that the members of the Parliament may put to him.'.
§ Mr. Dewar
The House will be glad to know that amendment No.522 is a minor technical amendment on a matter that in other areas and at other times might have entranced us for a considerable time. The European Union does not have legal personality and, therefore, does not 915 have institutions in the way implied by the present drafting of the Bill. The amendment corrects the reference to the European Union and refers instead to theEuropean Communities (and their institutions)".
§ Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)
Is the Secretary of State aware that, under the Amsterdam treaty, the European Union takes on legal personality?
§ Mr. Dewar
That is an interesting point on which I am quite happy to take further advice. However, as the Amsterdam treaty has not yet been ratified, it is something of a hypothetical possibility. The fact that the treaty has not yet come into force is a matter of some importance. Although its terms and contents are of considerable future interest, they are not relevant at the moment.
I have enormous respect for the legal erudition of the right hon. —and indeed learned—Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram): every whigmaleerie will be added to his title in his due honour. However, my understanding is that the proper way of achieving the intended effect is for the Bill to refer to the European Communities and their institutions. They are in the plural as they include those relating to iron and steel, Euratom and one or two others. I hope that the Committee will accept that.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
That was quite an interesting exchange between two Scottish legal personalities on amendment No. 552, which materialised very late in the day. I shall speak to amendments Nos. 72 and 73 in my name and the names of my hon. Friends.
The amendments, which were tabled immediately after Second Reading, seek to ensure that the Scottish Parliament is a genuine part of the international community. The decisions taken on 11 and 12 September represent a major step forward by all the peoples of Scotland. Indeed, 1997 reversed what happened in 1979 and reflected the growing confidence among the peoples of Scotland that they should have their own parliament. The international community also recognised that that decision represented Alba's emergence into the community of nations and not simply the establishment of a chamber in Edinburgh. As someone said to me recently, it is not a matter of raising a flag above a building somewhere in Scotland; it is an opportunity for future generations. I very much endorse that view.
It is important to recognise that the world has moved on since 1979, and so have our continental neighbours. For many years, I have had the pleasure of serving on the Select Committee on European Legislation. It is important that we recognise the significance of the direction, the directives and the regulations that emerge through the acquis communitaire that some hon. Members resent. There is a general feeling that we should all be working together.
Other countries, such as Belgium and Spain, decentralise decision making. In the wake of the Maastricht treaty, great play was made of subsidiarity. That concept has substance in Belgium and Spain, but it seems to involve sidelining Scotland.
916 In January 1997 at the Scottish Grand Committee, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), who was then the shadow spokesman, said that Scotland's Parliament should havethe same observer status as the German Lander at appropriate meetings"— [Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 13 January 1997; c. 29.]Articles 23 and 50 of the basic law give the lander full constitutional rights of information from the federal Government on the European legislative programme. I would like that for Scotland's Parliament. The lander also have the constitutional right to express opinions on European Union legislation. That opinion is binding in their core areas of competence.
We should all be concerned about the core areas of competence that have been delegated to the Scottish Parliament. I see that the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman), who has served on the Select Committee with me, is listening with particular interest. Fishing should be a core area of competence for the Scottish Parliament, as should agriculture and forestry, because they are vital to Scotland's economic future.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is the hon. Lady saying that representatives of the Scottish Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg should speak for the fishing and forestry interests of England?
§ Mrs. Ewing
If the hon. Gentleman hauds his wheesht for a moment, he will hear the answer. The Scottish Office leads on forestry for the United Kingdom. There is no reason why we should not consider other areas of competence.
Since Maastricht, those competencies have been adopted into German law. A land representative can be the sole German representative in the Council of Ministers. That has happened four times in the past two years.
I am a rural Member of Parliament, but I used to represent a more urban constituency. We are not saying that every power specified in the schedule should be preserved. The Parliament should move forward on what issues are reserved powers, not in a selfish way but in the important international context.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I do not want to be difficult or try to catch the hon. Lady out in a cheap way, but she is dealing with a matter of central importance. Will she specify the four occasions on which the German lander represented the Bonn Government in the Council of Ministers, as she has claimed?
§ Mrs. Ewing
Although I could detain the Committee for some substantial time by doing so, the relevant documentation is in the Library. The Ministers to whom I referred were lead Ministers on behalf of the federal Government on four occasions over those two years. We should all recognise that.
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has raised an important point. I understand that the lander are allowed to make representation in the Council by their own law where it is a matter of exclusive 917 legislative competence of the lander. What would the hon. Lady regard as exclusive legislative competence in those terms in relation to the United Kingdom and Scotland?
§ Mrs. Ewing
If the right hon. Gentleman had read the amendments, he would have seen the examples that I have already given. He obviously wants to reserve all powers permanently in Westminster, but we are arguing that, where Scotland has particular interest, it should take the lead in discussions in conjunction with other UK countries. That would not be a major problem. On particular issues—fishing is one of the critical ones to us—we would want very much to have the lead.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I am being very polite, Sir Alan. I realise that this is a time-limited debate, and I would like to make further points. I shall be courteous in giving way to the right hon. Gentleman, and thereafter I should like to complete my remarks.
As the hon. Lady knows, it is entirely up to her whether she surrenders her time by giving way.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. We are in Committee, after all, which I am sure she appreciates is slightly different from a normal debate in the House. The matter to which she referred is of concern; she will realise that our amendments also try to move matters forward in a certain way. She will see in the documents to which she has referred that German competence relates to exclusive competence. Is she satisfied that that would cover the areas that she is trying to cover with regard to Scotland? I do not think that it would.
§ Mrs. Ewing
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to ensure that Westminster will always have the right to determine the issues that will be led by the Scottish Parliament. I am proposing that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to determine the areas in which it will lead in the Council of Ministers.
In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) on Second Reading, the Secretary of State for Scotland argued that we should not necessarily compare ourselves to the German lander. He suggested that we should look at Catalonian and Basque territories, which did not have the statutory rights given to the lander. I emphasise again that Europe and the world have moved on. Since that speech, the Spanish Parliament has voted for a guaranteed right of representation for Catalonia, and for the Basque countries in devolved areas. The Secretary of State should look very carefully at that.
I should also like to draw the Committee's attention to the situation in Belgium. Amendment No. 72 would give Scotland the same status as that entrusted to Community and regional Ministers under the special law of 8 August 1980, as amended on 5 May 1993, on international relations of communities and regions. In effect, the amendment would take away the Whitehall veto, which does not exist in countries such as Belgium, where devolved and exclusive powers have been recognised.
918 It was reported in The Herald today that the Scottish Office is to set up permanent representation in Brussels. I do not know whether that is true or whether it has been trailed by a spin doctor, but I would like clarification.
My understanding is that two posts will be established in Brussels. Will they be civil servants or people appointed by the Scottish Parliament? Will a Minister from the Scottish Parliament lead any permanent representation? Will they be a part of the UK's permanent representation or the Committee of Permanent Representatives? Until we know, will the Scottish Parliament be any different from the 2,000-plus lobbying organisations that have permanent representation in Brussels?
§ Ms Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West)
I wish to comment briefly on how developing a relationship between the Scottish Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament and the European Union gives us real opportunities to tackle the democratic deficit in our country and the perceived problems in the relationship between this country and the rest of Europe.
I support Government amendment No. 522. We must recognise that Europe is in a process of constant change, as are the Governments of Europe. Today, for example, Governments from the former eastern European bloc are meeting European Union countries, eager to discuss the details of their membership. Europe is enlarging, and there are tremendous opportunities and challenges for us in developing a European Community that is of benefit to everyone.
I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), with whom I used, at times, to endure the Select Committee on European Legislation. We would listen to the somewhat contrasting views expressed by the various members of the Committee, under the excellent chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood).
I appreciate the demand for a distinctive Scottish voice and identity on issues affecting us in our relationships with Europe. My concern about amendments Nos. 72 and 73 is that they adopt a narrow nationalistic approach, when we should be looking to develop an international agenda. The Scottish Parliament must help to promote that international agenda, and we must develop a partnership between the Scottish and UK Parliaments.
We all recognise that there are distinctive Scottish issues in areas of European legislation. However, the fishermen of the Scilly Isles may feel that they have a lot in common with the fishermen of the western isles. The industrial devastation done to parts of Scotland during the period in office of the previous Government has been experienced in parts of northern England and the midlands. In terms of the reform of the common agricultural policy, farmers in north Wales may have common interests with farmers in Scotland.
I would certainly oppose an amendment which seems to suggest that we are better off going it alone or adopting an isolationist approach. That tends to be the approach of the official Opposition, who seem to think that it will benefit the United Kingdom to go it alone. The experience of our European neighbours with devolved government is 919 that working in partnership—in our case via the Scottish and UK Parliaments—leads to a stronger voice and better representation of their clear interests.
§ Dr. Godman
My hon. Friend has referred to enlargement of the EU. Some of us believe that there can be no such enlargement without reform of the common fisheries policy and the common agricultural policy. Some of the states seeking membership are littoral nations with huge fishing fleets; we could not allow them in without a revised CFP.
§ Ms Squire
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's strong representations on the fishing industry, and I certainly recognise his concerns. We must not, however, tie ourselves down when amending the Bill. We need to recognise the continual changes and pressures, and ensure that we can respond to them coherently.
§ Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)
The hon. Lady has used fishing to illustrate the common interests that exist across different parts of the UK. Would it not be more logical to argue in favour of reserving fishing to the UK Parliament, not devolving it to the Scottish Parliament, where there will be differences even within Scotland?
§ Ms Squire
Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I know that Scottish fishing interests predominate in the United Kingdom. Hence, the voice of Scottish fishermen, heard in a Scottish Parliament—and also in the UK and European Parliaments—will benefit fishermen throughout the United Kingdom. Opposing a Scottish Parliament, as the hon. Gentleman's party has done, and opposing the idea that an area of the country with a distinct identity and with distinct interests can say things in Europe that will benefit the whole United Kingdom, is wrong.
The hon. Member for Moray mentioned press speculation that an office may be set up for the Scottish Parliament in Brussels. I am well aware that Scotland Europa promotes the interests of non-governmental bodies in Brussels, and that the UK permanent representatives have worked well with the Scottish Office. I hope that, on this occasion, the media speculation turns out to be correct. Such an office would help to give us a strong voice. The fact is that the sooner a country starts to make its views known to the European Commission, the better its chances of influencing draft directives and regulations.
I have been assured that the Scottish Parliament will be able to legislate to give effect to European Community obligations; that Scottish Ministers will have the power to give effect to regulations; and that the Scottish Parliament will be able to scrutinise and debate proposed legislation. One reason why I am so enthusiastic about the establishment of a Scottish Parliament is that it can take a lead in bringing the EU closer to the people, not just of Scotland but of the United Kingdom. It could develop a political framework that would be seen to be far more in touch with the daily concerns of people such as fishermen, farmers and workers in previously heavily industrialised areas.
The Bill offers the possibility of closing the perceived gap between the realities of everyday life and the political process, especially that involving Europe, which all too 920 often seems to the general public to consist of a bunch of faceless bureaucrats. Devolution represents an opportunity to bring the European Union and its decisions closer to the people, and to influence legislation at a much earlier stage, to ensure that it benefits the Scottish people and the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire) seems to have misunderstood the purpose of the amendments. She said that she wanted a strong place for the Scottish Parliament through a strong United Kingdom representation in Europe. It is precisely because there is no provision for that in the Bill that my hon. Friends and 1, and Members from other parties, have tabled amendments to try to ensure that that happens.
I am taking advice, but I am informed by those who understand matters European that, even given the Secretary of State's amendment providing for a position that adheres at present and not for one that is contingent, as he told us, that is still wrong. I am told that the Maastricht treaty removed the word "communities" and inserted the word "community" in the singular. If that is the case, the right hon. Gentleman's amendment would still be incorrect. Would he like to check whether that is the case, and if so, would he like to withdraw his amendment and try again?
§ Mr. Dewar
I shall take further advice. If we have got it wrong, that will cause real excitement in another place. Their lordships will no doubt look forward to it as a major clash. In the mysterious ways that information appears in the hands of Front-Bench spokesmen, I have a brief note that says,Does not have legal personality"—that is, the European Unioneven after Amsterdam.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am told that the argument that I am advancing may have moved forward or backward from there. It refers to the Maastricht treaty, which, the right hon. Gentleman may find, changed the term to "community", in which case he will no doubt make the amendment in due course.
I listened to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), and I understand what she is trying to achieve, but I am not sure that her examples from Europe are helpful. The German lander can exercise their right of representation only where it is a matter of their exclusive legislative competence, and where the federal Government have no competence. By that definition, under the Bill as presently framed, there would be few areas in which such competence could be exercised.
The position in Spain is, if anything, weaker. The Library brief state:Regions do not participate directly in European decision-making on many areas, including agriculture, fisheries, industry, economic and so on, which are within their competence, for various reasons.The German and Spanish examples may not be the most helpful, to the hon. Lady's cause or to mine.
As I have made clear during our deliberations, I am concerned about the Bill being implemented in a way that leaves gaps that could cause immense confrontation 921 between London and Edinburgh. That would be bad for devolution and bad for the Union. We probably share enough of a common interest to want that to be avoided.
There is a distinct gap. All we have is the rather strange reference in schedule 5, paragraph 6(2)(b), which refers, in relation to the European Union and its institutions, toassisting Ministers of the Crown in relation to any matter to which that sub-paragraph applies."Assisting" is the most unsatisfactory word, which could stretch from licking envelopes to doing something more important. To leave it at that in the Bill is a weakness. I have said that from the beginning. When I originally saw that, first in the White Paper and then in the Bill, I thought that the Government had missed something, as Governments occasionally do.
I want to revisit the situation today. The last time that I raised the matter, on Second Reading, I was asked why I was worried, because matters worked satisfactorily at present, and nothing had changed. My view of the Bill is that matters have changed dramatically.
At present, Scottish Office Ministers are members of the United Kingdom Government. They bear collective responsibility for the collective decisions of that Government. When they go to Brussels to a Council of Ministers—I understand that the Secretary of State or one of his Ministers may be going fairly soon—they go as UK Ministers, fully able to represent the United Kingdom, as any other UK Minister can. What will have changed is that, after devolution, there will be two Administrations and two sets of Ministers, and they will not necessarily be the same people, and not necessarily even of the same view or the same party.
It is not enough to say that nothing has changed, and that matters can be left to the good will of the parties concerned. We must write into the statute some assurance that the voice of Scotland will be heard. The current position is that the Scottish Minister can speak for the United Kingdom, bringing Scotland's case to bear when he does so. It never happened to me when I was a Scottish Office Minister, because I was not in the areas that were concerned with Europe, but colleagues of mine went to Europe and argued the Scottish case within the United Kingdom context. When Ministers have done so, they come back and are answerable to the United Kingdom Parliament for what they have done.
That situation will have changed. There will be two Administrations, served by two sets of civil servants—I shall deal with them later—who may not be of one mind. If the Scottish Minister were to represent the United Kingdom, he would not be able to come back to the House and give account of the representation that he had made. Much is different, and it is not enough to rest on the complacent approach that the Government have taken so far.
My understanding is that, where there is a United Kingdom position, it is arrived at as a result of much preparatory work done by civil servants in Whitehall. Civil servants come from the Scottish Office to the Cabinet Office or to another Department, and together, as civil servants operating to the same Government, they come to a common position, which is the position taken in Brussels.
In future—we do not know the details—if the Scottish view is to be represented, Scottish civil servants who are answerable not to this Parliament but to the Scottish 922 Parliament, will come down and presumably take part in the preparations not as part of the same civil service, but as parts of different civil services, possibly with different loyalties.
In those circumstances, how will a common position be arrived at, so that the Scots can be assured that the voice of Scotland will be properly heard? That is a serious question. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State laughs, but there are many in Scotland who take the question seriously, as do I.
This area, above all others, has the potential for creating conflict between England and Scotland. Imagine what would happen if a situation arose in which the position taken by the UK Government largely reflected the English interest, because that was where the Minister at the talks came from, and ignored the Scottish interest. There would be an outcry in Scotland. Believing as I do in the preservation of the Union, I have a strong incentive to avoid that happening.
I was given the other day by some Scottish fishermen an example that I had not thought of—I share it with the House, because it is relevant. They asked what would happen some time in the future, even if the two Administrations were the same political colour, if, just before a Fisheries Council, the Spaniards got hold of the MAFF Minister and said, "Look, we can do a deal overall on the common fisheries policy. We know that you don't like us coming into the channel and into Cornish waters, so we'll withdraw from there, if you'll quietly let us abolish the Shetland box." If that were to happen, there would be major Scottish interest in retaining the Shetland box. The Scottish fishermen asked—this is their hypothesis, not mine—"Where is the incentive for MAFF to ensure that that did not occur?"
§ Dr. Godman
Can the right hon. Gentleman recall, from his days in the Scottish Office, whether tensions arose among Scottish and English fisheries Ministers vis-a-vis Fisheries Council meetings, total allowable catches, quotas and so on? If there were such tensions, how were they resolved?
§ Mr. Ancram
I was not personally involved in such negotiations. However, during my latter days in Northern Ireland, there were considerable discussions between the Agriculture Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and England about the question of accredited herds in relation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Northern Ireland had an advantage in that area, and we discussed whether various parts of the United Kingdom should be treated separately. At the end of the day, the issues were resolved because the Ministers involved came from the same party and were members of the same Government. They were able to reach a common position for which they were then bound to accept collective responsibility. That is the reality of the present situation.
After devolution, that position will no longer necessarily adhere. It certainly will not adhere that the Scottish Minister will be from the same Government and have the same loyalties and collective responsibility as his colleague from London. We must address that difference in some way in terms of the legislation, and that is what we are attempting to do.
§ Mr. Salmond
I shall give the right hon. Gentleman a specific example involving fisheries in the late 1980s. For 923 several years, the then Scottish fisheries Minister, Lord Sanderson, favoured a decommissioning scheme. He expressed that position privately to colleagues and it was well known in the fishing industry. Unfortunately, the then Minister responsible for fisheries in MAFF opposed a decommissioning scheme because of his personal experiences in the early 1980s. Will the right hon. Gentleman remind hon. Members what happened during those years regarding that key area of fisheries policy, which was absolutely central to the prospects of the Scottish fishing industry? Whose view prevailed—that of Scotland or that of London?
§ Mr. Ancram
We believe that the Bill presently provides no assurances to the people of Scotland, and I understand that the purpose of the amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) is similar to our own. However, every time I try to explain why it is important that there be some provision in the Bill, the hon. Gentleman tries to suggest that my argument is wrong. For someone trying to achieve a particular purpose, the hon. Gentleman is putting political expediency before his principles on this occasion. We will not do that because we are trying genuinely to put a provision into the Bill—and I shall turn to the purposes of our amendments in a moment.
We are told that the matter will be arranged by concordat. We shall consider concordats later in Committee, and I do not wish to pre-empt that discussion. A concordat is a non-statutory agreement. We know from the helpful note on concordats produced by the Scottish Office that they are not legally enforceable. They will not be subject to approval by this place or by the Scottish Parliament, and are likely to be signed between civil servants and officials rather than between Ministers, except on specific occasions.
The note states that concordatswill set down common processes and the main features of good working relationships, rather than specify substantive outcomes.We are talking about regulations or provisions by which Scotland may be assured that it will have a voice in the councils of the European Union. The definition of concordat does not cover those matters. Even if it did, concordats are not legally enforceable. They can be unilaterally breached at any time and, if that occurs, there can be no legal retribution.
I agree with the view expressed by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation in the paper that it sent to us. The federation made it clear that it is very suspicious about whether the concordats will ultimately deliver what the Government intend. The paper states:The Government's White Paper ignores it completely whilst implying that the handling of fisheries policy between MAFF and the Scottish Executive should not involve significant change from current practice; the Scotland Bill, as currently framed, leaves the power in European Fisheries negotiations in the hands of London, and makes no attempt at all to recognise the dominant position of the Scottish Industry, whereas what we know, unofficially, of the Draft Concordats which are meant to regulate relations between Whitehall and Edinburgh, provides us with no comfort on the issues outlined in this note.924 I believe that a matter of such importance should be addressed on the face of the Bill: it should not be left to the whim and invitation of future Governments at Westminster.
§ Mr. Wallace
The right hon. Gentleman claims that his amendment will ensure that Scotland has a say. Amendment No. 261 uses the words:where a Minister of the Crown deems it appropriate".What happens if there is some kind of breakdown? In such circumstances, a Minister of the Crown might deem it inappropriate.
§ Mr. Ancram
I shall turn to my amendments. I freely admit that it is difficult to find the means—which is why I criticised the comments of the hon. Member for Moray—of constitutionally providing a role to a Scottish Minister in terms of representing the whole United Kingdoms. I have tried to raise that issue before, but I was brushed off. It remains a difficult constitutional position to achieve.
Hon. Members must view our two sets of amendments in the round. New clause 15 sets out to try to build up a provision whereby the United Kingdom Minister would be required to consult the Scottish Parliament and seek its views on any devolved issues that may arise. There would have to be consultation before the Council of Ministers meeting. After that meeting, the Minister would have to report on and respond to questions regarding events at the Council of Ministers. The new clause would create a direct link between the delegate to the European Council of Ministers, in the person of the United Kingdom Minister, and the Scottish Parliament both before and after the event. That link is not in the Bill at present.
In amendment No. 261, we seek to give statutory framework to the intention that the Government stated when they introduced the White Paper but which does not appear in the Bill: where it is deemed appropriate, a Scottish Minister could attend and participate in the United Kingdom delegation. By putting that provision in the Bill, we are providing an assurance that the Government can give only verbally at present, because it does not appear in writing.
While it may be easier for the Government to believe that, after devolution, everything will be so friendly and co-operative that no one will ever fall out, I urge them to look closely at the opinion polls in Scotland. The Government should consider whether they will see that degree of co-operation at the beginning of the Scottish Parliament. Even if they do, the Government have a duty and a responsibility to legislate not just for this year and next year, but for the future.
We are addressing interests of fundamental importance to Scotland in terms of fishing—Scottish fisheries form a predominant part of the United Kingdom industry—and agriculture, which has specific requirements. At present, the situation is uncertain and unhappy because there is nothing on the face of the Bill.
I ask the Secretary of State to look closely at our proposals. He should stop being complacent. He must understand that, if one buries one's head in the sand, one tends to leave exposed other parts of one's anatomy that, if one is not careful, others will come up and kick. The Secretary of State could avoid that consequence by accepting our amendments.
§ Mr. Douglas Alexander (Paisley, South)
I shall direct my remarks to amendments Nos. 72 and 73, to which the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) spoke. In the Bill, foreign relations, including our relations with Europe, are a matter reserved to Westminster, and remain the responsibility of the British Government. The devolution scheme endorsed so overwhelmingly by the Scottish people on 11 September last year will take place within the enduring framework of the United Kingdom. That is what the people of Scotland voted for.
Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 run contrary to the thrust of the Bill. Amendment No. 72 seeks to devolve dealings directly related to international agreements that affect only devolved matters. I must admit that I had difficulty imagining what such matters would be and how many there would be. Amendment No. 73 proposes to devolve responsibility for the conduct of international relations on behalf of the whole United Kingdom in areas where the majority of the United Kingdom interest lies within Scotland.
In effect, the amendments propose that foreign policy be directed from Edinburgh. To that extent, they owe more to the theory of independence within Europe than devolution.
§ Mr. Salmond
The hon. Gentleman's colleagues might help him out. I seem to remember a document of the Scottish Constitutional Convention which said that, where appropriate, Scottish Ministers could lead UK delegations. Am I right, or am I wrong?
§ Mr. Alexander
It is still right. I shall come to that matter directly.
In effect, the amendments propose independence in Europe rather than the devolutionary scheme on the face of the Bill. I need hardly remind the hon. Gentleman or, indeed, the Committee, that, whenever independence has been offered to the Scottish people, it has been overwhelmingly rejected.
§ Mr. Alexander
No, I have already given way.
The Bill strikes a far better balance in the interests of the people of Scotland. The Scottish Parliament will, of course, continue to scrutinise European proposals, and Scottish Ministers—to answer the hon. Gentleman's query—will be involved in the domestic formulation of UK policy, and will have a role to play in the relevant meetings of the European Councils of Ministers, and in other European negotiations while devolved matters are discussed.
§ Mr. Salmond
Will Scottish Ministers have the ability to lead a UK delegation, as was once promised by the Scottish Constitutional Convention?
§ Mr. Alexander
Yes, as part of the UK delegation, which is the critical point and the failing of the amendments as drafted. The Bill avoids independence in Europe by the back door. It ensures that Scotland continues to enjoy the benefits of being one of the major players in the European Union, and to that extent is in total contradiction of independence in Europe—the policy of the Scottish National party.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Wallace
We start from the view that the United Kingdom is a signatory to the European treaties, and therefore the relationships are first and foremost between the United Kingdom and the European Union. In this group of amendments, recognising that fundamental truth, we are trying to find ways to ensure that the Scottish interest is best safeguarded.
It was reassuring and welcome that the Government said in the White PaperMinisters and officials of the Scottish Executive should have a role to play in … Council meetings and other negotiationsand althoughthe UK lead Minister will retain overall responsibility … Scottish Executive Ministers could speak for the UK in Councilsin appropriate cases. That is something which my hon. Friends and I particularly welcome. However, we are somewhat disappointed that there is nothing in the Bill to guarantee that. I agree with the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) that we should legislate for the worst-case scenario, as someone on the Treasury Bench might be of a different political persuasion from Edinburgh and there might be potential for conflict, and co-operation and good will might not exist. We might want Scotland's rights guaranteed. It should be able to participate in the discussions in the Council of Ministers.
What is proposed in new clause 13 might be described as a triple lock, as it caters for three different situations. On matters that are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, but which have a wider UK interest and concern, we propose that the right should be established in law that members of the Scottish Executive can participate in the discussions.
Secondly, where non-reserved matters affect only Scotland and not other parts of the United Kingdom, we would argue that Scottish Ministers should be the sole representatives. We are talking about two conditions. The matters should be exclusively Scottish and non-reserved. I can see the right hon. Member for Devizes asking what they are. Salmon farming is almost an exclusively Scottish interest, and therefore when it is dealt with it should be led by a Scottish Minister.
Let us return to the German lander. The German constitution stateswhere essentially the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the lander is affected the exercise of the rights of the Federal Republic of Germany as a member state of the European Union shall be transferred to a representative of the lander".Culture is given as an example in the House of Commons Library briefing. I pay tribute to the Library, as it produces good briefings.
§ Mr. Ancram
The hon. and learned Gentleman talks about exclusive legislative competence. In the light of clause 27(7), what is exclusively legislatively competent to the Scottish Parliament alone?
§ Mr. Wallace
We are talking about non-reserved matters on which the Scottish Parliament has the right to legislate. The right hon. Gentleman is making a sophisticated constitutional point, which he is absolutely right to do, in terms of clause 27(7), but we are looking at practical politics in this matter. We are talking about 927 matters which, in the normal course of events, would be dealt with by the Scottish Parliament and which apply exclusively within Scotland.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. and learned Gentleman will complete, will he not, the quote from the Library briefing, because it goes on to sayThe responsibility of the Federation for the whole state has to be maintained in the process.That is rather crucial.
§ Mr. Wallace
I accept that it is crucial. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for completing the quote, but I am not sure that it detracts in any way from the point that I made. It is a delegated responsibility as far as the lander are concerned, but, at the end of the day, the relationship is between the United Kingdom and the institutions of the European Union.
Thirdly, there are matters in which Scotland has a particular interest, but which may also affect other parts of the United Kingdom. In those circumstances, with the agreement of the Minister of the Crown, the Scottish Minister may lead the United Kingdom delegation. Fisheries is a good example, as 70 per cent. of landings are in Scotland. A matter could have an overwhelmingly Scottish interest, but also a minor interest for another part of the United Kingdom. It would be appropriate in such circumstances for the Scottish Minister to lead at the European Council meeting, with the concurrence of the United Kingdom Minister.
There are other examples. The European Union has been known to deal with ethnic—if that is the right word—languages, such as Gaelic or Welsh. It could be of no interest to the UK Parliament because the Gaelic and Welsh languages would be devolved matters. It might be for the Scottish and Welsh Executive to sort out between them which one takes the lead. We are talking about trying to get these matters dealt with practically. Although we maintain that the level at which the legal relationship exists with the European Union is at United Kingdom Government level, the responsibility for particular negotiations could be led by the Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Wallace
It would have to be with the concurrence of a Minister of the Crown. No doubt a Minister of the Crown would have concurred in that matter. He would have to be answerable to the House and would have to answer for what was done. If only the House were interested in these matters sometimes. In May, a fundamental agreement was made with regard to salmon farming, which has never been the subject of any discussion in the House, in spite of some of our efforts. It would be reassuring to know that hon. Members were interested. I rather suspect that if the issue related to the Gaelic or Welsh languages, there would not be a great outpouring of interest on the Conservative Front Bench to call Ministers to account.
§ Mr. Salmond
I am fascinated by the argument that a Minister must be present in the House of Commons.
928 There have been a number of occasions when Lords have led United Kingdom delegations. They were not present in the House to answer for their performance—[Interruption.] I shall choose my own words.
In a previous discussion, the occupants of the Conservative Front Bench were frightfully keen to ensure the right of Parliament to summon Scottish Ministers. They were frightfully keen also to stop the right of the Scottish Parliament to summon Westminster Ministers, presumably to account for their actions.
§ Mr. Wallace
I recall the debate to which the hon. Gentleman refers. It might provide a further answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). The responsible Scottish Minister perhaps could be summoned before one of the sub-committees of the Select Committee on European Legislation.
I accept that good words and good intentions are set out in the White Paper. However, we want a guarantee so that in future, if there were any conflict, the Scottish Parliament could not have its interests overridden by a Westminster Government of any persuasion.
In new clause 14, we propose the establishment ofa European Union representative office in Brussels
having thefunctions of providing advice to, and carrying out consultation with, the institutionsof the European Community or Communities rather than the European Unionon matters affecting Scotland.I welcome the fact that in a press release issued today the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has announced that there will be an office to act for the Scottish Parliament and Executive in Brussels once the Parliament is established. There will be a new unit staffed by two Scottish Office officials, which will be based within the United Kingdom permanent representation to the European Union. That is a welcome response to new clause 14.
§ Mr. Wallace
I note what the right hon. Gentleman says, that it might have been better if the announcement had been made in this place rather than, as I think is the case, picked up off the website two minutes and 36 seconds past 4 o'clock.
§ Mr. Ancram
We are dealing with an important matter of principle. The hon. and learned Gentleman is looking for a response to new clause 14 in the House of Commons. Instead, it has been responded to on the website or the internet. That would have been without the knowledge of the House of Commons if the hon. and learned Gentleman had not had somebody to find it for him.
§ Mr. Wallace
We have dealt with this matter already. However, I accept that it is important. When announcements have to be made, especially on legislation, it would be infinitely preferable if they were made first to the House of Commons. I do not want to detract from the significance of that.
929 Council of Minister level is often the last stage for dealing with the most intractable of issues. Very often important decisions and negotiating points are dealt with at an earlier stage. The fact that the Scottish Parliament and Executive will have an inside track will be of considerable benefit to a range of interests in Scotland where European Union legislation is relevant.
When the Secretary of State replies, I hope that he will tell us what the relationship will be between the proposed office and the Scottish Executive and the Committee of Permanent Representatives. I understand that, at present, there is a Scottish Office civil servant who is almost invariably seconded to the UK permanent representation in Brussels, who is obviously on the inside track there. Will the Scottish Parliament and Executive representatives also be present at COREPER meetings, which often set the agenda and at which important decisions and negotiations often take place?
The flow of information is vital. We may have Governments of different complexions at Westminster and Edinburgh; control of information could be vital. It is important that there are reassurances that the Scottish Parliament and Executive office in Brussels will have access to that information and will be involved not only at the formal and final stages of Council of Ministers meetings but at many of the informal but important stages that precede the final stage of negotiations.
§ Mrs. Ewing
It is my understanding that, in the past, civil servants have been seconded on a temporary basis. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman arguing the case for permanent secondment on a permanent basis?
§ Mr. Wallace
At present, there is at least a representative. Obviously we want to see the position improved. Indeed, it is important that it is improved. We will not sentence someone to be present for the rest of his days, but at least there should be continuity. There should not be an ad hoc arrangement. Something should be properly established and guaranteed.
There will be important matters on which United Kingdom Ministers will lead. Let us not beat about the bush, the title "lead Ministry" usually applies to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. That is substantially or predominantly an English Ministry. It will have to be far more conscious of its United Kingdom responsibilities when those representing it are lead Ministers. I hope that that message will get through to the Ministry. Its Ministers should no longer think of themselves as being exclusively English Ministers. As a UK Ministry it has a wider responsibility. If that can be brought home to Ministers, it might be reassuring to many Scottish interests.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Allow me to be agreeable to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire). Anyone who sits on the Select Committee on European Legislation should be given a medal. I sat under the late Julius Silverman, a clever man. Much unsung work is done by the Committee, and I salute its members for that. We are in the debt of the hon. Member for Moray for raising a vital issue. There, I fear, agreement ends.
I spent last week sitting through the Welsh devolution debate. It was fascinating. It— [Interruption.] My hon. Friends may laugh, but it was an extremely interesting 930 debate. It was very different, as some of those on the Opposition Front Bench who sat through it may agree, from the debates that we have had on the Scotland Bill. There were long probing speeches from my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands). As a result, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales made a statement. He said:Concordats will need to address those issues in the context not only of domestic policy and legislation but of the European Union. The assembly's role in policy discussions, both in the United Kingdom and in Europe, on matters within its field of responsibility will therefore be a central feature of relevant concordats. In line with current arrangements, the concordat will provide for matters such as access to relevant papers, attendance at interdepartmental meetings, consultation with the assembly about the development of the United Kingdom negotiating line, and participation in United Kingdom delegations to Brussels. They are precisely the points that were raised during the debate." — [Official Report, 25 March 1998; Vol. 309, c. 618.]If we were not time limited, a great deal could be said about that. However, I think that I am entitled to ask for further clarification of exactly what the Government's position is.
The hon. Member for Moray referred to four occasions in her opening speech. This was not a throw-off remark. Indeed, it is crucial. The first occasion to which she referred was on 28 and 29 November 1996, when there was a meeting on justice and home affairs. The State Secretaries for Justice and the Interior and the Senator for Internal Affairs of Hamburg attended the meeting. On 16 December 1996, there was a meeting to discuss audiovisual and cultural affairs. The Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate attended the meeting. On 20 November 1997, the State Secretary for Education, Science, Research and Technology and the Minister for Culture of Hessen attended a meeting on education, and on 24 November 1997, the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Minister for Education, Culture, Science and the Arts of Bavaria attended a meeting on culture. Although lander Ministers attended Council meetings on four occasions—this is the crucial point—they were never the sole representative of the German Government. I understand that on no occasion could they be said to have been a lead Minister, so I fear that the hon. Lady's German example is flawed.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I cannot disagree with the hon. Gentleman because the Ministers did not attend on their own, although perhaps I did not say so, but if he looks carefully he will see that my amendments would give us equality with the lander. I am arguing not for independence and full, sole representation, but merely for equality at this stage. Those people should be directly involved where there are specific or lead interests for the Scottish Parliament; they should not be dictated to from Whitehall, as Conservative Members want.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I fear that some of us, who were listening carefully to the hon. Lady, formed a rather different impression, but of course I accept what she says.
When considering such examples, it is crucial to take account of article 23, paragraph (6) of the German constitution, which states:The Federation shall delegate the exercise of rights of the Federal Republic of Germany as a member of the European Union to a representative of the States (ie the Lander) nominated by the Senate (ie the Bundesrat) if exclusive legislative competencies of the States are centrally affected.931 That brings me back to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). Paragraph (6) continues:These rights are exercised with participation of and in coordination with the Government; the responsibility of the Federation for the whole state has to be maintained in the process.I ask the Minister for the assurance, which I am sure will be forthcoming, that delegations from Britain to the European Union will include Ministers who can report back to the House on anything that is discussed in Brussels.
§ Mr. Salmond
I noticed surprise among Labour Members when my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) was explaining the purpose of our amendments. I can believe only that they were not present on Second Reading, when I clarified our outlook on the Bill.
Independence for Scotland will be decided by the people of Scotland; that was the common ground between the Secretary of State and me in the referendum campaign. All our amendments have been designed to improve and enhance the Bill from within the devolved context, as they have. [Interruption] I hear guffaws from Tory Front Benchers—I shall deal with the Tory amendments in a few moments—but if they read the Official Report they will see that we have tabled constructive amendments on issues such as broadcasting or Committee powers to enhance and beef up the powers in the Bill. I assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that the issue of independence will be tested at the ballot box in Scotland in the not too distant future. I am reasonably satisfied with current trends on the way in which the argument is going.
My hon. Friend the Member for Moray tried to raise the sights of hon. Members by mentioning examples from other European states, even within a devolved or federal context, where right of European representation of some sort is built in to their subsidiary bodies or federal units. In Belgium, substantial rights parallel those in amendment No. 72. Amendment No. 73 parallels what the Scottish Constitutional Convention claimed should be the state of play: there would be a right to lead a United Kingdom delegation, where appropriate. The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Alexander) says that that right still exists. If so, what is the difficulty with including it in the Bill? The hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) correctly said that references in the White Paper gave us encouragement about European representation, but those references and that encouragement disappeared when the Bill was published.
Conservative Members claim the high ground and say that they are providing assurance that the Scottish Fishermen's Federation will find comforting. However, amendment No. 261 would give Westminster Ministers the power to deem when, and presumably whether, a Scottish Minister would attend the Council of Ministers. That is exactly the position without such a provision being included in the Bill. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) knows the gentlemen of the SFF a lot less well than I do after years of debating and lobbying in the House if he thinks that such a mouse of an amendment would satisfy their concerns.
The argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray is surely right. In a variety of states and in a variety of contexts, it has been possible to give some 932 assurance about, and some statutory base to, the position of the subsidiary Parliament. On Second Reading, the Secretary of State rested his case on the example of Catalonia. He rests a lot on Catalonia at the moment—there are those in Barcelona who tell me that his face is becoming as familiar as the face of Mr. Terry Venables used to be in that fair city. The difficulty for the Secretary of State is that the position in Catalonia is changing. He shook his head vigorously when my hon. Friend the Member for Moray mentioned that important point, but on 5 March 1998the Spanish Congress and Senate Committee on the EU voted to give the Autonomous Communities the right to be part of the Spanish government delegation in those Councils dealing with autonomous (devolved) functions.Examples in other devolved and federal areas of Europe suggest that the devolved or subsidiary Parliaments want some right of representation within European councils, not the grace and favour offered by the Conservative party or the non-existent commitment offered by the Government. Surely we can devise a method to give the first Scottish Parliament for 300 years some access to European decision making.
§ Mr. Dewar
I have listened with great interest to this lively debate, and agree entirely that it has been important.
I am not tremendously impressed by the examples from other countries. We must find one that is right for us, and trying to force our arrangements into formulas that have been adapted by other countries would not necessarily be satisfactory. As we know, the German lander have certain rights.
§ Mr. Dewar
The hon. Lady must allow me to continue.
As has been pointed out, the powers of the German lander lie where there is exclusive legislative power for them. Hon. Members will recognise the a fundamental difference: the German system is fully federal, which makes for different arrangements and relationships.
I tell the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) that I have, of course, taken an interest in matters Spanish over recent weeks, because I was hospitably asked to visit not only Catalonia, but one of the southern autonomous regions and the central Government in Madrid. I enjoyed the visit, and found it particularly interesting to listen to the distinguished politician who has led the nationalist movement in Catalonia for 18 years as president of the province. He explained in precise and vehement terms to the Spanish press that the idea that he was going, little by little, towards independence was total nonsense, that he regarded independence from Spain as a logical abomination and that the whole point was to obtain the right voice for Catalonia within Spain. The hon. Gentleman might want to consider that message.
There are other points about the Spanish experience. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) is right that there has been a change—not a legal change in legislation, but the passing of a motion similar to an early-day motion 933 or to a resolution at the end of a debate, which the Spanish Government are considering how to implement by agreement and conciliation. There is no right, as she suggested, for Catalonia, the Basque country or any other region to be part of the delegation. One representative of the 17 provinces will be on the delegation, and the great question is how the 17 provinces will decide who that person should be. Priorities may differ considerably in the various provinces. The problem is being handled by discussion and agreement about the best way forward. There is a message for us.
§ Mr. Dewar
No, let me continue.
The White Paper promises that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament will be directly and fully involved in the formulation of United Kingdom policy, and will have a role to play in relevant Council meetings. It has been suggested that that cannot be delivered if it is not enshrined in statute. Well-intentioned and well-meaning attempts have been made to achieve that.
I do not support amendments Nos. 72 and 73. Amendment No. 72 deals with international agreements that affect only devolved matters. It is extremely unlikely for an international agreement to refer only to Scottish devolved matters and have no impact on any other activity in the United Kingdom. It would not be appropriate for the Scottish Parliament to take on such a role in international affairs, because Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, which follows the common foreign policy.
It is dangerous to assume that if a majority of the UK interest lies in Scotland, the Scottish Executive's representative should be the UK's spokesperson as of right, as amendment No. 73 proposes. If that were true, the mirror image would also be true. There are 56 million people south and 5 million north of the border, so on many issues the bigger interest will lie south of the border. The principle that the right to representation goes to the largest numbers is not a precedent which I would be prepared to endorse.
§ Mr. Salmond
Thousands of Council of Ministers meetings have been held in the past 20 years. Will the Secretary of State tell us on how many occasions the UK delegation to those meetings has been led by a Scottish Minister? I shall give him a starter for 10: there have been some occasions.
§ Mr. Dewar
I can say with total pride that I cannot answer that question. If the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan thinks that I have spent the past two years going back through thousands of meetings to see who was in the delegation and who led at one particular point or another, he is looking at the issue through the wrong end of the telescope and inevitably getting a distorted view.
§ Mr. Swayne
Is the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Alexander) correct that Scottish Ministers will be able to lead delegations?
§ Mr. Dewar
Of course, he is correct. Were it not for Hansard, it would be dangerous to say such things, 934 because that remark was immediately translated by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan into a right to lead. We have never claimed that Scottish Ministers will have a right to lead. The White Paper is specific on that point. We have said that there is an opportunity to lead. In the same way as the Spanish will settle matters of representations, and as the German lander agree on representation when they decide who will lead on an area of exclusive jurisdiction, the UK delegation will hold discussions, and sensible arrangements will be made on who should lead on each occasion.
§ Mr. Dewar
If the hon. Gentleman would take his seat, I may—he has no right—allow him to intervene later as a representative of an interested minority group.
I want to be serious about this issue: I hope that hon. Members recognise that I am being serious, because this is important. It is right for there to be Scottish representation in Brussels within the United Kingdom delegation, using the strength of the United Kingdom to advance a common cause that has been agreed in negotiation and discussion. That happens at the moment. I do not want to go into details, but I have been discussing some tricky matters affecting common interests in fishing. I was greatly helped by the fact that in the Council of Ministers that took place last week my noble Friend Lord Sewel, who was part of the UK delegation, was able to see Commissioner Fischler on behalf of the delegation to put a UK point that was of particular significance to Scotland, although it has some relevance to fishing ports in England, albeit not so dramatic. I value that arrangement, and it should continue.
We are being asked to assume that the system is unworkable unless it is bolstered and buttressed by law. It is important that we have negotiation and discussion at official level and, if necessary, at ministerial level between the Scottish Executive and United Kingdom Ministers. At the moment, a tremendous number of bilateral meetings are held. Even in the short period in which I have been in office, I have been involved in many bilateral meetings with United Kingdom Ministers. I am grateful to my team in the Scottish Office who often pave the way, and who provide me with munitions of war in terms of the arguments.
Under the new system, as now, those bilateral meetings will take place and a common United Kingdom position will emerge. If it does not, the matter will probably go to a Committee made up of relevant United Kingdom Ministers and Scottish Executive Ministers, who will hopefully find common ground. Politics is about making things work, and we are all part of the United Kingdom until and if ever another view is expressed by the electorate in Scotland. As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan said, that is common ground between us.
The United Kingdom is an amalgam of interests, as is Scotland. There is a common interest in reaching the right view in the way that I have described. I do not think that that approach will be unworkable or difficult. If hon. Members do not agree with that, it is a vote of no confidence in the United Kingdom. I can understand such a view from the nationalists, because that is their raison d'être: their only reason for existence is to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom. However, I am surprised that 935 the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) takes such a gloomy view of the way in which the United Kingdom will work in the future, and of the partnership approach.
§ Mr. Ancram
I am seriously trying to understand whether the Secretary of State's proposals will work. It is in our interest to ensure that whatever is put in place works. What concerns me about such negotiation is that there will be two sets of civil servants. At the moment, they come under a common civil service answerable to one Government. They are able to share all information, whether it is confidential or not. When there are two sets of civil servants answering to two different Administrations, will it be possible for both sets to see the same information, whatever its confidentiality? To whom will they owe their loyalty? Such nuts and bolts issues must be sorted out if this proposal is to work.
§ Mr. Dewar
The home civil service remains a united service. Civil servants work for their ministerial teams. When the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the Scottish Office, his civil servants serviced him and were able to discuss matters of common interest across the departmental range. There is no reason why that arrangement should not continue.
I shall tell hon. Members a secret. On occasions, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Office have had different points of view and have had to discuss the matter and reach a common conclusion. The United Kingdom is the signatory body, so it is essential to have a common position that we can all back and for which we can all argue. The Scottish Ministers will go back and report to the Scottish Parliament, to which they are accountable, and the United Kingdom Ministers will be accountable to the House. That is sensible.
§ Mr. Dewar
No, I must watch the time.
In new clause 13, the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) suggests that the provision that a Scottish Minister may attend meetings in Brussels should be changed so that he is entitled as of right to attend. That is not the spirit in which these matters will be conducted.
§ Mr. Dewar
The hon. Lady says no. Should the Welsh assembly have the same right? Matters will become extremely complicated and difficult. If the hon. and learned Gentleman assumes that, without that right, the Scottish Minister would have been excluded, I think that he assumes some very depressing prospects for the whole adventure on which we are embarked.
We certainly had no intention of hiding today's announcement about representation in Brussels. Clearly, what happens is ultimately a matter for the Scottish Parliament, and, in a sense, I cannot lay down the law for that Parliament. All that we can do is offer it a menu of 936 opportunity. I personally can make clear my belief that Scottish representation in Brussels would be valuable, and that it would be a fairly high priority for the Parliament.
We made the announcement today because we knew that I would mention the matter in my speech, and that it would be a subject for discussion here. It is a modest start. I regard the two representatives who have been sent as an advance party—some might even describe them as a picket—whose task will be to reconnoitre and make recommendations. Their host will be UKREP, and they will be on UKREP premises, but they will not be part of UKREP. I believe that we have four people seconded to UKREP at present, and of course I want that arrangement to continue. The Scottish representative office in Brussels will be there to complement and work with UKREP, but not to replace it. As UKREP speaks for the United Kingdom as a whole, I think it particularly important for staff to be seconded from the Executive of the Scottish Parliament.
§ Mrs. Ewing
May I ask the Secretary of State, very briefly, whether those people will be involved in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives—which plays such an effective role in the Council of Ministers and in looking at directives?
§ Mr. Dewar
I would certainly expect them to be involved in it, but who is involved in what meetings will be a matter for UKREP. The people concerned will be in UKREP, and I hope that we shall be able to maintain those relations, which are important to us.
In case the hon. Lady is about to jump up and ask why we do not introduce a statutory law binding UKREP to an arrangement whereby, every time five people leave the building, one must be a Scot, let me say that that would bring us into the realms of the fanciful.
§ Mr. Dewar
No, I am about to finish my speech. I am not being discourteous to my hon. Friend. I nearly always give way to him, but on this occasion I have only two minutes left.
We have heard a great deal about total dissatisfaction with what is or is not in the Bill. The right hon. Member for Devizes quoted what had been said by fishing bodies. I accept that we shall have to talk to those bodies and take our case to them, and I think that we will be successful in that. Let me, however, remind the right hon. Gentleman of a letter from the National Farmers Union of Scotland, dated 26 January, which the union made public. According to that letter,it has been suggested that the position of Scottish Ministers' participation in the Council of Ministers is necessarily weakened. This Union does not agree with this criticism and believes that the Bill as presently formed will fulfil its intended purpose … The Union attaches great importance to the representation of Scottish agricultural interests in the institutions of the European Union. We believe that the Bill, when enacted, will allow Scottish Ministers to represent distinctive Scottish interests as is appropriate for a component part of a member state.937 The letter goes on to look forward to the days when there will be representation and a representative office in Brussels.
I quoted from the letter not because I think that the National Farmers Union of Scotland is the end of the argument, but because it is operating as the voice of Scotland in a particularly sensitive area, often identified as one in which we are particularly weak in terms of the European argument. Perhaps Opposition Front Benchers and others who doubt our good intentions, or the workability of what we are trying to do, will have some regard for that fact and those opinions.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment proposed: No. 72, in page 59, line 45, at end insert—
'(c) dealings directly related to international agreements affecting devolved matters'. — [Mrs. Ewing.]
§ Question put, That the amendment be made: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 285.939
|Division No. 234]||[5.45 pm|
|Cunningham, Ms Roseanna||Swinney, John|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Mr. Alasdair Morgan and|
|Salmond, Alex||Mr. Andrew Welsh.|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Caplin, Ivor|
|Ainger, Nick||Casale, Roger|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Caton, Martin|
|Alexander, Douglas||Chidgey, David|
|Allen, Graham||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Clapham, Michael|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Clark, Dr Lynda|
|Baker, Norman||(Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Ballard, Mrs Jackie||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Banks, Tony||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Beard, Nigel||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Clelland, David|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Clwyd, Ann|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Coaker, Vernon|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Betts, Clive||Coleman, Iain|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Connarty, Michael|
|Boateng, Paul||Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Cooper, Yvette|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Cousins, Jim|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Cranston, Ross|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Crausby, David|
|Brown, Rt Hon Gordon||Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)|
|(Dunfermline E)||Cummings, John|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Dalyell, Tarn|
|Browne, Desmond||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Darvill, Keith|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Burstow, Paul||Davidson, Ian|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Byers, Stephen||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Dawson, Hilton|
|Cabom, Richard||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Denham, John|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Dewar, Rt Hon Donald|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Cann, Jamie||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Doran, Frank||Leslie, Christopher|
|Dowd, Jim||Levitt, Tom|
|Drew, David||Love, Andrew|
|Drown, Ms Julia||McAllion, John|
|Eagle, Maria (L 'pool Garston)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Edwards, Huw||McCabe, Steve|
|Efford, Clive||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Etherington, Bill||McCartney, Ian (MakerHeld)|
|Fearn, Ronnie||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Macdonald, Calum|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||McFall, John|
|Fitzsimons, Loma||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Flint, Caroline||McIsaac, Shona|
|Flynn, Paul||McKenna, Mrs Rosemary|
|Follett, Barbara||McLeish, Henry|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Foulkes, George||McWalter, Tony|
|Fyfe, Maria||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Galbraith, Sam||Mandelson, Peter|
|Galloway, George||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Gardiner, Barry||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Martlew, Eric|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Goggins, Paul||Meale, Alan|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Merron, Gillian|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Michael, Alun|
|Gorrie, Donald||Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)|
|Grant, Bernie||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Milburn, Alan|
|Grocott, Bruce||Miller, Andrew|
|Grogan, John||Mitchell, Austin|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)|
|Hancock, Mike||Morley, Elliot|
|Hanson, David||Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Harris, Dr Evan||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||Mudie, George|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Heppell, John||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Hesford, Stephen||Norris, Dan|
|Hill, Keith||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Osbome, Ms Sandra|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Hoey, Kate||Pearson, Ian|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Pendry, Tom|
|Hope, Phil||Pickthall, Colin|
|Howarth, Alan (Newport E)||Pike, Peter L|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Pound, Stephen|
|Hughes, Kevin (DoncasterN)||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Hughes, Simon (Southward N)||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Hurst, Alan||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Hutton, John||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Purchase, Ken|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Jamieson, David||Radice, Giles|
|Jenkins, Brian||Rapson, Syd|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie||Raynsford, Nick|
|(Welwyn Hatfield)||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Rendel, David|
|Jones, Helen (Wanington N)||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Rogers, Allan|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Rooker, Jeff|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Roy, Frank|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Ruane, Chris|
|Kelly, Ms Ruth||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Khabra, Piara S||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Kidney, David||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Sanders, Adrian|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Sawford, Phil|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Touhig, Don|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Truswell, Paul|
|Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Smith, Miss Geraldine||Tyler, Paul|
|(Morecambe & Lunesdale)||Vaz, Keith|
|Smith, John (Glamorgan)||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Wallace, James|
|Soley, Clive||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Spellar, John||Watts, David|
|Squire, Ms Rachel||Webb, Steve|
|Starkey, Dr Phyllis||White, Brian|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Stevenson, George||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Stewart, David (Inverness E)||(Swansea W)|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Stoate, Dr Howard||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||Wills, Michael|
|Stringer, Graham||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Wise, Audrey|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann||Woolas, Phil|
|Taylor, David (NWLeics)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Wyatt, Derek|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Tipping, Paddy||Mr. Greg Pope and|
|Todd, Mark||Ms Bridget Prentice.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ It being two hours and ten minutes after the commencement of proceedings in Committee, THE CHAIRMAN put the Question necessary to be disposed of at that hour, pursuant to the Order [13 January] and the Resolution [this day].
Amendment made: No. 523, in page 60, leave out line 16 and insert—
'() the exercise of civil defence functions by any person otherwise than as a member of any force or organisation referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(b) to (d) or any other force or organisation reserved by virtue of sub-paragraph (1)(a)'.[Mr. McFall.]
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 11—Subsidiarity—
'.—In the relations between the Scottish Parliament and Executive and local government in Scotland, the principle of subsidiarity shall apply, and all acts of the Parliament shall be construed in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.'.New clause 18—Restriction on tax levying power of the Parliament—'.—The Parliament shall not have the power to levy any tax other than as provided for in section 69.'.New clause 25—Transfer of Powers to Islands Areas—
New schedule 2—'Functions which may be transferred to an Islands' Authority—
- '.—(1) It shall be competent for the Scottish Parliament to transfer to an islands authority administrative responsibility for all or part of each of the functions set out in Schedule (Functions which may be transferred to an Islands Authority) to this Act, in respect of the relevant islands area;
- (2) Following a request from an islands authority, the Scottish Executive and the islands authority shall publish a joint report on the implications of the transfer of any function or part thereof to the islands authority;
- (3) Without prejudice to the generality of sub-section (2), the joint report shall define the extent of the responsibilities to be transferred, and shall set out the financial consequences of any such transfer;
- (4) The transferred responsibilities referred to in sub-section (3) above may include the power to make orders under the relevant primary legislation, and the responsibilities transferred may include any relevant powers or duties exercised by the Scottish Parliament, by any Joint Board, or by any other public body for which the Scottish Parliament is responsible;
- (5) The joint report referred to in sub-section (2) above shall be considered by both the Scottish Parliament and islands authority within three months of its publication, and thereafter shall be a referendum on the proposed transfer of responsibilities, in which all registered electors in the relevant islands area shall be entitled to vote;
- (6) In the event of a majority approval of the proposed transfer of responsibilities, such responsibilities shall be transferred to the islands authority on 1st April following the referendum, provided that at least six months shall have elapsed since the referendum;
- (7) Nothing in this section shall affect the existing powers and responsibilities of the islands authorities;
- (8) For the purpose of this section, "islands authority" means the Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council and Western Isles Council, and the term "relevant islands area" shall be construed accordingly.'.
- 1. The following functions may be transferred to an islands' authority under section (Transfer of powers to island areas).
- 2. Those functions are: passenger and road transport; sea and air transport; police; fire services; water and sewerage; functions of SEPA; coast protection; inshore fisheries; powers of direction vested in the Secretary of State for Scotland under the Crown Estate Act 1961; liquor licensing; licensing under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982; functions of Historic Scotland; tourism, land use and planning; housing; further education; careers advice and guidance; sport and arts.'.
§ Dr. Fox
The amendment and new clause 18 seek to restrict the Scottish Parliament's tax-raising powers to that which occurs in clause 69. This issue was central to the referendum campaign; many who voted yes did so because they thought that any tax-raising power would be limited to 3p on the standard rate of tax. They were encouraged in that belief during the campaign.
In the referendum campaign and in the general election campaign, we warned about the danger of back-door taxation. What we said at the general election proved correct. Back-door taxation has occurred, not the least example of which was the raid on pensions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that will push council taxes in Scotland up by an extra 2 to 3 per cent. next year simply to pay for the extra cost to local government. Specifically, we said that we did not want the uniform business rate in Scotland to be abolished and that we did not want sales or tourist taxes, which have been proposed in several quarters.
The temptation to raise extra finance will be great; calculated on the number of Scottish taxpayers, 3p on the standard rate will raise about £450 million. That sounds like a large amount until it is compared with the Scottish grant of £14 billion. As we approach the Scottish parliamentary elections, the usual promises are made and the spending auction continues.
A great deal of expectation will be built up about what the Scottish Parliament can provide. The Liberal Democrats have proposed 1p on tax and say that the 941 money raised would go far, but even £450 million will not go far in terms of Scottish public expenditure, and there will be a temptation to raise expectations beyond those that can reasonably be met within the sum that is proposed in clause 69. I think that politicians will give in to that temptation.
§ Dr. Fox
Whatever starting point we take, we probably agree that expectations will be raised further between now and the parliamentary elections. I agree that they have already been raised: many of the debates in Committee have shown that expectations have already been raised unrealistically, but as we go through the campaign they will be raised further. I need only look at some of those sitting behind me to see the sort of promises auction—
§ Dr. Fox
If the hon. Gentleman had looked up from his notes he would see who I mean. I think especially of the Scottish nationalists, who will promise far more than they can deliver, in the knowledge that that will destroy the cosy feelings that the Government believe they have built recently. The effect of spending this extra money—of raising extra taxation—is clear.
The Government have converted to market economics—at least most of them have; I see that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) is not here at present. They understand that a low-cost, deregulated economy will lead to more jobs. If that is true, the converse is also true: more regulation and higher taxes and higher costs will lead to fewer jobs. It is that negative effect on the Scottish economy which we have to consider when examining potential extra tax raising.
We cannot overlook the success of the uniform business rate—a great achievement which occurred under the Conservative Government. Before UBR was introduced, businesses in Scotland were taxed disproportionately in relation to businesses in England. They had a far heavier burden. They were pounded by socialist councils, especially in west and central Scotland, as easy targets to raise money for councils' public expenditure, but they now compete on a level playing field.
One of the ways in which we can see the success of the change is by comparing current average earnings in Scotland with what they were at the end of the 1970s. At that time, they were 87 per cent. of the United Kingdom average; now, they have risen to about 98 per cent. of the UK average. Scotland has done extremely well. I do not need to stress again the success of inward investment in Scotland. That success and the equalisation of treatment in business rates cannot be a coincidence.
As a direct result of UBR, Scottish businesses have paid £1.4 billion less in rates over the five years from 1990. If the rate poundage had risen in line with inflation since 1990, the poundage would now be over 110p, more than doubling current rates bills. On top of that, we had UBR transitional relief of some £72 million in 1995–96 942 and £65 million in 1996–97. I say that to show how far we have come in terms of protecting Scottish businesses from the effects of profligate local government.
§ Mrs. Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
The hon. Gentleman talks of profligate local government. Were not the two most significant increases in local taxation in Scotland over the past five years caused by the poll tax and local authority reorganisation, both of which were imposed by the previous Government against the wishes of the people? They are clearly a significant factor in the fact that, in Scotland, local authorities now raise only 14 per cent. of their income and the Government are responsible for 86 per cent.
§ Dr. Fox
I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is arguing that local authorities should raise more money and impose higher taxes. Whatever her starting point, if she is arguing that they should raise extra money, council taxes will rise even further. As a result of the Budget that the Government have just produced, council taxes in Scotland will rise even further next year, simply to pay for the pensions theft that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has forced on local government: new Labour, new taxes. After each Budget, higher price tags are attached to local government.
There is no point in the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mrs. McKenna) giving us the red herring of the poll tax given that so many of her—[Interruption.] During the referendum campaign, many Labour Members said, "You must vote yes in the referendum so that we never have another situation where a Westminster Government can impose a poll tax." As has already been admitted, the Bill gives the House exactly the same powers to impose a new system of local government finance in Scotland, so that line is a red herring, and the hon. Lady should not have mentioned it.
One question that might legitimately be asked of the Conservative party is: as the Bill gives the Scottish Parliament only powers that are currently exercised by the Scottish Office, why should we not wish the Scottish Parliament to have extra tax-raising powers? The answer is that, at present, those powers are exercised within a unitary fiscal and political framework. As I have said, with devolution, there will be a build-up of expectations. We must ensure that the pressure valve is not a range of new back-door taxes on the Scottish people.
§ Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside)
The hon. Gentleman talks about the Parliament being given additional tax-raising powers. Does he not realise that—certainly from my reading of his amendment, I fear that this is the situation—if amendment No. 407 were accepted, the Scottish Parliament would be unable to lower business rates to try to provide a competitive advantage for Scottish business? That is a strange argument for the allegedly business-friendly Conservative party to advance.
§ Dr. Fox
In having a seductive red herring, the hon. Gentleman now has one up on the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Welsh), who is sitting in front of him. We of course have never tried to have business rates lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. The whole point was to have a level playing field throughout the UK. That is what we sought then. I am an unashamed Unionist. I want 943 a level playing field to be maintained for businesses throughout the UK. That is exactly what we intended to have.
The amendment is about keeping faith with the people who voted yes in the referendum campaign, believing that the tax-raising powers would be limited. Those who voted yes yes, or even no yes, thought that the only tax that could be raised would be 3p on income tax. The amendment and new clause 18 hold the Government to account. It is up to them to demonstrate that they told the truth during the referendum. I hope that they will accept amendment No. 407 and new clause 18, which are reasonable and protect Scottish taxpayers.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Because we are time limited, I should like to make just one point. I plead with my hon. Friends to understand that many Scottish businesses are deeply concerned about the uniform business rate. The level playing field with England is a matter of considerable consequence to their prosperity and to employment in Scotland. I leave it at that because I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
§ Mr. Wallace
Included in this group is new clause 25, on the government of the islands. The UBR, which was imposed by the last Conservative Government, put up business rates in the islands areas, so it was a mixed blessing.
Business rates may remain exclusively the responsibility of Westminster, but, as I understood it, it was the Labour party's policy to return business rates to local authorities. It can do that here, with its majority of 179, much more readily than in a Scottish Parliament, where it is distinctly possible that it will not have a majority at all.
If the Parliament acts as those of us who campaigned for it during the referendum hope it will, it will consult and take different views into account, not least those of business. I hope that it will be business friendly. If it is thought necessary to change the business rating system in Scotland, it is incumbent on the Parliament to take into account the views of business and to consult it. Any changes might, therefore, be much more business friendly than if this House, with a Government majority of 179, just pushed through a business non-friendly Bill.
The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) referred to red herrings. Perhaps he has caught the biggest red herring as he tries to take away an opportunity for Scottish business and the Parliament to engage constructively on the best form of local taxation.
New clause 11 relates to subsidiarity. It seeks to give a presumption of subsidiarity in any negotiations or dealings between the Scottish Parliament and Executive and local authorities in Scotland.
The constitutional convention agreement, "Scotland's Parliament, Scotland's Right", says:The Act will include a clause committing Scotland's Parliament to secure and maintain a strong and effective system of local government, and will embody the principle of subsidiarity so as to guarantee the important role of local government in service delivery.New clause 11 seeks to give some substance to that agreement, reached among the various parties to the constitutional convention.
944 It is important that we send the right signals to local government, to let it know that the Scottish Parliament does not exist to suck away its powers—as the House of Commons did under the 18 years of the Conservative Administration. Time and again, the Conservatives took powers from local government and centralised them. We must ensure that a Scottish Parliament has proper respect for the role of local government in our communities.
Local government is probably the level of government that allows the greatest opportunity for people to participate and to influence decisions that affect them directly—individually and in their community life. It is important that the crucial role of local government is recognised, and that the Scottish Parliament does not unnecessarily encroach on, or infringe, its role.
Although I welcome the fact that the Government have set up a commission to study the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and local government, I repeat that it is a matter of considerable dismay that it will have no powers to examine local government finance. A similar mistake was made in the 1970s, when local government was reformed in both England and Scotland, two or three years before the Layfield committee report on local government finance.
One cannot consider the powers and role of local government without considering the way in which it raises its finance. The fact that, at the moment, there is such a high gearing in central Government grants to local authorities detracts from local democracy in many ways. I hope that, even at this stage, the Government will reconsider the possibility of making local government finance part and parcel of the commission's remit.
I shall now discuss the new clauses relating to the islands communities. In 1990, the original constitutional convention document said:No detailed decisions have been reached but there is agreement that the unique place of the Islands warrants separate constitutional consideration in the detailed legislative proposals for the establishment of Scotland's Parliament".That was reflected in the final, agreed document of the constitutional convention, which recognised the geographical and historical circumstances of the islands and said that they warranted distinctive constitutional consideration.
I welcome the fact that each of the islands areas—Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles—will have its own Member of the Scottish Parliament, but new clause 25 seeks to go further. Whereas it would be up to Parliament to decide to devolve further powers to the islands areas, new clause 25 would give an initiative to the islands area.
If an islands authority felt that there was a sphere of competence in which it could exercise a function better and more in sympathy with local needs, it could go to the Scottish Parliament and say so. There would then be a requirement for a negotiation to proceed between the Scottish Parliament and the islands authority on a range of specific issues. I think especially of water and sewerage.
As water and sewerage are self-contained within each island group, there is no earthly reason why the islands areas should be attached to the big quango of the North of Scotland water authority. I believe that there is good reason for that responsibility to be restored to the islands area. The authorities could negotiate the financial terms and so on with the Scottish Parliament, and then the matter would be resolved by a referendum.
945 Often, legislation that the House has passed for the best of reasons does not work in the islands areas because of unique local circumstances. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) is not in the Chamber at the moment, but I remember that, when he was a Scottish Office housing Minister, he sympathetically allowed a subsequent amendment to legislation when, following the introduction of the right to buy, teachers' houses were being sold in some remote islands areas, with the result that, whenever there was a new teacher, the council had to build a new house. That was never the intention of the legislation, and an amendment was needed.
Legislation on housing associations and the giving of contracts has meant that, in the Orkney housing association, the almost impossible situation has grown up where it is possible that the only supplier of certain office equipment in the islands is a board member related to an employee of the housing association. It is no good going to Shetland, because there is a relationship there with yet another employee. A measure that works sensibly in Glasgow or Edinburgh, and probably in most parts of mainland Scotland, does not work in the islands.
Building material waste from one of the north isles of Orkney must be brought to the mainland of Orkney for disposal, if the law is to be followed properly. That does not make sense either. Sensitivity and common sense are needed. I believe that when the islands authorities believe they should have a competence to deal with these matters, it should be granted. There should be a mechanism in the Parliament to ensure that, just as we have an explanatory memorandum on the financial consequences of a Bill, or an explanatory memorandum on the impact on public manpower, or on business compliance, every piece of Scottish Parliament legislation is considered in the context of its implications for the islands areas. If, despite that process, an anomaly arises, there should be a fast track procedure for tackling and ending that anomaly.
To be fair, the Secretary of State has visited Orkney twice. He will be in Shetland for the highlands and islands convention later in the year. Considerable sympathy has been expressed. We hope that it will be translated into legislative form, to give the reassurances that people in the islands areas seek.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus)
There has been a massive contrast between the very positive approach adopted by the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and the very negative Tory speech and Tory amendment and new clause that are now before the Committee. I strongly agree with the hon. and learned Member that there must be a co-operative, not competitive, relationship between the new Scottish Parliament and Scotland's local authorities.
I shall be brief. The Tory amendment and new clause are yet another example of the Tories telling the Scottish Parliament and MSPs what they cannot do. Business rates, or any other source of taxation, would be for ever beyond the remit of the Scottish Parliament. The Tories believe that democratically elected Scottish representatives are not to be trusted. They want to deny the Scottish Parliament what every other European devolved Parliament takes for granted.
946 Yet again, the Tories are showing that they have no trust or confidence in Scotland and that they do not want Scottish democracy or fiscal autonomy. The Tories are truly the Scottish no-men, and the amendment and their new clause show that they are at it again.
Under successive London Governments, Scottish business has suffered higher business rates than business in England and, from 1990 to 1995, that amounted to approximately 20 per cent. extra per year, or £1,200 million over-taxation. There has always been a certain hypocrisy about those Tory business leaders who oppose home rule for Scotland—because it may lead to higher tax for businesses—while supporting a Union under which Scottish businesses suffer from that debilitating London levy.
We believe that Scottish businesses should be assisted, not unnecessarily hindered, by the taxation mechanism. The uniform business rate poundage in Scotland should be no higher than that in England, before or after independence. There should be no increase in the level of business rates beyond, let us say, a 5 per cent. annual maximum. Thus, Scottish businesses would pay their fair share towards local government services but retain their essential competitive edge.
In exchange for making their contribution to local government, there should be a statutory right for local businesses to be consulted at each stage of the policy making process on matters that affect them.
§ Mr. Welsh
I just pointed out to the hon. Gentleman that we believe that business taxation could be kept to a minimum to give the Scots a competitive edge. He said that there should be one rate throughout the United Kingdom. We should like a beneficial rate in Scotland, to give our businesses that extra edge. We see a prosperous, expanding economy in Scotland, and our policies are designed to promote that. In rushing to be a Unionist, the hon. Gentleman has, in the past, crippled Scottish small businesses by the uncompetitive rates that were forced on them.
We believe that valuation criteria should be revised so that the contribution made by smaller businesses is no longer disproportionately high in comparison to that of larger businesses. Many reforms should be introduced—reforms to local government finance and reforms to help small businesses.
We believe not only that all businesses should make a fair contribution to local government finance, but that, equally, they must be guarded from any unnecessary or over-large tax rises. Scottish small businesses are at the heart of local communities across the length and breadth of Scotland. Our proposals would guarantee fairness and participation by businesses in our democratically elected Scots Parliament.
The Tory amendment and new clause would offer Scotland nothing. They are negative, scaremongering and out of touch, and they should be treated with the contempt that they deserve.
I should like a Scottish local government system to be developed in which local government has its own clearly defined powers, is properly financed and is answerable to its own electors. Local government should work in 947 partnership in providing low-cost, high-quality public services for the public good. The norm should be that maximum powers are devolved to the appropriate level. Such devolution should not be the exception, as it currently is in Scotland.
I therefore support the principle behind the Liberal Democrats' new clause 11, which would devolve power to local government. The trend in Europe is clearly towards establishing subsidiarity. We should follow that trend and the principles enshrined in the European charter for local government.
The Conservative amendment and new clause should be rejected.
§ Mrs. McKenna
I shall speak to the Conservatives' amendment and new clause, which are yet another attack on Scottish local government. In their 18 years in office, the previous Government persistently made such attacks, most disgracefully denigrating local government—which should be a partner of national government and play its proper role in society. Local government is democratically and very soundly elected and should be respected as such. The principle of subsidiarity should apply not only to Scotland's Parliament but to local government so that it might play its proper role.
Many hundreds of good councillors—who were respected in their communities and understood their role—were disgracefully attacked by the previous Government. Official Opposition spokesmen have said that they want a new relationship with local government and have come very close to apologising to those in local government for their actions in the past 18 years. However, such an apology has not characterised the tone of today's debate.
§ Mrs. McKenna
I believe that the Scottish Parliament, with local government, should examine the issue of local government taxation and the uniform business rate. If it is appropriate to return the matter to local government, that decision should be made. I trust local government and the people. Unlike Conservative Members I trust democratically elected and accountable local government councillors to make that decision.
§ Mrs. McKenna
No; I have only a few minutes in which to speak.
Conservative Members do not understand that we want a relationship and partnership with local government. The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) said that the success of inward investment in Scotland was to do entirely with equalising the uniform business rate. That is not true. Scotland's successful inward investment rate is a result of partnerships between local government, other 948 public sector bodies, the private sector and the Government—all of whom work together and understand the local agenda and inward investment.
§ Mrs. McKenna
No; I shall not take any more interventions.
Those organisations work together very successfully—as they will in the Scottish Parliament. Local government will be respected, as will the business community. As a former local government leader, I know that such mutual respect is entirely possible. I worked under the old regime—before the poll tax—in which we levied the business rate, and we had a very good relationship with the business sector in our area. We never had any problems. Business respected our rights, as we respected its rights. The Scottish Parliament will allow development of a proper working relationship between all the organisations involved, whether they are public or private.
It would do Conservative Members much credit if, just once, they would apologise to the people of Scotland for what they did to Scottish local government over the past 18 years. I oppose their amendment and new clause.
§ Mr. McLeish
Before I deal with the specifics of the amendment, the new clauses and the new schedule, I should repeat a comment made by some of my hon. Friends: the Conservatives have learnt absolutely nothing about local government, the White Paper or the Bill. This Government have had the most constructive dialogue with business in Scotland of any Labour Government since the war: we have attempted to take business into our confidence, and very constructively to decide how we should move forward— [Interruption.] Conservative Members mimic, but they will have to deal with the reality: they are simply out of touch with the business community in Scotland.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said, the business community in Scotland is apprehensive, which is important. However, it is better to be apprehensive on the basis of information than on the basis of ignorance—which has been demonstrated in this debate by Conservative Members.
We promised in the White Paper that we would be consistent in saying what the Parliament would do on taxation. We made that promise on 1 May, in the White Paper, during the referendum and in this Bill, which will be an Act. We have been completely consistent—which is the way to build trust not only with the Scottish people but with the business community.
Some of my hon. Friends have already asked when the Conservatives will start to take seriously the very large business of local government in Scotland, which spends billions of pounds of taxpayers' money and delivers some of the best-quality services in the United Kingdom. It is not asking much for that to be acknowledged. Although I would not go so far as to ask Conservative Members to support local government, such an acknowledgment would be beneficial to the House and to the Scottish Parliament.
The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) argued that the power to change local taxation was an extra tax-raising power which was not mentioned in the 949 referendum campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth. The White Paper made it quite clear that local domestic and non-domestic taxation would be devolved matters, as is stated in the Bill.
As for amendment No. 407, the Bill devolves to the Scottish Parliament and Executive responsibility for relations with local authorities in Scotland, and for their financing, both in terms of grant and in terms of local taxation. It would not be consistent with that principle to reserve local non-domestic taxation—either the existing system of non-domestic rates or potential changes to that system. However, the Government have no intention of introducing new taxes on Scottish business, through the back door, by use of that mechanism.
New clause 18 brings us back to territory that has already been discussed at length. The Bill provides that the Scottish Parliament will have the power to vary the basic rate of income tax. The Parliament will have no other powers in national taxation, because taxes and excise duties are reserved matters. New clause l8 is simply not necessary.
I therefore ask that amendment No. 407 be withdrawn and that new clause 18 not be pressed.
The Government do not think that new clauses 11 and 25 are necessary. We are certain that local government will have a very important role to play after devolution. Our approach to local government was outlined in the White Paper, which stated that the Government did not expect the Scottish Parliament to accumulate a range of new functions at the centre that would be more appropriately and efficiently delivered by other bodies.
An important idea that we have promoted in our debates is that we want there to be devolution from Westminster to Edinburgh—not for councils in Ayr, Fife or Glasgow to lose responsibilities. That important balance must be struck in any democracy. It is absolutely sound for us to express the idea not only in this place, but—when discussing local government—across the country.
The White Paper affirmed our belief that decisions should be made as close as possible to the citizen—the principle of subsidiarity has been mentioned by Opposition Members—and that the people of Scotland will be best served by a Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive working closely with strong, democratically elected local government.
People in local government are elected. A proud tradition in Scotland, and across the United Kingdom, is that those who want to perform public service should stand for election and be elected. We should therefore have more faith and confidence in what those in local government are doing for their own electorate.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In view of the speculation in the press—although not, as far as I know, from any of my hon. Friends, let alone Ministers—will my hon. Friend confirm that there is no possibility of the police being taken out of the hands of local authorities and becoming directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament?
§ Mr. McLeish
I am very pleased to able to say that there is no possibility whatever of that happening. The police do an excellent job in Scotland, along with the fire service. They are an essential part of the fabric of community safety. We are working closely with all 950 concerned, including the unions, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) and the fire service bosses to ensure that we have the best service possible. There is no intention of shifting in the way outlined by my hon. Friend.
New clause 11 is an attempt by the hon. Member for Woodspring to entrench the position of local government. Although I share the Conservatives' wish to see local government thrive, I do not think that this is the way to achieve that aim. Such a provision suggests that we do not trust the Scottish Parliament to legislate properly. I know that that is not the import of the comments that have been made, but it all comes back to a question of balance—a question which we need to take seriously in our democracy.
Of course, we have already acted in a number of ways to affirm the role of local government. In June, we signed the Council of Europe's charter for local self-government; six months later, we established the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament to consider how strong local government can best work with the Parliament and its Executive.
§ Mr. McLeish
Had the hon. Gentleman been listening, he would have heard me say that we are devolving responsibilities for the structure of local government, for local taxation and non-domestic taxation to the Scottish Parliament. It is a matter which can be discussed in this House and by the Scottish Parliament. At the moment, we have a system of local government finance which is working and which is delivering on services. It is vital that that is recognised and that it should continue.
The commission may propose a concordat between local government and the Scottish Parliament for the Parliament to consider. A statement of intent by the Scottish Parliament is a more appropriate affirmation of the role of local government than something forced on it by this House.
The Government cannot accept new clause 25 and new schedule 2, as they would tie the Parliament's hands, requiring it to transfer to an islands authority responsibility for a range of matters, subject only to a referendum in the relevant islands area. If the electors in the area supported the transfer, the Parliament would have no discretion to refuse, notwithstanding the consequences of the transfer for the islands, the Parliament or, indeed, other parts of Scotland.
I am sure that the Scottish Parliament will want to recognise the special circumstances of the islands communities, and it will be open to it to confer functions in relation to devolved matters on to islands authorities. It would not, however, be appropriate for this House to prescribe to the Scottish Parliament how it should do these things. The Scottish Parliament will be much better placed than we are to decide how best to meet the needs of Scotland's island communities.
The new electoral arrangements for the Scottish Parliament will ensure that the voice of the islands communities is properly heard. The proportional 951 representation system and separate constituency Members for both Orkney and Shetland will help to ensure that the views of the islands are properly represented in the Scottish Parliament.
In the light of that explanation of the Government's position, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.
§ Dr. Fox
The purpose of the amendment, the new clauses and the new schedule was to flush out exactly what the Government's attitude in the Scottish Parliament would be towards the UBR. It is clear from the comments of the Minister and some of his colleagues that local business is to be soaked. The Labour party and even the Minister himself will not rule out abolition of the UBR. The simple question put to him was what would be the Labour party's position on the UBR in the Scottish Parliament. He is going to be a Minister and senior politician in that Parliament, yet we are unable to get an answer from him. Having managed to flush out the position—
§ Mr. Salmond
On a point of order, Sir Alan. I heard the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman prescribe who is and is not going to be a Minister in the new Scottish Parliament. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to pick Ministers for the new Scottish Parliament, even if he is picking them from parties other than his own?
§ Dr. Fox
The comment from the leader of the Scottish National party is the kind of comment that I might expect from someone who has played the one card he has a little too early in the campaign.
Having successfully flushed out the Government's hostility to local businesses, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 317, in clause 111, page 50, line 21, leave out 'of restitution' and insert 'arising from unjustified enrichment'.
No. 318, in clause 111, page 50, line 23, leave out 'and'.
No. 319, in clause 111, page 50, line 26, at end insert'and(e) Scottish International Private Law (Jurisdiction and choice of law)'.
§ Mr. Jenkin
It may just be me—perhaps it is not—but I am getting heartily fed up with Ministers carping and lecturing us on our attitude towards devolution. The disappointment that the Scots are likely to feel as a result of the devolution programme is exemplified by this small but significant debate.
952 Amendment No. 467 deletes a reservation of part of Scottish private law to Westminster. It was a war cry of those in favour of devolution that nowhere else in the world was there a legal system that did not have its own Parliament. Given that war cry, one would have thought that a clear line would be drawn between the responsibilities of Westminster and the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, and that everything to do with Scottish law would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament while everything not directly to do with Scottish law would be retained by Westminster. Clearly, that is not the case.
There is to be a reservation of Scottish law and, what is more, of Scottish private law. The idea that private arrangements between individuals in Scotland have to be regulated by legislation passed through a United Kingdom Parliament, even when there is to be a Scottish Parliament with primary legislative powers, sticks out like a sore thumb. I perfectly understand why the reservation has to be made: life is so much more complicated than allowed for in the cheap rhetoric used by the Government when they were promoting the devolution programme.
In this case, we question whether it should be the sole responsibility of Westminster to decide the levels of interest charged on taxes owed to the Exchequer. Scottish income tax, or the tartan tax, will be payable only by Scottish residents—or so we hope, although there is still some confusion about that—so the income of the Scottish Parliament will be dependent on how willing Scottish residents are to pay the tartan tax. We believe there is a case for allowing the Scottish Parliament, in order to secure its own income, to have a say over the penalty rates of interest to be charged if people are refusing to pay.
Amendment No. 467 is no more than a probing amendment designed to prove that there is no consistency in what the Government were saying about Scotland's legal system and the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Life is much more complicated than that. When the Scottish people begin to experience the considerable difference between the rhetoric about and the reality of the Scottish Parliament, it will be for the Minister to explain to the gathering hordes of SNP voters, which his irresponsible policies are provoking, why they should not be disappointed that what he promised is not being delivered.
§ Mr. Wallace
1 shall speak to amendments Nos. 317 to 319. With regard to amendment No. 467, I have to say that although I always welcome converts to the fold of those who wish to extend devolution, I just wish that the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) had chosen a better example with which to do it. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a contract between two people, but paying interest to the Revenue or to Customs and Excise is not so much a contract as a statutory imposition. If the Scottish Parliament has no power to vary excise duties, I am not sure that it would necessarily be appropriate to give it the power to vary the interest on what it is not allowed to levy.
I hope that the Minister will accept amendments Nos. 317 to 319, whose inspiration was the Law Society of Scotland. They would amend clause 111 which refers to obligations, including those "of restitution". Amendment No. 317 seeks to substitute for that the words, "arising from unjustified enrichment".
953 Scots private law neatly and properly follows the pattern established in the civic codes of Roman law of persons, obligations, property and actions. The law of obligations is said to include voluntary and conventional obligations, and obligations of restitution and reparation.
I submit that obligations of restitution properly relate to a concept of unjustified enrichment. Without reading ad longum, paragraph 29.1 in the 10th edition of Gloag and Henderson, sets out a cogent legal reason as to why that should be the case.
Amendment No. 319 would add a further category of Scots private law—that of private international law. Although the word "international" appears in the amendment, and that may be thought a reason for disqualification, Scots private international law and the jurisdiction and choice of law are very much matters for the Scottish courts. They are very much part of our private law determining a whole range of issues that belong to the body of Scots private law. I hope that, for the sake of completeness and because it is the proper thing to do, the Minister will accept these technical but nevertheless important amendments.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) has covered the point that I wish to raise about the Law Society of Scotland and I look forward to the Minister's response.
§ Mr. McLeish
Although we were slightly critical of the previous group of amendments, I may have some better news about the present group.
Amendments Nos. 317 to 319 deal with the definition of Scots private law contained in clause 111(3), the interpretation clause of the Bill. I understand that they were proposed by the Law Society of Scotland. They raise important, although clearly technical, questions about the words chosen to describe what is meant by the term "Scots private law" for the purposes of the Bill. Lord Gill, chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, has also made some helpful comments about this part of the Bill. I am willing to consider the issues further in the context of what is meant by Scots private law for the purposes of the Bill. If any amendments are required I shall introduce them on Report. I hope that, with that assurance, the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) will not seek to press the amendments.
The same applies to amendment No. 467, which seeks to delete the Scots private law provision in the part of schedule 5 which reserves fiscal, economic and monetary policy. The provision makes it clear that, despite the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament in respect of Scots private law, which is conveyed by clause 28(4), the Parliament cannot legislate in relation to interest due on payments or refunds in respect of taxes or excise duties. The Scottish Parliament will, however, be able to legislate on interest and refunds arising from other payments or liabilities.
We are considering whether the provision is required and whether we can rely on other provisions in the Bill to achieve the desired effect. If any amendments are required, I shall introduce them at a later stage. Again, having given the reassurance that we shall consider the 954 points that have been raised, I hope that the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) will withdraw the amendment.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I am grateful to the Minister for his comments and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Gorrie
I beg to move amendment No. 320, in schedule 5, page 61, line 3, at end insert —'Exception from reservationThe issue of bank notes by Scottish banks.'.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 468, in page 61, line 3, at end insert —'Exception from reservation —Scottish bank notes issued by the Scottish banks'.
§ Mr. Gorrie
The amendment deals with the issue of bank notes by Scottish banks —and amendment No. 468 would have the same effect. The Conservatives are certainly following in the excellent tradition of Sir Walter Scott. One of his defects was that he was high Tory Unionist, but he led a strong campaign to save Scottish bank notes when there was a risk to them in about 1827. On this issue, the Tories are on the right lines.
§ Mr. Jenkin
We were also on the right lines when we saved the Scottish pound note when the pound coin was introduced in the 1980s.
§ Mr. Gorrie
The Minister may be able to assure us that there is no threat to Scottish bank notes, but the Bill and the explanatory document provided by the Scottish Office do not make that clear in that the reserved items are financial services, banking and deposit taking, all of which could cover bank notes.
Scottish bank notes are a highly prized part of Scottish culture. They sometimes cause us problems elsewhere in the United Kingdom or abroad, but we greatly value the independence that they give us.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
If, as the hon. Gentleman's party suggests, Britain joins the single currency in 1999, how would he then save the Scottish bank note?
§ Mr. Gorrie
I am not an expert in these matters, but I understand that, although one side of a European bank note or coin would have a standard European symbol denoting that it was worth one or 10 euros, countries could have their own symbols on the other side. So it would be quite possible to have a Scottish or English note worth a certain number of euros.
We are keen for the Minister either to accept our amendment—which seems the easiest thing to do, although it is always hard for Ministers—or, if there is no threat to Scottish bank notes, to put such an assurance in black and white in the Bill. Scottish bank notes are a significant part of Scottish life and it would be very sad if in future there was a threat to them that the Scottish Parliament could not address.
§ Mr. Jenkin
This group of amendments falls into exactly the same category as the previous one, in that if there was one matter over which the Scottish Parliament would be expected to take control, it would be an issue of such symbolic importance as the Scottish bank note.
I understand that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) is not correct about the issue of the euro, as Scottish bank notes are not themselves legal tender; they are merely promissory notes issued under the Bank Notes (Scotland) Act 1845 and the Currency and Bank Notes Act 1928. They are backed by reserves in the banks concerned, but they are not themselves legal tender. For that reason, they could remain in circulation as promissory notes if they were reissued as euro notes in the event that we joined the single currency. Of course, the European central bank and the other member states would not recognise them as legal tender, but, as they do not have such recognition in England or, indeed, in Scotland, that would not be a problem. However, it would be interesting to hear on the record whether that is also the Government's view.
The issue has symbolic importance. As the United Kingdom Parliament allowed Scottish notes to continue in issue long after the currency union between England and Scotland, it is extraordinary that they should not become the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.
Of course, the Government must reserve legal tender as United Kingdom issue over anything to do directly with currency, but, as Scottish bank notes are technically not currency, I fail to understand, and ask the Minister to explain, why promissory notes could not become a matter for the Scottish Parliament, rather than the United Kingdom Government, to supervise.
§ Mr. Swinney
The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) asked the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) about what would happen if the United Kingdom joined a single European currency. Some years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) asked the director of the European Monetary Institute about the status of Scottish bank notes in those circumstances. He was told that the Maastricht treaty made provision for existing banking practice in member states to be respected, as far as possible, as the single currency developed. That shows that even in the debate about the emergence of the single currency, there is a role for the continued use of Scottish bank notes, particularly given their distinctive position in Scottish financial history.
The director of the EMI also told my hon. Friend that the previous Government had—not surprisingly—made no representations about the future of Scottish bank notes in those circumstances. Have the new Government made any such representations?
I associate the Scottish National party with the remarks of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West. That important and distinctive aspect of Scottish financial history should be respected and borne in mind as deliberations on a single European currency move forward.
Various anachronistic issues arise from a detailed scrutiny of the reserved powers. That does not suggest a logical pattern. It is legitimate to argue that promissory notes issued by a Scottish clearing bank should retain their current status. The Scottish Parliament should be responsible for them.
956 This is an important debate, because it deals with the symbolism of the Scottish Parliament and some of the issues that it should address. I hope that the Minister will have something positive to say about the amendments, which have been proposed in a positive spirit across the different views of the Opposition parties.
§ Mr. McAllion
I had not intended to intervene, but a mini-debate within the debate has been conjured up about the future of Scottish bank notes in the event of a single currency and whether the Scottish Parliament or the United Kingdom Parliament would be able to preserve those notes. I take the point of the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) about the conversation that the leader of his party had with the director of the EMI. Is he suggesting that the Bank of Scotland tenner, the Royal Bank of Scotland tenner and the Clydesdale bank tenner—which we still have difficulty in getting recognised down here after 300 years of Union with England—will immediately be recognised throughout the 15 member states of the European Union?
The United Kingdom joining a single European currency could be the death knell for the Scottish bank note. It is unrealistic to argue for the benefits of a single currency—not having to worry about exchange rates or changing money for every holiday—and also to expect £100 notes from the Clydesdale bank to be recognised in Germany as worth the same as the notes that they have. It would be interesting to hear the Government's position on that.
§ Mr. Swayne
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be the death knell not just for the bank note, but for any notion of independence?
§ Mr. McAllion
The hon. Gentleman makes the case for the Scottish National party effectively. We have been involved in a monetary union for 300 years. We have given up our independence, but we have not given up our nationhood. Some hon. Members have suggested that nationhood can be restored only through independence. I have always believed that Scotland is a nation. It has been a nation throughout my life—indeed, since 1707. Labour Members do not need to take lessons in nationhood from Conservative Members.
§ Mr. McLeish
It might be useful if I give a brief background to the issue before dealing with the amendments.
§ Mr. McLeish
I think that hon. Members want to hear the facts.
Scottish banks are entitled to issue bank notes under the Bank Notes (Scotland) Act 1845, provided various conditions are met. The notes are not legal tender—even in Scotland—but they are accepted throughout the United Kingdom. The 1845 Act makes various provisions on the issue of bank notes in Scotland, including the regulation of the amount of bank notes that each bank is entitled to issue; requiring notes to be issued in denominations of whole pounds; limiting the amount of notes that banks may have in circulation; requiring weekly accounts of notes in circulation; requiring returns to be made and published; and allowing each bank to issue its own notes when authorised.
957 All those issues are to be reserved, as are matters relating to coinage. Currency standards are clearly integral to the United Kingdom economy and must remain reserved as set out in the White Paper.
We reject the amendments. Macro-economic policy is to be reserved. That covers all matters necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of monetary and fiscal policy at a UK level, including the power to issue money. The bank notes issued by Scottish banks are an integral part of a UK monetary policy. We need to keep controls over them, including the central control over the amount of notes in circulation.
That central control would be exercised by the European central bank if the UK participated in economic and monetary union. The Scottish banks would have to make a formal application to the European central bank for the right to issue notes. We understand that the Scottish banks have had initial talks with the Bank of England and the European Monetary Institute. I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) will withdraw the amendment.
§ Mr. Gorrie
Will the Minister give us an assurance on the continuance of Scottish banknotes for the foreseeable future, in or outwith a single European currency?
Order. I called the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) because I thought that he was going to wind up the debate, not for an intervention. The Minister had sat down.
§ Mr. McLeish
May I give the hon. Gentleman the assurances that will help him to concede? We sincerely hope that Scottish bank notes will continue. As I have said, discussions are under way with the EMI and the Bank of England on what will happen if we join a single currency.
Scottish bank notes are currently in circulation. They are not only symbolic, but are important for transactions throughout Scotland.
§ Mr. Jenkin
Will the Minister answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion)? I hope that no Government will be foolish enough to believe that we ever need to join monetary union. The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked about the practicalities of issuing Scottish euro notes that were not legal tender. They would not be recognised anywhere else in the European Union. That means that they would become redundant.
§ Mr. McLeish
The important question is whether the hon. Gentleman's comments are consistent with what the leader of his party has said.
Central control would be exercised by the European central bank if the UK joined a single currency. I have already said that the Scottish banks are involved in discussions on that. The system works well in the United Kingdom. Why should it not work well in Europe?
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)
I beg to move amendment No. 469, in schedule 5, page 61, leave out line 23.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 470, in page 61, leave out lines 26 to 28.
- No. 471, in page 61, leave out lines 29 to 34.
- No. 7, in page 62, leave out lines 10 to 12.
- No. 472, in page 62, leave out lines 13 to 22.
- Government amendment No. 464.
- No. 22, in page 62, leave out lines 20 to 22.
- No. 473, in page 62, leave out lines 28 to 30.
- No. 17, in page 63, leave out lines 9 to 11.
- No. 489, in page 63, line 11, at end insert '(other than those lotteries organised on a local level).'.
- No. 474, in page 63, leave out lines 15 to 17.
- No. 18, in page 63, leave out lines 18 to 20.
§ Mr. Hawkins
The amendments concern home affairs issues, in which I have always had an interest as a barrister, and do so now as a member of the Home Affairs Committee and as deputy chairman of the Conservative party home affairs committee. I am very glad to have this opportunity to probe the Government's intentions on these important issues. There are many amendments in the group, and I shall briefly take each in turn.
Amendments Nos. 469 and 470 would give the Scottish Parliament the power to set policies on drug abuse and drug trafficking. We all know that, sadly, Scotland, like all other parts of the United Kingdom, suffers from a serious drug problem, especially in the inner cities and larger conurbations. Indeed, even in the world of cinema, that has been highlighted by films such as "Trainspotting". Members on both sides of the House share a concern about the extent of the drug problem, particularly as it affects young people. As somebody who has, over my years in practice at the Bar, prosecuted and defended in many drugs cases, I have always taken a particular interest in the subject. Conservative Members do not understand why, when the Scottish Parliament is to be responsible for all other areas of criminal justice and for health matters, it should not also be responsible for drugs matters.
§ Mr. McAllion
Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether the Tory amendments would allow the Scottish Parliament to decriminalise or legalise cannabis?
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that issue, because I want particularly to talk about decriminalisation and what Conservative Members fear may happen. Surely if the Scottish Parliament does not have responsibility over drugs and drug trafficking, an element of confusion will arise over responsibility in criminal and legal matters, which it would be desirable to avoid.
959 Conservative Members have been accused by Ministers, other Labour Members and nationalist Members of tabling amendments to constrain the Scottish Parliament's ambit of operation. The allegation was made that we do not trust the Scottish Parliament to act maturely and responsibly. However, on these matters, the boot is very firmly on the other foot. The Government must answer this charge: why not trust the Scottish Parliament with such matters? Are the Government afraid that the Scottish Parliament will act irresponsibly on drugs matters? Turning to the point raised by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), do the Government fear that many left-wing Members of the Scottish Parliament—and, perhaps, Liberal Democrats—will be elected who will immediately call for the legalisation of soft drugs, as Labour and Liberal Democrat conference motions have done repeatedly in the past?
§ Mr. McAllion
I am a bit alarmed by the drift of the hon. Gentleman's comments. He seems to be suggesting that I have taken cannabis or other soft drugs, which I most certainly have not, unlike some of his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I was not suggesting anything about the hon. Gentleman's conduct; it would not be appropriate for me to do so. I was merely drawing the Committee's attention to the fact that many of his hon. Friends and Liberal Democrats have called for the decriminalisation of soft drugs, which is of grave concern. I suggest that, in not trusting the Scottish Parliament with responsibility for such issues, the Government might be worried about the views of some of his hon. Friends. As Labour Members such as the hon. Members for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) and for West Ham (Mr. Banks)—before he became a Minister—and others have repeatedly called for decriminalisation, the Government do not want to trust the people, and certainly do not want to trust the Scottish Parliament.
Amendment No. 471 is a probing amendment. We want the Government to justify why the Scottish Parliament should not have control over data protection issues. We want them to set out what they believe will be in the legislation that they are required to introduce by the end of the year in relation to the European Council directive on data protection. It is extraordinary that the Government want to reserve powers over legislation on a directive when we have not yet seen the legislation. That is truly a blank cheque. I hope that the Minister will respond in some detail on such important data protection issues, particularly concerning freedom of information and journalistic powers.
Amendment No. 7 seeks to analyse why the Government will not trust the Scottish Parliament to deal with firearms issues. None of us in the House or the country will ever forget the terrible crime and tragedy of Dunblane. Given that the entire UK firearms law was rewritten in response to that terrible Scottish tragedy, it seems extraordinary that that issue, above all, should not be trusted to the Scottish Parliament. The issue is enormously emotive. What would have happened, for instance, had the Scottish Parliament existed when the Dunblane tragedy occurred and it had wanted to go further in tightening gun laws than those in the Westminster 960 Parliament were prepared to accept? The Government must justify their position. If the Scottish Parliament had existed at that time, Westminster would have been seen to be standing in the way of popular opinion in Scotland. Such a dispute on such an emotive issue would inevitably weaken the Union of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman takes time to reflect on what he has said. I have never heard such a load of absolute nonsense from someone who wants to be in government. It was clear that the UK Government had got it wrong and that the people of Scotland and the UK as a whole wanted them to go further. That is why the Snowdrop appeal received such tremendous support; that is why the Labour Government were able very quickly to pass legislation to ban the possession of all handguns.
§ Mr. Hawkins
With great respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman has genuinely misunderstood my point. My point is simply that there will be problems if a Scottish Parliament is not trusted—as it is not being—by Government Front Benchers with responsibility for firearms issues. That is a devolution issue.
§ Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries)
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the tragedy of Dunblane, but we should never forget the tragedy of Hungerford, either. Firearms must remain a UK-wide issue.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says; of course none of us will forget Hungerford. He must understand that, despite having repeatedly attacked Conservatives for not trusting the Scottish Parliament, the Government have undergone a clear role reversal. We are probing the apparent lack of logic in that.
§ Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if the Government were to accept such an amendment, it would inevitably lead to the need for border controls and checks to ensure that there was not cross-border traffic in guns? Does he accept that that is the logical consequence of his crazy amendment? His idea would set a dangerous precedent.
§ Mr. Hawkins
The answer to the hon. Gentleman's point is surely that the same position applies in relation to Northern Ireland. I ask him to reflect on that.
§ Mr. McLeish
I should like to pursue the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. We believe that our position is a strong one; we want a strong UK gun policy—which is what we have. In tabling the amendment, the onus is on the hon. Gentleman to explain what benefits would accrue to the Scottish Parliament from completely different legislative control over guns.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am suggesting to the Minister that there would be a potential difficulty if the Scottish Parliament ever wished to go further than the United Kingdom Parliament, but did not have the powers.
§ Mr. Swinney
It has become clear from our exchanges that there is unease at the lack of taste with which the example has been advanced. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the logic of his argument—that the Scottish 961 Parliament must be free to create a legislative environment within which it is comfortable—is an argument for independence? That seems to be at odds with the virulently Unionist arguments made from the Tory Front Bench.
§ Mr. Hawkins
The hon. Gentleman's comments emphasise some of the difficulties that may emerge if there are different views on highly emotive issues in the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments.
Amendment No. 472 relates to a range of entertainment matters, including film classification. We do not understand why the Government are refusing to trust the Scottish Parliament with powers over these matters. The Government have already changed their minds on one aspect of schedule 5; they have tabled an amendment to remove the powers under the Hypnotism Act 1952 from the original list of reserved powers in the Bill.
The Government have made great play of their wish to promote the Scottish film industry—something in which I have taken an interest since I visited the set and locations of "Rob Roy" near Mallaig. However, the Government could hardly send out a worse signal to potential overseas investors—as well as to the indigenous film industry—than to suggest that the Scottish Parliament will not be fit to make its own decisions on these matters.
The Government are keen to promote cool Britannia. Apparently, they have no belief in cool Caledonia. We see no reason why the Scottish Parliament should not deal with sections 12 to 14 of the Theatres Act 1968 or sections 1 to 16 of the Cinemas Act 1985, which make provision for licensing premises for public performances of plays or for films to be played. Are we back to the Prime Minister's original view that the Scottish Parliament will be like a parish council?
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that some very successful films have been made recently in Scotland. What disadvantage did they suffer that they would not suffer were we to follow his suggestion?
§ Mr. Hawkins
I have referred to two successful Scottish films. The fact that the Scottish Parliament will not have powers over classification or censorship is a matter of regret.
Members of the Scottish Parliament will want to represent their constituents on issues relating to the classification, labelling and distribution of video recordings under the Video Recordings Act 1984. With all the concern about video nasties and the effect of violent videos on children, why are the Government seeking to reserve those powers and the powers over the classification of films for public exhibition? Why do the Government not trust Members of the Scottish Parliament to decide on those issues—especially as Scots law is different and there may be different views on how a controversial film such as "Crash" ought to be certificated? Will the Scottish Parliament necessarily always be prepared to accept the judgments of the British Board of Film Classification, even though it is now to be chaired by as distinguished a figure as Andreas Whittam Smith?
Amendment No. 473 deals with the emotive subject of live animal experiments. We foresee concern among Members of the Scottish Parliament that they will not be 962 allowed to decide on the matter. The Government have argued that it is a strength of devolution to allow Scotland to set its own priorities. Why should that principle not apply to live animal experimentation? It is utterly illogical for the Scottish Parliament to be able to decide on such major emotive and legislative issues as capital punishment, but not on other issues of conscience such as live animal experiments. We need to probe that inconsistency in the Government's arguments.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is the strongly held view of the Research Defence Society that there should be uniform rules throughout the United Kingdom, and that, if we are to keep our research together in universities, it makes complete sense to have a uniform policy?
§ Mr. Hawkins
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am seeking to expose the inconsistency of his party's Front-Bench Members who say that we must trust the Scottish Parliament on some issues, but not on others.
Amendment No. 474 deals with the crucial issue of extradition, where we foresee some problems in the Government's proposals. What would happen if a Scottish Parliament, with a nationalist majority, and the Lord Advocate sought the extradition of an individual, but the United Kingdom Government refused? What would happen when the person whose extradition was being sought was a UK citizen residing abroad, and the UK Government refused to apply for extradition because of their view of some wider political consequences? Those are serious matters, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give detailed responses.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I wish to raise briefly five issues—first, drugs. On 27 October, I asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the following question:What will be the demarcation between Edinburgh and Westminster in relation to the delicate issue of responsibility for drugs?My right hon. Friend replied:The White Paper, 'Scotland's Parliament' makes it clear that the criminal law in relation to drugs will be a reserved matter and will remain the responsibility of my Department. The Scottish Executive will inherit the current responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. Those responsibilities include drug misuse, health, treatment and education, as well as responsibility for the police and prosecution authorities' enforcement in Scotland of drug misuse legislation, which will be set by this House and Parliament." — [Official Report, 27 October 1997; Vol. 299, c. 574.]I put it to the Minister that, with the best will in the world, these are very blurred areas. Exactly how does one distinguish between the responsibilities set out as reserved powers by the Home Secretary and the powers —in terms of misuse, for example —which are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament?
There will be endless cause for Members of the Scottish Parliament who are interested in drugs legislation —and, even more so, in drugs cases —to go on and on saying, "If only we had complete powers, we could be more effective." Every shortcoming —whether imagined or real —will be attributed to the fact that the Parliament needs more powers to deal with drugs. The members of the Scottish Parliament will say, "It is no good blaming us," until they get extra powers from Westminster.
963 I predict that, when the Minister is a Member of the Scottish Parliament, he may well be saying exactly these things in a few years' time. It is in the nature of politicians not to blame ourselves. My hon. Friend is human—he will say that he could do better if only the people in Westminster had not reserved those powers. That will be a matter of discord.
Secondly, I want to discuss firearms. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Robertson), but at an earlier stage, I had a lot to do with Thomas Hamilton, who came to my surgeries in Linlithgow. I will not go over the saga, except to say that, in the wake of Dunblane, there was tremendous pressure in Scotland to introduce firearms legislation more quickly, and in a different form, than was being done in England. Heaven forbid that Dunblane should ever be repeated—but, if it were, the same would happen again. There would be tremendous pressure for firearms legislation to be tailored to Scottish circumstances.
I must therefore ask the Minister: is it realistic to reserve powers over firearms to this House? There will be possibly irresistible pressures in the wake of any future high-profile cases to give such powers over to the Scottish Parliament.
I come, thirdly, to animal experimentation. I know a great deal about this, having argued the case of the Research Defence Society—not the most popular cause among a number of my hon. Friends. I know, for instance, that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) takes a very different view.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Whatever view one takes, my hon. Friend and I might agree that it would not be very clever to set up a haven for animal experimentation in any part of the kingdom. Of course, animal rights groups will exert enormous pressure to achieve a position on animal experiments favourable to their point of view. I suspect that, in this area too, the pressures will become irresistible. I have close connections with the science departments at Edinburgh university. They are most concerned lest there be any break-up of the UK-wide experimentation regime. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about that.
Fourthly, on entertainment, I understand that there could be difficulties in relation to football. What would happen if the Scottish Parliament took a view different from the UK Government in relation to the Bosman ruling? That could easily happen; I have not just plucked it out of the air. It is one of the possible differences between English and Scottish football. The Minister, a distinguished member of East Fife and later of Leeds United, I think it was—
§ Mr. Dalyell
—will undoubtedly have something to say about this subject, which concerns the game that he adorned and loved so much.
Finally, we come to the matter of extradition. It may be within the recollection of the Minister that, shortly before the Bill was published, I secured an Adjournment 964 debate on a day when the House collapsed rather earlier than he had anticipated. Hence I made a rather longer speech than he had anticipated, about Lockerbie.
Hon. Members will be thankful to hear that this is neither the time nor the place to rehearse all the arguments about Lockerbie encapsulated in my 14 Adjournment debates on the subject, but what would happen if a strong body of opinion in Scotland wanted an extradition treaty with Libya? Imagine that the Foreign Office in London was as intransigent as it has been, under both Governments, for the past 10 years, and would not contemplate such a treaty.
Would not the Members of the Scottish Parliament, pressed by people who know rather more about Lockerbie than do their English colleagues, say it was high time we had an extradition treaty? [Interruption.] I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) that, were I a Member of the Scottish Parliament—God knows, there is no chance of that, and I suspect that my hon. Friend is glad of it—I would be yapping away, day in, day out, demanding an extradition treaty. I would bore the pants off everyone to such an extent that, sooner or later, they would have to give in.
I suspect that this whole debate about reserving powers is rather unreal; sooner rather than later, the Scottish Parliament will want those powers.
§ Mr. Gorrie
My political career appears to be on a rapid upward curve, as I seem to have been appointed my party's spokesperson on hypnotism. I thought that that might be in recognition of my spellbinding speeches; more realistically, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) looked deep into my eyes and made cabalistic signs at me—so here I am.
The Government seem to support our view on hypnotism, so we are clearly having some effect. It is, I confess, a subject I know absolutely nothing about. As we appear to be winning, however, I shall stop digging.
The Conservatives have raised some valid points about the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the Cinemas Act 1985, which I also know nothing about. I hope that the Minister will explain the necessity for reserving some of these items to London; it seems strange, since he is also conceding other areas. Nevertheless, in parts of schedule 5, some control freak has got loose. It is time he was sent back where he came from.
Why should betting, gaming and lotteries be controlled from Westminster, not Scotland? They are not cross-border issues. I suppose, if the Scots had lax betting laws, a few people from Berwick might head north, but I do not see it becoming a huge problem. I am far too mean to be a betting man, but many Scots do bet, and if the Scottish Parliament wanted different rules, I do not see why it should not have them.
Likewise, I do not see why local church raffles or other do-gooding enterprises should be legislated for by Westminster—I just cannot understand it. It seems rather ludicrous.
We have also tabled an amendment on the licensing of Scottish theatres. That, too, is an issue which the Scottish Parliament should know more about than civil servants and parliamentarians down here. Such licensing should be run by the Scottish Parliament.
965 Another of our amendments concerns lords lieutenant. I am a humble and very junior deputy lieutenant in Edinburgh. I once had the privilege of escorting a royal personage about, which was all very pleasant; but the selection of lords lieutenant should be left to a Scottish Administration, not to Ministers in London.
I should like clarification from the Minister about the drugs issue. The notes on schedule 5 state:The Scottish Parliament will, however, have competence in relation to other key matters which are relevant to the misuse of drugs, including education, health, social work, police and the criminal prosecution system.If the Scottish Parliament wants to help areas with severe social problems by bringing together the police, housing, education, employment and so on, and involving an active policy on controlling drugs, which might be different from the standard United Kingdom policy, I hope that the Scottish Parliament will be able to do that. I hope that, in taking positive action to deal with the drugs problem, the Parliament will not be constrained by the reservations in the Bill.
Although we do not necessarily endorse the Conservative amendments, they have raised an important issue. We seek clarification on that and on the other issues, from hypnotism upwards, downwards and sideways.
§ Mrs. Fyfe
Labour Members must be rather surprised to hear the arguments advanced by the official Opposition. Having spent years opposing Scottish devolution, they now confront us with umpteen ways in which they want to add to the devolved powers in the Bill. If they have had a change of heart, it is most welcome. We have heard extremely odd arguments from Conservatives, who never wanted us to have any devolved powers in the first place.
When the White Paper was launched, I remember the Secretary of State for Scotland and others saying that there were grey areas in which there were valid arguments for reserved and for devolved powers in a particular case, and that a balance had to be struck somewhere, even if arguments about detail continued.
As a general principle, it should surely be recognised that, on this small island, it might be sensible for certain powers to be reserved, because it is only a small country. After devolution, there will still be Scottish Members of Parliament representing seats in Scotland, who will come to the Westminster Parliament and take part in making those decisions. On an issue such as drugs, it might be extremely unwise to open up any division in law making between the two countries, in case it was of any advantage to those who deal in drugs.
The same applies to firearms. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that, in the United States, each state can have separate firearms laws. The entire firearms legislation of the United States is a mess, and it would do well to follow the example that we set with prompt action after what happened to our children at Dunblane. We need to make sure that the law is tightened throughout Britain, not just in Scotland or in England alone.
I was fascinated to read at the weekend that the Liberal Democrats had tabled an amendment making hypnotism a devolved matter for a Scottish Parliament. I am glad that they could find time to discuss a matter as vital as hypnotism, when they could not find time to discuss the 966 promise they made to the Labour party about equal representation for men and women in the Scottish Parliament. Perhaps they should hypnotise their branches to persuade them of that.
§ Mr. Swayne
Does the hon. Lady agree that perhaps the Liberal Democrats' discussions were constrained by the small number of people attending?
§ Mrs. Fyfe
It is for the Liberal Democrats to say why such a small number attended. It does not seem to have occurred to them that, in taking the decision they took at the weekend, they were breaking a solemn promise that they made to the Labour party. Perhaps they were mesmerised, and forgot that they had done so.
On betting, gaming and lotteries, my sympathies begin to move a little more towards the Conservatives. My constituency has the highest unemployment level in our whole country. There are no employers to create more jobs, so I can see Maryhill becoming the Reno of Scotland if the proposal goes ahead. That would find favour with me.
The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who spoke from the Tory Front Bench, does not seem to realise that local authorities in Scotland have the power to decide whether a film will be shown. Some years ago, Glasgow city council—or district council, as it then was—made itself ridiculous in everyone's eyes by banning "The Life of Brian" from local cinemas. It was shown in Bearsden just over the boundary, so thousands of people flocked there to see the film.
I take film censorship seriously, in the sense that we should all protect children and the vulnerable from exploitation in any art form, including films, but the amendments are unnecessary. If a local authority gets it wrong, it gets laughed out of it, and eventually common sense prevails. Its own voters tell the authority that it is talking nonsense, and things eventually change.
I hope that the Opposition will realise that all this is useless time-wasting. We have serious matters to discuss, and far too little time tomorrow to discuss them.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate. I shall concentrate on the reserved powers relating to firearms. It was noteworthy that, when the matter was raised, it was immediately suggested that it was wrong for us to touch on it, as it was an emotional issue. That is precisely why it is a good example to examine.
Before devolution, I recall from my law lectures, it was thought desirable that, as far as was compatible with practice, criminal law in Scotland and in England should gradually be brought together. That was always extolled as one of the great virtues of the Union. I remember reading learned texts on the subject by members of the Scottish judiciary, explaining that, in the long run, it was hoped that that compatibility would become greater, without affecting the distinct practices of law in each country.
One consequence of the Bill is that a raft of subjects will no longer be treated in common in the House for Scottish and for English legislation. Labour Members express general satisfaction with that. Then why these particular reservations? The firearms reservations are a classic example.
967 First it was suggested that, if there were different firearms laws north and south of the border, there would have to be border checks. That is nonsense. In any given week, there are enough illegally held firearms passing between Manchester and Glasgow up the M6 without anyone worrying about it. The firearms legislation, especially the recent legislation, is all about regulating the law-abiding. If it is for regulating the law-abiding, why should there not be a separate possibility for legislation north and south of the border? Where is the logic? There is none.
§ Mr. McAllion
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that we should go down the American road, where every state has the right to bring in different laws for gun control? That would be absurd. Should he not thank God that we have one law on this entire island that bans the use of handguns by anyone?
§ Mr. Grieve
There is no logic in placing firearms legislation on the reserved list. If responsibility for firearms were given to the Scottish Parliament, it might sensibly decide to co-ordinate its practice on firearms with the rest of the United Kingdom, but equally there might be reasons why it might not do so.
I shall give the hon. Gentleman an example. Last year, we debated an amendment to the firearms legislation on sporting pistols and. 22 pistols, which in my view was wholly illogical and wrong. Some Labour Members shared that view. In five or six years, especially as there might be pressure from the European Courts on the subject, Parliament might decide to alter the legislation to allow sports shooting with. 22 pistols to resume, but I can well imagine that that would cause the deepest disturbance, and that there might be much greater resistance in Scotland, which was more directly affected as a community by the Dunblane tragedy.
How would we get around that problem at that stage? Should we simply ask for Parliament to legislate separately for Scotland and England on that issue? On what basis would we do that? The firearms issue is completely illogical. There is no reason why the Scottish Parliament should not regulate firearms in Scotland, allowing this Parliament to regulate for the rest of the United Kingdom. I wait to hear from the Minister the logical basis of his objections on that front.
There is a similar situation with drugs legislation. As to the decriminalisation of drugs, I can think of no earthly reason why differences of view north and south of the border might not be reflected properly by different legislation. There are many other areas where the splitting of practice might not lead to wide differences over time, so why should drugs legislation be reserved? There is no logical basis for that decision.
I am grateful that the regulation of the Hypnotism Act 1952 will be passed over to Scotland. Before the Minister simply says that he intends to agree to the amendment, perhaps he could explain why the Government thought Parliament should retain control of the Hypnotism Act. I look forward to hearing that explanation.
There are logical reasons for dealing with certain laws in common. However, those reasons apply also to a range of issues that, as a consequence of this legislation, will no 968 longer be treated in common. Before these funny reservations are made, let us have a logical explanation of why they are there.
§ Mr. Flynn
I am in the extraordinary position of congratulating Opposition Members, particularly on the first two amendments. The hon. Members who spoke in favour of the amendments are not people whom I normally associate with progressive policies. Perhaps the strange atmosphere—it was about one part oxygen to four parts noxious substances of indeterminate source—from last weekend's demonstration by some 25,000 people in Trafalgar square has wafted into this building and had a beneficial effect on the disposition of Opposition Members. I hope so.
I turn to the core of the issue. Drug problems are not universal throughout the United Kingdom; they are often very local. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who moved the amendment, was wrong to suggest that only the left is preoccupied with reforming our drug laws. The hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior)—who represents the part of Norwich that is not represented by one of my hon. Friends—wrote a splendid article a fortnight ago demanding changes in the law. He confessed that, as a young man, he had experimented with an illegal soft drug. Many hon. Members made similar confessions in a poll—in fact, a majority of Members of Parliament confessed to using illegal soft drugs some time ago.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) —a senior figure in the Conservative party—has advocated not only the decriminalisation of soft drugs but, in his book "Sappho's daughters", the legalisation of all drugs. Support for fundamental drug reform extends across the Chamber. I wish that more of those hon. Members who say over a cup of tea in the Tea Room that the present drug laws are not working and are making the situation far worse would make their views known in the Chamber.
The precise point of the amendment is that laws in Scotland should be different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom. All hon. Members can appreciate the difficulties that would arise if different laws governed the drugs of abuse that are used universally throughout the United Kingdom. That would certainly cause problems. However, I see an advantage in Scotland's taking a lead with regard to the present laws.
The most useful and progressive document generated by Parliament in my 10 years as a Member of Parliament was produced by a Scottish Committee under the leadership of Mr. McKelvey, who sadly did not stand for re-election. That document went to the heart of the futility of our present drugs policy. It made some useful recommendations, which, if they had been transformed into law, would have reduced the number of drug addictions, deaths and other associated drug problems in this country.
§ Mr. Swayne
Does the hon. Gentleman concede that the Government are resisting our amendments because they are afraid of the arguments that he is advancing?
§ Mr. Flynn
I hope that the Government's views will change in the near future—although I understand their 969 resistance. I look forward to the Opposition's pressing the amendment—they might have some unexpected company in the Lobby if they do.
My point is that there are local drug problems. The scourge of temazepam was a particularly Scottish problem. A number of young people in Scotland were seized with the totally unexpected habit of liquefying and injecting that medicine. It was a form of Russian roulette with only two chambers in the gun. It is the most dangerous form of drug abuse that one could imagine, and it was peculiar to Scotland.
§ Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North)
I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend, but temazepam caused a problem in my constituency. It was also a particular problem in Newcastle and in Carlisle.
§ Mr. Flynn
I accept what my hon. Friend says. Temazepam abuse caused only one death in south Wales—but that was one too many.
The drug khat is used by the Yemeni and Somali communities in south Wales, but is almost unknown in most other parts of the United Kingdom. It is a fairly soft drug, and, if we were to deal with it in law, it would require local legislation rather than the great sledgehammer of national legislation. The potential for drug abuse—we are legislating for a long period—lies not in the present drugs of abuse but in future drugs. Ketamine is an anaesthetic which is abused in certain areas. A cough mixture—I will not mention its name—has also become a drug of abuse. People drink it in large quantities, and it is highly addictive.
At least 100 medicinal drugs may be abused. Let us consider the damage caused by medicinal drugs. At least 10 times as many people are addicted to medicinal drugs—just under 250,000—as are addicted to illegal drugs. Paracetamol kills twice as many people every year as heroin. A range of other medicinal drugs may also be abused.
§ The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord)
Order. This is not a general debate on drugs. I should be grateful if the hon. Member could relate his remarks directly to the amendments that we are considering.
§ Mr. Flynn
My point is that particular drugs may be abused in small areas in Scotland, and that such problems should be addressed by legislation that applies to Scotland rather than to the whole of the United Kingdom. If there is a drug problem in a Scottish city or town, the Scottish Parliament rather than the United Kingdom Parliament should take steps to address that problem.
I commend the Opposition for the amendment. In his opening remarks, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath referred to the present drugs policy in this country. It is worth noting that Emma Bonino was criticised by the United Nations but supported by Jacques Santer for advocating a policy very different from that pursued by the Government and the Opposition.
970 When we congratulate ourselves on the drugs policy in the United Kingdom, it is worth considering the assessment of the worst drug problems in Europe that was made last year by the Lisbon monitoring unit. It found that Britain is the third worst abuser of cocaine in Europe—
The Second Deputy Chairman
The hon. Member is doing exactly what I asked him not to do. I ask him to speak directly to the amendment.
§ Mr. Flynn
I support amendments Nos. 469 and 470, because we require local solutions to drug problems. Many such problems do not lend themselves to national solutions, and would be best dealt with by a Scottish Parliament. Scotland could well take the lead in that area, and show the way to the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mrs. Laing
It is good to have the rare opportunity to hear an hon. Member on the Government Benches take a pragmatic approach and support amendments that were not tabled by the Government. By contrast, it is hard to believe that the Government can be so inconsistent and lacking in logic in their drafting of schedule 5. There is no logical theme running through this part of the Bill. It does not make sense to reserve certain aspects to this Parliament while others are devolved without explanation and without consistency. My hon. Friends have made this point well, so I shall not repeat the details.
I thoroughly support the main principle of the amendments tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I did not want a Parliament in Scotland initially, but I am willing to back the decision of the Scottish people in last September's referendum. It is right that the people should speak and that Parliament should trust the people, but it is not right for the Government to set up a Parliament in Scotland and then not trust it.
§ Mr. Swayne
May I suggest to my hon. Friend that there is a logic to this? Ministers on the Treasury Bench fear that the position taken by a Scottish Parliament, particularly with regard to some of the conscience issues that we have looked at, would significantly differ from that taken by this Parliament, and the tension that that would create will drive two nations apart.
§ Mrs. Laing
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, as usual. He and I and many of our hon. Friends have mentioned that tension many times during the Bill's consideration. The inherent conflict in the Bill will create a difference between one part of the United Kingdom and another and lead to separation. Why are the Government holding back on what they originally said when they introduced the Bill last summer? They said that their intention was to trust the Scottish people and the Parliament that they are setting up. Now they are doing exactly the opposite.
I am in favour of the United Kingdom Government reserving powers to the United Kingdom Parliament, but if the Government want to keep some powers here and give some to the Scottish Parliament, there should be some logic in the way in which they do that. The Bill totally lacks logic. It makes me wonder why the Government are beginning to hold back. When they reached schedule 5, were they beginning to fear that what we had said all along would come true? Are they beginning to fear what many of my hon. Friends, and 971 former Members of the House, have said for many years—that devolution is a downhill, one-way street to an independent Scotland? Is that why they want to reserve extra powers to this Parliament?
I could not blame the Government for being afraid if they had read this morning's Glasgow Herald—
§ Mrs. Laing
The Secretary of State kindly corrects me. It is indeed now The Herald, but to me it will always be the Glasgow Herald. It used to be a fine newspaper when I learnt to read by reading it, but in those days it used to say things that even a child learning to read would have been happy to see, until today, when it told the truth—the truth that we have been telling throughout on this subject.
§ Mr. Swayne
With respect to the truth that is being told, does my hon. Friend agree that the independence that is expected would be constrained rather more by allowing for anomalies and a difference between the laws that persist in this part of the Kingdom and Scotland, rather than by attempting to reserve some of these powers, particularly on conscience issues, which will create more friction and tension than perhaps would the lesser of two evils of allowing a separate legal system to exist?
§ Mrs. Laing
Once again, my hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. It must be recognised that sometimes the way in which one deals with tension and friction is to allow each part to go its own way. The Scottish legal system, which I have studied and in which I have practised, has survived perfectly well under the auspices of the United Kingdom Parliament for many hundreds of years. The very fact that the Scottish legal system and the legal system of England and Wales have worked in parallel perfectly happily for centuries is evidence that we do not need a devolved Parliament in Scotland, but if we are to have one, let us have one that works properly and one that we can trust. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention.
I return to my main point, which is that The Herald—[Interruption.] quite rightly said this morning. I beg the pardon of hon. Members on the Government Benches. I am being inconsistent. If I called it the Glasgow Herald once, I should do so again. A statistic caught my eye first thing this morning: 61 per cent. of people in Scotland now believe that there will be a separate Scotland within the next 15 years. I do not agree with, and nor do I approve of, the sentimental way in which The Herald put it in semi-poetic fashion in this morning's edition, because sentimentality should not enter into the debate. We shall reserve our sentimentality for 25 January and the last day of November, for the rugby pitch and the football pitch, but not for the House, and not for proper consideration of these matters.
Are the Government now waking up to the fact that we have been right all along: that, by introducing the Bill in this way, they are introducing conflicts and frictions, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) said, are likely to lead to the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United 972 Kingdom? Hon. Members on the Scottish National party Bench will be delighted with such a situation. They continue to push, naturally enough—
The Second Deputy Chairman
Order. The hon. Lady is making a Second Reading point. Will she now relate her remarks to the amendments?
§ Mrs. Laing
Certainly, Mr. Lord.
I support the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), because they attempt to introduce into the Bill logic and consistency, which are lacking. I am afraid that the lack of logic and consistency will lead to a separate Scotland. If the Bill has inherent conflicts within it, the devolution that comes from it will not work.
§ Mr. Jim Murphy
I have listened with interest to the speeches made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I shall respond directly to comments made by hon. Members on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches.
The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) mentioned one opinion poll in The Herald as a reason for shaping the future of our democracy and for the Government to alter course, and cited 61 per cent. She says that she supports the retention of significant powers in this Parliament, but steadfastly refuses to support and recognise the outcome of the referendum last September. It is strange in the extreme that she places such political kudos on one opinion poll of 61 per cent., yet refuses to acknowledge and support the fact that 73 per cent. of the Scottish people voted yes in a referendum of the whole of Scotland. Instead, she supports spurious amendments this evening.
§ Mrs. Laing
I said specifically that I respect the outcome of the referendum of the people of Scotland last September. I do not like it, but I respect it because it was a democratic decision of the people of Scotland. As they have decided that they want a devolved Parliament, it should be a Parliament that will work.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Murphy
That was an interesting intervention, but it did not address the point that I was making. The amendments on which the hon. Lady has spoken with favour will not improve the opportunity and performance of the Scottish Parliament. That is not the intention behind the amendments. Instead, they threaten and would undermine. If implemented they would intentionally create friction when none is necessary.
I wished earlier to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie), who said that he feels that his political career has recently been enhanced. He went on to clarify that remark, and I am glad that he did so. I thought that it was as a consequence of the Liberal Democrats' weekend conference that his political career had been enhanced by virtue of being a man in the Liberal Democrat party in Scotland. Perhaps we shall be able to return to that in the weeks and months ahead.
The Conservative amendments before us seem strange to me. The Conservative party opposed the devolution of policy on health to Scotland, as it did on education and 973 housing. However, it seems now determined to give Scotland support in devolving powers on gambling, guns and drugs. It is a strange set of priorities. the Conservative oppose the devolution of real power—social justice and other important policy areas—while simultaneously arguing that policies on drugs, guns and gambling should be devolved to a Scottish Parliament. That in itself is strange.
§ Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
The poll to which my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) referred showed a significant increase in support within Scotland for the Scottish National party. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the curious mixture of reserve powers in the Bill may be one of the reasons for the increase in Scottish nationalism? The SNP does not like powers being held in Westminster, and there lies the process that will continue in the years that lie ahead of us.
§ Mr. Murphy
That is a spurious point. I do not know what lesson the hon. Gentleman wants to read into the Conservative party's rating in Scotland. I understand that the opinion poll rating of the Scottish Conservative party has decreased since the general election.
§ Mr. Murphy
My right hon. Friend informs me from a sedentary position that it has decreased to single figures.
I shall move on to gambling. At 2 o'clock at Nottingham this afternoon there was an important pointer to our debate, when set against the 9 per cent. opinion poll rating for the Conservative party in Scotland. A horse called Blue Desert ran in the 2 o'clock. I have no idea how it performed. It is six hours since it started, so with a name such as Blue Desert, it is probably still running. Nevertheless, Blue Desert performed at Nottingham at 2 o'clock, and Scotland has been turned into a blue desert when it comes to Scottish representation for the Tory party.
I did not intend to comment on gambling until in my in-depth reading of the newspapers today I noticed that at 4.20 pm tomorrow at Sandown a horse will be running by the name "Parliamentarian". The jockey is none other than a Mr. Jim Murphy. I have no idea what the odds are, but I am put off betting on it because in the same race a horse called "Sleazy" is running. I think that that is—
The Second Deputy Chairman
Order. I trust that the hon. Gentleman does not plan to take us through all the race cards of all the meetings. I ask him to address his remarks to the amendments that are before the Committee.
§ Mr. Murphy
I am sorry, Mr. Lord. I have no intention of taking the Committee through all the race cards.
The Conservative Opposition seem eager to devolve responsibility for gambling to the Scottish Parliament, and my right hon. and hon. Friends do not believe that that is necessary. Indeed, such devolution would be distinctly unhelpful.
I apologise, Mr. Lord, for some of my comments, which reveal a misspent youth. Perhaps there is some misspent time still as a parliamentarian. However, Scottish punters—Scottish gamblers or betters—do not 974 want different odds. There is no great desire for devolution of gambling policy. Similarly, there is no great desire for devolution of gambling odds. My only experience would be on betting on French racing at the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, where there are different sets of odds. There is a cross-border betting set up. I find that deeply confusing, as do many of my punter colleagues. There is no need for different odds in Scotland, and that would be one of the results of devolution of gambling policy.
If I bet on an outsider and it falls at the first fence, I want to know that I have wasted the same amount of money as any other punter in any other part of the United Kingdom.
The same argument applies to the lottery and lottery policy. In our opinion, there is no need for a change in lottery policy. The Government are examining the administration of the lottery and legislation will be introduced on lottery funding. That being so, the wrecking amendments on the lottery are irrelevant.
§ Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case that there should be no difference between the odds on winning in a horse race north or south of the border. Yet he is advocating a measure that may well result in a difference between the odds of living or dying in a hospital north or south of the border. How does the hon. Gentleman justify that distinction?
§ Mr. Murphy
I did not think that the tone of the debate could get any lower. To connect gambling and the lottery with hospital places is perhaps to forget that the general election took place last year. We are trying to reduce the effects of odds within the health service.
§ Mr. Gray
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that at any race course two bookies are often to be found offering different odds? That has nothing to do with different countries. Of course, there might be a difference between north and south of the border. Equally, there is the difference between on-course and off-course betting.
§ Mr. Murphy
I have been joined by someone else who participates in the great art of gambling at the race track. There is a difference in odds across 3 ft between two different bookies. There is no need for the devolution of gambling odds to a new Parliament. We already have that devolution in the market at the race course.
I know that time is not an ally in our debate, but I wish to take up the spurious and often outrageous comments that are made by the Opposition on devolved powers for drugs and firearm policies. To reduce such important issues as crime and law and order to such spurious comments and amendments is demeaning to the debate.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned firearms, but let us consider, for example, the carrying of knives. Does he agree that one consequence could be separate laws developing north and south of the border without any scrutiny by the Westminster Parliament? We know that knives can be very dangerous, and there could be completely different sets of laws. How and why should that position be distinguished from that on firearms?
§ Mr. Murphy
The hon. Gentleman should welcome the tough action that the new Government have taken on knives. Tough action was avoided over many months and years before the present Government came to power.
975 The position remains the same, in that the Conservatives are saying, "Let us have different legislative powers, agendas and frameworks on drugs and guns." That is extremely unhelpful and dangerous. I am amazed by the way in which the argument has been advanced. I do not think that Conservative Members believe in what they have said this evening. It is a poor attempt to knock the Government.
Inevitably, if the amendments were accepted, there would be cross-border checks. Inevitably also, there would be a move towards the idea of fortification of the border between Scotland and England in a way that the SNP, perhaps in an entirely different way, would see such fortification and separation. If the amendments are not about fortification of borders, they are about free movement of drugs and guns between different legislative frameworks and legislative areas, which would be dangerous.
The highlighting by some hon. Members of what happened at Dunblane as a reason why Scotland is more vociferously opposed to handguns than any other part of the United Kingdom is deeply unhelpful. It takes one crazed man who possesses such guns to carry out such an atrocity. The disaster and murder at Dunblane could have happened at any school in the United Kingdom and to claim that it justifies tougher action or more powers for the Scottish Parliament is in no way helpful.
§ Mr. Murphy
I apologise for not giving way, but I am about to conclude my remarks.
The disaster could have happened at any school anywhere in the United Kingdom, and we need tough legislative powers throughout the United Kingdom. Aspects of the debate—predominantly the speeches of my hon. Friends—have been interesting. But large segments—the speeches of Opposition Members—have been opportunistic, shallow in content and deeply demeaning to the Scotland Bill and to the Parliament that we shall have.
§ Mr. Russell Brown
I do not want to go over issues that other hon. Members have raised, but I do want to discuss the amendments.
I say to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) that according to The Herald this time last year a lot of other hon. Members and I would not be Members of Parliament today. Conservative Members talked long and hard about the dangers of a Scottish Parliament and the breaking up of the United Kingdom during the general election campaign, during the referendum campaign and in the early stages of the consideration of the Bill, but there has been an almost complete turnaround this evening. Their amendments are nothing more than wrecking amendments.
Conservative Members have also talked long and hard about the difficulties that a Scottish Parliament would cause people who live on the border. I represent a constituency on the border. A lot of what was said during the general election, during the referendum campaign and in recent weeks bears no resemblance to the real feelings of people in my constituency and others on the border.
976 I compliment my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe), for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) on the way in which they spoke about firearms. This country—when I say that, I mean the United Kingdom—needs strong regulations that will control firearms across its length and breadth. We do not want Scotland to be a special case.
§ Mr. Gray
Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that he and the hon. Members for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) and for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) are eloquently making our point for us? They said that such matters should be national policies, which is precisely why we question the way in which the Bill has been prepared. The hon. Gentleman is clear about the fact that we must have a national policy for guns, so why will the Scottish Parliament decide knife policy? Are knives not just as dangerous? Would not the girl who defended small children in a school against a machete attack recently believe that there should be one law, north and south of the border?
§ Mr. Brown
I am sorry, but Conservative amendments show that that is not the case.
If hon. Members went out on to our streets to talk to the general public, they would find that the greatest fears, especially for parents, are drugs and the misuse of drugs. I compliment Dumfries and Galloway constabulary—my constituency constabulary. At the weekend, officers arrested suspects on the A74 who were carrying a considerable consignment of Ecstasy tablets. Dumfries and Galloway constabulary were vigilant at the weekend and in previous incidents when firearms and drugs were involved, and do a good job on behalf of the people of south Scotland. We do not wish to have a different law.
§ Mr. Swayne
The hon. Gentleman may not wish to have a different law, and there is no requirement that he should, but the elected representatives of the Scottish Parliament may take a different view. Conservative Members find it odd that, although he has put his faith in the Parliament, he is not prepared to trust their judgment in particular areas.
§ Mr. Brown
I am quite prepared to listen to Members of the Scottish Parliament when they have been elected. We are representing not individual ideas but the people back in the constituencies. Those of us who live on the border firmly believe that there is no need for different drugs and firearms laws.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood made it perfectly clear where he stands on betting and gaming, and I feel the same. I have noticed over many years that people take advantage of loopholes in the licensing laws—Scots cross the border to drink in England when it is appropriate, and vice versa. Having different laws on the border would leave them open to being bent and broken.
977 I emphasise that there has been a complete turnaround by Conservative Members—they have tabled wrecking, spoiling amendments, and I hope that we shall deal with them appropriately.
§ Mr. McLeish
This has been one of the better Committee debates and I should like to preface my remarks with a discussion of how we arrived at judgments about important issues.
I refute what has been said about lack of consistency. We thought seriously about which matters could be reserved to Westminster—those about which there was no dispute—in putting together the devolution package. Reserved matters are identified in the Bill. A powerful set of devolved matters will go to the Holyrood Parliament as a consequence. There is little debate about the wisdom of that. Most of them are not what some people have described as conscience issues, but they are major policies that have been promoted by successive Governments.
Serious and sensitive questions surround some of the matters that have been mentioned this evening, which is why a balanced view must be taken of whether legislative competency should lie with Westminster or with Holyrood. The Government have made judgments, but it would be a pity if issues as serious as drugs and guns were used to make a party-political point. I shall be generous and suggest that no one was trying to do that.
We are considering not only the welfare of Scots post devolution, but the welfare of the United Kingdom. We are not only providing a Parliament that will deal with sensitive issues, but reinforcing the integrity of the United Kingdom. This is a devolved settlement, not an independence or separatist settlement: neither is it a Unionist settlement, under which no powers would be devolved to Scotland.
Against that background, I shall discuss some of the specific matters that were mentioned by Conservative Front Benchers. The Government reject amendments Nos. 469 and 470. The White Paper made clear our intention that the criminal law on drugs and drug trafficking and the regulation of drugs should be reserved. The existence of different systems of drug control in different jurisdictions inevitably gives rise to problems of controlling trafficking between those jurisdictions. We can at least limit the entry of illegal drugs through international border controls, but we could not reasonably expect any success in trying to maintain different regimes of drug control on either side of the open border between Scotland and England. We therefore do not accept that the subject matter of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and of the legislation relating to drug trafficking should be devolved.
There should be common legislative competence throughout the United Kingdom and we should work to a common policy framework. However, within that framework and within the separate jurisdictions, we can interpret those policies and tailor the legislation according to the ideas that we are pursuing for Scotland.
§ Mr. McLeish
We are dealing with the process and not with the substantive issues. In view of our comments, I hope that the Opposition will not press those amendments. The drug menace north and south of the border is very real, so we 978 should focus our energy on tackling the problem. Having a settled basis for the competency at Westminster will allow us to do that and will avoid the problem of cross-border trafficking that I identified.
Given the lack of time, I shall not be able to go into as much detail as the importance of the matter requires. The Government will resist amendment No. 471, which would remove the reservation of data protection. It is important for the United Kingdom, and especially for the business community, to have a uniform framework for the matters covered by the data protection reservation. We have maintained all along that it is right to have a level playing field. That would be upset if amendment No. 471 were accepted.
The Government oppose amendment No. 7, because we feel that controls on firearms need to be uniform throughout Britain, as they have been since their inception after the first world war. Reservation of firearms legislation will still allow much of the work of firearms licensing to be done locally, and we expect the role of the Scottish police forces to be unchanged after devolution.
I shall explain briefly how the system works at the moment. At present, the lead on firearms policy is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He and his ministerial colleagues have piloted through the House the recent legislation banning small calibre handguns, thus fulfilling our manifesto promise. The legislation takes due account of special Scottish circumstances. Indeed, the two Firearms (Amendment) Acts 1997 were initiated by the tragic events at Dunblane. The legislative code is sensitive to Scottish circumstances, but it applies throughout Britain. We would be equally sensitive to an event occurring in any part of the United Kingdom. Tragically, that incident occurred in Dunblane, but it could have happened anywhere. That is why it is important for firearms legislation to be consistent throughout the United Kingdom.
Within the code, much of the work is done locally. The chief constable decides whether an individual is a fit and proper person to hold a certificate for a firearm, and police forces enforce the legislation. The Scottish Office is also involved. The Secretary of State is consulted in the framing of firearms legislation and he plays a part in the local licensing system; granting certificates for prohibited weapons in Scotland, licensing rifle clubs and granting certificates for museums to keep firearms as part of their collections. Current responsibility will pass from the Scottish Office to the Scottish Executive. That will increase consistency and is not inconsistent with the Government's approach to these difficulties.
§ Mr. McLeish
I believe that we should take a much harder line with knives. It is a complex problem, partly because every knife is a potential weapon. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has spoken about the need to tighten up the legislation substantially.
§ Mr. Gray
Perhaps I did not make myself clear, because my previous intervention was a little abbreviated. If cross-border controls make it impossible to have different gun legislation in Scotland and in England, why is it possible to have different legislation on knives? 979 Offensive knives may be illegal in Scotland but legal in England. What is the difference between guns and knives under a devolved system?
§ Mr. McLeish
Conservative Members should accept that we are dealing with an entirely different situation. I have made the point about policing, controls and the courts. Dealing with knives is difficult, but that does not mean that we should not do a great deal more. There is a substantial difference between discussing guns and gun laws and discussing knives. Both are important, but in the legislative context they are very different.
§ Mr. Grieve
Is the Minister's position that, because of the leisure aspects of pistol shooting, it is treated differently from knives? In future, it may be possible for Scotland to take a weaker view on knives than is taken in England.
§ Mr. McLeish
The start of the debate did not augur well for the rest of the debate, because drug-related crime and guns were not treated with the seriousness that they deserve. Conservative Members should not play politics with such serious issues, especially in the aftermath of the catastrophic incident in one of our towns.
Government amendment No. 464 seeks to remove from the list of reserved matters the subject matter of sections 12 to 14 of the Theatres Act 1968 and of the Hypnotism Act 1952. Those matters are presently dealt with on a Great Britain basis. We considered initially that it would be useful to retain those arrangements so that businesses involved and members of the public would have a common regulatory framework, but we decided to examine this matter further in the light of the Second Reading debate and of the amendment tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). We have now concluded that those activities could be properly dealt with by the Scottish Parliament. We accordingly accept the amendment tabled by the hon. and learned Gentleman, to which my right hon. Friend has added his name, and which I commend to the House.
The Government cannot accept amendment No. 472, which would devolve legislative competence for all the entertainment matters reserved under head 2 of schedule 5. We do not agree that the argument that applies to hypnotism and theatres applies to the other issues. The classification of films for public exhibition has been carried out by the British Board of Film Classification since 1912. The board operates on a voluntary basis and has always operated on a UK basis without any difficulty, because audiences on both sides of the border have a shared appreciation of what is or is not acceptable for different age groups. There is also essentially a single market in films, which it is important to sustain for the health of the industry.
Similarly, we remain persuaded that the provisions on the control of exhibitions of films by local authorities under the Cinemas Act 1985 should remain a reserve 980 matter. The local authorities' licensing powers form an essential part of the overall system of control of film exhibitions. The system works well: recommendations of the BBFC are generally accepted by local authorities.
The classification of video recordings is dealt with separately, under the Video Recordings Act 1984. However, similar arguments apply to videos as apply to the classification of films, only more strongly. There are additional important differences in that videos are easily transported and that the purpose of classification is to regulate their sale—they are mostly viewed in the home—rather than to regulate public exhibition. Any divergence in regulation of videos on one side of the border would risk undermining, or being undermined by, the system on the other side.
Amendment No. 473 deals with experiments on animals. The proposal is to devolve legislative responsibility for vivisection. The Government fail to see any case for fragmenting arrangements that clearly need to operate in a uniform way across Great Britain. Experimentation using live animals is a highly emotive subject. It involves fundamental ethical and moral issues that must be considered in the widest context. Differing approaches in law on either side of the border is not the best way of achieving the most acceptable common policy. That point was reinforced by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell).
The law impacts significantly on the scientific community, and, in this context as well, a common policy is essential. Professionals must operate within a common ethical framework, given the interrelated nature of scientific work and the high degree of mobility. That applies to both experimental activity and personnel in research. Certain other medical and ethical issues such as xenotransplantation are to be reserved, and I see no case for a different approach in relation to vivisection. I therefore urge the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) not to press his amendment to a Division.
Amendment No. 17 seeks to devolve to the Scottish Parliament legislative responsibility for all forms of gambling; amendment No. 489 seeks to devolve legislative competence for lotteries organised at local level. Gambling is a huge money-spinner and a thriving commercial concern, especially gambling on the national lottery. That is why gambling is subject to various statutory controls. Those measures have always been applied successfully and uniformly throughout Great Britain, because all consumers should have the same level of protection. Those participating in smaller local lotteries should be given the same protections. Our policy does nothing more than ensure equality for operators and participants. It would not be sensible for the Bill to allow the national lottery to be split, or to allow for a separate Scottish lottery, which could only cause confusion and, in our view, unhelpful competition.
In clause 59, the Bill provides for the Scottish Executive to assume certain executive functions in areas that are to be reserved. Under our proposals, Scottish Ministers will be able to make secondary legislation on gambling matters that impact directly on the local scene. We also propose that Scottish Ministers should be able to issue policy and financial directions to the Scottish Arts 981 Council and the Scottish Sports Council by executive devolution, in the same way as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State makes such directions now.
§ Mr. Grieve
The Minister picked up the point about the Scottish Executive's ability to participate in devolved betting and gambling decision making.
Under current drugs policy, a ministerial sub-committee of the Cabinet sits to make decisions on such matters. As I think the Minister will agree, a Scottish Office Minister sits on that sub-committee. What will happen to it after devolution?
§ Mr. McLeish
The same co-operation will exist. In a sense, we are reserving the drugs issue to Westminster—but that does not imply an undermining of the current co-operation, consultation and joint action.
I hope that hon. Members are persuaded that our proposals give the best possible protection to the public and ensure that the benefits that Scotland has derived from the lottery are sustained in future.
Amendment No. 474 proposes, in effect, that legislative competence for extradition should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The present legal framework for extradition—the Extradition Act 1989—reflects the United Kingdom's obligations under multilateral agreements such as the Council of Europe convention on extradition, its extradition arrangements with the Commonwealth and its bilateral treaties with foreign states. In practice, however, the Scottish Office and the Crown Office are responsible for processing applications for extradition where the person concerned is resident in Scotland. The Scottish Executive will assume that responsibility after devolution, through executive devolution.
In my view, it makes good sense to have a single legislative framework for the United Kingdom as a whole, while ensuring that in Scottish cases extradition requests from foreign states continue to be dealt with by the Scottish authorities, as they are now. That is what the Bill as it stands—combined with our proposals for executive devolution—will deliver. For all those reasons, I hope that the right hon. Member for Devizes will not press his amendment.
Amendment No. 18 would devolve legislative responsibility for lieutenancy matters to the Scottish Parliament. I fail to see any case for that, as this is manifestly a United Kingdom issue. The modern statutory provisions for the ancient office of lord lieutenant are set out in the Lieutenancies Act 1997. The office has direct links with the Crown. Her Majesty alone can appoint a lord lieutenant or remove him from office, and it is she who determines the area that any lieutenancy in the United Kingdom should comprise. In view of that, I hope that hon. Members will not press the amendment.
Our arrangements already provide for a degree of devolution. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland currently exercise certain functions in relation to lieutenancies. Under the present proposals, they will be transferred to the First Minister, and in that respect the current arrangements are unchanged.
982 Many of the issues that have been raised tonight will be transferred to the Scottish Executive. That is consistent. A United Kingdom level playing field on drugs and guns is essential and I therefore ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I agree with the Minister that we have had an excellent debate, but rarely can probing amendments have exposed so clearly the inconsistency of Government proposals. I have observed the lack of logic. In earlier debates, Conservative Members were accused of wrecking by preventing additional powers from being given to the Scottish Parliament; now, when we have used probing tactics to find out why powers are not being taken by the Scottish Parliament, we have again been accused of wrecking.
Labour Members have been all over the shop. As soon as I sat down, every probing question that I had asked was supported by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), whose wisdom ought to be recognised.
In the light of the success of the probing, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: No. 464, in page 62, leave out lines 16 and 17. —[Mr. McFall.]
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham
I beg to move amendment No. 502, in page 63, line 30, at end insert—'(c) regulation of business trusts in relation to land ownership and land use.'
The Second Deputy Chairman
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 490, in page 63, line 32, after 'individual', insert'or partnership under section 4(2) of the Partnership Act 1890'.Amendment No. 491, in page 64, line 40, after 'solicitors', insert'notaries public, estate agents, those holding rights to conduct litigation and rights of audience under section 25 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990'.Amendment No. 492, in page 65, line 3, leave out 'Intellectual property' and insert'The subject matter of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, the Patents Act 1977, the Trade Marks Act 1994 and the Plant Varieties Acts 1964 to I967.'.Amendment No. 460, in page 65, leave out lines 4 to 6.
Amendment No. 493, in page 65, line 6, at end insert'The law of passing off and the law of breach of confidence.'.Amendment No. 494, in page 65, line 32, leave out from 'stamps' to third 'and' in line 34.
Amendment No. 475, in page 65, leave out line 33.
Government amendment No. 525.
Amendment No. 478, in page 66, line 28, at end insert—'() The regulation of the design and erection of telecommunication masts and equipment'.Amendment No. 479, in page 67, leave out lines 6 to 8.
§ Ms Cunningham
The amendment raises some of the issues that were raised in the earlier debate on the Crown Estate Commissioners, so I shall keep my remarks short.
983 The amendment attempts to add an exception to the reservation to deal with a problem that has already been highlighted by the Scottish Office's own land reform policy unit. As the Minister will be aware, the unit's recent document "Identifying the Problems" pointed out that any land reform legislation that sought to regulate or control the increasingly large number of business trusts and associations that are also landowners in Scotland would be faced with the insurmountable problem that such a move wouldaffect business legislation (which is a reserve matter and therefore not for the Scottish Parliament)".There are, of course, arguments about whether such a move would ultimately be advisable. The unit points to some of the technical difficulties, but I do not think that that removes the central concern—the same central concern that was raised in the debate about the Crown Estate Commissioners—that if the Scottish Parliament wanted to make such a move in its land reform legislation, that, too, would be outwith its powers.
As was said earlier, there is cross-party agreement that land reform is one of the key tasks and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, but, once again, it seems that our hands will be tied in that key area. The amendment would introduce some flexibility by allowing the Scottish Parliament to trespass on the reserve powers in the area of business associations in connection with the ownership of land. Otherwise, the Government will bring about circumstances in which a Scottish Minister may have to come cap in hand to the House of Commons to complete a Scottish Government's land reform policy.
This is not a hypothetical situation. The Scottish Land Commission's recommendations include proposals that would require some alteration of the law affecting business trusts and associations—requirements, for example, for registration and monitoring of their activities in the estates that they manage. The commission travelled the length and breadth of Scotland taking evidence from a vast number of organisations and individuals, and its proposals were based very much on the practical needs of land reform in Scotland. I know that the commission also received far more radical proposals, which the Scottish Parliament could not even consider. I find that unacceptable, and I urge the Government to review the matter.
A number of other amendments in the group raise similar concerns about restrictions in the Bill. The Scottish National party supports any measures that extend the range and scope of the Parliament's powers, but I urge the Government to view sympathetically the problem raised in the lead amendment. It is directed very much at the concern that we all have about future possibilities for land reform in Scotland.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I have two questions, the first of which relates to amendment No. 491 and is about the Law Society. Is the Minister satisfied that the definition of legal profession in schedule 5 is complete and accurate? Why are notaries and the others who are mentioned omitted? My second question concerns industrial policy. On Thursday, I asked the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to her letter to me of 8 December 1997, what were the principles on which the proposed concordat on inward investment would be founded. My right hon. Friend replied: 984The underlying principle is co-operation between all parts of the United Kingdom to allow effective negotiations to attract large inward investment projects. The proposed concordat on financial assistance will be an agreement between all parties seeking better co-ordination and co-operation, the sharing of best practice, and transparency." —[Official Report, 26 March 1998; Vol.309, c.219.]That is rather like motherhood and apple pie. What is the evidence that, in these difficult industrial negotiations, there will be the good will that is necessary for a concordat? Departments fight like Kilkenny cats because that is in the nature of the system, and it may not be possible for it to be otherwise when each area wants its share, or more than its share, of inward industrial investment. There is a serious question about how the concordat will work out.
§ Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)
I should like to speak to amendment No. 460, whose purpose is to retain plant breeders' rights as a reserve issue. However, I am tempted not to pursue the matter because the Bill does precisely what I want, although that is not the Government's intention. That is because the Bill proposes to exempt from reservation part I of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964. The problem is that part I does not exist because it was repealed by the Plant Varieties Act 1997 which received Royal Assent two weeks before the Scotland Bill was published. Therefore, the Bill proposes to exempt from reservation a measure that does not exist. For the purpose of debate, and on the assumption that the Government would have spotted their error, I should like to address the amendment's intent.
The Government's proposals as outlined in the Bill would give the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate for authority over plant breeders' rights, and that would be a recipe for chaos throughout the United Kingdom. As I said, only last year Parliament passed the Plant Varieties Act. One of the effects of that was to address the long-standing and vexed issue of farm-saved seed and the issue of royalties to be paid by farmers who buy breeders' seed, sow it, harvest the seed crop and use it for growing commercial crops.
An agreement after long drawn-out discussions between plant breeders and farmers' organisations from all over the United Kingdom was enshrined in that 1997 Act, which also enshrines in law our obligations under the UPOV convention. That is a French acronym for the international convention for protection of new varieties of plants. The legislation also enshrines the European Union's plant breeders' rights regime which was established in 1994.
On Second Reading of the Plant Varieties Bill, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), whom I am pleased to see in his place, asked the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about devolution. In his reply, the Minister stated that the controller of plant variety rightswill continue to represent the United Kingdom. This may or may not be a devolved matter, but it seems inconceivable that it would be in future. Basically, this is a United Kingdom issue." —[Official Report, 24 June 1997; Vol.296, c. 691.]
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am deeply interested in this subject and played an active part in debates on the Plant Varieties Bill. When I spoke on devolution I was asked by a prominent Lobby correspondent as I went out whether 985 I thought that I was a protected or endangered species in relation to devolution and party discipline. The question was not answered. I shall leave that. I do not wish to be rude or offensive, but I am curious about the hon. Gentleman's brief. Where did it come from?
§ Mr. Paice
There is nothing secretive about it: my brief is my own work. I am about to move to discussions that I had with the British Society of Plant Breeders, which represents all plant breeders and is located in my constituency—hence my interest, and the fact that I usually speak on agricultural matters from the Front Bench. I spoke about farm-saved seed and it is important to appreciate how much of plant breeders' royalties come from Scotland. The 1997 royalties for cereal crops amounted to £1.2 million and, under the arrangements, that went to plant breeders. That is the return for their intellectual property.
Legislation to permit different royalty rates in Scotland and England could encourage the cross-border movement of seeds and encourage the smuggling of protected varieties. That is not an unrealistic scenario. The British Society of Plant Breeders and the Irish plant royalty office are aware of illicit movement of high value basic cereal seed between the United Kingdom and Ireland or between Northern Ireland and southern Ireland.
§ Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)
My hon. Friend will remember that I also took part in that Second Reading debate last year, and I also remember the comments of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). Does my hon. Friend agree that if, as a result of lobbying by Scottish farmers, the Scottish Parliament took a certain view of royalty rates and took action to get round them, it could cause incredible problems for plant breeders in this country who supply products to Scotland?
§ Mr. Paice
My hon. Friend is right: that is precisely the point that I am trying to make. If the Scottish Parliament were given the proposed powers, Scotland, England and Wales could have different plant varieties legislation and different royalty systems. That would encourage smuggling of seeds, especially cereal seeds.
§ Mr. Salmond
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such matters should be organised on a European Union level to avoid smuggling throughout Europe? Does the hon. Gentleman support that?
§ Mr. Paice
Not entirely, because the Plant Varieties Act enshrines the European plant breeders' rights regime. However, the issue of royalties on farm-saved seed is a purely UK issue and does not arise much in Europe where practices and cultures are different.
The Plant Varieties Act protects the intellectual property of plant breeders from being exploited by others and provides for the return by some mechanism of royalties to those breeders. I know that the hon. Member for Linlithgow is familiar with the issue of seed potatoes, in which Scotland is pre-eminent. It has particularly good climatic and disease-free conditions, which enable seed potatoes to be produced in Scotland. Again, there could be a problem if, in some way, the Scottish legislation were different from the English legislation.
986 Problems of administration could also arise. I have mentioned cross-border transit of seed. I emphasise that there is already a vast trade between England and Scotland both ways of different types of seed. Seed potatoes in particular come from Scotland to England, but cereal seed tends to go from England to Scotland, particularly in the last planting season, because Scotland had a particularly bad harvest last year and was not able to produce the quality of seed. I know for a fact that many farmers in Scotland were buying seed from English merchants because that was the only way in which they could obtain the quality of seed that they wanted.
§ Mr. Dalyell
From memory—I am open to correction—I thought that there was a suggestion, if not an undertaking, that the people with whom the hon. Gentleman has properly been having discussions were going to raise these matters with St. Andrew's house, Scottish Office officials and indeed, if necessary, Scottish Office Ministers. Does he know whether they did so?
§ Mr. Paice
I am not sure whether those people have raised the matter with St. Andrew's house, but the British Society of Plant Breeders has certainly raised it with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I have copies of the correspondence here. I will not read them out because it would detain the House, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that correspondence has taken place at least with MAFF.
There are several specific rules relating to plant health, particularly potatoes. If the Scottish Parliament decided that Scotland would no longer form part of the protected region in relation to potato health, again, there would be serious problems. As the British Society of Plant Breeders has said to me, any changes would be detrimental, with unwelcome ramifications for plant health within the UK as a unit.
Given the problems that will clearly exist in relation to perfectly genuine cross-border trade between Scotland and England, it is almost inconceivable that any plant breeder would consider taking out rights for just Scotland, or indeed just England. The costs of doing it differently and taking out rights on a European basis would cost plant breeders a considerable amount of extra money. The net result of devolution would therefore be to wipe out or further to reduce the already reduced demand for UK rights.
I therefore submit a genuine case that however well-meaning the intention to give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for plant breeders rights, it would cause untold problems for plant breeders, in the collection of royalties and, indeed, for farmers themselves, if we ended up, as we could, with different regimes north and south of the border. I have also consulted some Scottish seed merchants. I quote part of the response that I have received from a Mr. Harper, a director of seed merchants Dods of Haddington Ltd:It would be totally unworkable were there to be a dual system of Royalties in Scotland and England. It would create an unworkable situation when we have strived so hard to get the Royalty situation to where it is today.It is only four months since we got the royalty situation to where it is today by passing the Plant Varieties Act with cross-party support. It would be a retrograde step if we enshrined in the Scotland Act measures that could break that agreement apart.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) on the extremely able way in which he spoke to his amendment. If there was ever a demonstration of why a Bill of this nature should be dealt with on the Floor of the House rather than in the cosy atmosphere of a Committee, his speech was it. He has a knowledgeable background in the Ministry of Agriculture, along with the experience of the British Society of Plant Breeders in his constituency. He has made a valuable point, and we look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about it, particularly on the apparent anomaly in the Bill, which refers to a part of an Act that is no longer extant. It is natural that these mistakes can be made, and we hope that the Minister will be able to deal with it as gracefully as the point was made by my hon. Friend.
The whole question of plant breeders' rights receives remarkably little explanation from the Government's notes on clauses, but the comments that are made are illuminating. Under the heading, "Exception from reservation," it says:The Scottish Parliament is being given legislative competence to legislate about plant breeders' rights in view of the devolution of agricultural matters generally.We have already explored at length the inconsistency of devolving agriculture to the Scottish Parliament, when so much agricultural policy is actually a European Union obligation, and therefore reserved under another part of the Bill.
It would seem from what my hon. Friend has said both about the international obligations appertaining to plant breeders' rights and the European Community plant breeding regime, which must also at least be an international obligation, if not an EC obligation, that this is de facto a reserve matter, and that the exception to reservation in the Bill is anomalous, just as it is anomalous and misleading to pretend that agriculture can be a truly devolved matter. So much agriculture is an EC obligation that will have to be negotiated with the EC on a UK basis, rather than on a bilateral basis with the Scottish Parliament.
This debate opened with the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham) moving amendment No. 502 on trusts relating to land ownership and land use. I note that she is not in her place at the moment. The way the Scottish nationalists talk about land reform, they make Scotland sound like a banana republic. It is as though they are dealing with some backward country, instead of a modern country, where far more people have gained property rights over the past 20 years or so, particularly with regard to home ownership—perhaps it has grown at a faster rate than in the rest of the UK. They sound as if they are planning some revolution to turn land ownership upside down in Scotland.
§ Dr. Lynda Clark (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Is he seriously supporting the retention of the feudal system in Scotland, which we would seriously like to reform?
§ Mr. Jenkin
To describe the system as feudal is to use an emotive term which is not appropriate to modern Britain.
§ Mr. Jenkin
No, I have given way to the hon. and learned Lady once already.
988 To complete the point, there may be scope for land reform in Scotland and to reform the law of property in Scotland—I would not pretend to be an expert on that—but to pretend that somehow Scotland is full of serfs who have no rights, which is what feudalism means to me, is wrong. I do not support feudalism, and it is not the official policy of the Conservative party, is wrong.
That does seem to underline that we are dealing with an emotive portrayal of existing land tenure and property ownership in Scotland.
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the fact that Scotland does have a system of feudal tenure, and that, over the years, the House has found no time whatever to reform it, is a strong argument in favour of devolution?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I think it is wrong to suggest that land ownership in Scotland represents some sort of mediaeval form of society. What we see in responsible land ownership in Scotland is models of shared access and co-operation between landowners and the public in parts of Scotland, which we should envy, not seek to tear up. That partnership is based on a constructive tension between landowners and the public.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment.
That partnership is beneficial to all concerned, and it is not necessarily sensible to talk about ripping up existing traditional structures just because they create some resentment.
§ Mrs. Laing
Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Morgan) is wrong in the assertion he made a few moments ago, in that the House reformed the feudal system in Scotland some 25 years ago, when the concept of the redemption of feu duty was introduced?
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Jenkin
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend.
The Liberal Democrats have tabled many amendments, about which no doubt we shall hear later. I do not intend to mention the Government's technical amendment concerning package holidays and package tours. I wish to speak to our amendments Nos. 475, 478 and 479.
Amendment No. 475 deals with the reservation of the regulation of estate agents. It emphasises yet another contrast between the way in which the project for devolution in Scotland was presented and the way that it is taking shape in the Bill. If ever there was a part of Scottish law that is distinctive and which should be, in principle, under the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, it is property law.
989 It seems that estate agents in Scotland, who conduct their business in a completely different legal regime from estate agents in the rest of the United Kingdom, should be responsible for their legislation to the Scottish Parliament, rather than to the United Kingdom Parliament. The Secretary of State and his pro-devolution friends repeatedly said, "Is it not extraordinary that Scotland should be the only country with its own legal system but without its own Parliament?" —yet here is an area of Scottish life that looms very large for a great many people, when they buy and sell houses, that is reserved to the UK Parliament.
In amendment No. 478, we are dealing with the reservation concerning the design and erection of telecommunications masts and telecommunications equipment. I should like the Minister perhaps to confirm my guess that the only reason that the reservation is in the Act is because of the Telecommunications Act 1984, which gives the erection of telecommunication equipment a curious and special privileged position in planning law.
On the principle that the Government want a comprehensive network of mobile telephones in this country, planning guidance has been issued in England and Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, to enable the telecommunications companies to press for specific schemes to enable them to get their "footprints" of transmission areas to cover the country. The effect is that national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other special areas have been made vulnerable to the scarring of the landscape by such apparatus. I think it unlikely that the Scottish Parliament would not want to take control of such matters.
All our amendments in the group are intended to give the Scottish Parliament more, not fewer, powers. In that regard, they are inconsistent with the caricature of our contributions that the Minister repeatedly sketches. Those amendments are not wrecking amendments; they are sensible contributions to the debate. We think that the Scottish Parliament should have power to regulate the con struction—[Interruption.]
The Second Deputy Chairman
Order. Members must not interject from a sedentary position, and I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would not respond.
§ Mr. Jenkin
When I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, I thought I was eliciting surprise that we were proposing that the Scottish Parliament should have more power. In fact, the regulatory powers are already there, in the Telecommunications Act 1984—perhaps to our cost, because those powers have been used by the telecommunications companies to force local authorities 990 to accept telecommunications masts in areas that would otherwise be considered completely inappropriate for commercial development.
That has been a very controversial issue in England and Wales—including my constituency—and I am surprised that the Government do not want to give that controversial area to the Scottish Parliament. The subject of the degree of regulation is immaterial to the amendment.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman really is struggling. If he could hear himself, he would understand just how bad it sounds, coming from him in particular. If he really wanted to give powers to a Parliament that he opposes, he might not encounter too much disagreement. The remarkable thing is the fact that he wants another body, by whatever name, to start interfering with businesses and their ability to do, in an unregulated way, what the previous Government wanted them to do.
§ Mr. Jenkin
The Telecommunications Act 1984 gave telecommunications companies special privileges to override the usual planning system. They got their special planning guidance notes issued, to give them a privileged position. I question, on environmental grounds, whether that has been wholly wise, especially in view of what has happened in one or two special areas in the United Kingdom—notably in my constituency, so I have some experience of the matter.
During my time in the Scottish Office as parliamentary private secretary to the previous Secretary of State, Sir Michael Forsyth, the issue was sensitive in Scotland. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) is not jumping up and welcoming the idea that the Scottish Parliament should have control of planning in Scotland with regard to telecommunications masts, as it will have control over planning with regard to everything else. I am simply looking for some consistency in the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Jenkin
The hon. Gentleman seems to be making mischief, but, as I am enjoying it, I shall give way again.
§ Mr. Jenkin
The hon. Gentleman is wiser than he—or perhaps any other hon. Member—imagines. In his intervention, he has stumbled on the fact that Scotland already has a separate regime, and separate planning guidance on telecommunications masts. It is a Scottish Office matter. In the White Paper, the principle of the Government's devolution proposals is that Scottish Office matters should become matters for the Scottish Parliament. Therefore, I should expect the hon. Gentleman to be on my side in the matter. Perhaps the matter—to be consistent—should not be reserved.
Amendment No. 479 deals with reservation of the power to designate assisted areas. Perhaps more than any other reservation, that one most graphically demonstrates the inconsistencies in the Government's devolution 991 scheme, which reserves some powers, but not others. We understand why such designation has been reserved, as it will deal with financial assistance that is applied on a United Kingdom basis. Nevertheless, supervision of industrial policy is a devolved responsibility, and—however much it has superficially been devolved to the Scottish Parliament—the key decisions on industrial policy in Scotland will be reserved.
Amendment No. 479 is simply a probing amendment. We understand why there has to be a concordat on such matters, and why Scotland cannot be allowed to go its own way. Scotland has to be contained within an overall financial discipline.
We also know the story behind those reservations, which began with pressure applied—in their north of England constituencies—on senior Ministers: the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister without Portfolio, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend (Mr. Brown). A lobby of northern councillors to the Prime Minister himself finally resulted in a telephone call to the President of the Board of Trade, who was told to examine the advantageous way in which Scotland has benefited from the current arrangements and subsidies for inward investment.
No one denies that story, or that the devolution process has created an entirely new tension between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Scottish Office. The tension will have to be resolved before devolution proceeds. Although it can be contained in a Government of collective responsibility, it will cause chaos if it becomes a matter of open dispute between Ministers in Scotland and Ministers in the United Kingdom.
§ Dr. Godman
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that inward investment has a very long history in Scotland? IBM came to Greenock in 1950 thanks to the remarkable work done by the late Hector McNeil in persuading the president of that company to do so. Inward investment in Scotland is not a recent phenomenon, and it will not be harmed by establishing a Scottish Parliament.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I am most interested in the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I was deliberately not crowing about the previous Government's inward investment record—which was an extremely good one—as I wish not to antagonise Labour Members, but for them to listen to the point that I am making.
I remember that the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) participated in our debate in the House on 3 December 1997, when he asked the Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry—who has responsibility for United Kingdom inward investment:I seek from my hon. Friend an assurance that there will be no reduction in the role or the autonomy of Locate in Scotland.He did not receive an answer.
I do not know why the hon. Member is now satisfied to say that everything is hunky-dory, after the Minister could give him absolutely no such assurance. He is leading his constituents into the bear trap of devolution, which will lessen Scotland's influence at Westminster, where the key decisions on inward investment in Scotland are bound to be made.
§ Dr. Godman
Not for a moment did I say that things are hunky-dory; I said that there is a long history of 992 inward investment in Scotland. Moreover, I tell the hon. Gentleman that the biggest challenge to Locate in Scotland, and to the continuation of inward investment into Scotland, will come from the Irish Republic and elsewhere in the European Union. We have seen the effects of that challenge in decisions made by IBM and other companies in the electronics industry.
As for my question to the Minister, which the hon. Gentleman quoted, I am now satisfied that Locate in Scotland will continue to bring investment not only to my constituency but to other constituencies in Scotland.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I should be very grateful if the hon. Gentleman would make the same intervention on the Minister, to discover whether he would receive a concrete assurance on that point. From her reply to that debate of 3 December 1997, it is quite clear that—because of the Prime Minister's intervention—the Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry thinks that a new regime is entirely necessary. She told the House that day:The President of the Board of Trade, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), was asked by the Prime Minister to develop a system to address understandable concerns that public money might be used to finance wasteful upward bidding between different parts of the country." —[Official Report, 3 December 1997; Vol. 302, c.309–10.]This fear of wasteful upward bidding had never existed openly before. Whatever tensions may have existed were incorporated within Whitehall into the overall objective that the United Kingdom should win foreign investment. Now, there will have to be an open and explicit body of rules which will hobble Locate in Scotland in exactly the way the hon. Gentleman feared when he intervened in that debate.
§ Mr. Dalyell
May I clarify the matter by quoting from a letter of 8 December sent to me by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade? She said:I would just re-emphasise that the UK-wide concordat that we are currently preparing will aim to ensure that financial assistance to industry remains within common UK guidelines and consultation arrangements. It is of fundamental concern that public money should not be used to finance competition between different parts of the country. The aim is that the concordat will be an agreement between all the relevant parties seeking better co-ordination and co-operation between all parties, the sharing of best practice, and transparency between the regions … I would just add that in the context of these arrangements the position of Locate in Scotland would be no different from all the other inward investment agencies throughout the UK and it will still have a key role in promoting Scotland.I am sure that that was written by my right hon. Friend in good faith.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. The President of the Board of Trade says that Locate in Scotland will still have a "key role"— I think that I am quoting her correctly from the hon. Gentleman's reading of her letter—alongside all the other regional agencies in England, but it will be within a new UK framework. That framework has not existed before, and the other agencies are to be new competitors for Locate in Scotland.
It grieves me deeply to have to quote the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), but, in the debate to which I referred, he cited an article in The Sunday Tribune, the Irish newspaper, of the Sunday before the 993 debate of 3 December. The headline was "IDA gains in curb on Scottish rival". The hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde said that he thought Ireland would be the winner—so does the SNP. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan read out the article, which stated:IDA Ireland is poised to gain a decisive upper hand over its main international competitor in the battle to attract foreign inward investment following an attempt by Margaret Beckett, the president of the British Board of Trade, to shackle the jobs agency of Scottish Enterprise, Locate in Scotland.The article also quoted Irish Government sources as saying:the implications for Ireland will be monitored by industry experts.The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan added:I bet they will." —[Official Report, 3 December 1997; Vol. 302, c. 294.]However, the Government have said absolutely nothing to reassure us that that is not to be the case.
In other words, the powers governing inward investment are to move from the Secretary of State and Whitehall to Edinburgh, so decision making will be taken out of the Whitehall loop, and direct negotiation with the Treasury will to be removed; Locate in Scotland is to be shackled in new UK rules via the concordat; and the squeeze on the Scottish spending programme is likely to be pursued. The combination of these facts means that Scotland is likely to be the loser.
When the Minister is explaining and trying to justify the reservation of the designation of assisted areas, it is incumbent on him to explain how all that is not going to interfere with what has been an integral part of Scottish Office industrial policy.
§ Mr. Jenkin
I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman, and I am drawing my remarks to a close.
The meat and drink of the Minister responsible for industry in Scotland has been the decisions about inward investment, which he had a free hand to deliver in direct negotiation with the companies concerned through Locate in Scotland and in negotiation with the Treasury. All those direct lines of communication will be obscured by the concordat, restrictions on money and unclear political lines. For Scotland's sake, I ask the Minister to make sure that the arrangements that have been made will not disadvantage Scotland.
§ Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
I shall not detain the Committee long in speaking to amendments Nos. 490, 491 and 492. Amendment No. 490 seeks to extend the exclusion from reservation to Scottish partnerships. Unlike its English and Welsh equivalent, a Scottish partnership has its own legal personality that allows legal documents and other legal matters to be signed on behalf of the partnership as a whole. It is only right that the Scottish Parliament should have powers over changes in regulations and laws affecting such partnerships.
Amendment No. 491 seeks to extend the exceptions from the reservation. There is widespread acknowledgement that regulation of anti-competitive practices in the legal profession is needed, but there is also concern that other professions should be included in that regulation. Notaries public and estate agents are the 994 two most obvious ones, but the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 makes provision for other professions such as accountants and surveyors to have rights of audience in court. We believe that they should also be subject to anti-competitive provisions.
§ Mr. Moore
No. I am coming to the end of my remarks. The hon. Gentleman will be able to make his own speech in due course.
Amendment No. 492 would sensibly bring some definition to the term "intellectual property". We are concerned that, without such a definition, there will be endless referrals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Although that might provide some entertaining sport—and some good fees—for lawyers, it could all be avoided by using the useful definitions in existing legislation such as the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Trade Marks Act 1994. We hope that the Government will respond sympathetically to our amendments.
§ Dr. Godman
I shall be brief. I shall respond to some of the comments by the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on inward investment and his prediction that Locate in Scotland may be harmed by the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
I am perfectly relaxed about Locate in Scotland being subjected to fair competition from other nations in the multinational state that we call the United Kingdom. In my view, Locate in Scotland will not be harmed by the Scottish Parliament. Among other things, it is able to persuade investors to come to Scotland on the long history that we have established in inward investment. It is fair to say that Conservative and Labour Administrations can claim credit for bringing some of those companies to Scotland.
IBM employs more than 2,000 people in Spango valley in Greenock. It is one of our biggest local employers. National Semiconductors also employs more than 2,000 people. I have received no expressions of concern from those companies about the effects of the Bill. They operate in Scotland for very good reasons. It has a superb skills base and a history of developments in information technology. The amendments are wholly inappropriate and irrelevant to the Bill and to the way in which Locate in Scotland operates in other countries. The hon. Gentleman does the hard-working officers of Locate in Scotland no good with his sneering comments. They do first-class work in bringing employment to Scotland. If similar English organisations secure similar inward investment, good luck to them.
Our main competitor for inward investment is the Irish Republic. Not long ago, Ireland secured an IBM helpline. I would have preferred that project to come to Greenock, but it went to Dublin, providing 700 jobs, largely for graduates. We are benefiting from 200 extra jobs in that sector created by IBM.
The amendments should be tossed out. Locate in Scotland will continue to secure valuable employment for Scotland. I would like it to secure more research and development centres. It is beginning to achieve that, 995 but much more needs to be done. We should ignore the carping comments from the spokesman of one of the Opposition parties.
§ Mr. Gorrie
I wish to supplement the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) on amendment No. 494, which covers the conduct of estate agency business, auctions and mock auctions. On amendment No. 491, my hon. Friend talked about the relationship between estate agents and the legal profession. Many other professions have an impact on the legal profession.
The Scottish Parliament's control over Scottish law and the Scottish legal profession should be extended to cover estate agents. It is reasonable for Scotland to have different regulations for the conduct of estate agency because of the different conveyancing system. I am not saying that the conduct of estate agents in Scotland would be better or worse under the Scottish Parliament, but it might want to do things differently. It is a mistake for the conduct of estate agency business to be a reserve matter.
The Scottish Parliament might also want to take a different attitude to auctions and mock auctions. There is no reason why the Scottish Parliament should not control such issues. No great problems would be caused to other parts of the United Kingdom if there were slightly different rules governing auctions in Scotland. I am sure that the Scottish Parliament would continue to observe any international rules.
On many niggling issues such as those and the matters that we raised earlier on betting and gaming, the Bill will prevent the Scottish Parliament from adopting slightly different regulations, which it might reasonably want to do. In due course, that will annoy people.
The Conservatives may have a point in amendment No. 478. I am sure that, like me, more experienced Members of Parliament have had problems brought to their attention about the placing of telecommunications masts. If Members of the Scottish Parliament are not able to deal with that, there could be irritation. It is amazing that the Conservative spokesman, the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), does not seem to accept that the feudal system is a major legal issue in Scotland, not just something from the history books.
The Government should pay attention to some of the points that have been made, and strike out some of the unnecessarily prescriptive reservations.
§ Mrs. Laing
I shall speak briefly to amendment No. 475. Unusually, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie). As a Scots lawyer, I am always anxious to defend Scots law and the Scottish legal system. I credit it with a certain superiority, and I am sure that some Labour Members will agree.
The Scottish conveyancing system is certainly very different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom. Indeed, I allege that it is better—although we are not here to discuss that this evening. Estate agents in Scotland have always been closely aligned professionally with solicitors who practise conveyancing-much more so than in England, where estate agents have developed completely differently. Perhaps the Government have overlooked the 996 fact that some firms are solicitors and estate agents, and successfully practise both parts of the conveyancing profession. That is one of the reasons why I think that the system is better in Scotland.
As matters of Scots law and the conduct of the Scottish legal system are to be dealt with by the new Scottish Parliament, it seems strange not to devolve regulations on estate agents to it. I make that not as a point of principle but as one of practicality. I hope that the Minister will accept it as such.
§ Mr. McLeish
I shall speak first to Government amendment No. 525. It is simply a technical amendment to correct the title of regulations referred to under sub-paragraph (f) of the second reservation on consumer protection in section 6 of head 3.
On amendment No. 490, I listened with interest to the argument of the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) for making an exception for Scottish partnerships under the Partnership Act 1890, but I cannot agree with it. The reservation of business associations is intended to include all business associations, including partnerships in the meaning of the Partnership Act and limited partnerships in the meaning of the Limited Partnerships Act 1907. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that there should not be competing regimes of business regulation north and south of the border.
Although we believe that the matters should remain within the competence of the UK Parliament, hon. Members should remember that nothing will preclude it from legislating for special rules to apply to Scottish partnerships where it considers that that is appropriate. In view of those comments, I invite the hon. Gentleman not to press the amendment to a vote.
Amendment No. 502 is not acceptable, either. It would add a further exception from the reservation for an undefined category of business trusts in relation to land ownership and land use. There is no justification for the amendment, even in respect of the category of business with which the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham) appears to be concerned. It is, however, intended that the Scottish Parliament should be able to legislate about the law of trusts as a matter of Scots private law and could, for example, legislate to require any trust owning any property in Scotland to disclose the identity of its trustees and beneficiaries. In view of those comments, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale for the explanation of amendment No. 491, which seeks to widen the definition of the legal profession for the purposes of the exception that is made to the reservation of competition policy. The legal profession is defined as advocates, solicitors and qualified conveyancers and executory practitioners. That seems to us an appropriate definition; it needs to be clearly limited to those who can be said to be part of that profession and subject to its professional rules and practices.
Our concern is that the Scottish Parliament should be enabled to legislate for those rules and practices, while ensuring that United Kingdom legislation about competition should continue to apply.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is the matter I raised about other notaries covered? Is the Law Society happy about it?
§ Mr. McLeish
I will check that point.
997 The consumer protection section of schedule 5 states that the regulation of the conduct of estate agency business is a reserve matter. I shall return to that point later in dealing with other amendments in the group.
Section 25 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 has not yet been commenced. However, there is no provision in that section which would involve designating any new group as part of the legal profession. Rather, the provisions would allow non-lawyers to present a scheme for the approval of the Secretary of State and the Lord President of the Court of Session under which they would propose to train and regulate persons to exercise rights to conduct litigation on behalf of the public and rights of audience in the Supreme Court. There are no present plans to commence the provisions.
For the reasons I have given, I believe that there is no need for the amendment, and I would ask the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale not to press it to a vote.
We now come to the amendments dealing with intellectual property. Politics is always a learning experience, but I must say that plant breeders' rights is not one of my specialist, starter-for-10 subjects. We were keen that the Scottish Parliament should have general competence over all matters relating to agriculture and food. There was consistency in that approach.
I recognise the point raised by the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) on consolidation enactment in 1997. Clearly, our references were to the 1964 Act. Without in any way conceding the points, I am willing to look at the technical issues arising from the consolidation which clearly have not been looked at.
§ Mr. Paice
When I quoted the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) earlier, I did not realise that he would be joining us in the Chamber this evening. He would agree that the 1997 Act was not just a consolidation, but a complete rewriting of the laws on the protection of plant breeders' rights.
§ Mr. McLeish
I am content to accept that. Agriculture Ministers are jointly responsible for UK plant breeders' rights. On the basis of my comments, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendment. We will respond to him on that and other matters.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Would it not be better to have a meeting between Scottish Office officials and the plant authorities to hammer out an important subject for my hon. Friend's constituency and mine in relation to seed potatoes and other matters?
§ Mr. McLeish
I was asked about meetings that may have taken place or correspondence that had been exchanged. The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire confirmed that a letter had gone to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I am not sure whether that letter has been seen by my officials or whether any meeting has taken place. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will acknowledge that we will look into that.
I appreciate that the motive of amendments Nos. 492 and 493 is to provide greater clarity, but I do not think that they achieve it. The reservation of intellectual property 998 embraces everything that is covered by the legislation and referred to in amendment No. 492. It also includes all other existing and future analogous rights and matters. That wide formulation would be limited by the amendments, and would result in any future analogous rights—such as that recently introduced for databases—falling outside the reservation. Amendment No. 493 would also devolve matters such as the law of passing off. I hope that my explanation will persuade the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) not to press the amendments.
Amendment No. 475 seeks to remove the conduct of estate agency business from the list of reserved consumer protection matters. Amendment No. 494 seeks to go even further by deleting estate agency, auctions and mock auctions. The Government cannot accept either of the amendments. Why should there be different levels of protection for consumers in different parts of the UK? Why burden business with potentially introducing two different regimes of business regulation? In light of these explanations, I ask the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) not to press the amendments.
I assume that the purpose behind amendment No. 478 is to ensure that the Scottish Parliament will be able to regulate on telecommunications masts from the perspective of planning law. That will be achieved without the amendment because planning law in general will be devolved. Following that brief explanation, I hope the right hon. Member for Devizes will not press this amendment either.
Amendment No. 479 would remove the reservation of the power to designate assisted areas and allow Scottish Ministers to adopt a different regime of assisted areas in Scotland. I do not believe that that would be the right course to adopt for Scotland or the UK.
Assisted areas are those seen in the context of regional policy as deserving of a higher level of aid to promote their economic development. Certain distortions of the single market are allowed where they benefit assisted areas. Because there is market distortion from grants, it is important that designation is handled consistently across all areas. The European Commission has a role in enforcing the common market at Community level. The Commission sets a ceiling for the total population eligible in a given member state, and it expects to see evidence of a proper methodology used by member states to decide which areas qualify for additional help. Separate devolved powers to designate assisted areas could not achieve that. With that explanation, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.
Although the Bill reserves the designation of assisted areas, that will not detract from the devolved powers which the Scottish Parliament will enjoy over the provision of financial assistance to industry and the promotion of economic development generally.
The Commission has asked all member states to make proposals for assisted areas, to operate from January 2000. The Government therefore intend later this year to conduct a review of the assisted areas map. We will consult interested parties in the late summer about the review. The President of the Board of Trade will designate assisted areas at the conclusion of the review. Scottish Office Ministers and officials will be closely involved throughout the review process.
999 The whole of the UK will be considered during any review of the assisted areas map. Implementation of the results of the review will be given effect under separate statutory provisions for Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Finally, Ministers are seeking simple and transparent arrangements, based on co-operation and partnership. We hope shortly to be in a position to publish the draft concordat. It will allow Locate in Scotland to maintain its excellent record of securing inward investment for Scotland. It will also give the assurance of value for money for the taxpayer, and fairness to all parts of the UK, while allowing effective negotiations to attract inward investment projects.
We welcome the Trade and Industry Committee's helpful analysis in its report on the co-ordination of inward investment. The Committee endorsed the need for a concordat on financial assistance. Some of my hon. Friends have reinforced the point that Scotland has done exceptionally well at attracting inward investment. There is no doubt that it will continue to do so in the years that lie ahead.
§ Ms Roseanna Cunningham
I have listened with interest to what the Minister said about trusts in relation to possible land reform. We may come back to that on Report. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: No. 525, in page 65, line 43, leave out 'Holidays and' and insert 'Package Holidays and Package'. —[Mr. McLeish.]
The Second Deputy Chairman
With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 477, in page 66, leave out lines 10 to 13.
§ Mr. Hayes
The amendments deal with the proposals to devolve responsibility for food safety, labelling and related liabilities. The amendments would reserve to Westminster control over those matters by reversing the exceptions proposed in the Bill. Schedule 5, paragraph 6, reserves to Westminster a range of responsibilities in respect of the sale and supply of goods and services to consumers, and the labelling thereof. A glance at the Bill reveals a whole range of such services. Extraordinarily enough, the exceptions to the reserve powers listed on page 66 include food, agriculture and horticultural products, fish and fish products, seeds, animal feedstuffs, fertilisers and pesticides—
§ Mr. Alasdair Morgan
The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have spent the past three hours trying to extend the range of powers given to the Scottish Parliament on the basis, among others, that we should trust the Scottish people and their elected representatives to look after certain matters. Why cannot we be trusted to look after these?
§ Mr. Hayes
We heard earlier that the Scottish Parliament was not to be trusted with guns or drugs. It is 1000 clear that some matters are suitable for devolution to the Scottish Parliament, and that others are suitable for reservation to the UK Parliament—that is implicit in schedule 5. To continue, a range of goods are listed, to be reserved to the UK Parliament. Those excepted are:Food, agricultural and horticultural produce, fish and fish products, seeds, animal feeding stuffs, fertilisers and pesticides.In addition, all materials that come into contact with food in relation to food safety are particularly excepted.
§ Mr. Hayes
I shall make a little progress, if I may. This is my first time at the Dispatch Box, so I am slightly suspicious of the intervention from the hon. Gentleman, although I know him to be a man of infinite good will, decency and kindness. I hope that he will bear that in mind when he intervenes later.
Could those exceptions be the result of the prevailing circumstances—the context—in relation to food safety? Food safety has been elevated to the top of the political agenda by a combination of growing public awareness, growing expectations and a series of high profile problems, not least the dreadful E. coli outbreak in Scotland.
There has been little disagreement about the principal problem.
§ Mr. Swinney
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for choosing me in preference to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). The hon. Gentleman suggests that the Scottish Parliament would have an interest in lower standards of food safety than the rest of the United Kingdom. When I think of the first-class quality produce that comes out of my constituency, whether in the beef sector, the sheep sector, soft fruits, vegetables or other products, I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman suggests that the Scottish Parliament would have any less interest in promoting the finest standards of food quality and safety.
§ Mr. Hayes
Following that intervention, hon. Members will understand why I did not give way to the previous attempt to intervene. Of course there is variability in food safety across the UK. That is one of the reasons why the Government are trying to introduce a more coherent and consistent UK-wide policy. On the basis of the hon. Gentleman's argument, Northern Ireland, which has a remarkably low incidence of food poisoning and few problems with food safety, would have no regulation at all, or at least less regulation than Scotland and England. The inconsistency to which he alludes is the very problem which the Government and experts have identified.
The need for a more coherent and uniformly applied policy is recognised by professionals and politicians of all parties. The incoherent and inconsistent application of food safety policies is regarded as one of the chief causes of problems. The former Secretary of State for Scotland, then the right hon. Member for Stirling, Michael—now Sir Michael—Forsyth recognised this when he dealt on 1001 15 January 1997 with the interim report from Professor Pennington arising from the E. coli outbreak. The current Secretary of State also recognised the need for consistency and coherence when he dealt with the final recommendations of Professor Pennington and again in a written answer on 11 June.
Much of the evidence that has been presented to the Select Committee on Agriculture, which is currently considering food safety, stresses the need for a consistent UK-wide approach. The desire for greater standardisation lies behind the Government's proposals for a UK-wide Food Standards Agency. I shall not get into a debate about whether that is a good or a bad thing—indeed, you would not let me, Mr. Lord—but one of the arguments in favour of a UK-wide Food Standards Agency has been the need for greater consistency and coherence.
That is true of the White Paper and of what the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has said on the subject. On 14 January, he made the position clear. He said:The agency's functions will include formulation of policy advice, preparation of draft legislation, negotiation in the European Union and other international bodies, research, surveillance, public information and the monitoring of food law enforcement.Its remit will extend across the whole food chain —and clearly across the whole of the United Kingdom. Interestingly, the Minister went on to say:The particular interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be fully covered. The Food Standards Agency will be responsible for advising Government on the United Kingdom policy framework on food standards and safety matters."—[Official Report, 14 January 1998; Vol. 304, c. 352–53.]The Bill, as it stands, would undoubtedly create extraordinary and unacceptable tensions with the Food Standards Agency. It builds into the operations of the Scottish Parliament an enormous inconsistency compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. It is clear that the Bill's proposals contradict Government policy on food safety. It is clear also that the provision is contrary to the Government's rationale for the remainder of the Bill.
The desire for greater standardisation coherence lies behind the Government's policy. The claim of inconsistency does not apply only to the earlier comments on guns and drugs. The Government are quite happy to see issues regarding non-food safety and non-food product labelling reserved to Westminster, and therefore to establish uniformity across the United Kingdom. However, the Government apparently apply different logic to food. Everything from hearing aids to package holidays and all sorts of other products are deemed so important as to be reserved to Westminster, but not food. Powers regarding E. coli, listeria and salmonella are not reserved to Westminster, and thus presumably are deemed less important.
There is another inconsistency, which was referred to earlier in tonight's proceedings. I refer to Scotland's post-devolution relationship with Europe. What will happen if the European Union rules on an aspect of food safety with which the United Kingdom Government agree but the Scottish Parliament does not? The Scottish Parliament can do nothing. Clause 146 of the Maastricht treaty defines legal rights regarding national representation. Hon. Members will recall that, when we discussed this issue last week in respect of Wales, we were told that the House could delegate or send a representative from the Welsh assembly to do our bidding 1002 in Europe. However, that would not provide the necessary accountability. That delegate or representative would not be answerable or accountable to the House: we would not be able to question him or her in the normal way.
It would make sense to deal with such matters through Westminster. These amendments will ensure that a common, coherent, standardised policy would apply throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Savidge
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the worst disaster to hit this country in relation to food standards is BSE, and that evidence increasingly points to the fact that Conservative Ministers in the previous Government bear a colossal responsibility for that?
§ Mr. Hayes
I do not wish to get into an extremely contentious debate about BSE. However, that does not negate my argument about the need for a consistent, coherent and uniform policy. I am pleased to see that the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is in his place. Some of the Government's comments about BSE have reinforced their desire to ensure, through the better management of food safety policy, that such circumstances do not arise again. Clearly, they believe that the Food Standards Agency will play a role in that.
Common, coherent standards must apply throughout the United Kingdom and they must be argued in Europe on behalf of all our people. That approach is consistent with wide-ranging advice from professionals, with the Government's food safety policy and consistent with the Bill as a whole. That is the approach we must take. I therefore urge hon. Members to support amendments Nos. 476 and 477.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I know that time is limited. I simply wish to ask what advice the Government have received about this matter from Philip James and his distinguished colleagues at the Research Institute, Aberdeen.
§ Mr. Paice
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box—I am sure that he will make countless more—and on the way in which he handled the introduction to these amendments.
The Minister made it clear that the Government are anxious to delegate agriculture to the Scottish Parliament. I respect that, but he will have a great deal of difficulty justifying the proposals to exempt from reservation the issues laid down in the amendment, because the single market operates in the whole of Europe as well as the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Swinney) unkindly suggested that my hon. Friend was suggesting in some way that Scotland would have lower standards, but that is not necessarily so. The fact is that when an issue is devolved, one country or another—the rest of the UK or Scotland—may change the legislation so that one or the other has different legislation. That does not necessarily imply that Scotland would choose the worst situation. Tremendous food products of the highest quality and standard come out of Scotland. I cannot therefore see how it can possibly be acceptable that there is different legislation for Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
1003 I also draw the Minister's attention to pesticides, which is one of the items listed. Pesticides, as the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, knows perfectly well, are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture through the pesticides safety directorate. There is an immense system of approvals for pesticides, and to try to replicate that for Scotland would be a huge waste of resources. I hope that the Minister will look at that, as I cannot for the life of me see the gain to Scotland of having control over something that is already highly effectively regulated throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw)
I shall be brief in my remarks on amendments Nos. 476 and 477. The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) mentioned food safety and said that it had been elevated because of the E. coli outbreak. The E. coli outbreak took place in my constituency. In fact, two of my next-door neighbours lost their lives because of it. For that reason, I should like to think that every hon. Member takes this matter seriously.
I remember November 1996 well, and the conflicting advice that consumers were given. They were told, "Don't eat the meat from the fridge, but it's okay to eat the meat from the freezer," and, "You can use this butcher shop, but you can't use that one." That all came about because of people's different opinions. I remember forming my own opinion that never again could we go through such a crisis and hear so many different bodies telling us what to do. It is essential that we have just one body on food safety in Scotland—the Food Standards Agency. Because so many people were telling us different things, even more people lost their lives.
§ Mr. Hayes
I am following the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument closely, and it seems that it is not far from my own. He is saying that it is important to have consistency and to have one body. My argument throughout has been that by devolving this to Scotland, the United Kingdom Government will be involved, as will the Scottish Parliament and the Food Standards Agency, in addition to the local authority responsibilities that already exist.
§ 10 pm
§ Mr. McLeish
I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that Professor James gave detailed support to the White paper proposals. In section 1004 7.1 he alludes to the fact that what is being proposed will reflect the constitutional architecture of the United Kingdom. In a sense, that reinforces the central propositions that I shall be advancing.
The occupants of the Opposition Front Bench can pick and choose the issues on which they want to make political points. Unfortunately, government is rather more serious than that. We have been consistent, and there is coherence. At the same time, it is necessary to apply some common sense to the issues that we are discussing.
Amendments Nos. 476 and 477 would seriously undermine the purpose of the Bill to devolve all matters relating to food safety, plant health and animal health. On that basis, the Government cannot support them. Through the amendments, the Opposition seek to include within the reservations of consumer protection and product standards matters relating to devolved areas of food safety, animal and plant health, fertilisers and pesticides.
It is the Government's intention that the Scottish Parliament should be able to legislate on agriculture, fisheries and food on a field-to-fork basis. Consumer protection, product standard safety and labelling are essential aspects.
Against that background, I cannot support the amendments, and I invite the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) to withdraw them. The Government have a plan for a Food Standards Agency, which will be a United Kingdom body. Food standards and safety will be devolved matters. The Scottish Parliament would therefore inherit responsibility for funding the agency's initiative in Scotland. Appropriate arrangements will be made for it to be accountable to the Parliament and for joint control by Scottish Ministers and the United Kingdom Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: No. 332, in page 67, line 8, at end insert—
'SECTION 12A—INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT ADVISORY BOARD
The IndustrialDevelopment Advisory Board.'—[Mr. McFall.]
§ The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 527 to 532.
§ Mr. McLeish
The amendments would make a series of technical changes to head 4, which reserves matters relating to the energy supply industries. Most significantly, they bring into line the sections dealing with electricity, oil, gas and coal with that on nuclear energy, by including in the exceptions from the reservations express references to the subject matter of part I of the Environment Protection Act 1990. This will ensure that 1005 the Scottish Parliament has the competence to legislate on the environmental regulation of energy-producing processes onshore and in coastal waters.
The amendments will delete a redundant reference to regulation at the beginning of the electricity section, and, for the sake of clarity, will split the reference to the liquefaction of natural gas to the conveyance, shipping and supply of gas.
The amendments are necessary for the sake of clarity and to ensure that the reservations do not accidentally catch matters that the White paper stated would be devolved.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Do the amendments have the approval of Dr. Robin Jeffrey of the Scottish nuclear industry, and have they been thoroughly discussed?
§ Dr. Godman
You will not be surprised, Sir Alan, to hear that I am returning to the subject of fish in relation to what my hon. Friend the Minister is seeking to do by amending the schedule.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the treatment of pollution in controlled waters—that is territorial, coastal, inland and ground waters—is not reserved? If it is found by a Scottish Parliament that the United Kingdom-wide pollution measures for the oil and gas offshore industries are seen to be inadequate and that it could introduce measures to deal with pollution in these controlled waters, this will be an important issue for fishermen.
My hon. Friend the Minister may not be able to answer me now, but what would be the Scottish Parliament's role in the dismantling of redundant oil and gas installations and pipeline networks in controlled waters? That important matter should also be addressed.
§ Mr. McLeish
I shall write to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on his point.
I restate my earlier comments to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman): the Scottish Parliament will have competence to legislate on the environmental regulation of energy-producing processes onshore and in coastal waters. I think that that is sufficient detail.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ It being six and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings in Committee, THE CHAIRMAN put forthwith the Questions necessary to be disposed of at that hour, pursuant to the Order [13 January] and the Resolution [this day].
§ Amendments made: No. 527, in page 67, line 23, at end insert—