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Scotland Act

Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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1.

When she intends to propose amendments to the Scotland Act 1998 in order to reduce the number of Scottish hon. Members. [106713]

Section 86 of the Scotland Act sets out the procedures. I have no intention of changing that.

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. I know that the issue presents a problem for her and for many Labour Back Benchers, but I am trying to be helpful. Has she considered using the league table of parliamentary contributions to determine which of her colleagues should stay, given that so many of them languish at the bottom of the table? Does she believe that those who will eventually face the chop will be in good company, because so many Labour MSPs will face the chop at the hands of the Scottish National party on 1 May?

I am delighted to answer the hon. Gentleman's question, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) would receive the wooden spoon for his attendance record. The question is a bit rich, given that the leader of the SNP has said that Scotland will be independent by 2007. That would mean that prior to 2006 and the completion of the boundary commission's review, we would have to introduce legislation for an independent Scotland without any consideration of the costs and consequences of that. At the same time, the consequences of an SNP vote on 1 May would be cuts to public services, with all the disruption that that would entail.

My right hon. Friend will probably not be surprised to find out that the Scottish nationalists yet again did not up for a major debate—this time a Westminster Hall debate on health and safety. They never seem to turn up for Scotland these days. One of the consequences of the Scotland Act is the list system, and the deplorable way in which nationalist list Members do their work. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that we do away with the nationalist-type list Member and that we have list Members who do their work properly?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He and other Labour Members know that when we considered the Proceeds of Crime Bill—one of the most significant post-devolution measures in this House that was introduced to get rid of drug dealers in our communities—the SNP could not even be bothered to participate in Committee.

My hon. Friend makes a point about the list system. I am sure that the electors of Scotland will vote Labour, Labour, Labour on 1 May to ensure that there will be precious few SNP list Members in the new Scottish Parliament.

I commend the Secretary of State for making sense of the question asked by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart). As the hon. Gentleman may or may not know, no amendment is required to the Scotland Act to reduce the number of Scotland Members. It seems that the SNP's questions are just as confused as its policies.

Ordinary Scots want fewer Members of Parliament, fewer Ministers and fewer MSPs, but still the Secretary of State refuses to move quickly. Is she worried about her own seat? Does she accept that an abstention rate higher than 50 per cent. on 1 May will be a damning indictment of those who seek ever more Scots politicians and big government? Scotland needs fewer MPs and smaller, much better government.

I was being kind to the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) when I answered his question because, after all, he has been in the House for only about two years, and one must be understanding. It is rather rich for a Conservative Member to talk about fewer MPs and MSPs given that the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) is the "Westminster one". He should look at his party in Scotland, because the number of defections from the Scottish Tories is increasing by the day. I believe that the Scottish Parliament elections will be well represented because the people of Scotland are now absolutely clear that devolution works, that partnership between the United Kingdom Government and a Labour-led Scottish Executive works, and that the stability of our economy and the prudence of its running is so significant that more people in Scotland are now in employment than in 1997.