24 Jun 2014 : Column 1117

House of Lords

Tuesday, 24 June 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.

Schools: Teachers

Question

2.36 pm

Asked by Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to encourage the retention and development of experienced qualified teachers in maintained schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): My Lords, through our 548 teaching schools and teaching school alliances we are developing a truly school-led system providing a wide range of CPD opportunities for schools across the country. This is substantially enhancing the career opportunities for teachers. Some 74% of trainee teachers now hold a 2:1 degree or better—the highest proportion ever. Teaching is the most popular career choice for Oxford graduates and Teach First is Britain’s biggest graduate recruiter. Vacancy rates are declining and 78% of new teachers are teaching after five years, which represents a considerably lower number of career changes than in many other jobs.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, while I thank the Minister for that—encouraging on the surface—reply, will he confirm that many teachers regularly work 60 hours a week and in school holidays and find it very difficult to make time to develop their own practice? Coming from a family that is richly endowed with teachers, I see these pressures close up. I believe that he gave some figures from his department showing that 74% of newly qualified teachers now stay in the profession for five years. Recent figures showed the rate as being closer to 50%, which, if true, would certainly be a terrible waste. Will the Government ensure that boards of governors and head teachers take seriously the well-being of teachers, including the need for them to be good parents to their own children, and pay attention particularly to the need for mentoring and professional development?

Lord Nash: The noble Baroness is quite right; as I have said before, teaching is the noblest profession and, at this time in our history, is one of the most important jobs in the country. The figure is actually 78%, not 74%, and the recently reported figure of 50% is inaccurate. We applaud what teachers do. We know that they consistently go the extra mile to help their pupils. We take their responsibilities very seriously and we constantly exhort governing bodies to focus increasingly on CPD opportunities for teachers.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1118

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, does the Minister recall and agree that for many years the average academic attainment of those entering our Bachelor of Education degree courses was around, or even less than, two Es at A-level? The teachers thus qualified often do more harm than good. Will the noble Lord tell your Lordships what the Government are doing about those who are still in the system? I take the opportunity to congratulate the Government on the rest of the noble Lord’s first Answer.

Lord Nash: There is no doubt that teachers who may not have had a particularly good academic career can substantially raise their game through CPD. However, it is also undoubtedly true that some teachers are now dropping out of the system due to a more rigorous approach. As I say, we are seeing a much higher quality of teachers coming into the system than ever before.

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, the Minister will be aware that highly qualified teachers are often leaving schools through confidential compromise agreements, costing the education service literally hundreds of thousands—maybe millions—of pounds. Is this a good use of scarce education resources? Does he also agree that when compromise agreements are decided by a school they should be open to public scrutiny?

Lord Nash: It is a fact that many schools, rather than go through an extensive competency procedure, which can be highly contested, decide to enter into compromise agreements in order to move teachers on earlier. These often contain secrecy clauses, but I know that this area is being considered more widely.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Lab): My Lords, since the Minister seems to agree that good qualifications, including good degrees, are essential for good teaching, can he explain why the Government have made it legal for academies to employ unqualified people as teachers? Given this, can he assure the House that his department is monitoring the extent to which academies are doing so? How many unqualified people are now working as teachers in academies and free schools?

Lord Nash: I am, as always, delighted that we are having this discussion about qualified teachers because, frankly, if that is all that divides the parties, we have clearly nearly reached a consensus on our extensive teaching reforms. There are, in fact, fewer unqualified teachers under this Government than under the previous Government, despite the substantial increase in academies, which are able—as the noble Baroness rightly says—to recruit them. I will write to her with the precise figures on academy teachers but, as I say, we have fewer unqualified teachers overall. It would be unwise to deny the opportunity for, say, a professional actor or singer without QTS to teach in a school, or someone with a PhD in molecular biology to teach in a school—as is the case in one of our free schools—or, indeed, a teacher from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to teach part time in a primary school.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1119

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, is it not a fact that through successive years some of the most effective teachers in some of the highest-achieving schools have not had a technical teaching qualification? What teachers need is motivation, a love of their subject and an ability to transmit that to others—not just a piece of paper.

Lord Nash: I agree entirely with my noble friend. Studies show that holding QTS is by no means the arbiter of a successful teacher, and we must remember of course that QTS training is extremely brief. A McKinsey study highlighted the importance of personal characteristics such as commitment, resilience, perseverance and motivation—and, of course, subject knowledge is very important. Reflecting my noble friend’s comments, Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, one of the most improved schools in the country, said:

“I strongly believe that teachers are born not made and I will actively seek out teachers from all walks of life who have the potential to inspire children”.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Lab): My Lords, way back in the 1960s, I may have been the only person in your Lordships’ House who was an unqualified teacher. During that period, the classes I was given by the head teachers of the day tended to be those with children with behavioural and learning difficulties. Can the Minister assure the House and all those parents and grandparents of children with special educational needs that their teachers will be qualified in the expertise of teaching special needs children, not thrown to the wolves as the children thrown to me were?

Lord Nash: I respect the noble Baroness’s experience. I think we have moved a long way on SEN teaching since the 1960s—I certainly hope and believe we have. Our policy is that all schools must have a qualified SENCO overseeing all teaching of SEN pupils. Successive Governments have invested substantial sums in developing the skills of teachers focusing on SEN, and teachers generally, on identifying and teaching SEN pupils.


Food Poisoning

Question

2.45 pm

Asked by Baroness Humphreys

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce the incidence of food poisoning among the population.

Baroness Jolly (LD): My Lords, the Government take food safety seriously, particularly food poisoning, which can have severe consequences for individuals and place a burden on healthcare services and the economy. A range of initiatives are in place to engage all sectors of the food chain, from producers to consumers. Last week, for example, the UK Food Standards Agency led Food Safety Week, which focused on

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1120

clear consumer messages about preventing campy- lobacter infections by not washing raw chicken before cooking.

Baroness Humphreys (LD): I thank my noble friend for that reply. She will be aware that food poisoning is the cause of 500 deaths every year in the UK. Many other cases result in long-term debilitating illnesses. In Wales it is now compulsory for all food premises, care homes and food manufacturing premises to display their food hygiene rating certificates in a prominent position, allowing the consumer to make informed choices about those premises. Do the Government have any plans to introduce a compulsory “scores on the doors” system in England?

Baroness Jolly: The food hygiene ratings scheme is one of the Food Standards Agency’s initiatives to reduce food poisoning. All ratings are published online, but access to ratings at the point of choice is particularly important. Compulsory display of stickers will strengthen the scheme’s potential to drive up hygiene standards. The Food Standards Agency worked closely with the Welsh Government to introduce the necessary legislation for this in Wales and it is actively monitoring its impact so that a case can be built for England.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, is the Minister aware that most chickens in this country were infected with campylobacter because of the way they were executed? They were electrocuted upside down, so the contents of their alimentary tract was spread over the whole of the chicken. That is why so many of them were infected. Are the Government looking into more satisfactory ways of dispatching these chickens?

Baroness Jolly: I thank the noble Lord for such a graphic description. Indeed, the Government are aware of that, as is the Food Standards Agency. Much research is being done throughout the whole food chain—from dispatch to the serving hatch, if you like—into ways of reducing opportunities for food poisoning.

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, is the Minister aware that campylobacter does not just belong to chickens? It can also be found in some 49% of dogs, and children particularly should be instructed to wash their hands after playing with their pets. The instruction to wash hands and dry them well before preparing food is a very good one.

Baroness Jolly: I entirely agree with the noble Countess.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the impact of the cuts in local authority budgets that they have brought about on the availability and effectiveness of food hygiene inspections in relevant premises?

Baroness Jolly: I have no information in my brief to that effect. However, it should be said that this scheme has been adopted by all but two local authorities in

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1121

England, the two exceptions being the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which is ready to implement it, and Rutland, which is somewhat anxious about the success of businesses.

Baroness Wheeler (Lab): Do the Government agree with Professor Chris Elliott, whom they commissioned to review food safety in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, that the Food Standards Agency should be given new powers to tackle fraud through a food crime unit?

Baroness Jolly: I regret that I shall have to write to the noble Baroness on that issue.


Housing: Underoccupancy Charge

Question

2.50 pm

Asked by Baroness Quin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to publish their interim review on the under-occupancy charge.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): We expect to publish the interim report by the Summer Recess.

Baroness Quin (Lab): I welcome that reply although I note that last October the Minister said that he expected the report to come out in the spring, which has now come and gone. Can he assure me that in the meanwhile, he and his colleagues will be meeting some of the many people who have indicated their willingness to downsize but for whom there is no alternative accommodation and nevertheless end up having to pay a bedroom tax that they cannot afford?

Lord Freud: There are some 200,000 smaller premises in the social rented sector available through each year. We are now seeing a good increase in the number of home exchanges. Some systems are going up and the housing partners’ HomeSwapper scheme, for instance, has now had a 25% increase partly because of the effect of this change.

Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab): Is the Minister aware of disputed cases being referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for decisions? If so, have there been any decisions in favour of the claimant as I understand that some people have disputed the charges that have been made under the bedroom tax?

Lord Freud: I am not aware of the ombudsman process. The process of which I am aware is when people appeal to the tribunal; there have been more than 100 such cases, which have gone one way or the other—some have gone to appeal and some have been accepted.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1122

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, many older people do not want to leave the property in which they have lived for many years, and I have suggested in the past that they should be able to take in a lodger, which would help pay their costs. However, I have been told that many authorities do not allow people to take in lodgers. Is the department is aware of that and is anything being done to ensure that people who wish to take in a lodger—many people are looking for accommodation—can do so in order to stay where they are?

Lord Freud: We are encouraging people to take in lodgers when appropriate for them. Housing associations and local authorities are looking at that and tend to accept that that is a way of doing it. There is some confusion between strictures against subletting, which is a different matter entirely, but lodging tends to be accepted around the country.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Ipsos MORI report, undertaken by the National Housing Federation in February this year looked at 183 housing associations. It found that two-thirds of tenants affected by the underoccupancy charge were in rent arrears and 38% indicated that they were in debt. That is the equivalent of 72,000 tenants in housing associations in debt in England alone, which seems to be allied in some way to the underoccupancy charge. What assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of the impact on housing associations of rent arrears because of the underoccupancy charge?

Lord Freud: We have a general look at the level of arrears through the Homes and Communities Agency, whose statistics show that arrears have fallen—not risen—for the past two quarters in a row. The average rent collection rate for associations remains at 99%, a very high figure, which is very much at variance with some of the stories that we hear and the data that the right reverend Prelate referred to.

Lord Richard (Lab): The noble Lord was asked by noble friend Lady Quin when the Government expect to publish the interim report. I may have missed it but I did not detect any Answer from the Minister as to when the Government expect to publish the report. Can he tell us why it is so delayed?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I must learn how to enunciate better. I will repeat my Answer: we expect to publish the interim report by the Summer Recess.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if he is going to visit and meet people who have been concerned with this, he will also meet people who have lived in overcrowded conditions for long periods of time because of the underoccupation of homes that ought to have been available for them?

Lord Freud: My Lords, that is clearly one of the points of getting a better match for our very scarce housing. There are long waiting lists for social housing and substantial overcrowding. Depending on the

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1123

data at which you look, there are more than 250,000 overcrowded homes in the social rented sector. On the census basis, that figure rises to 361,000.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the interim review will include an assessment of how the underoccupancy charge affects people with conditions such as Parkinson’s, which can involve night terrors and uncontrollable movements that make it completely impractical for their partners to sleep in close proximity?

Lord Freud: My Lords, for obvious reasons, I have not seen the report. It will be published but I am not aware of that kind of detail at this stage. Clearly once the report is out we can look at the issues that remain uncovered. There will be a full report, which will be published next year in 2015.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, the Minister has often complained about councils underspending the discretionary funds that mitigate the effect of the bedroom fax. Did he see the report in Inside Housing last week which stated that £7 million of the extra £20 million allocated by the Government last July remains unallocated to councils by the Government? An FoI request showed that 27 councils did not get the money they asked for mostly because the department decided that this would allow them to buy out the effects of the bedroom tax. So people asked for money, were turned down because it would have the effect that was wanted, and then it is claimed that the underspend shows that they did not need any more money in the first place. How can the Minister explain that to the thousands of people affected by the bedroom tax?

Lord Freud: My Lords, some of my more sharp-eyed colleagues here will have seen the information we put out on the discretionary housing payments for last year. That showed that there was a £13 million underspend by 240 councils and that of the £20 million bidding fund, £7 million was not spent. The £20 million was not applied for in its entirety. However, we allocated that money on the basis of parity of requirement. There was an extensive process to make sure that we gave the appropriate amounts of money to those councils.

Lord German (LD): My Lords, the Ipsos MORI review, of course, is much awaited, not least by the Master of the Rolls who, in making a judgment in favour of the Government, said that the DWP had informed him that,

“the scheme may need to be modified in the light of experience”.

When the independent review comes out and my noble friend sees it before the Summer Recess, will he agree to act upon it and take decisions to make changes to the scheme so that it fits the experience shown by his independent review?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we always look very closely at any research that is done and we will do no differently with this research.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1124


Personal Independence Payment

Question

3 pm

Asked by Lord McAvoy

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to tackle delays in personal independence payment assessments.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): We are committed to ensuring that personal independence payment claimants receive high-quality, objective, fair and accurate assessments. I acknowledge that the end-to-end claimant journey is taking longer than expected. We are absolutely committed to improving performance, both ours and that of the assessment providers.

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, as the Minister is aware, his own department’s figures show that it will take 42 years to clear the backlog. Yesterday in the House of Commons the Minister of State, Mike Penning, said that this was scaremongering. If that is the case, can the Minister give a guarantee as to when it will be cleared?

Lord Freud: One can do some funny things with mathematics and that 42-year figure is one of them. Clearly in the opening period of any new policy of this sort there is a ramp-up, and we need to get that ramp-up right. As I said, the position of this process is not satisfactory and we are taking a lot of steps to make sure that we get the improvement that we must have. We are pushing up the numbers of staff, improving claimant communications in this process, getting more paper-based reviews which will speed the process up, and taking a series of other initiatives to get this right.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, given the view just expressed by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons that the introduction of personal independence payments has been a “fiasco”, and that in securing the contract ATOS gave,

“incorrect and potentially misleading information”,

does the Minister have any plans to re-examine the ATOS tender documents? Does he believe that ATOS should be able to bid again in future for DWP contracts?

Lord Freud: The build-up of PIP was done in a controlled and phased way, and that was acknowledged by the NAO. ATOS won that contract in fair, open competition and we have no plans to reopen that process.

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, can the Minister tell us what assessment he has made of the level of support by Her Majesty’s Government to disabled people?

Lord Freud: My Lords, the Government remain committed to maintaining support for disabled people. We spend roughly £50 billion a year, every

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1125

year, and that is held in real terms. That is a fifth higher than the EU average. The overall spend on incapacity benefits has remained roughly flat in real terms over the life of this Government, and indeed the benefits about which we are talking—PIP, DLA—have actually been going up in real terms over the past four years.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, the Minister’s assurances would be rather more encouraging were it not for the fact that, as well as this shambles of the WCA and the 42-year backlog, employment and support allowance has been delayed and proved not to be succeeding; the Work Programme has a 94% failure rate; the bedroom tax is not meeting its objectives; and at current speeds, universal credit will take 1,052 years to roll out. Is the Minister proud of these achievements?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we are transforming the welfare system in this country. We are doing it across the piece. It is all very well for the Opposition to complain about the speed at which we do these programmes. These programmes are difficult to do. They were shied away from by the previous Government. I think that Peers all round the House will be pleased to see these transformational changes go in and transform the way in which this country operates at a fundamental level. There is a level of cynicism about what is always a difficulty: getting difficult, complicated programmes through exactly to timetable. People who know how difficult projects are know that process, but this is critical work for our country.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): My Lords, there is, however, an important point that I would like the Minister to comment on, following on from earlier comments made by colleagues. People increasingly say to me that in the implementation of the flagship schemes contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 we are beginning to look as if we have bitten off more than we can chew. That is a matter of serious concern. On the narrow point of PIP, I exhort the Minister to hasten slowly. Will he give an assurance to the House that it is more important to him to get these things right than to do them quickly? In that regard, will he look at the possibility of clearing the backlog of personal independence payment claims before the rollout of the reassessment of DLA to other parts of the United Kingdom?

Lord Freud: My Lords, as my noble friend said, we have to be careful to get the implementation right. We are aiming to do our programmes at the pace that we can do them, so if we have to slow down we will slow down. We go at the pace that works because it is one thing to not go at exactly the speed you may have planned at the beginning; it is another thing to make it difficult for people. In the case of PIP, we are looking at how we carry out the next stage of the PIP rollout, the natural reassessment process. We will extend that only when we have capacity to do so, and so far we have not made any decisions on when we will do that rollout.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1126

European Union (Information, etc.) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to make provision for information to be available in various public places relating to the activities and organisation of the European Union; to make provision for the flying of the flag of the European Union on various public buildings; to provide information to further the establishment of twinning arrangements between towns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Union in accordance with the European Union’s town twinning support scheme; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Dykes, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Council Tax Valuation Bands Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.08 pm

A Bill to make provision for the introduction of a new set of council tax valuation bands to apply to all dwellings bought or sold after 1 April 2000.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Marlesford, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Deregulation Bill

First Reading

3.08 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Health: Patient Safety

Statement

3.09 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, I now repeat a Statement made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on the subject of patient safety.

“Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement to the House about a package of measures that I have announced today in order to boost safety, transparency and openness in our NHS following my earlier Written Ministerial Statement.

Just last week, the respected Commonwealth Fund ranked the UK in first place for quality of care, including safety. We compare well internationally and it is clear that we have much to be proud of. However, it is also clear that there is more to do. We must not be complacent.

It is estimated that 12,000 deaths a year in hospitals have a 50% chance of being prevented. Figures released by NHS England today tell us that there were 32 ‘never events’ in the last two months, including a throat pack and a hypodermic needle being left inside patients post-surgery. These are shocking statistics.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1127

In the Government’s response to Sir Robert Francis’s landmark public inquiry on the poor standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, I made clear our determination to make the NHS the safest and most open and transparent healthcare system in the world.

So, today, all hospital trusts around the country will receive an invitation to ‘Sign up to Safety’. This campaign, led by Sir David Dalton, the inspirational chief executive of Salford Royal, will help us achieve our ambition of halving avoidable harm and thereby potentially save 6,000 lives. Trusts will be asked to devise and deliver a safety plan, and may receive a financial incentive from the NHS Litigation Authority to support implementation.

Mr Speaker, we are also fulfilling the pledge we made in our response to Francis to create a hospital safety website for patients. As of today, the NHS Choices website will tell us how all hospital trusts are performing across a range of seven key safety indicators including ‘open and honest reporting’. And, for the first time, the website will let patients and the public see whether a hospital has achieved its planned levels for nursing hours.

Indeed, I am pleased to inform the House that the latest workforce statistics published today show us that we have 5,900 more nurses on our hospital wards since our response to Francis.

Mr Speaker, I am proud that the NHS is blazing a trail on openness and transparency. We are the first country in the world to publish this breadth and depth of safety data.

Finally, I am pleased to announce today that Sir Robert Francis QC will be chairing an independent review on creating an open and honest reporting culture in the NHS. This review will provide advice and recommendations to ensure that NHS workers can speak up without fear of retribution. The review will also look at how we can ensure that where NHS whistleblowers have been mistreated; there are appropriate remedies for staff and accountability for those mistreating them.

Mr Speaker, I am confident that this package of measures will shine a light on poor care so that lessons can be learnt, action can be taken and harm to patients prevented”.

That concludes the Statement.

3.12 pm

Lord Bradley (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement on patient safety.

As we said in the other place, an open learning culture across all parts of the NHS is an ambition shared across the House and builds on the work of the previous Government following care scandals in the 1990s. It is right to call for openness, transparency and accountability, but I ask the Minister how he will guard against the risk, as pointed out by Martin Bromiley, of creating a naming, shaming and blaming culture.

Secondly, the Minister has told the House that one-fifth of hospitals are failing to report properly. How does he plan to address this? Will he extend full transparency to all providers of NHS services, including the private sector?

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1128

Thirdly, the Commonwealth Fund found cause for concern on infection compared to 2010, with the NHS now ranked worst in the world for patients reporting infection in hospitals or shortly after. What is he doing to turn around this very worrying trend?

Lastly, the Secretary of State for Health talks about his new target to save 6,000 lives over three years, which we all clearly welcome. I welcome the appointment of Sir David Dalton, a person I know well, to the position of leading this initiative. However, will the Minister explain further today how this will actually be achieved with the current pressures on NHS budgets?

3.14 pm

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his welcome of the measures that we have announced today. They must be seen in the context of other measures that we have taken in the light of Robert Francis’s report, many of which have been debated in this House.

The noble Lord spoke about a culture of naming, shaming and blaming. I do not see it in that light. The key message from Robert Francis was surely that we need a change of culture in many of our NHS institutions. That is not something that can be dictated by legislation. On the other hand, it is something that we can assist in promoting by means of transparency. The whole drive towards quality is surely assisted by shining a light on poor practice where it exists, encouraging all staff in hospitals to take ownership of what their organisation is doing and then putting those things right. That culture should extend from the board right down to the lowest level of staff. This is part and parcel of the move that the NHS is trying to make in the direction of creating a better culture—one that exists in many parts of our NHS but not in enough of them.

Do we intend to promote transparency in all those providing services to the NHS? Yes, that is the intention. This would be done by means of the NHS standard contract, which in time will incorporate the necessary provisions.

As regards infection rates in hospitals, the picture nationally is in fact very good. The numbers of MRSA bloodstream and C. diff infections are currently at record lows, but there is no scope for complacency. We believe that the website that I referred to in the answer that I repeated, which will incorporate the indicator relating to infection and cleanliness, will act as a spur to hospitals when they know that their patients can see the degree of infection pertaining over the previous three-month period.

How do we intend to save the lives that we have the ambition to save? As I said at the beginning, much of this depends on openness, on transparency and clarity for the public, and indeed on staff taking ownership of problems where they exist, not shying away from them. We think of measures like the fundamental standards being introduced that will define the level below which standards of care should never fall. We think of the duty of candour that is to be introduced. We think of the new ways in which the Care Quality Commission, with its new chief inspectors, is approaching the task of assessing the quality and safety of institutions. All these things combined should be seen as part and parcel of the picture.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1129

3.18 pm

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, a 2012 report by the American Department of Health showed that 86% of reportable events were not reported, partly because of staff misperceptions about what constitutes patient harm. Will the Minister reassure the House that both the Government and the NHS regard one in five incidents going unreported as unacceptable? What will the Government do to ensure that all staff understand what needs to be reported and do so in a truly open and transparent culture?

Earl Howe: My noble friend makes a series of very important points. Clearly, a balance has to be struck here. It would become self-defeating if every single mistake, even one that had no bearing on patient safety, had to be reported by every single member of staff. The system would be overloaded. We are keen to ensure that those incidents that result in potential harm, real harm or—worse still—death are reported, exposed and dealt with. Of course the National Reporting and Learning System, which was originally part of the National Patient Safety Agency when the previous Government set it up and is now housed at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has the task of collating safety incidents from trusts and drawing lessons from them. That is every bit as important a process as it ever was. It will be the task of NHS England to draw those lessons together and incorporate them in its commissioning guidance. My noble friend has raised that issue and we have a task ahead of us that will take some time to achieve; but I believe that this is a welcome start.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, looking back on it, was the Nursing 2000 initiative not a bad mistake because it turned nursing into an all-graduate profession, with degrees supplied by the second-rate social science departments of the former polytechnics? Are the Government doing anything with the training of nurses that reflects what the noble Lord’s colleague at education, Mr Gove, is doing with the training of teachers, about which we heard in the first Question today? Is there a new emphasis on practical training and on getting back to matron and the discipline of the ward?

Earl Howe: It was only recently that the Nursing and Midwifery Council revised the curriculum for the training of nurses. I am sure that the noble Lord will be pleased to know that that curriculum is broadly divided 50:50 into practical training and training in the classroom, which was the balance historically. I believe that nurse training is now set fair for the future. The noble Lord is right to raise concerns about Project 2000, which many people felt did not quite address the needs of nurse training. However, that programme is substantially different now from what it was in 2000.

Lord Willis of Knaresborough (LD): My Lords, I am delighted to follow the arch-moderniser, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. In the whole of my noble friend’s statement, and indeed until the noble Lord raised his question, not a word was mentioned about the

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1130

training of the staff who actually care for our patients. We have a situation in which, unless you are a medic, you are not entitled, even if you are a qualified nurse, to have resources spent on you in order to continually update your professional development. In terms of preceptorship, there are no resources; in terms of mentorship, there are little additional resources; and there is virtually no resource to train healthcare assistants. Will my noble friend agree that although the move to have 9,000 more nurses is incredibly welcome, we need to put training at the very heart of the safety agenda, because unless we train we will not get high quality staff?

Earl Howe: I agree with my noble friend; it would be difficult to disagree with him. Training is essential if we are to have high quality staff. That is why we have protected the training budget, which is now hosted by Health Education England, whose job it is to ensure not just that there are adequate numbers of each type of professional in the health service but that the quality of the training is as we would all wish. It is the task of the local education and training boards to assess the position at a local level and, informed by the NHS providers that are under their wing, to respond to the needs of those providers.


Student Visas

Statement

3.24 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my honourable friend the Minister for Immigration, Mr James Brokenshire, in the House of Commons earlier today. The Statement is as follows.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the abuse of student visas. Since the last election, the Government have taken action across the board to reduce and control immigration. We have introduced a cap on economic migration from outside the European Union, we have reformed the family visa system and we have eliminated much of the abuse of the student visa system we saw under the previous Government. The result is that net migration from outside the EU is close to its lowest levels since the late 1990s, while net migration is down by a third since its peak under the party opposite.

The Government have always said that even in light of the reforms we have introduced, we need to keep each of the main immigration routes to Britain under review, we need to remain vigilant against abuse of the student visa system, and education providers need to meet their responsibilities.

That is why I can tell the House that, since the start of February, immigration enforcement officers, with the support from the National Crime Agency, together with officials from UK Visas and Immigration, have been conducting a detailed and wide-ranging investigation into actions by organised criminals to falsify English language tests for student visa applicants. They have also investigated a number of colleges and universities

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1131

for their failure to make sure that the foreign students they have sponsored meet the standards set out in the Immigration Rules.

Since the reforms we introduced in 2011, it has been a requirement for all student visa applicants to prove that they can speak English at an appropriate level. All students in further education or at a university which relies on English language testing who want to extend their stay by applying for a new student visa have to be tested by one of five companies licensed by the Government. One of those companies, the European subsidiary of an American firm called Educational Testing Service, was exposed by the BBC’s “Panorama” programme earlier this year, following systematic cheating at a number of its UK test centres. Facilitated by organised criminals, this typically involved invigilators supplying, even reading out, answers to whole exam rooms, or gangs of impostors being allowed to step into the exam candidates’ places to sit the test. Evidently, this could happen only with considerable collusion by the test centres concerned.

Having been provided with analysis from the American arm of ETS for a number of ETS test centres in the UK operating in 2012 and 2013, officials have identified more than 29,000 invalid results and more than 19,000 questionable results. As they still have to receive test analyses from ETS for other testing centres that it operated in the UK, it is likely that the true totals will be higher.

Officials from immigration enforcement and UK Visas and Immigration have not found evidence to suggest there is systematic cheating taking place in the tests carried out by the other providers. As soon as the allegations of systematic cheating were first made, we suspended ETS testing in the UK, put a hold on all immigration applications from those in the UK using an ETS test certificate, and made all applications from overseas subject to interview by UK Visas and Immigration staff. In April ETS’s licence to conduct tests for immigration purposes ended, and two weeks ago, we formally removed the company as a test provider in the Immigration Rules.

Because of the organised criminality that lies behind the falsified tests, the National Crime Agency has been brought in to work alongside immigration enforcement officers to pursue criminal action against the perpetrators. Immigration enforcement has begun work to identify anybody who is in the country illegally as a result of the falsified tests, so that they can be removed. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is also helping the investigation by scrutinising pay and tax records. A criminal investigation has been launched into the role of ETS Global Ltd. More generally, immigration enforcement is working to identify, pursue and prosecute those involved in facilitating this activity, and to investigate links to wider organised crime. Arrests have been made and I expect that more will follow.

I should be clear that proof that a visa applicant can speak English is only one test for somebody seeking to study in Britain. Other requirements include proof of academic qualifications, attendance at college or university and compliance with the Immigration

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1132

Rules. If these student visa applicants had to cheat to pass an English language test, it is highly doubtful that many of the colleges and some of the universities that sponsored them in numbers were fulfilling their duties as highly trusted sponsors.

As I said earlier in my Statement, UKVI and immigration enforcement officers have been investigating many of the colleges and universities I am talking about because of wider concerns about their conduct. The evidence they have provided of what is going on in these institutions is cause for serious concern.

The work undertaken by HMRC has identified a number of overseas university students earning more than £20,000 a year, despite the rule that they must not work more than 20 hours per week during term time. Overseas students at privately funded further education colleges are not allowed to work at all, yet one college—the London School of Business & Finance—has more than 290 foreign students who worked and paid tax last year. One university student identified by HMRC had been working a 60-hour week for six months.

UKVI identified people allegedly studying in London while their home addresses were registered as restaurants as far as away as Ipswich and Chichester. Students sponsored by Glyndwr University so far identified with invalid test results provided by ETS number more than 230, rising to more than 350 if you add the scores counted as questionable. The comparable figures for the University of West London are more than 210 sponsored students with invalid scores, rising to more than 290 when questionable scores are included.

At certain private further education colleges, as many as three-quarters of the file checks completed by UKVI officers were a cause for concern. At one college, a staff member told UKVI officers that they were encouraged not to report students’ absences or failures because doing so would reduce the college’s income and jeopardise its right to sponsor foreign students. The Government are not prepared to tolerate this abuse. So I can tell the House that this morning the Home Office suspended the highly trusted sponsor status—that is, the right to sponsor foreign students—of Glyndwr University.

In addition, we have suspended the licences of 57 private further education colleges, a list of which I will place in the Library of the House. We have told a further two universities—the University of Bedfordshire and the University of West London—that they are no longer allowed to sponsor new students, pending further investigations which will decide whether they, too, should be suspended.

Other universities are involved in the continuing investigation and further action may follow, although, because of the steps they have already taken to improve their processes, including voluntarily ceasing overseas recruitment to London sub-campuses, we will not at this stage remove their right to sponsor foreign students. Because much of the worst abuse we have uncovered seems to be taking place at London sub-campuses of universities based in other parts of the country, I can also tell the House that the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education will examine these London campuses to see whether further action should be taken against their parent universities.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1133

The Government do not take such action lightly. However, we are clear that this kind of irresponsibility cannot go without serious sanction. We have already removed some 750 bogus colleges from the list of those entitled to bring foreign students to Britain and of these almost 400 we now know were linked to those who obtained invalid ETS certificates.

We have tightened up the rules for individual students. We have reduced the level of immigration to Britain, in part by cutting out the abuse in the student visa system, but we have always said that we must remain vigilant against abuse. The steps I have outlined today show that we will not hesitate to take firm action against those students, colleges and universities which do not abide by their legal responsibilities and resolutely pursue organised criminality to bring those responsible to justice. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.35 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, the most important criterion of any immigration and visa system is its integrity. Governments should always take swift and effective action to stop any abuses of the system and must always be vigilant to prevent abuse. The scale of abuse outlined in the Minister’s Statement is absolutely shocking and it is right that action is taken to tackle such abuse. Indeed, the Labour Government closed 140 colleges between April 2009 and January 2010. My questions are on the practicalities and implications, rather than the principle.

As the Minister said in repeating the Statement, following the BBC “Panorama” programme’s investigation in February the Government announced that they had suspended language tests run by ETS. Can the Minister clarify the timescale of who knew what and when? When were Ministers made aware of the scale of the abuse? Was that before or after the BBC investigation? If they knew before, why was action not taken earlier? If they did not know before, how is it that after four years in government the BBC knew about it before the Government did? The longer this goes on, the greater the culpability of the Government in not tackling it.

The Minister referred to criminal proceedings. Can he tell us who those proceedings will be against and how long those investigations will take? Will they include proceedings against the 48,000 people who fraudulently obtained language certificates? Do the Government know who they are and where they are? The Statement says that arrests were made but how many have been made to date? With regard to the universities, what discussions and consultations have there been with those universities where action has been taken? What are the implications for lawful, legitimate university students and institutions?

The Government’s independent inspector, John Vine, issued warnings about the system’s abuse in 2012. However, it appears that no serious action was taken until the BBC investigation, so this is a crisis created on the Government’s watch. The Government have talked tough but done very little and while this abuse was festering, we had the nonsense of an Immigration Bill that did nothing to tackle the abuses we are talking about today but proposed actions detrimental

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1134

to law-abiding universities and their genuine students. In the interests of national security and the integrity of the system, and in the interests of those universities and students that abide by the rules and bring huge benefit to this country, the Government must restore confidence.

3.38 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I accept that the noble Baroness is right to point out the seriousness of this situation but I do not think that she is right to try to single out the actions of this Government in that respect. We were taking action to investigate the whole scale of abuse in London colleges before the ETS fraud was revealed through the “Panorama” programme. At that point, we realised why it was that we had found such large-scale abuse going on in London colleges as a result.

I cannot say to the noble Baroness that I welcome her words on the Immigration Act. Much of the focus of that Act was designed specifically to deal with the problem of student abuse. I am mindful of those occasions on which the noble Baroness has called for students to be removed from net migration figures. Does this not show how right the Government are to seek to tighten up in this area, because of the failure of the previous Government to tackle the problem at all? The truth of the matter is that we came in with an immigration process that was totally incapable of examining the out-of-control flow of immigration into this country. A little bit of humility on the part of the noble Baroness might help this particular problem.

She asked about criminal proceedings. I am not prepared to talk about them because of their nature, except to say that it is quite clear that criminality has been involved in this case. I hope that I have the support of the noble Baroness in the Government’s attempt to make sure that the abuse of the system that has been exposed by our investigations into London colleges and by the BBC “Panorama” programme is effectively dealt with. We are putting responsibility where it lies—which is on the colleges, to make sure that they keep orderly houses and discourage irregular use of the student visa passage for working and illegal immigration into this country.

3.41 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I am sure that the Minister shares my and many people’s anger and shame that so many innocent students have been duped and have had cheating promoted to them as if it were a British value—which clearly it is not. Can the Minister tell the House whether the individual students caught up in this will have a chance to retake the tests before immigration action is taken against them? Can he also say what positive steps the Government are taking to promote the sector, which we all agree is such an important export? We know that a factor in students choosing to come and study here is whether they feel welcome or not.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I will start with the last suggestion made by my noble friend because it is really important. Despite having to deal with this problem—

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1135

I think the whole House will understand why the Government have had to deal with this problem—we recognise the enormous asset that we have in the higher education and further education facilities in this country. They are global assets and we want them to be available to the world. But they must be conducted under rules which reflect the fact that people come here to study and not as a short cut to involvement in working.

We have had a lot of debates in the House. I think that some of the best have been on this subject, but sometimes I have been the only person saying that students should remain within the net migration figures. I hope that noble Lords who thought differently will be thinking along my lines now and seeing how important it is. I have emphasised that we want the brightest and the best to come here, but they should do so with their sponsorship in order and without the criminality that has been revealed by this particular investigation.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick (CB): My Lords, I have a question as to the order of events referred to in the Statement. In the first place, the investigation into these important matters started, we are told, at the beginning of February. There is also a reference to the BBC “Panorama” programme, which was also at the beginning of the year. Which of these two events came first? Was it the “Panorama” programme which stimulated the investigation? If so, should it not be given credit for it?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I hope that I have paid tribute. The Statement did, in fact, pay tribute to the “Panorama” programme. It has done the country huge service in revealing this abuse. I asked the very same question when I was being briefed on the issue earlier today. There was indeed an investigation by immigration enforcement—UKVI itself had initiated an investigation of the London colleges. It appears that the London-based colleges have been causing trouble, in particular where the universities are established elsewhere and have branches in this country.

We did not have suspicions about English-language testing until it came up as a result of the “Panorama” programme. The two things are complementary and reinforce the action that the Government have taken in investigating the matter.

Baroness Blackstone (Lab): My Lords, on what date was the subsidiary of ETS given a contract to carry out this work? What assurances were sought from these private companies when they were hired to carry out this work that they were competent to do it? Will the Minister admit that he is muddling up two completely different issues when he suggests that this has something to do with the category under which students should be placed, whether part of the migration statistics or in a separate category for students? That has nothing to do with the issue that we have been discussing today, the appalling lapse in standards by a company presumably hired by this Government, which the Minister has told the House about.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1136

Lord Taylor of Holbeach:ETS was licensed in 2011 to carry out the English-language testing that we brought in at that time. ETS has been a long-standing supplier of educational testing services to the Government. Its appointment in such a role predates our period in office. Five companies were selected by a process of competition to perform this task, and ETS was one of the successful companies. In all fairness, we had no reason to suppose that it would be undertaking this task fraudulently.

Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this issue has been going on for at least a decade? This is about the fifth time that I have stood up on this issue. Are not his actions greatly to be welcomed? Is it not really worrying to discover that time and again our newer universities and colleges, on the whole, are at fault? Previously it was London colleges, and now I hear that my home county of Bedfordshire is under deep suspicion. Will my noble friend tell us what action will be taken when he has carried out his investigations to ensure that senior personnel at those universities who are, or are supposed to be, in charge are fully reprimanded and, I hope, removed from their posts?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, how universities deal with this is largely a matter for them. I believe that I was right to draw the attention of the House to those measures which we eventually agreed in the Immigration Act to deal with this matter. It should make it much easier to monitor and deal with in future, but we have to deal with things at present. I emphasise that the vast majority of students here are genuine and are here to study. We want to make sure that we give them our support. We want to make sure that the vast majority of educational institutions are genuine and doing their best for their students’ education. We will invite the Department for Education, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish funding agencies, Universities UK and the National Union of Students to join a working group on how we offer support to genuine students who find themselves in situations not of their making as a result of the measures that we are taking today.

Lord Morgan (Lab): My Lords, it is very pleasing that the Minister managed to make some sympathetic remarks about overseas students. I thought that the initial Statement, which, I appreciate, was read in the House of Commons, was deeply depressing, seeing students as a threat and not an opportunity or enrichment of this country, and seeing the issue in terms of immigration and not of educational policy. Is not the real explanation of this problem to do with privatisation? We are not talking about universities; we are talking about a whole range of privately funded colleges and institutions, many of them in London, which do not observe the strict academic and educational standards of our universities, of one of which I had the privilege of being a vice-chancellor. The institution that is under criticism is a hived-off institution to deal with English language teaching. I hope that the Minister, who I know to be a very progressive-minded man, will

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1137

take the opportunity to affirm that real universities observe the highest standards in inquiring into the educational and personal background of students. It is really quite unfair of the Statement made in the House of Commons to confuse them with a number of far inferior institutions.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am sorry that the noble Lord has taken that view of the Statement. I think that it described why we were taking action this day to deal with particular institutions. I stayed for the questions after seeing my honourable friend Mr Brokenshire make his Statement, and he was at pains to emphasise that our relationship with universities is very important to us, because £2.8 billion—or is it 2.8%?—of the British economy is in the educational sector. I shall not rise to the fly that the noble Lord has cast across me about privatisation. I do not think that that matters. The truth of the matter is that all education institutions, whether public or private, must conduct themselves in a proper fashion. That is what we are seeking to emphasise. However, as I think I made clear earlier, I believe in the universities of this country. They enhance our lives and prosperity and enable us to have a presence in the world that we would not have without their international role.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for once again reassuring us with his usual balance and judgment of the situation. We are all appalled that there should have been exploitation in this way. My noble friend referred to the duping of students. Some of these students would have been duped, not knowing any better about what they should do and relying on what they seemed to think was authoritative advice. What steps will be taken to strike Educational Testing Services off the list of approved organisations for this purpose in future, and can he tell us what other sanctions might be exercised to ensure that these crucial agencies satisfy the requirements that the Government ask of them?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am not an arrogant sort of person, as my noble friend will know, and I think that there are lessons for the Government to learn from this situation. It is right that we should seek to learn these lessons. I agree with her that many of the individuals involved may well have been perfectly innocent of the circumstances in which they now find themselves, of being illegally in this country, having applied through one of these bogus entry systems, which contain in them a germ of criminality, as I said earlier. How that aspect is dealt with will be a matter for the courts to decide. Meanwhile, as I say, I am quite prepared to accept that there are things that the Government can learn from this experience, and there is a need to ensure that we play our part in supporting universities in their job.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, the Minister very properly makes the point that the vast majority of foreign students are perfectly genuine entrants into the United Kingdom. However, there are two issues, one of which is the bogus student. I applaud the Government for their action, but I hope that they do not send an

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1138

unfortunate message, which they do not intend to send, with regard to the general welcome of students into the United Kingdom.

The other issue is that of the genuine student in relation to the classification of immigration. As I see it, the situation is this: over the past two years, the Prime Minister has said very clearly that he wishes to see annual immigration reduced to a figure below 100,000. I think that is a fair estimate of what he said. At the same time, it has been said time and time again in both Houses of Parliament that genuine students are nevertheless to be regarded as immigrants. That is the classical and historic way in which they have been regarded, and I believe they were regarded in that way by the previous Government. In light of the fact that the number of genuine students whose genuineness is not in any way in dispute is in excess of 100,000 per annum, how can the two objectives ever be served—in other words, keeping immigration below 100,000 and at the same time welcoming every genuine non-EU student? At the moment there is a dichotomy. What do the Government intend to do about it?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think that I have made our policy clear—namely, to encourage genuine students to this country. I do not see any fundamental difficulty with that, and I am not in favour of moving the goalposts on this issue. The Government have their objective of reducing net migration. The noble Lord suggests that that might be in conflict with a policy which encourages genuine students to come here. I do not believe that the two are incompatible. I think that it is possible to achieve both and it is certainly the Government’s aim and ambition to do that. However, to do that, we need the co-operation of the university and college sector. No gathering of individuals contains more people associated with universities and colleges than perhaps this House. I appeal to everyone who is involved in university courts, is a vice-chancellor or is involved in any way whatever to emphasise the Government’s determination to maintain the importance of the sector but also to emphasise to those involved in university administration the importance of applying their mind to the consequences of illegal immigration to this country and of playing their part in seeking to eliminate it.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that my experience of validating the polytechnic sector for 10 years led me to complain that there was no system of quality control in higher education, as opposed to quality assurance, which is really just academics cosily scratching each others’ backs? Does not this story call into question the usefulness of our Quality Assurance Agency? How could all this go on right under its nose? Is it not time that we set up a system of higher education quality control, which would have many wider benefits as well?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The noble Lord will understand that a university’s funding is dependent upon it satisfying the funding agency, HEFCE, on the quality of education being provided. I have great faith in the Quality Assurance Agency. As a result of today’s

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1139

announcements, we will use it to check out further those colleges which are still the subject of our concerns and anxieties following the inquiries. Therefore, I do not share the noble Lord’s views on this issue.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, should it not be obvious to academic institutions when students do not have a proper command of English? If they do not exercise caution in this regard, is it not inevitable that they will lose their highly trusted sponsorship status?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I agree with my noble friend. That is why we are particularly concerned that the institutions themselves failed to take proper regard of the fact that some of their students were not capable of speaking English properly and had insufficient command of the language, and we know that in some cases the students concerned were not really studying at all but were out there working. The HMRC figures have clearly demonstrated this, and that is why we are taking this action.

Baroness Prashar (CB): My Lords, what positive steps are being taken to ensure that innocent students at these institutions do not suffer unnecessary hardship and are not left stranded? If that happens, it will send a negative message about how much we welcome students. It is important that steps are taken to ensure that innocent students do not suffer.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The noble Baroness will know that previously we had to suspend the sponsorship status of London Met, and we worked closely with the university. We are doing the same now because it is not in our interests to upset the studies of those who are here and clearly want to continue them. We want those students to feel that they can carry on. That is our objective and we will be doing that. Meanwhile, we have to say to the colleges and universities I have mentioned that it is in their hands—it is their responsibility to take the necessary measures to make sure that they run an orderly establishment.


Scotland: Independence

Motion to Take Note

4.01 pm

Moved by Lord Wallace of Tankerness

That this House takes note of the constitutional future of Scotland in the light of the referendum on 18 September.

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con): My Lords, there are 40 speakers for today’s debate. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to around eight minutes, the House should be able to rise at the target time of 10 pm. This advisory time does not apply to the movers of both Motions, my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness and my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton, or to the opposition winder, the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1140

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) (LD): My Lords, I thank noble Lords who are attending and intend to participate in this important debate. With some 85 days to go to the referendum, it is important that your Lordships’ House has an opportunity to express views on this most fundamental question facing the people of Scotland.

I welcome the fact that the debate is linked to the House of Lords Constitution Committee report on the constitutional implications of the Scottish referendum. I thank the committee for this report, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, who chaired the committee. I look forward to the speech of my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton, who now has the distinction of chairing that committee, and to the speeches of many of its members who are here to take part. The report is a very thorough and important contribution to the referendum debate and took evidence from a broad range of witnesses, including respected academics and Ministers from both the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments. The United Kingdom Government have until 16 July to respond to this report, and I can confirm that we will publish our response in advance of that date. I do not wish to pre-empt what will be said by my noble friend Lord Lang and others who wish to reflect on the report, but will respond in my closing remarks to the points they make.

As I indicated, it is now less than three months— 85 days—until the people of Scotland take the most important decision a country can ever be asked to take—whether we decide to stay in the United Kingdom family, or to leave and go it alone. I passionately believe in Scotland being within the United Kingdom, not because of dogma, nostalgia or ideology but because of what the United Kingdom means in the here and now, and what we can continue to achieve together as we go forward into the future. I believe in the contribution we have made over the past 300 years, along with our friends and families across England, Wales and Northern Ireland—our common effort to create and share something bigger that serves us all well. Together we can go on creating more, delivering more, and quite simply being more than we would ever be as separate states. Perhaps for too long Parliaments and Governments have allowed to go unspoken the contribution that Scotland makes to the United Kingdom; perhaps they have been equally silent on the benefits Scotland gets from being part of the United Kingdom. The referendum has focused our minds on what these benefits are.

Those of us who reside in Scotland will receive a booklet through our door entitled What Staying in the United Kingdom Means for Scotland. The booklet is going to every household in Scotland because we want everyone in Scotland to have the opportunity to make an informed decision in September, ensuring that voters no longer feel they are uninformed on the case being made by the United Kingdom Government. It is a booklet that sets out the facts in clear and simple terms, covering currency, pensions, trade and defence. We believe that the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. The evidence is also overwhelmingly positive: Scotland is better off staying in the United Kingdom and having the best of both worlds. We have more opportunities and greater security as part of the United

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1141

Kingdom, while also having a strong Scottish Parliament with responsibility for important matters such as health, education, justice and transport.

As part of the United Kingdom the powers of the Scottish Parliament will increase: we are already delivering the largest transfer of financial powers in 300 years, as set out in the Scotland Act 2012. Those powers will make the Scottish Parliament accountable for raising revenue, as well as spending public money. More powers will follow. That is the firm commitment of all three pro-United Kingdom parties in Scotland—not just by the separate commitments that each party has made, but by their united pledge to deliver further powers in the event of a no vote. This firm commitment to devolution, shared by both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, is no doubt something that may be reflected on in this debate. I see that my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and Lord Purvis of Tweed are down to speak; they have made important contributions to their respective parties on this issue.

The important point about the booklet we are sending to every household is that it is not based on mere assertion or speculation, which so many of the Scottish Government’s proposals have been based on in this debate. Their 670-page White Paper included only one page of costings and projections, based on just one year’s financial information. In sharp contrast, our material draws on evidence from the Scotland Analysis series. I welcome the fact that the Constitution Committee’s report gave proper credit to that series, which concluded last Thursday with the launch of the summary paper by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. That paper—number 15 in the series—is the conclusion to a series of papers that have been widely lauded as a comprehensive and detailed analysis of Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. You might choose to call it “project fact”: more than 1,400 pages of analysis, citing hundreds of independent experts and organisations. The series has provided the evidence base for the positive case I wish to outline—the positive case for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

I first highlight the positive economic case. Scotland is the wealthiest part of the United Kingdom outside London and south-east England. Scotland has the highest employment rate of all the nations in the United Kingdom—it is even higher than that of the United States of America. Scotland has a lower unemployment rate, at just 6.5%, than the UK as a whole, at 6.9%. Scotland is part of one of the six richest economies in the world. All this, and much more, has been achieved as part of the United Kingdom—because of the United Kingdom, not in spite of it. Scotland’s economy is not held back by our position in the union. That is an unfounded assertion that those seeking independence regularly repeat.

Let us be clear: being part of the larger United Kingdom economy provides Scotland with jobs, stability and security. It provides a recovering domestic market. In 2013 Scotland exported £50 billion of goods and services to the rest of the United Kingdom—four times more than Scotland’s exports to the rest of the world—and imported £63 billion of goods and services from the rest of the United Kingdom. It is a domestic market that saw, in 2011, 33,000 people of working

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1142

age move from other parts of the United Kingdom to Scotland, and another 35,000 move in the opposite direction. It is estimated that some 30,000 people travel in and out of Scotland to work each day. Why would we want to risk the protection that the UK economy gives not only Scotland, but England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Why would we want to put an international border in the middle of all this?

Critically, why would we want to lose the formal use of the United Kingdom pound? Let us be absolutely clear: in the event of independence, there will not be a currency union. I do not believe that that would be in the interests of Scotland or the continuing United Kingdom. Scotland would have no control over mortgage rates, and would be binding its hands on tax and funding for vital public services.

I did a Q&A session with some law undergraduates at Aberdeen University last autumn when the question of the currency came up. I made the point that the problem with a currency union would be that there would be no Scottish control over mortgage rates as well as limitations on tax and public spending. I said I could not understand why any self-respecting nationalist would want to sign up to that. At the end one of the undergraduates came up to me and said, “I am a self-respecting nationalist and I agree with you”.

The continuing United Kingdom would surely not put its taxpayers at risk of bailing out a separate state and its banks. It is inconceivable that Parliament would pass it or that the people of the continuing United Kingdom would accept it. That is why all three of the main political parties have ruled it out. It is economic issues such as this, which impact on our daily lives, that affect the decisions of voters, and for many, personal issues, such as whether we would be better or worse off in an independent Scotland. That question once again provides us with a positive case to vote no. By remaining part of the United Kingdom, people in Scotland will benefit from what has been labelled, the “UK dividend” which is worth £1,400 per year in lower taxes and higher public spending to every Scot.

This £1,400 derives from the clear economic benefits that Scotland gains from being part of the UK: a strong fiscal position; a large economy able to manage the volatility of declining oil revenues; stable borrowing costs; policies which are costed within the current economic climate; and a broad tax base, able to effectively deal with an ageing population.

I am not claiming, and the Government have not claimed that Scotland could or would not be able to be a separate state—of course, it could. But it is important, too, to face up to the realities and acknowledge them. We must combat the many assertions so often alluded to by the Scottish Government. We must not allow those who raise reasonable questions or concerns to be silenced by intimidation or fear.

It is not only the economic case that demonstrates why we are truly better together. I am sure that during today’s debate we will hear arguments covering a full range of topics—the European Union, for example. The UK exerts its influence in Europe on behalf of Scotland and all parts of the UK on issues that matter to people and businesses in Scotland, such as budget contributions, fisheries and agricultural subsidies. This

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1143

influence is exerted in Brussels, Strasbourg and across all member states. It is influence which ensures that Scotland has a loud voice at the top table, and will continue to do so as part of the UK.

It is a different story for an independent Scotland. First, there is the question of application. All 28 member states need to agree the process and the timescales. There is no automatic entry or special procedure for Scotland. There are European Union-wide rules that plenty of others have had to follow, so why should Scotland expect to receive special treatment? Perhaps more crucially, there is the question of the terms of membership. No one should assume that Scotland would be able to negotiate the same favourable terms of EU membership which the United Kingdom currently enjoys: an opt-out from the euro; an opt-out from the Schengen area; and the UK’s budget rebate, which is worth more than £3 billion to the United Kingdom taxpayer each year.

Let us recall that no other member state has negotiated its own rebate. Instead, as a new member state, Scotland would have to contribute to the United Kingdom rebate like all others. Let us be clear that the rebate could not be shared between states; it is the United Kingdom rebate, and a vote to leave the United Kingdom would be a vote to lose this. However, a vote to remain part of the United Kingdom would be a vote for each household in Scotland to continue to save money as part of the UK’s rebate—a vote to keep the United Kingdom’ s opt-outs and a vote to retain a place of influence at Europe’s top table.

One of the other issues that I have encountered in your Lordships’ House and around Scotland is the implications for the defence of Scotland, and the continuing United Kingdom. That is important in two particular respects. The United Kingdom has the fourth largest defence budget in the world—£33 billion to £34 billion annually, behind only America, Russia and China. Crucially, Scotland benefits and contributes to the full range of these defence capabilities. Scotland benefits by having the security of the United Kingdom defence forces fighting for our common values and interests, wherever needed, across the world—both in combat and peacekeeping activities.

Scotland contributes to this through its 11,100 Regular Armed Forces based in the country, rising to 12,500 by 2020, alongside thousands of reservists. This is all supported by a thriving defence industry employing around 12,600 people. Many of these jobs are at HM Naval Base Clyde. We need to be clear—and again to avoid the spread of assertions from the Scottish Government and those who would urge us to vote for independence—that companies based in an independent Scottish state could no longer be eligible for contracts that the United Kingdom chose to place domestically for national security reasons. Other than in world wars, the United Kingdom has not built a complex warship outside the United Kingdom since at least the start of the 20th century. Where they could continue to compete, Scottish yards would be pitching for business in a competitive international market dominated by major economic powers. That is not, as some would say, scaremongering: it is a statement of fact. It is important that we get that across.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1144

In addition to the strength and bravery of our defence forces, the United Kingdom is a soft power superpower. Our culture, education, business environment, values and heritage help us to bring influence throughout the world and help us to use that influence for good. The United Kingdom is the second largest donor of international aid in the world—aid administered from East Kilbride in Scotland. By 2015, this United Kingdom department, based in Scotland, will have helped to immunise 55 million children against preventable disease; will have helped to save the lives of 50,000 women in childbirth and a quarter of a million new-born babies; and 60 million people will have access to clean, safe water, thanks to the United Kingdom’s aid programme.

Together, we have championed democracy and the rule of law around the world. We campaigned against slavery in the 18th century and drafted the European Convention on Human Rights in the 1950s. Together we have resisted invasion and conquest. We did not fall for the ideologies which blighted so many lives in the 20th century but together made sacrifices in opposing them.

However, it is not only our heritage and our history. A more recent example is the United Kingdom’s Preventing Sexual Violence initiative. This was the core theme of our presidency of the G8 in 2013, leading to a new United Nations Security Council resolution and a United Nations General Assembly declaration on sexual violence within conflict, which of course led to the summit hosted by the Foreign Secretary and Angelina Jolie earlier this month. The United Kingdom was to the fore among the states which launched the campaign for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which was finally adopted last year.

I am not claiming that an independent Scotland would walk away from these values that it has shared with us over the past three centuries—far from it. I expect it would probably sign up to them. However, it would lack the clout and influence to bring about such initiatives and, rather, as a consequence of independence, would possibly reduce the United Kingdom’s ability to promote justice in the world.

When we say that Britain is a force for good in the world and that it punches above its weight on the world stage, it might seem like a soundbite but it is true. We are an influence for good in the world and we do punch above our weight. This has been recognised. Although they have said that it is a matter for Scotland, what Britain achieves together has been recognised in recent weeks by President Obama, by Hillary Clinton and even by his Holiness the Pope, who all admire the strength of the United Kingdom and believe that we—both an independent Scotland and the continuing UK—would be weaker without each other. We should be mightily proud of our role across the globe, a role that we play together as a result of being a United Kingdom. Together, over three centuries, we have made one of the great states of the modern world; we continue to be a force for good in the modern world; and I am confident that together we will continue to be so for many years to come. I beg to move.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1145

4.18 pm

Lord Lang of Monkton (Con): My Lords, I would very much like to contribute to the main debate today but my first duty and privilege is to speak to the report from your Lordships’ Constitution Committee on the constitutional implications of the referendum on Scottish independence. I am grateful that we are able to debate the report so soon after it was published, and to the many expert witnesses who gave evidence to us.

This is my first speech as chairman of the Constitution Committee and, before addressing the report, I put on record my thanks to my predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington. I know I speak on behalf of the whole committee in saying how effective and skilful she was in the chair. The committee’s success in recent years is in large measure down to her.

I earnestly hope that the work embodied in our report on what might need to happen in the event of a yes vote will turn out to be redundant. However, the committee felt that there had been relatively little consideration of what the constitutional implications of such a vote would be. It is well to be prepared for the worst while striving to prevent it from arising.

It emerged from our inquiry that certain legal principles would govern the aftermath of a yes vote, some of which are founded in international law. Perhaps the most important is that the rest of the United Kingdom would retain the personality of the existing UK and thus become the continuator state. This would mean that it would retain the treaty obligations and membership of international organisations of the existing UK. For example, it would remain a member of the EU, the UN and NATO and would not have to apply to them anew. Scotland would become a new breakaway successor state. It would have to seek membership of international organisations and, where it does not already have them, create its own institutions. That was the overwhelming view in the evidence that we heard and we agreed with it. Whether by international precedent, share of population and territory or by recognition by other states, there is no room for doubt; all legal principle and convention point to that fact. No realistic alternative has been offered, not even by the Scottish Government.

This conclusion leads directly to the question of the division of assets and liabilities between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The most important established legal principle would be that they should be shared equitably between the two states. Fixed or immovable assets, such as government or military buildings, would automatically become assets of the state in which they were located. However, moveable assets, such as military equipment, would be subject to apportionment through negotiation. Similarly, the apportionment of liabilities, such as the national debt, would also be subject to negotiations. All this is already well recognised, but the status of the UK as the continuator state has particular importance where its institutions are concerned.

The precedents are clear beyond doubt: the institutions would remain with the United Kingdom. Whether it is the Bank of England or the National Lottery, the nation’s intelligence services or the BBC, the Supreme Court or the UK’s worldwide diplomatic service, its research councils, all its administrative and regulatory

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1146

services and countless more institutions, all would remain with the United Kingdom. There would be no obligation on the UK Government to bring them forward for negotiation. A vote to leave the UK is a vote to leave the UK’s institutions. It is essential that those voting in September’s referendum understand what is at stake. That is why the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he made it irrevocably clear that a shared currency would not be agreed to, was on strong legal grounds and was able to do so without qualification.

I turn now to the significant implications of independence for the constitutional institutions of the UK. Evidently, legislation would need to be passed by this Parliament to facilitate Scottish secession from the union. That legislation would need to end Parliament’s legislative competence over Scotland, and it is likely that extensive consequential legislation would also be needed. In the period between a yes vote being delivered and the date of actual independence, Scotland would still be in the union although it would be known that independence was on its way.

We were taken by surprise when the Secretary of State for Scotland told us that:

“Unless and until the people of Scotland vote otherwise, the UK Government will continue to act on their behalf”,

and when a Foreign Office minister said:

“If Scotland votes for independence, from that time on ministers in the UK Government will have a responsibility for people of the rest of the United Kingdom”.

Surely it cannot be right that from the moment of a yes vote, many months or possibly years before an actual date of independence, the UK Government would cease to act in the interests of the people of Scotland. I hope that my noble and learned friend will be able to clarify the Government’s position on this at the end of today’s debate. It would mean that for that transition period the UK Government would not take into account the interests of Scotland when making policy on reserved matters, and Scotland would not be represented internationally. This could leave Scotland in constitutional limbo.

We therefore recommended that the two Governments should reach an agreement immediately after any yes vote to clarify the international representation of Scotland, and that during the transition period the UK Government should take long-term decisions on reserved matters primarily or solely affecting Scotland only after consulting the Scottish Government. I think that your Lordships will agree on the logic and common sense of that; it seems to me to be inescapable.

The impact of independence on the House of Commons would also be profound. It is widely accepted that the 59 MPs representing Scottish constituencies would have to depart the Commons. The committee concluded that they should depart on the date on which Scotland secedes from the United Kingdom. Until then, their constituents would still have a right to representation at Westminster. Legislation to this effect would be necessary.

Although those MPs would remain Members during that period, it also seemed clear to us that they should not participate in parliamentary business that does not affect Scotland. As one of our witnesses said, that would be like,

“the West Lothian question on steroids”.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1147

It may be that the Commons could make internal arrangements to address the matter or that Scottish MPs excuse themselves from votes on non-Scottish business. Whatever the answer, we think that the matter should be resolved quickly should there be a yes vote. It should certainly be settled and enshrined before the 2015 general election.

As your Lordships would expect, the committee turned its mind to the implication of independence for your Lordships’ House. Most Members of this House hold peerages of the United Kingdom. We do not represent territories. As this Parliament would remain the Parliament of the rest of the UK, Peers of the United Kingdom would continue to have the right to sit in it. However, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, all Members of this House are deemed to be,

“resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in the United Kingdom”,

for purposes of certain taxes. Unless that law were amended, it would mean that Members of the House who live in Scotland, currently estimated at more than 60 Members, would either have to pay tax in the rest of the UK or they would have to retire from the House on the date of independence.

Independence may also affect the six Members of the House who sit solely by virtue of a Scottish peerage. It would need to be decided whether they should be entitled to continued membership of the House on the basis of a Scottish peerage alone. However, these are matters that need not be decided until after 18 September, when I hope that such decisions will become unnecessary.

Turning to consideration of the negotiations that would follow a yes vote, it seems obvious that just as the seceding state of Scotland would negotiate in its own best interests, so the sole objective of the negotiators for the rest of the UK would be to secure the best outcome for the people of the rest of the UK. All other considerations flow from that. We heard different suggestions as to who should be represented on the rest of the UK’s negotiating team. We concluded that while it would be important for the Official Opposition and devolved Executives in Northern Ireland and Wales to be consulted during the negotiations, the actual negotiating team should most effectively be small and composed solely of representatives of the UK Government. That would, incidentally, follow the precedent of 1922 and would seem to offer the best prospect of successful negotiations within a reasonable time.

Related to that, we reached the conclusion, supported by our witnesses, that Scottish MPs, whether Back-Bench or Ministers, should not be on the negotiating team for the rest of the UK. Their duty as MPs would be to represent their Scottish constituents. That would conflict with the objective of the rest of the UK negotiating team to secure the best outcome for England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Nor did the committee think that Scottish MPs should play any part in debating or approving the negotiations; again, there would be a clear conflict of interest. Were there to be a yes vote, we recommended that the UK Government should put before Parliament a proposal to put these matters beyond doubt at an early date.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1148

It would also be undesirable for either one or both of the negotiating teams to be unable to start work because of avoidable legal challenges. We therefore recommended that soon after any yes vote, a Bill should be introduced to this Parliament that would devolve power to the Scottish Parliament to make provision about a negotiating team for Scotland and to create a legal basis for the UK negotiating team. Such a Bill need not name the negotiators. The intention of it would be simply to put the legal basis of their position beyond doubt.

The committee also considered the timetable for negotiations. The Scottish Government have set out their proposed timetable, which would see Scotland becoming independent on 24 March 2016. We heard mixed views on how realistic this would be, but the key point is surely that the date has no formal status. It is an aspiration of the Scottish Government but the negotiations would take as long as they took. There is no constitutional principle involved and there would be no obligation on either side to meet a specific target date.

I hope that in producing this report the Constitution Committee has provided some clarity on what a decision taken by Scotland to vote for independence would mean in the short term for the constitution of the rest of the United Kingdom. Longer-term constitutional damage is harder to assess.

By way of an antidote, I turn from contemplating what would need to happen if there were a yes vote to the wider and more immediate debate itself and the need to press the arguments for voting no. I reflect that 700 years ago today we Scots won a great victory against overwhelming odds over an invading English army. It changed our history but brought us neither security, order nor prosperity, all qualities that give substance to the word “freedom”. It did not end the fighting, which went on. Just over 200 years later, we were the invading army and England won, but still the fighting continued. The lessons of Bannockburn make sense only when considered alongside the lessons of Flodden. Only in 1707, after the Treaty and Acts of Union that created one country—Great Britain—had abolished English and Scotland as separate states, did lasting peace break out, and with it prosperity, intellectual flowering and national security. Since then, except for Culloden when Scots fought on both sides, we have always stood steadfast together against common enemies and seen them off. Together we have prospered in peace and security.

Next week Her Majesty the Queen will come to Scotland to launch the biggest ship and the greatest defence vessel ever built in the United Kingdom. No part of the UK could have done it alone. That aircraft carrier, HMS “Queen Elizabeth”, is designed to serve the cause of peace, security and freedom for the next generation of all of us in this country and beyond. It is 100% British and a triumph of co-operation, to be launched at Rosyth but bringing together the workmanship of thousands of skilled workers there, on the Clyde, on the Tyne, at Portsmouth, at Birkenhead and in Devon. Nothing better exemplifies the extent to which all the peoples of the United Kingdom are better together. There is our future security. What a

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1149

contrast it is to the alternative of a separate breakaway Scotland, isolated and unable to defend its own shores, let alone the vast areas of open skies and seas to the north and west. Not only would secession jeopardise Scotland’s own security, it would also blow apart the highly integrated nature of the UK’s defences, in which Scotland plays such an important role.

The referendum in September is not just about Scotland’s future; it is about the future of the whole United Kingdom. In striving to save Scotland for the union, we would also be saving our United Kingdom.

4.32 pm

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab): My Lords, the report of the Select Committee on the Constitution on the constitutional implications of the referendum on Scottish independence is a welcome addition to our debate today and to the debate that will take place over the coming months in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Lang, has introduced that report with the clarity that we would expect from him, and the whole House will welcome his appointment as the chairman of the Constitution Committee, given his history and his commitment to the issues on which he has spoken today and on other occasions. This is an informative, thoughtful and stimulating report, and I agree with many of the recommendations contained within it. I believe that it provides a strong framework for preparation and a guide to the judgments that will be required following a possible yes vote in September. I hope that the Government will respond within the two-month timetable that has been requested by the Committee, because if there is a yes vote in Scotland in September, we will need cool heads and steady hands to deal with the situation that emerges.

I also congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, the Advocate-General for Scotland, on his opening speech, which was, as we would expect from him, a positive case for the United Kingdom in these times. No one is more trusted, in my view, on home rule and devolution in Scotland than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace. I am delighted that he is leading our debate today, and I hope that he plays a more prominent role in the campaign over the summer months.

I want to confine my remarks to three particular issues: first, the campaign; secondly, the choice; and, thirdly, the future. There are just under 100 days to go before the referendum on Scottish independence. I take no pleasure in seeing the prediction that I made come true—I may even have made it in your Lordships’ House—that, as the day came closer, the gap between the two sides in public opinion would come closer, too. Today, I am certain that we will hear speeches across your Lordships’ House that will be almost unanimously opposed to the principle and practice of Scottish independence, but at this early stage in the debate I want to say that there are good people on both sides of this debate in Scotland today. We should not allow the bad behaviour of some to diminish the passionately held views of others, who seek answers to the problems that they see in a complex world. All of Scotland deserves a better and higher level of debate than we have seen thus far.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1150

About 250 years ago, Voltaire described Scotland as the place where, across Europe, we all look for our ideas of civilisation—dear knows what he would think today if he had followed this debate over the past few months. I urge the leaders of the yes campaign to do two things in particular: first, to make a real effort to stamp out the culture of bullying and intimidation that exists not just on the internet but in Scottish public life today; and, secondly, to discuss seriously the legitimate concerns people have about the option of Scottish independence and to answer questions more factually and accurately than perhaps has been the case so far.

Those who are in favour of Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom need to raise their game, too. In a university abroad about six months ago, I judged a debate between two teams of students, one defending Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom and one promoting Scottish independence. Those in favour of Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom had read all the evidence and papers—many of them produced by Her Majesty’s Government—and become so convinced of the case that they went to the pub at lunchtime, became complacent and, despite having all the arguments, lost the debate comprehensively to those who were more focused, determined and clearer about their aspirations for the future of Scotland.

In the spirit of friendship to the campaign, I want to say three things. First, united campaigns win over divided campaigns. The lessons of 1979 and 1997 in Scotland are that divided campaigns do not succeed and united campaigns win. Secondly, if the Better Together campaign to retain Scotland’s membership inside the United Kingdom is to win, it is vital that it broadens its engagement with people outside the traditional groups of political leaders who currently dominate the campaign. It must engage with those who, through the 1980s and 1990s, fought for Scottish home rule and devolution and then participated in making it successful in the early years of the new Scottish Parliament. Thirdly, and most importantly, it needs to outline a positive vision for the future of Scotland inside the United Kingdom, campaigning not to protect the union and the established order but for a new order—a reformed United Kingdom with a new Scotland actively participating within it. The choice is not between the old United Kingdom and some more autonomy for Scotland but between home rule or devolution for Scotland as it exists today within the United Kingdom and independence or a separate state. We need to clarify that choice over these coming months, not detract from it.

The United Kingdom is the most successful voluntary political union in the history of the world. Within that, Scotland has managed to secure a level of autonomy that has seen Scotland as a nation improve and develop since 1999. We have seen decades of population decline reversed. We have seen two economic shocks—not one—where the UK helped and made all the difference. The first was in the early years of devolution, when electronics manufacturing—which the noble Lord, Lord Lang, did so much to bring to Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s—moved east and left Scotland with a real crisis of employment and economic growth. We have also seen improvements in Scotland’s health—for too

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1151

long it was the sick country of Europe—and a vibrancy in our culture. There have been significant, huge improvements in things such as recycling and renewables because of devolved government attention.

That is the case for devolution and home rule within the United Kingdom; it is the case for a modern Scotland inside a United Kingdom that is more diverse and celebrates that diversity. If the case is made over the coming months not for a United Kingdom that is a single state but for a United Kingdom that is made up of a whole range of cultures, histories, traditions and futures pulling together in the national interest, then I believe that the people of Scotland will make a positive choice to stay and build a better United Kingdom for future generations—one that can protect our environment, protect our security and deal with economic shocks but seize economic opportunities, too; one that can enhance our quality of life, build a fairer society and do so as part of a community of nations.

4.40 pm

Lord Stephen (LD): My Lords, as has been said, this is a vitally important issue. It is the biggest issue facing the future not only of Scotland but of all of us here and all of us in the United Kingdom. Thursday 18 September is a very important day.

A great deal of very good work has been done by the committee and I commend the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, and the members of the committee on many aspects of this excellent report. Very good work has been done also by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, and my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General. We now have a very solid and comprehensive list of reports from the UK Government setting out the case for keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.

The leaders of all the Scottish political parties who oppose independence also deserve very significant praise. Willie Rennie, Johann Lamont and Ruth Davidson have done exactly the right thing by confirming the commitment of their parties to future constitutional change. Particular praise should go to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde and to the Conservative Party for the radical set of proposals that has been produced after, if I may say so, a few decades of slight reluctance.

It does political parties no credit whatever when individuals within them start to attack each other or suggest separate campaigning. Working together, as in the campaign to join the European Union back in the 1970s, is what impresses people; and what convinces them is the guarantee that there will be radical new powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a no vote in September, and when that guarantee is delivered by individuals such as Charles Kennedy, Gordon Brown and Ming Campbell and—if I may use the names by which they are known and more widely respected in Scotland—Annabel Goldie, John Reid and David Steel. These are the individuals who can be trusted to help deliver the no vote on 18 September.

In contrast with those names is the face of nationalism. When I first met Alex Salmond I sat next to him at a lunch in Aberdeen. I was a young councillor; he was a candidate. I was talking about Scottish politics and

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1152

the Socialists, meaning, believe it or not, the Labour Party at that time. He checked me on that occasion and asked me to confirm which party I meant. Then he said, “Always remember, Nicol, there are two socialist parties in Scotland: the Labour Party and the SNP”.

Alex Salmond does not say that any more. At that time he may have been right; some nationalist parties are socialists. Many are right-wing and some are in the centre ground of politics. Some nationalist movements believe in producing a bigger state—bringing together the state of Germany or the state of Italy. Some believe in smaller states: Bosnia, Croatia, the Czech Republic or Scotland. Each is very different—one might say chameleon-like—apart from one thing. They will do whatever needs to be done to deliver the nation state that they believe in.

Therefore socialist nationalism of the 1980s—“We are the inheritors of Red Clydeside”, they used to tell us—has changed to modern, civic, soft nationalism. Alex Salmond has changed too. He is now moderate, smiles, is nice to the Opposition and keeps his temper—so they tell us. He does that not because that is the real Alex Salmond but to deliver nationalism, independence, separation.

What should be our response? There is a lot of talk of patriotism. I must confess to being instinctively uncomfortable with patriotism in politics. There are people who like to counter the SNP by saying, “I am just as patriotic as you, Mr Salmond”. In debate, it works quite well, but for me, patriotism is a bit like nationalism: it comes in many forms, not all of them good and positive; some of them are very negative. Patriotic politics, just like religious politics, can be volatile and nasty. We have seen that in recent years, we have seen that in recent days. We must avoid a volatile and nasty campaign.

The cybernats, the attack dogs of the nationalist movement, are not positive people. They can get very nasty. Their attacks on JK Rowling last week were nothing short of disgraceful. I am pleased that the Lord Advocate is considering prosecution of some of the more extreme haranguing that she received. However, it goes right to the top. The First Minister’s special adviser, still working for Alex Salmond to this day, attacked the mother of a disabled child who supported the Better Together campaign. The First Minister can do little better than say that there have been faults on both sides. That is not the sort of leadership that we should be looking for in this campaign. That is the dark, divisive side, the unacceptable face of nationalism.

In being endlessly positive about the good reasons for keeping this country in the United Kingdom, we should not forget the nature of the challenge we are facing. It will be crafty, clever campaigning against us. Everyone knows that economics will be at the heart of the campaign. The perceived wisdom is that if people believe that they will be better off by a few hundred pounds, it could swing the pendulum of their vote either way. On such does the fate of a nation hang. Surely the future of one of the most prosperous and successful nations on this planet should be decided on better grounds than that. We are told by the nationalists: “Risks? None. Dangers? None. Negatives? None. Threats? None”. Authoritative academic reports are rigged,

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1153

muddled or misleading. I have twice been promised through my letterbox thousands of pounds more if I vote for independence. That is the nationalism that we face in 21st century Scotland.

I believe that we should be looking for a better way forward. At my heart, I am a liberal and a democrat. For me, those are enduring values. Nationalism is not what drives me; nor is patriotism. I believe in the values that put people and communities first. I believe in decentralisation of power, not in separation. I very much welcome the initiative by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and my noble friend Lord Purvis to take the initiative to try to achieve decentralisation of power right across the whole of the United Kingdom.

The people of Scotland and the people of the United Kingdom are best when we are internationalist in our values—values of interdependence and working together. Those are the values that should drive us in the 21st century, not the politics of nationalist division that blighted so much of the 20th century. The people of Scotland and the United Kingdom, working together, have done great things. We have produced great scientists, great poets, great politicians, great entrepreneurs, great economists and great people. That is positive politics, the politics of hope, the politics of what might be. That is why we should say loudly and decisively, “No thanks”, to independence on 18 September and yes to a new Scotland in a better, reformed United Kingdom.

4.49 pm

Lord Wilson of Tillyorn (CB): My Lords, it is very good to have this double-barrelled debate. One sentence in the gracious Speech on such a fundamental issue did not really seem a sufficient springboard for discussion.

I am one of those many Scots, in the past and the present, who have spent a lot of their career and working life outwith Scotland, but I feel myself immensely fortunate that, on retirement from public service 20-odd years ago, I was able to return to Scotland and have a number of different jobs in different areas of Scotland in the many years since then.

One of the most striking things on returning to Scotland in the early 1990s was that deep, deep sense of alienation from London institutions, from government and from Parliament. That struck one enormously. I therefore believe that the vote on devolution and the vote on re-establishing a Scottish Parliament was the right thing to do. Indeed, if anything, it should have been done rather earlier.

Now, there is a real sense that Edinburgh as a capital city has flourished since that period of devolution. Of course, Edinburgh has always been a marvellous city, but now you feel a greater sense of self-confidence in the artistic world, as well as in the political world. You can take the development of a huge number of cultural facilities—the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Scotland, Our Dynamic Earth and so on—as examples of what has been happening, or you can take a much more prosaic figure. I checked on the number of passenger arrivals at Edinburgh Airport. In 1992, when I returned to Scotland, there were 2,500 arrivals per year. The latest figures I got were for 2012. The number was well over 9,000—a far greater increase than at any other airport in Scotland.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1154

Of course, all this is not simply due to devolution and the establishment of a new Parliament. However, I suggest that it is part of it. I therefore rate devolution and the revival of the Scottish Parliament as a success. Of course, it takes time to establish a new parliament and for its members to get used to using it effectively. It has, however, been done pretty well. So, too, has the work of the present Scottish Government. One does not have to agree with all of their policies and not even with their main raison d’être to recognise that there are many hard-working, dedicated and effective Ministers dealing with the issues facing Scotland.

The question now is: why go further? Why go from an increasingly high degree of autonomy to independence? I can see why, for some people, it is attractive—maybe more so for young people who think, “This is exciting. It is not just a dull continuation of what was going on yesterday. We can experiment with new things. Perhaps I can play a greater role”. The awful thing, however, is that—to misuse that well known phrase—it is not just for Christmas. It goes on, and a vote for independence cannot easily be reversed: it would take decades at the very least.

I do not see this as a rather sterile argument about whether Scots are going to be £1,000 better off or £1,400 worse off, although the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, said that this might be a key issue, and I accept that. I see it far more as a question of whether it is right to dismantle a union which has been of such enormous value to Scotland and to the other nations of the United Kingdom.

The excellent report on the constitutional implications of the referendum—which were described just now by the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton—shows how complex many of the issues are. There are also many, many practical issues in setting up an independent state. You cannot help asking: is it really worth the effort of doing all this?

I shall mention one or two of the issues. Why set up a completely separate foreign service when at the moment there is a Scottish Government representative within a number of important British embassies, such as in Peking? Why set up completely new intelligence services? It is not dead simple. Why go through the trauma of setting up a separate Scottish army when existing Scottish regiments, and the Royal Regiment of Scotland, derived from such famous earlier regiments, have served both Scotland and the United Kingdom so well? Why replace the British Council—I should declare an interest as a former trustee and chair of its Scottish committee—with something different when the British Council serves Scotland so well around the world? Is it worth doing all these things? Surely it would be a great diversion from what is really needed to make Scotland continue to prosper, and what also, as other noble Lords have said, enables the United Kingdom to play such a major role in the world as it does at the moment. We have all benefited from the unity of the United Kingdom and from diversity within that unity.

I have one final point. I suggest that it is a great pity, to put it mildly, that the question is, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. Most research shows that people like to say yes when they are asked a

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1155

question; they do not really like to say no. It is therefore a great pity that those of us who take a positive view of the massive benefits of the union will have to tick a negative box. When I come round to putting a tick or an X, whichever it has to be, with my hand I will be doing that in the no box. But in my head and heart I shall be saying yes to the continuation of a union which has meant so much to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, yes to diversity within the union and yes to continuing the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament, to bring effective government and the raising and spending of money closer to the people who are directly affected.

4.56 pm

Lord Strathclyde (Con): My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham has regrettably been called away but I very much hope that we shall hear from him again on another occasion.

I am a unionist. I believe that because of our shared culture, economy and geography the people of these islands are better served by being part of the governance of the United Kingdom rather than being divided. I am Scottish and British; I have no difficulties with any of that. I wholly support my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness when he listed all the great things that Scotland has achieved over the past 300 years as part of this extraordinary union, rather than in spite of it.

However, there is a voice that is missing in this afternoon’s debate: the voice of Scottish nationalism. I know that this will sound strange, coming from me, but there is nothing like the power of debate. I do not actually know whether anybody is going to speak up in favour of breaking up the United Kingdom—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, may be tempted to do so—but we need to hear another view. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, and his noble friend Lord Wigley will forgive me if I say that on this occasion, Welsh nationalism is not enough.

I very much regret that in my time in government, I did not succeed in getting Scottish nationalists into this House. I urge the Scottish National Party to nominate one of their number to sit in this House, and if not I urge Her Majesty’s Government to invite a Scottish nationalist to come and sit here. I can tell them from experience that the invitation of this honour is rarely refused. We all know that there are eloquent and capable Scottish nationalists—I will not name them for fear of damaging their chances of coming here or of embarrassing them—who would make excellent Peers even if we disagree with their views.

I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton has taken over as chairman of the Constitution Committee. He brings an experience, a knowledge and, if I may embarrass him for a moment, a wisdom that is shared by very few: that of being a former Secretary of State for Scotland, with all the complexities of that, and of being a Secretary of State for a UK-wide department in the Cabinet. I am sure that that experience will be brought to bear during the course of his chairmanship and that we will all be the richer for it. The strength of his report is to highlight the long and difficult process of division. The report is

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1156

dry as dust and all the better for it. Let no one be under any illusions about the huge complexities of disentangling the British constitution.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, pointed out just now in his examples, there are many things that few of us have thought about which would need to be disentangled and reinvented—and for what? We really are guddling about in the entrails of the ties that bind us. It would be much worse than any divorce that any of us have witnessed.

Last year, the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Ruth Davidson, invited me to chair a committee on the future governance of Scotland. The premise of this commission was a simple one: in the event of a no vote, what should be the position of my party in Scotland. Our analysis was also very simple. First, we said that the Scottish Parliament is an immensely powerful body. It has not always used the powers that it has available, but it is a very powerful body within the United Kingdon.

Secondly, the Scottish Parliament can spend an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money, but it does not raise any money. Therefore, our primary recommendation —to try to avoid that grievance culture that is sometimes apparent between Holyrood and Westminster—was that the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for raising income tax, setting the rates and the bands within Scotland, so that anybody earning money in Scotland should be paying income tax, and that income tax would go to the Scottish Parliament and should be spent in Scotland on the priorities of the Scottish Parliament. It is a substantial and visible tax paid by many, and an attempt to bridge the fiscal gap: the difference between what the Scottish Parliament raises and what it spends. I believe that this will begin to ensure a process of greater accountability.

We also made recommendations on improving legislative scrutiny within the Scottish Parliament and improving the checks and balances. But we also concluded—and this has already been apparent in the course of this afternoon’s debate—that the United Kingdom is no longer at ease with itself. The referendum campaign has exposed some serious misunderstandings about the United Kingdom and its role and about the role of this Parliament and those who sit in it. It has exposed many people who feel cut off from the processes and happy to accept that silvery-tongued line from Alex Salmond and others. The union has been threatened like never before.

I am not one who is hugely in favour of royal commissions and constitutional conventions. They have not always succeeded in the past. But in rediscovering the glue that holds us together, we should use the new, existing institutions that have been created over the course of the past 15 years. So, the final recommendation of my committee’s report was that we should create a committee of all the Parliaments and Assemblies of the United Kingdom to consider the developing role of the United Kingdom, its Parliaments and Assemblies and their respective powers, representation and financing.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, made some useful points precisely about this and it is important that we should try to get this right. If we do, we might just be able to create a stronger centre

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1157

and a stronger acceptance of what the union Parliament is for—the House of Commons and House of Lords here at Westminster—with strong bodies in the countries and regions of the United Kingdom: in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This prize is definitely worth voting no for and building on the tremendous institutions that we already have.

5.04 pm

Lord Richard (Lab): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, once again. We have not done it for a few years since he departed, so I take great pleasure in following him—and I agree with a great deal of what he had to say.

This is a debate about the effects of the Scottish referendum result on the rest of the United Kingdom. I therefore hope that it is not totally inappropriate that someone who is Welsh should now comment. I declare an interest at the outset: I am as passionate about Wales as Alex Salmond is about Scotland. I have equal respect for the history, traditions and culture of Wales as he probably does for those of Scotland. Additionally, I have to recognise that Wales has a distinction that Scotland lacks; namely, a working, living language. I also believe firmly and deeply that Wales is a nation. It is not a glorified county council: nor is it really a geographical region. Its past and the way in which it has jealously guarded its culture and way of life give it a national character.

Having said that, I am none the less convinced that the future of Wales lies within the United Kingdom and not outside it. The advantages of Welsh association within the UK are apparent. Over the years it has brought Wales relative prosperity and a standard of living which I do not think we could conceivably have achieved had we been an independent country of merely some 3 million people. The United Kingdom has given us a degree of stability and economic protection that would be jeopardised in the event of independence.

It is not for me, as a Welshman, to enter into the details of the debate on the Scottish campaign. I shall say only this: the note produced by the Library of the House of Lords should perhaps be compulsory reading for all the combatants in this debate. It is comprehensive and accurate and, as far as I can judge, it takes a neutral view. It clearly demonstrates—this has emerged in the course of the debate so far—the extraordinary complexity of the process of Scottish independence. The number of institutions that would have to be amended, changed or removed and the amount of institution building that would have to take place inside Scotland if it were to come out of the United Kingdom mean that it would be an extraordinarily complex and a very detailed and daunting prospect.

As for the benefits that the Scottish National Party claims will inevitably flow from independence, the claims are excessively optimistic, to put it mildly. They seem to be based on a Panglossian view that everybody else is going to be nice to an emerging Scotland. I do not think that that is necessarily true for a moment. I do not think it is true of the rest of the United Kingdom that we will be particularly nice to an emerging Scotland that has just rejected us. As far as the European Union is concerned, it does not follow that it would welcome Scotland in with open arms. I can think of a

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1158

number of countries that almost certainly would not welcome Scotland in with open arms. There would have to be a fresh application to join, there would have to be detailed negotiations and there would have to be a transitional period before Scotland could become a full member. During that period, a lot of the benefits that at present come from the EU to Scotland would presumably cease—because they go to the United Kingdom, not to Scotland. I suspect that the agricultural subsidy that goes from Brussels to Scottish farmers would have to cease during that period of association. I cannot believe that is very much in the interests of Scotland.

Nor does the economic arithmetic seem to fit. Trying to look at it as objectively as I can, the Scottish case seems to be based on a series of economic assumptions, almost all of which are on a best-case basis rather than a worst-case basis. If everything goes right, perhaps it will work. But in this world, you cannot guarantee that everything is going to go right with this sort of process, as complex and difficult as it will be. It therefore seems to me that there are dangers in this whole process.

However, the matter does not rest there. I am in favour of devolution. Indeed, a committee on the powers of the Welsh Assembly, which I had the honour of chairing in 2004, still forms the basis for my thinking on this matter. It is the next stage after the referendum that is important. It is said that one consequence of a no vote could be a change in the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Together with many others, I believe that a no vote would result rather in further consideration of the constitutional framework of the United Kingdom as a whole.

One interesting thing that seems to be happening is the gradual emergence of a consensus that the present constitutional structure of the United Kingdom is no longer fit. Too much power is concentrated at the centre and too little has been transferred to the nations and regions of the UK. It is a mess, grossly asymmetrical and, frankly, increasingly ineffective. Various suggestions are being made on the issue of the further devolution of powers to Scotland in the event of a no vote. All the major parties now seem to be in favour of more powers being transferred from Westminster to Holyrood.

In parentheses, I make the point that, if they are transferred to Holyrood, they certainly need to be transferred to Cardiff and Belfast. I do not believe that the priority in the event of a no vote should be just to consider the devolution of further powers; it should be to have a long, hard look at our existing constitutional structures, which would have to include an examination of the possibility of developing regional or representative structures within England. At present, in the quasi-federal system that seems to be emerging, one of the main problems is the size of England in relation to the other nations. The exact position of London and the other major cities after any change in the constitution is also profoundly difficult to clarify.

These are great and difficult issues, but something has to be done. We really cannot continue with this lopsided concentration of powers, held together by allegiance to the Queen and a rather looser one to the Westminster Parliament. The West Lothian and Merthyr Tydfil questions are not going to go away; indeed, they

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1159

are perhaps becoming more, not less, urgent. If they are going to be joined by the Marylebone conundrum—consideration of the powers that London may have in future—something has to be done.

There is strong merit in the idea of establishing a major inquiry into those constitutional issues. Whether it is called a convention or a royal commission matters not greatly, but it needs to be wide-ranging in its agenda and comprehensive in its membership. It will require intense deliberation and may take some time. It may end up with a proposal for a written constitution or it may not—I do not know how it would come out. These would be uncharted waters, but so they were for the Americas in 1776. What is important is that we should now start this process, and the Scottish referendum will give us that opportunity.

5.13 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow a Welsh voice in this debate about the future of the United Kingdom, which is what the debate is about; it is not just about Scotland. I entirely agree with the concluding words of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and I shall come back to them in a moment.

One thing that I have found dispiriting about the public debate in Scotland so far is that it has concentrated too much on whether it will be cheaper or more expensive to get out of the union. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, is quite right that it is missing the point to argue about £1,000 here or £1,400 there. We all know that divorce is an expensive business, but if it is the right thing to do we must bear the cost. My belief is that it is the wrong thing to do and, therefore, the cost is irrelevant. What we ought to be arguing about—and I welcomed the speech of my noble and learned friend, because he concentrated on this—is the benefits of the union and the concept of a reformed union after a no vote in September. I think that that is the right way to go.

There have been a lot of debates about how long it would take for Scotland to become independent, if there were a yes vote. I do not believe for a second that the nationalist Government are right to say that it can be done in six months; that is preposterous, for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has just spelt out. One cannot sort out the currency, membership of the European Union and defence structures all within six months. An academic said last week that it would take 10 years. That is perhaps a little excessive, but certainly it would take some time and during that awkward period between a yes vote and actual independence Scotland would be in some kind of limbo; we should be clear about that.

However, if there is a no vote, we should be positive about how we move forward on the back of the declaration by the three political parties in Scotland. My great guru in these matters was Jo Grimond, who wrote many years ago:

“I do not like the word devolution as it has come to be called. It implies that power rests at Westminster, from which centre some may be graciously devolved. I would rather begin by assuming that power should rest with the people who entrust it to their

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1160

representatives to discharge the essential tasks of government. Once we accept that the Scots and the Welsh are nations … we must accord them parliaments which have all the normal powers of government, except for those that they delegate to the United Kingdom government or the EEC”.

It has always seemed to me that that is the better starting point for discussing what should happen after 18 September.

I am glad to say that we have some new converts to the cause of a federal or quasi-federal constitution. Gordon Brown, with all his experience as a former Chancellor and former Prime Minister, wrote a very powerful essay in the New Statesman last week, which states:

“No one can now ignore the basic fact that the United Kingdom is no longer and will never again be the all-powerful centralised unitary state of the constitutional textbooks. With one parliament, two legislative assemblies and a high-powered London authority taking powers from the centre, Britain is not the unitary state we were taught about at school”.

He is right about that. He goes on in the same essay to say:

“The system of sharing across the UK creates a form of equality between the citizens of the four nations that no other group of countries can match for its depth and sophistication and this is arguably the defining characteristic of the Union today”.

These are wise and profound words, of which people in Scotland should take account.

An intriguing, additional argument has been put forward by Alan Riley, professor of law at City University —namely, that the advantage of the UK having a written constitution is that of protection against mission creep from Brussels, which so exercises politicians and press alike. He writes:

“A British version would, like the German law, set out the major institutions of the state, set out principles and enumerate fundamental rights. The British Supreme Court would then be able to police the borders of the union’s jurisdiction”—

that is, the European Union’s jurisdiction—

“in a similar fashion to the German courts”.

Again, I think that that is a powerful argument for looking forward to some form of written constitution and the development of a quasi-federal constitution for our country.

I find that many people in Scotland on the yes side argue about the advantages historically of the Scots making their mark in the world. That is undeniable—for example, the Jardines and the Mathesons in the Far East. However, they forget that many of the Scottish heroes of whom we are most proud were dependent on mutual support from English organisations. For example, David Livingstone’s remarkable exploits were carried out on behalf of the London Missionary Society, while the Selkirk-born Mungo Park, who died on the River Niger, relied on the support of the African Association in London. This is true of our inventors as well, of whom we are all very proud. Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin but developed its use at St Mary’s Hospital in London. James Watt developed his steam engines in Bristol and Cornwall and John Logie Baird developed his television in Hastings. These people, of whom we are so proud and whom the nationalists talk up, were all dependent on the mutual support of the United Kingdom for the work that they did.

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1161

In my first general election manifesto when I was party leader, I called for reform of the House of Lords, but my wording was carefully chosen. I stated:

“The House of Lords should be replaced by a new, democratically chosen, second chamber which includes representatives of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, and UK members of the European Parliament”.

If you look back to the Bryce commission of 1918, which recommended that a reformed House be indirectly elected by Members of the Commons, here is the possibility of a reformed senate—an upper Chamber of this Parliament—being elected by Members of the Commons, the European Parliament and the devolved Assemblies, and being a real, quasi-federal institution. That is why I welcome what my noble friend Lord Strathclyde had to say about what could happen after 18 September—a coming together of such people into some kind of constitutional convention or commission, in which this House could play a distinguished part in the future.

5.20 pm

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (Lab): My Lords, I am glad to follow my fellow Knight of the Thistle, as the third of three members of the Order of the Thistle speaking in this debate.

We should not be in any way defensive about the fact that this debate is taking place here in the Lords and that there is no representative of nationalism and separatism here in the Chamber. After all, the SNP was once a republican party, it was once against NATO and it was once a socialist party. It has changed its stance on a whole series of issues, so it should accept any invitation given.

A lot of issues will be covered in the debate and I could say many things, but I want to focus on the future of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent in the light of the proposals being put forward by the Scottish Government for the referendum. In the document published last week, a draft constitution for an independent Scotland, the Scottish Government, the SNP, made it clear that the,

“timetable for removal of Trident would be a priority for negotiations, with a view to achieving removal within the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government would also propose, for the permanent constitution, a constitutional prohibition on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland”.

They are therefore now proposing to make the expulsion of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent a fixture in a written constitution for Scotland.

Some 8,900 people work at Faslane, in and around Her Majesty’s Clyde submarine base—plus there are a lot of other people in the supply chain, all of whom are endangered by this proposal. In addition, Britain’s position in the world, perhaps even the safety of the world, is prejudiced by this casual approach to the independent deterrent. So that is going to be in the written constitution—quite neat, is it not? In doing that, the SNP will remove from future generations the right to take a vital defence decision in any subsequent parliamentary debate. What price democracy and the right of the Scottish people to make a choice?

The draft constitution published last week will apparently be the subject of “consultation”. Sadly, we all know what that means in the new Scotland. Presumably

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1162

that will be it. Therefore, based on one current SNP policy—indeed, obsession—there will be no turning back. Perhaps another referendum will be proposed to anchor this embryonic constitution. There is nothing about that in the document but I recall that, when I proposed a referendum on behalf of the Labour Party in 1996 to anchor the devolved Scottish Parliament in this land, the SNP howled me down.

This approach to the deterrent is strange on at least two counts. First, the four most recent opinion polls in Scotland on the subject show, at worst, a split view and, at best, a majority of the Scottish people in favour of retaining the nuclear deterrent. Polls have been commissioned by the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, and, only a few weeks ago, the Sunday Post newspaper; all showed a majority in Scotland supporting Britain’s deterrent. Last week, the Herald revealed that the British Social Attitudes survey confirmed all those polls. For the SNP to claim that the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people are against the deterrent is just plain wrong; to now use a constitutional trick to weld in a ban on the deterrent is a democratic outrage.

The other contradiction in the SNP’s policy relates to being in NATO. NATO is a nuclear alliance. That is in its fundamental strategic concept, accepted by all its members, which says that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will “remain a nuclear alliance”. The Herald said quite perceptively in its editorial a week last Friday:

“There is also the question of the SNP’s stance on Trident: would the US and Nato be relaxed about one of the nuclear powers being cut in two? President Obama’s comments would suggest he is worried”.

Since then he has been joined in his apprehension about the break-up of Britain by Mrs Hillary Clinton, the Pope and the Prime Minister of China. Are they all wrong and only Alex Salmond is right?

The Herald’s sister newspaper, a quite independent newspaper called the Sunday Herald, which has now declared itself for independence, wrote in an editorial last April that,

“there is a world of difference between a state rejecting nuclear weapons for itself, and a state disarming a reluctant neighbour. That is Salmond’s scenario”.

It went on:

“For Salmond to have credibility on this, he must produce evidence Nato would side with Scotland over the UK on Trident”.

I do not think that the paper has seen any evidence—I wrote to the editor asking whether he had—because there is no such evidence at all.

I negotiated the entry into NATO of seven new eastern European countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. For them there was no picking or choosing. They and all the existing members of NATO accept the principle and the practice of a nuclear alliance. There are assuredly some non-nuclear members of NATO, but there are no anti-nuclear members of NATO—nor could there be. There were difficult negotiations and talks on the Baltic states, with President Putin; on Slovenia, which was having a referendum; and on Slovakia, whose previous Prime Minister and possible future Prime Minister at that time were bitterly anti-NATO. A host

24 Jun 2014 : Column 1163

of other complications were involved in that process. I know that entry to NATO is neither easy nor automatic. One vote against is a total veto.

Putting the position much more eloquently than I can is Mr Patrick Harvie, who, as the Scots among us will know, is the former leader of the Scottish Green Party, now one of the parties in alliance for a yes vote. He said last year:

“The idea that we sign up to a nuclear alliance, the implication of which is to ask other countries to deploy nuclear weapons on our behalf, and then have a debate about whether they should be moved from the Clyde is a nonsense”.

That is exactly right. There is a dishonesty at the heart of the SNP’s policy on Trident, so it resorts to ever more extreme gimmicks—such as this constitutional ban—while all the time seeking to reassure the public that Scotland will, after separation, continue to enjoy the collective security of NATO, the most successful defence alliance in history. It is neither credible nor honest and it is unworthy of a Scottish political party.

5.29 pm

Lord Empey (UUP): My Lords, I welcome the opportunity for those of us from other parts of the United Kingdom to express our views on the implications for all of us of the proposal for Scottish independence. I also warmly welcome the Constitution Committee’s report, which had the foresight to set out the consequences for all of us should the Scottish people vote yes. This area has been largely swept away under the carpet because people have not felt it appropriate to face up to some of these matters lest that encourages the yes campaign, et cetera. Given the significance of the proposal in front of us, it would have been foolhardy for Parliament not to have at least looked at the long-term consequences of the proposal for the rest of us.

I am bound to say, and this was brought forward earlier in the debate, that what has puzzled me most about the campaign for independence has been the assertion that because Scotland probably has a higher GDP than the rest of the United Kingdom, that should be the plank from which to launch independence. Surely the logic of that argument is that it is best deployed by those who want to stay in the United Kingdom. It is precisely because of Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom that it is in the position that it is in. If there was a union that was clearly failing the people of Scotland economically, Scotland would not have the economic position that it has. Indeed, it may argue that it was in a better place before the union. but the fact is that the union came about precisely because of a financial crisis. Therefore, what has happened in the interceding years has been an improvement.