North East Fife Sir Menzies Campbell MP has written in an article for the Scotsman that “The choice is clear. People can either vote to leave the UK, with all the risks and uncertainties that independence offers. Or they can vote for a stronger and safer Scottish Parliament within the UK.”
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Scotsman Article By Sir Menzies Campbell MP
I have not engaged myself in the organisation of the House as much as many of those who have already spoken. As I look around the Chamber, I am slightly surprised to see that I am the only Member representing a Scottish constituency who is present.There is a serious point to that, because if a decision is taken on 18 September that Scotland should seek independence—
Separation, if you like. If that happens, the next 18 months and indeed for a long time after, it is going to be enormously testing of every procedure of this House. The volume of legislation will be enormous, and the number of occasions on which the Speaker, and indeed the House—and Front Benchers too—will require expert advice will also be enormous. On that basis, I, at least, am surprised that when it came to this appointment, an acquaintance with parliamentary procedure was thought to be sufficient. In my view, a detailed knowledge of it is essential.
I have some sympathy with those who wish to divide the role into two, but I am concerned—more so than the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain)—about the possibilities, indeed the problems, that might be created by two co-equals. What happens if there is a genuine dispute? Is the Speaker to be drawn in as some kind of arbiter? What will be the chain of responsibility? Who will answer to whom? That is why, when the right hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young) was talking about a chief operating officer, I was rather disappointed that the idea was so readily dismissed in some parts of the House. I hope that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) will give it serious consideration .
It should also be remembered that the Clerk of the House is a key part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. If that were not so, the appointment would not be made by the monarch.
The right hon. Gentleman was a member of that special Select Committee, so I will give way to him.
I do not want to reopen the question of the Serjeant at Arms, which formed a substantial part of that Committee’s consideration. I simply say that we need a chain of command that is clear and unambiguous, because anything other than that is likely to lead to controversy of the kind that we have thus far unnecessarily embraced because of the way in which this matter has been dealt with.
I have a great deal of sympathy for Ms Mills, who finds herself to be the subject of such controversy. However, I was powerfully affected by the observation made a moment ago that, had people understood that a chief executive-type person was to be appointed, many more people with those skills might have applied. If we have either separation or, as I prefer, a chief operating officer, it may be very interesting to see the extent to which the volume and nature of candidates is different from what it was in the first instance.