ISIL: Iraq and Syria | Business of the House | Commons debates

I personally find it increasingly difficult to justify the distinction in our policy between Iraq and Syria. If the town of Kobane falls, the outcome for its inhabitants, based on previous experience, could be apocalyptic. In those circumstances, is there not a case for the United Kingdom to join in the air operations in Syria under the authority of not only the right of humanitarian intervention but, perhaps more pertinently, the duty to protect?

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Devolution (Scotland Referendum) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

I have the advantage of having heard the most perceptive and well-reasoned speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore), the former Secretary of State. Much of what he said I would have sought to say at this stage of the debate, but there is no need.

The hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) said that the rights of Members to vote could be resolved by recourse to the Standing Orders. I was elected to this Parliament on the basis of the privileges and rights that my constituents believed I would continue to enjoy as long as I was a Member. If those rights or privileges are taken away by Standing Orders, not just I, but the constituents who voted for me on a particular basis will be affected.

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Devolution (Scotland Referendum) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

I am not suggesting we hit it into the long grass. All I am suggesting is that, before we make a change of such a profound nature, we give careful consideration. We should remember the theory of unintended consequences: there is hardly ever an Act of the kind we are talking about that does not produce a consequence that was never intended. Although in the past I have rehearsed, perhaps rather glibly, the view

that as devolved powers were given to Northern Ireland and Wales and Scotland, it would be increasingly difficult for Scottish Members of Parliament to vote on, say, health and education—and I do not detract in any way from that—the argument put by my constituency neighbour in Fife, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), was a substantial one and one that will have to be considered by the Cabinet Committee that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is to deal with.

Along with the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke), I am one of the few survivors of all three referendums—those of 1979, 1998 and now 2014. Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but I feel a great sense of resentment and reject the notion that I am less of a Scot and less of a patriot because in the course of the last referendum I argued as strongly and persuasively as I could for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom. If anyone thinks that has gone away they should read the letters columns of Scottish newspapers, in which people like me are accused of being either frightened, old or not patriotic. I may be one of those, but I am certainly not all three, and I regard it as deeply offensive. If the Scottish National party wants to make a proper contribution to what we now have on our agenda, one of the most powerful ways it could do so would be by condemning utterly the efforts to talk down those of us who felt that the Union was so important that only a no vote would do.

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Devolution (Scotland Referendum) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

No, I am going to make some progress.

I had the advantage, if that is the right way to put it, of hearing the First Minister this morning on the radio. To say that he was concerned about the timetable being properly met would be something of an understatement, but his response to questioning, and some of the contributions by the SNP in the Chamber today, have left me, perhaps erroneously and perhaps unfortunately, with the perception that, if the timetable were not met, they would regard that as a considerable political advantage.

I have believed for a considerable time that the present constitutional settlement in the UK is unsustainable. That is why I was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland to chair what came perhaps a little unfairly to be called the Campbell commission. I chaired it. I did not write its report; other people did. However, I have had some false regard as a consequence.

Throughout that exercise, it was clear to me, and it is set out in the document that we produced—unhappily, it is not available in all good bookshops, although it can be found on the Scottish Liberal Democrats website—that federalism was the answer to quite a lot of the issues that were on our minds then. Nothing has caused me to alter my view that that is still the case.

There is one point I want to make as strongly as I can. We cannot all get what we want as a result of Lord Smith’s commission or the Cabinet Committee that will be chaired by the Leader of the House. There will have to be compromises that as far as possible take account of the competing interests. There is the question of the role of Scottish MPs when issues such as health and education are discussed here. I have felt slightly uncomfortable about that since the creation of the Scottish Parliament, but the fact is that, as I have already described, we came here on a particular basis. If that is to be changed, it will be a profound constitutional change; it is not one to be embraced simply by changing the Standing Orders. Therefore, that should be thought about, rather than there being a knee-jerk reaction to the result on 18 September.

The vow has been made. If the First Minister thinks that he will be holding the feet of the three leaders to the fire, he ain’t seen nothing yet. I will be holding their feet to the fire, as it would be —let me put it as mildly as I can—politically unhelpful next May were that promise not to have been implemented to the extent that has been set out.

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Devolution (Scotland Referendum) | Bill Presented | Commons debates

I have the advantage of having heard the most perceptive and well-reasoned speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore), the former Secretary of State. Much of what he said I would have sought to say at this stage of the debate, but there is no need.

The hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) said that the rights of Members to vote could be resolved by recourse to the Standing Orders. I was elected to this Parliament on the basis of the privileges and rights that my constituents believed I would continue to enjoy as long as I was a Member. If those rights or privileges are taken away by Standing Orders, not just I, but the constituents who voted for me on a particular basis will be affected.

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