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GOVERNMENT BOWS TO LORDS PRESSURE OVER SCOTLAND BILL

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HANSARD 9/11/98 ...
HANSARD 9/11/98

The government accepted arguments put forward in the house of lords when the Bill setting up an Scottish parliament returned to the upper house for the final time. But in putting forward an amendment which prevents anyone being a minister in both Westminster and Holyrood parliaments, the situation of members of the Scottish and Welsh executives will be different.

The government firmly resisted attempts when the Welsh devolution legislation was going through both houses to include in the Bill a specific prohibition on members of the Welsh executive being ministers.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish welcomed the government amendment during last night's Third Reading. He said: 'This is a sensible proposition. We have argued it through the Welsh and Scottish Bills.

'We have received absolutely no agreement from the government on the Welsh Bill and in some ways they have got themselves into a real jam simply because they would not accept our amendment.

'If they had done so, their political problems in Wales would perhaps not be on the same scale as they are today'.

He added the lords had made progress with 'the Scottish ministers who are clearly more enlightened and more open to argument than are our Celtic cousins'.

Lord Sewel, for the government, replied: 'Scotland will have primary legislative responsibity. That is fundamentally different from the Welsh assembly which has only secondary legislative powers'.

The government has also accepted calls made from all sides of the lords at Report Stage for an independent tribunal to decide whether a judge was unfit for office before the first minister

sought a vote in the Scottish parliament to remove him or her from office. The peers agreed a government amendment scrapping the previous requirement for a two-thirds majority in favour of removal from the judiciary.

Lord Hardie said having considered the strength of feeling from all sides of the lords in favour of an independent tribunal, the government would introduce an amendment in the commons requiring the Scottish first minister to receive a report from the tribunal recommending removal before he or she may be satisfied that a judge is unfir for office. The two-thirds majority requirement might hinder the removal of a judge deemed unfit.

The government also accepted the lords' view that the Bill should stipulate that the speaker and deputy speaker of the Scottish parliament should not belong to the same party.

The Bill moves to the commons for its final stage.

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